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Mathis v. Massachusetts Electric Co.

565 N.E.2d 1180 (1991)

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Mathis v. Massachusetts Electric Co.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

565 N.E.2d 1180 (1991)

Facts

The Mathis family’s home had a utility pole in its front yard. The utility pole had various wires attached to it for telephone, cable television, and electricity. Brian Mathis (plaintiff) was 16 years old. With some friends watching, Mathis scaled the utility pole. When he reached the top of the pole, he was shocked by an electrical charge and fell to the ground. He was seriously injured. Mathis sued the owners of the utility pole, Massachusetts Electric Company (MEC) (defendant) and New England Telephone and Telegraph Company (NET) (defendant), for negligence and for violating the state’s child trespasser statute. A jury found that NET was not negligent, but that MEC had violated its duty of reasonable care toward foreseeable child trespassers. Additionally, the jury held that Mathis was comparatively negligent, determining that he was 75 percent at fault and MEC was 25 percent at fault. Because Mathis was more than 50 percent negligent, under the state’s comparative negligence statute he could not recover any damages. Mathis appealed. Mathis moved for a new trial, and the trial court denied his motion. On appeal, he argued that Massachusetts’s child-trespasser statute imposes strict liability, and consequently is not subject to the defense of comparative negligence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Liacos, C. J.)

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