Event Notices

Old North Church Wins “Slip and Fall” Court Ruling Because It Does Not Charge an Entry Fee

About 1/2 million tourists visit the Old North Church every year (NEWF Photo)

The Old North Church Foundation received a supportive ruling in its defense against a Georgia tourist who tripped and seriously hurt herself in 2006 while entering a pew box in the historic North End church.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that Old North’s liability is limited under the Recreational Use statue because entry to the facility is free of charge. Linda and Kenneth Patterson asserted that the statue should not apply because the foundation makes money from other tours and a gift shop. The couple also paid their local senior center for the trip that took them through several states. The court disagreed, as explained in this excerpt:

Despite the fact that the Pattersons entered and toured the church free of charge, they claim that the defendants imposed a “charge or fee” because the foundation generates revenue and pays Christ Church an annual fee. In support of this assertion, the Pattersons rely on Marcus v. Newton, 462 Mass. at 155-156, and argue that a defendant who reaps an economic benefit from property utilized by the public free of charge is barred from relief under the recreational use statute. We disagree.

Unlike the injured plaintiff in Marcus, who paid an indirect fee for his use of the defendant’s land, here, it is undisputed that the Pattersons paid neither a direct nor an indirect fee to enter or tour the church. There is no claim that any part of the $1,738 they paid the Georgia senior center facilitated their access to the church. The fact that the foundation operates a gift shop and charges for behind-the-scenes, specialized tours of the church does not equate to a “charge or fee” imposed on the Pattersons.

The court also threw out claims of negligence because the carpet and paint in the pew box were a matching color:

… the Pattersons’ claim that the defendants’ renovations, which included the “placement of carpet that effectively hid the similarly-colored tripping hazard” in the pew risers was “part of the Defendants’ efforts to run the money-making tourist attraction,” is not supported by the record. There is no evidence that the condition of the pew box risers or choice of red paint or red carpet provided a business incentive for the defendants.

Linda fell in the church sanctuary while participating in a free tour.

Universal Hub has posted the entire court ruling.

17 Replies to “Old North Church Wins “Slip and Fall” Court Ruling Because It Does Not Charge an Entry Fee

    1. Seriously, this is a NEW all time low. These people must make a career of looking for opportunities to sue. Hopefully, their bus will bypass Boston and the North End. Better yet STAY home.

      1. Gosh! You sure are making an assumption here that “these people must make a career of looking for opportunities to sue”…. did you read the legal documents? Do you know for sure that they weren’t just looking to get their medical expenses covered? Do they have other lawsuits that are showing that they are making a career of this? I read through the decision, and it was interesting. But I didn’t find a bunch of other cases involving Linda and Kenneth Patterson. I’d love if you could share some other cases that they’re using to “make a career” out of things like this.

        As for your “Better yet STAY home” comment, way to be a welcoming North End resident! You do realize that tourism really helps our neighborhood thrive, right?

        I could see if this was a case of someone burning their tongue on hot coffee and suing over that — yeah, that’s ridiculous….but slipping and falling can be serious. So I don’t really see how they’re that “low”.

        1. Sorry Question, but you are pretty ludicrous. Just because that lady can’t walk right doesn’t mean she should be able to sue.

          You and the Pattersons are what is wrong with the culture of “something happened who can I sue.” Must be someone else’s fault not hers…

          1. To start off, I don’t appreciate being called ludicrous. I also doubt Linda Patterson would appreciate the accusation that she “can’t walk right”. I’m fairly certain that with my two-very-able-working-legs I have tripped many times throughout my life. I would like to think that when I’m walking somewhere, if I trip and/or fall, a passerby or stranger wouldn’t accuse me of being unable to “walk right”. Doesn’t seem very kind.

            What is wrong with society is the thought that bullying and name-calling is OK. How do we expect children to treat each other with respect if respect can’t even be shown (or given) by grown adults?

            Having the ability to sue is something that we should all be thankful for. It allows us to stand up for ourselves we feel we’ve been wronged, or regain medical costs if something should occur that wasn’t our fault. While Linda didn’t win the case, she had every right to sue. There is nothing wrong with her for doing that. What I see wrong with this, is people slinging hurtful statements her way by way of comments via the web. It doesn’t seem very nice to me. And I think that’s what’s wrong with society today. The fact that people think it’s A-OK to accuse someone they’ve never met of not-very-kind things.

            1. For the record, I should have said your thoughts are ludicrous…

              So by your judgement, lawsuits are less impactful than words by a random person on a website… ok

              So, did you sue someone on a technicality every time you tripped? Then, when you lost did you appeal and lose again? That’s what your pal, Linda did.

              If Linda doesn’t want people “slinging hurtful statements” then she should pay back the NON-PROFIT for all of it’s legal costs, which I’m guessing are substanital…

            2. I can’t reply to you, so I’m replying indirectly, SM.

              You’re making an assumption on my judgement, and you’re incorrect. You had mentioned that I was what was wrong in the world (with the lawsuit culture), and I was mentioning my opinion that bullying is what’s wrong with the world! Did you know that people can be sued (and have been) for bullying others online? So I guess they coincide with one another in a sense.

              If I tripped because of possible negligence of a company/location/person, and incurred medical costs as a result, then sure if it were financially feasible for me I would sue to regain my medical costs. I shouldn’t have to pay obscene medical bills just because of a hazard I encountered while somewhere. Just like if someone caused a car accident and didn’t cover any medical bills incurred, they would be sued.

              I would hope that the church has insurance that would cover such legal/possible medical costs, as that’s what businesses should do to protect themselves these days. It’s a reason why I have insurance in my residence. My insurance covers if any guests were to be injured while in my home. It makes it so I don’t have to worry about someone falling down the stairs or being injured some other way. That way I wouldn’t be sued, it’d be the insurance company being sued for that money. That’s what responsible people/companies do. They get insurance to cover themselves.

              Yes it stinks that the church is being sued. But it’s not a crazy irresponsible thing that Linda is doing. She is a person who feels she has been wronged/injured, and she’s moving forward with a lawsuit which I’m sure is also costing her a pretty penny.

        2. It’s a 400 year old building. Do you think that they designed the place with today’s hyper litigious society in mind? Over the years, how many people have entered those pews without incident.

  1. Shame on her *(and her flee bag lawyer) in the first place. If your going to be low enough to try something like that, try slipping at a bar.
    God Bless the North End & God Bless America!!

    1. Case like this never had a chance. Blame falls mostly on the ambulance chasing shyster that painted her a picture of a big payday.

    1. Thanks for sharing the trailer — looks like an interesting film. Just added it to my netflix on-demand queue :). Appreciate the share!

      1. WWJD

        This is a church? So much for organized religion. What would Jesus do? No foot washing here, at least not with soap.

  2. Oh my God! Games people play right wrong I just can’t take it! Seriously everyone needs insurance. People seem to get all their frustrations out on the comments by the way that was a song Churches have always had their own rules anyway no matter what denomination Good Luck with that law suit all the way from the North End to the Vatican

  3. I would love to see the comment section here if the reversed happen and one of these northender’s who has family that have lived here for “a hundred years” happened to go to Georgia and fall and get seriously injured while participating in a free tour. My sense is if that person decided to sue the Church, you would all be singing a different tune…

  4. Salem St kid..

    The majority of the people commenting here about this lawsuit are not northenders whose family has been here for a hundred years. Find something else to contribute or just be quiet. Your single theme has gotten really old and boring now.

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