Massachusetts Supreme Court clarifies building code liability issue on mixed-use projects
Distinct portions of a building can be considered separate structures
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that distinct portions of a mixed-used building may be treated as distinct and different structures under the state building code. The ruling clarifies more than 40 years of sometimes contradictory decisions.
The case pertained to a resident of a mixed-use building who fell and was seriously injured when a guardrail on a staircase broke. A key question in the case was: “does a building containing both commercial and residential components fall entirely under the section of the state building code applying to commercial buildings?”
The court said that it was significant that resident's apartment wasn't in a commercial portion of the building with the staircase being separate from the commercial section of the structure. The court wrote: “In some cases, the term ‘building’ may encompass only a portion of a larger structure.”