Commonwealth v. Welansky

316 Mass. 383, 55 N.E.2d 902 (1944)



If there is a duty of care for the safety of visitors invited to the premises controlled by the defendant, it is enough to find that there was an intentional failure to take care of the premises in order to hold a defendant liable for wanton or reckless conduct.


A fire broke out in a nightclub owned by defendant and many patrons and staff were killed or injured because there were inadequate, blocked, or locked exits. Defendant was indicted for manslaughter. Defendant filed motions to quash certain counts of the indictments, which were denied as to some and allowed as to others. Defendant was convicted and appealed his conviction. The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction for manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction of manslaughter.


Did defendant’s wanton and reckless conduct result in the manslaughter?




To convict the defendant of manslaughter, the Commonwealth was not required to prove that he caused the fire by some wanton or reckless conduct. Fire in a place of public resort is an ever present danger. It was enough to prove that death resulted from his wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of patrons in the event of fire from any cause.

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