In most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Massachusetts. When the harm alleged is reportedly caused by a defect in a roadway, however, the injured party is required to provide notice to the government or quasi-government entity that is responsible for the roadway within thirty days of the accident. Recently, in a case arising out of harm caused by a defect in a roadway, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that the thirty day notice requirement did not apply to private entities, including utility companies. If you were suffered harm in an accident caused by a defect in a street or road it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your case and what you must do to preserve your right to pursue damages.
Facts Regarding the Subject Accident
Allegedly, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a public road when he struck a utility cover that was not aligned with the surface of the road and sustained injuries. The plaintiff notified the city in which the road was located of his injuries within thirty days. On the thirty-first day after his accident, the city notified the plaintiff that it would not pay his claim, because the defendant utility company was responsible for the utility cover. The plaintiff subsequently notified the defendant of his injuries, and filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging the defendant’s negligence caused his harm. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claim was precluded due to his failure to notify the defendant of his injuries within thirty days as required by the Massachusetts road defect and notice statues. The court granted the defendant’s motion, after which the plaintiff appealed.
Road Defect and Notice Statute
On appeal, the court noted that the Massachusetts road defect statute imposes liability for personal injuries caused by defects in roads. The notice statute requires a party injured by a road defect to provide the city, town, or county that is obligated to maintain and repair the road with notice of the injury within thirty days. The court stated that while the road defect and notice statutes clearly imposed an obligation on a party injured by a road defect to notify the government entity charged with repairing the road within thirty days, it was not clear whether the injured party was required to provide notice to a private entity that was responsible for the road. The court ultimately concluded that the legislature did not intend to displace an injured party’s common law remedy against private parties who responsible for defects in the road. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling and reinstated the plaintiff’s claim.
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