In most instances, when a person suffers harm because of another party’s negligence, the victim may pursue damages. In certain cases, however, regardless of whether a party acted negligently, the injured person may not be able to recover compensation because the negligent party is immune from liability. For example, under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (the Act), public employers are exempt from liability in certain circumstances. Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts analyzed whether the Act protects a public employer from liability for inadequate staffing, in a case arising out of a train accident. If you were injured due to the negligence of a person or entity, it is prudent to meet with a capable Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your potential claims.
The Plaintiff’s Harm
It is alleged that the plaintiff fell off a platform at a train station. A train owned by the defendant transportation authority subsequently struck the plaintiff, and he suffered serious injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing in part that the defendant negligently failed to staff the station with a customer service agent or a safety inspector on the day of the plaintiff’s accident. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was immune from liability under the Act. The court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.
Public Employer Immunity Under the Act
Under the Act, a public employer is immune from all claims that arise out of the performance or exercise of a discretionary duty or function, or the failure to exercise such a duty or function. In the subject case, the plaintiff did not dispute the fact that the defendant was a public employer as defined by the Act. Thus, the issue analyzed by the court was whether it was within the defendant’s discretion to determine which course of conduct to undertake and, if so, whether it was the kind of discretion for which the Act provided immunity. The court stated that if a regulation, statute, or established practice dictates a party must take a certain course of action, a defendant’s behavior will not be protected by the discretionary function exception of the Act.