Federal Suit Discusses Unique Massachusetts Personal Injury

Injuries in Massachusetts can take many different forms. Car accidents, construction accidents, and slip and falls on slick sidewalks all come to mind as the types of personal injuries one reads about in the news. They are also the type of injuries that are eligible for legal action if a third party’s negligent actions caused the accident. In a civil suit for negligence, the injured party must show that the at-fault party causing the accident had a duty, that the defendant failed in that duty, and that the injury was caused by the negligence. If the injured party can present proof by the preponderance of evidence, he or she may be able to obtain damages, or costs incurred as a result of the injury. Injuries that qualify for monetary damages extend beyond bodily injuries. Massachusetts common law also allows for the recovery of monetary damages for mental and emotional harm under the causes of action for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

An unusual injury was recently discussed in a U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals case,Tobin v. FedEx Corp. A package was mis-labeled and delivered by mistake to a woman, who opened it to discover that the package contained a large quantity of marijuana. The woman was distressed by this unexpected arrival of an illegal substance in front of her young daughter. The woman handed over the substance to the authorities, but she became more distressed after a stranger arrived at her door with two other strange men waiting in the car, asking if a package was sent to her by mistake. The woman slammed the door in his face and called the police. The woman became distraught, believing that the employees of FedEx had shared her home address with people involved in illegal drug trading, and she filed suit for invasion of privacy, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The woman’s suit ended up in federal court, where the trial judge granted summary judgment to the shipping company, reasoning that the Airline Deregulation Act, a federal statute, preempted the state common law remedies. The preemption provision in questions states that “a State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” The shipping company argued that the suit would have a negative effect against the service of an air carrier, which would be prohibited by the ADA. Service in this context is defined as a bargained-for, agreed-upon exchange between the shipping company and the patron.

Despite the argument that the woman did not seek the shipping company’s services when it mis-labeled and mis-delivered the package containing the drugs, the Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court’s ruling and upheld the summary judgment against the injured person, concluding that it did not matter whether the woman was in an agreement with FedEx, but that the ADA provision applied and pre-empted her suit. The underlying events of labeling, handling, and shipping a package were all activities protected by the federal statute, and case precedents in the 1st Circuit had previously determined that civil suits had a negative effect on service.

The Massachusetts injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to determine the best course of legal action for your injuries that will maximize the recovery you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Who Is Held Accountable for Operating Under the Influence Injuries Under Massachusetts Case Law?, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, November 24, 2014
Understanding the Complexities of Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Personal Injury Protection, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, November 17, 2014