Massachusetts Court Discusses Claims Against Public Employers

While typically, people can be held liable for causing bodily harm to another individual, when the person who causes an injury is employed by a public employer, such as a city, recovering damages can be complicated. Specifically, the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA) protects public corporations from liability in many instances and imposes strict notice requirements that potential claimants must comply with. In a recent Massachusetts opinion, a court discussed what constitutes sufficient notice of a potential tort claim pursuant to the MTCA in a matter in which the plaintiff suffered injuries during an arrest. If you suffered harm due to someone else’s negligence, you could be owed damages and should speak to a Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff was driving home from work when he was pulled over by a police officer employed by the defendant city, based on an anonymous tip that the plaintiff had a gun. The officer forcibly removed the plaintiff from the vehicle, forced him to the ground, and stepped on his neck, collarbone, and shoulder, causing him to sustain a fracture. After the police failed to find a gun in his vehicle, the plaintiff was released.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant setting forth numerous claims, including negligence pursuant to the MTCA. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to provide it with the proper notice required by the MTCA. Upon review, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

Notice Requirements Under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act

Under the MTCA, a public employer can be held liable for bodily harm caused by the wrongful or negligent act of any public employee who was acting within the scope of his or her employment. The MTCA provides, however, that a lawsuit cannot be instituted against a public employer unless the plaintiff has first sent a written presentment of the claim to the executive officer of the public employer. The notice must be sent within two years of the date of harm, and the executive officer must deny the claim in writing, but the failure to deny the claim within six months will be deemed a denial.

In the subject case, the plaintiff’s attorney sent a letter to the defendant in August 2018, approximately eight months after the incident, setting forth the details of what occurred and asking to resolve the matter in an amicable manner. Despite the defendant’s arguments to the contrary, the court found that the letter constituted sufficient notice of the plaintiff’s claim. Thus, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied.

Meet with a Capable Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

Public employers can be held liable for the harm they cause to innocent individuals, but there are certain requirements an injured party must meet to be eligible to pursue claims against them. If you suffered harm because of another party’s careless acts, capable personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via the form on our website or at 508-822-6600 to set up a consultation.