Massachusetts Court Discusses Pre-Litigation Discovery in Personal Injury Cases

Typically, discovery is conducted after a plaintiff files a lawsuit. In some cases, though, a plaintiff who does not have enough information to adequately institute claims against a defendant may file a complaint for discovery. This will allow the plaintiff to obtain the evidence needed to determine whether there is factual support for a lawsuit against the defendant. Recently, a Massachusetts court addressed the issue of whether a complaint for discovery could be amended to allege negligence claims after the statute of limitations for negligence has run, in a case in which the plaintiff sustained injuries in a fall at the defendant’s senior living facility. If you or a loved one were hurt due to the negligence of another party, you should speak to a capable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine whether you may be owed damages.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered a broken foot when she was being transferred by aides at the assisted living facility where she resided, which was owned by the defendant. She then filed a complaint for discovery, alleging that she believed she was harmed by the defendant’s negligence but needed information from the defendant to determine whether her claim was viable. The defendant filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, which the court granted. The plaintiff then appealed.

Complaints for Discovery Under Massachusetts Law

Under Massachusetts law, a complaint for discovery is permitted when the procedures afforded by statute provide insufficient means for a plaintiff to obtain the information needed to pursue a claim. In deciding whether to grant such a complaint, a court must keep in mind the narrow scope of a complaint for discovery and ensure that the relief requested is within those parameters.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the complaint was moot and was barred by the statute of limitations. On appeal, the appellate court rejected both arguments. First, the court noted it did not decide moot cases and stated that a case will only be deemed moot when no effective relief can be ordered or an aggrieved party no longer has a stake in the matter, neither of which applied.

The appellate court also declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning that the statute of limitations for a negligence claim ran during the pendency of the appeal, and therefore the plaintiff could not pursue further claims. The court stated that the complaint for discovery alleged that the defendant’s conduct harmed the plaintiff, and therefore could be amended to include a negligence claim through the relation-back doctrine. Specifically, as the claim would allege harm caused by the defendant’s acts or omissions, it would arise out of the same occurrence set forth in the original pleading. As such, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

Simply because a person does not have ample evidence of negligence does not mean that another party is not liable for the person’s harm. If you were hurt in an accident, the skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan can assist you in gathering the evidence and facts needed to help you demonstrate that you should be awarded compensation for harm caused by another party’s careless acts. You can contact us through our form online or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a conference.