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Massachusetts Court Discusses Timeliness of a Negligence Claim Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

In most Massachusetts personal injury cases, the injured party is free to pursue damages from the party that caused his or her harm, as long as certain procedural requirements are met. In cases in which the person that caused the alleged harm is an employee of the federal government, however, pursuing a claim can be more difficult, due to immunities provided to the government. There are waivers to the immunities set forth by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), that allow a plaintiff to pursue a claim.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently discussed the timeliness of a claim under the FTCA in a case in which the plaintiff sought damages from the United States of America due to the negligence of a government physician. If you live in Massachusetts and you or a loved one suffered harm due to the acts of an employee of the federal government, you should speak with a capable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the facts of your case.

It is alleged that the plaintiff underwent treatment for amphetamine addiction in 2011. He successfully completed treatment and remained clean through July 2012. In August 2012, the plaintiff began treating with the defendant doctor, who is a government physician. The plaintiff’s medical records indicated he was recovering from an amphetamine addiction and plaintiff’s mother advised the defendant doctor of the plaintiff’s addiction. The defendant doctor nonetheless prescribed the plaintiff several amphetamine-based medications.

Reportedly, the plaintiff subsequently relapsed and experienced several detrimental effects due to his relapse, including legal difficulties, mental health issues, and the loss of his job. He subsequently filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the FTCA. His claim was denied, after which he sought a reconsideration, which was also denied. Then, on February 16, 2018, the defendant filed his negligence action against the defendant doctor and the defendant hospital. The defendants subsequently filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiff’s claim was time-barred.

Timeliness of a Claim under the Federal Torts Claim Act

A plaintiff may bring a claim under the FTCA for injuries caused by the negligence of a government employee while acting within the scope of his or her employment. To do so, the plaintiff must advise the appropriate relevant agency of his or her claim within two years of when the claim accrues. Typically, a claim accrues when a plaintiff is injured. In some cases, however, the discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations until the time when the plaintiff learns of the factual basis of his or her injury and its cause. Whether the discovery rule applies is a fact-specific inquiry.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff plausibly alleged that he was not aware of the factual basis of his harm until after the date of his relapse. Further, the court found that due to the cognitive nature of the plaintiff’s symptoms it was plausible that he lacked the rational thought required to pursue a claim within the statutory period, and therefore, may be entitled to equitable tolling as well. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Consult an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you sustained damages due to the actions of an employee or entity of the federal government, you should meet with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your options for pursuing compensation. The personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will evaluate the facts of your case and craft convincing arguments in support of the position that the negligent party should be held accountable for your harm. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or through the online form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.