Court Explains Immunity Under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act

People often volunteer in their communities. Unfortunately, during the act of performing good deeds, some people suffer injuries due to the negligence of others. While they can pursue claims for their losses, their ability to recover from their towns may be limited by Massachusetts law, as discussed in a recent opinion. If you were hurt because of another party’s negligence, it is smart to speak to a skillful Cape Cod personal injury attorney about your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Reportedly, in 2014, the plaintiff worked as a volunteer for the band parent organization (BPO) for the defendant town’s high school band. He was sitting in the driver’s seat of a golf cart that was located in the back of the truck to assist with the process of unloading the truck. The golf cart fell from the truck, causing the plaintiff to suffer a traumatic brain injury. He subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant as well as the co-presidents of the BPO, arguing their negligence caused him to suffer harm.

It is alleged that the defendants moved for dismissal via summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA). The court ruled in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Massachusetts Tort Claims Act

The MTCA immunizes towns and public employees from any claims arising out of an action or failure to act to prevent a harmful condition or situation, including the tortious behavior of a third party if the condition is not originally caused by the town or a person acting on its behalf. The courts interpret the phrase “original cause” to mean an affirmative act by a public employer that creates a situation or condition that results in harm.

The court elaborated that the act in question must have contributed in a material way to the creation of the precise condition or situation that caused the harm alleged. In the subject case, the court noted that while the town provided the golf carts to be used for band activities, they did not describe the method in which the carts were to be loaded off of the truck. Instead, the volunteers chose the method employed, which is what ultimately caused the plaintiff’s harm. As such, the condition that directly caused the accident was the use of a plank to unload the golf cart, and therefore, the defendant town was immune under the MTCA. Thus, the court affirmed the ruling as to the defendant town. The court found that the immunity did not extend to the BPO executives, however, and reversed the order to the extent it dismissed the claims against them.

Speak to an Experienced Cape Cod Attorney

People injured in accidents have the right to pursue damages from those responsible for their harm, but in some cases, their ability to recover damages may be hindered by state law. If you were injured because of someone else’s careless acts, it is wise to speak to an attorney about your options. The experienced Cape Cod personal injury lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III have ample experience navigating complex negligence claims, and if you hire us, we will zealously pursue a favorable outcome on your behalf. You can reach us through the form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a meeting.



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