Court Explains Establishing Gross Negligence Under Massachusetts Law

People typically rely on police forces to keep their communities safe. While generally, the risk of harm is from outside sources, some people are in danger of injuring themselves. In such instances, if the police fail to perform their professional duties to stop a person from committing acts of self-harm, they could potentially be liable for negligence. This was illustrated in a recent Massachusetts case in which a mother sued a town and its police force for failing to stop her daughter’s suicide. If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to a proficient Cape Cod personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent lived in the defendant town. The defendant police department received a call from the decedent’s boyfriend stating that the decedent indicated she wanted to end her life. The defendant police officer was dispatched but did not go to the decedent’s apartment. The decedent ultimately died by suicide. Her mother filed a lawsuit against the defendants, asserting numerous claims. As to the defendant officer, she alleged claims of gross negligence and wrongful death. The defendants moved to dismiss her complaint.

Establishing Gross Negligence Under Massachusetts Law

The court denied the defendants’ motion as to the gross negligence claim. The court explained that gross negligence differs from ordinary negligence in that rather than a simple failure to exercise ordinary care, it is an omission or action pertaining to a party’s legal duty that is aggravated in character. In other words, the element of fault that characterizes all negligence is magnified to a high degree in gross negligence as opposed to ordinary negligence. Further, gross negligence is a much smaller degree of vigilance than the circumstances require of people of ordinary negligence.

In assessing whether a defendant’s acts constitute gross negligence, the courts will look at their conduct as a whole. As such, the question of whether a party was grossly negligent or negligent requires a fact-based assessment of the facts of the case. In the subject matter, the court found that the plaintiff alleged that the defendant officer knew the decedent intended to end her life and that if police intervention was going to help, it must be prompt, but he failed to respond to the decedent’s apartment. Further, the plaintiff alleged he failed to abide by police regulations regarding suicide threats. Based on the foregoing, the court found that the plaintiff asserted sufficient facts for her gross negligence claim to survive the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Discuss Your Potential Claims with a Cape Cod Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a first responder’s failure to perform their duties, you might be owed damages, and you should meet with an attorney to discuss your potential claims. The skilled personal injury lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the maximum damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.





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