Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Car Accident Case Against City Due to Lack of Presentment of Claim

Most Cape Cod car accident lawsuits are filed by an individual, couple, or family against a motorist whose careless conduct led to injury or death. Sometimes, however, there are other possible defendants in such cases.

If the allegedly negligent driver was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time that the motor vehicle collision occurred, the driver’s employer may be named as a defendant. In some situations, a governmental entity may be a defendant in a personal injury case – particularly in cases in which a city employee’s allegedly negligent driving led to an accident. Lawsuits against the government often have special requirements, so it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash caused by someone employed by a local or state government who was on the job at the time of the accident.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case, the plaintiff was a woman who sued the defendant city and a police officer whom it employed, asserting a claim for personal injuries she sustained due to the officer’s allegedly negligent operation of a motor vehicle. After filing her initial complaint against both the officer and the city, the plaintiff opted to file an amended complaint in which only the city was named as a defendant. In turn, the defendant city filed a pre-answer motion pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) asking the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim.

After determining that the plaintiff had failed to make a valid presentment of her claim as she was required to do under the Massachusetts Tort Claim Act, codified at Massachusetts General Laws chapter 258, § 4, the trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in favor of the defendant city. The plaintiff appealed.

Determination of the Issues

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Although the plaintiff urged the appellate tribunal to reverse the lower court’s ruling on the grounds that her amended complaint had “plausibly suggested” that the actual notice exception to the presentment requirement applied, the appeals court found no error with the lower court’s ruling. In so holding, the court first noted that chapter 258, § 4 required a written presentment of a claim within two years of an event giving rise to a plaintiff’s claim against a public employer. The court acknowledged that there was a narrow exception to the presentment requirement but found that the plaintiff had not shown herself entitled to the exception insomuch as there was nothing in her complaint to suggest that the mayor of the defendant city had sufficient knowledge of the facts to infer the legal basis upon which the plaintiff’s claim was based.

Thinking of Hiring a Massachusetts Injury Lawyer?

If you have been hurt in a car wreck and have questions for a Cape Cod car accident lawyer, please contact the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664. We will arrange for a consultation to learn more about your case. Please be mindful that those who are injured due to others’ negligence have only a limited time in which to take legal action. If you delay consulting an attorney, your claim may not get filed on time, and you may effectively waive your right to money damages for your medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages.

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