Escaping a Defendant’s Claim of Immunity in Order to Pursue Your Massachusetts Premises Liability Case

When you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, such as in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the amount of damages that you’ve suffered. In certain circumstances, though, your ability to recover payment for the full extent of the harm you suffered may be limited, even if you have proof of negligence and of the harm you suffered. One such scenario involves cases where the entity who allegedly harmed you is entitled to immunity. Obtaining full success, then, is making sure that you are able to persuade the court that no form of immunity should apply to protect that person or entity. When it comes to these and other litigation strategies, make sure you have a knowledgeable Massachusetts injury attorney to represent you.

Today, what is a “public” entity versus a private one can be less than perfectly clear, given the increasing prevalence of public-private partnerships. Take, for example, public housing. A public housing program may be operated by a public housing authority (a governmental entity,) but the individual properties may be owned and/or managed by private entities. That was the situation facing a man injured in a recent slip-and-fall case.

J. allegedly slipped and fell while going down the stairs at his public housing apartment building. The resident suffered significant injuries, so he sued several entities for the harm he incurred. The entities he included in his lawsuit were the local housing authority, the owner of the building and the owner’s managing agent.

The owner and the agent filed a request with the judge in J.’s case. They wanted the court to declare them to be public employers. This declaration would have been important to both sides, because classifying them as public entities would have shielded them from liability above $100,000 under the terms of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. In other words, even if J. was able to prove that his fall and injuries were the result of the defendants’ negligence and able to prove that he suffered millions of dollars of damages, the amount of compensation the all of the defendants would owe would be capped by the statute.

The trial judge ruled against the entities and in favor of the injured man, however. The court concluded that the parameters of the Tort Claims Act were clear and they clearly did not include “controlled affiliates” of a governmental entity. The statute actually specifically excluded private contractors who contracted with public employers. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the trial judge was correct in making this ruling.

This meant that the owner and the agent were private entities in terms of the law. That, in turn, meant that J. was entitled to pursue his case against the owner and the agent and to recover the full amount of damages that he could prove he suffered and which were the result of the defendants’ negligence.

If you’ve been hurt in a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident, reach out to experienceded Plymouth County injury lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann, who has spent many years effectively representing people from across Plymouth County, including Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury. To find out more about how we can help you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.