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Court Rules in Favor of City, School Officials, and Chaperones in Massachusetts Bicycle Accident Case

bicycle on trailGenerally speaking, Massachusetts is a bike-friendly state. It’s not unusual for students or even office workers to use this very affordable, environmentally friendly mode of transport for their daily commute. Unfortunately, accidents can happen to bicyclists, just as they happen to motorists who travel in cars, trucks, and SUVs.

When a bicycle accident results in serious injuries or death, the person who was hurt (or the family of a person who was killed) may be able to bring a claim for money damages against the responsible party. Of course, whether the case is successful is a very fact-dependent matter.

Facts of the Case

A recent appellate court case arose as a result of a bicycle accident that injured a child who was on an elementary school field trip. The child’s parents sued the town that owned the rail-trial where the accident took place, the school principal, a teacher, and several parents who were chaperoning the trip. The trial court determined, as a matter of law, that the chaperones supervising the field trip were “public employees” and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The parents appealed.

The Court’s Holding

On appeal, the parents argued that the chaperones were not “public employees” and that, thus, they could be held personally liable for their alleged negligence, but the appellate court disagreed. The court also rejected the parents’ contention that their claim against the town was not precluded by a provision of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258.

According to the court, the pivotal question in determining whether the chaperones were “public employees” or independent contractors was whether they were subject to the direction and control of a public employer. The employer’s “right to control” was more important than whether actual control existed in a particular case. Here, the undisputed facts showed that the principal and teachers retained the right of control, and the chaperones were subject to their direction and control. The school even went so far as to hold a meeting for the chaperones before the trip, giving them guidelines that stated, among other things, that the teachers’ directions were to be followed at all times. Thus, the court agreed with the lower tribunal that the chaperones were “employees” as a matter of law.

While the court agreed with the parents that Chapter 258 did not necessarily bar a negligent supervision claim, the court found that their claim nevertheless failed because the town’s negligence – if such existed – was not the original cause of the accident. Since the essence of the parents’ case was that the defendants negligently failed to prevent harm that was caused by a third party, under Chapter 258, the defendants were immune from suit based on this theory of liability.

Speak with an Attorney About Your Accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a Cape Cod bicycle accident, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about the possibility of filing a claim against the person whose negligence hurt you or your loved one. Call 888-262-6664 to schedule an appointment with one of the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III. You should be prompt in seeking legal representation, since it takes a considerable amount of time to properly investigate an accident case and prepare a complaint to be filed in court.

Related Blog Posts:

Bystander Bitten by Police Dog Had Right to Seek Compensation Under Massachusetts Tort Claims Act

Cause for Concern? Town Allegedly Agrees to Purge Teacher’s Records of Complaint that She Endangered Child by Exposing her to an Allergen