In most circumstances, a person who is harmed by the negligence of another party can seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the act of negligence.
In the case of a public entity defendant, however, there are limitations on, among other things, the maximum amount of money that the injured person can receive in a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit arising from a governmental unit’s negligence. While this may seem unfair, the idea is that a judgment against “the government” is ultimately borne by the taxpayers. Controlling the maximum amount of a potential payout preserves the public coffers, purportedly inuring to the good of all.
Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in a recent case was a public housing development resident. According to allegations in his complaint, he slipped and fell while navigating the stairs at his unit. He filed a lawsuit against the housing authority, a “controlled affiliate” of the authority, and the managing agent authority, seeking compensation for his injuries. The housing authority and the managing agent sought partial summary judgment, asking the trial court to deem them public employers under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (codified at Massachusetts General Laws ch. 258, § 2) and therefore not liable for damages exceeding $100,000. The trial court judge denied the motion, concluding that the Act “clearly defines the scope of a public employer” and does not include controlled affiliates within that definition.