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Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Under the common law, the “king could do no wrong” – and hence was not subject to a finding of liability in court for negligent or reckless conduct. In modern times, the concept of sovereign immunity can apply to a government, just as it did to a monarchy. Citizens still do not have the “right” to sue a city, state, or even the federal government under the principles of sovereign immunity.

However, most governmental entities have passed laws that allow themselves to be sued, at least in some circumstances. However, there are almost always limitations on such suits, including those involving a Cape Cod wrongful death claim.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case, the plaintiff was a special administratrix who filed suit against the defendant city public health commission, asserting a cause of action for wrongful death and failure to supervise and/or train employees. According to allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint, the decedent was placed into an ambulance that was under the control of the defendant commission after staff members at an inn called 911 and reported that the decedent was experiencing suicidal thoughts. The defendant reportedly disregarded its usual practice of driving a suicidal patient to the hospital with a police escort; when the defendant’s employees opened the ambulance door, the decedent ran into the street, laid down, and was killed by a motor vehicle moving through traffic.

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In a Massachusetts negligence action seeking compensation for personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove several things in order to prevail at trial. First and foremost, the plaintiff must be able to show that a duty existed between him or her and the defendant.

If the plaintiff can show that the defendant breached this duty and that, as a proximate result, he or she suffered damages, he or she may be able to recover payment for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other associated expenses.

However, if the court does not agree that a duty of some sort existed between the parties, the plaintiff’s case will fail.

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Those who have lost a loved one to the negligence of another person, a business, or a governmental entity should be aware that there is a finite amount of time for filing a Massachusetts wrongful death claim. Not only does the plaintiff’s lawsuit need to be filed by a certain date, he or she also has a limited amount of time in which to serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint.

While there are a few, very limited exceptions to the requirements of the statute of limitations and service of process rules for such claims, almost all untimely claims are dismissed by the courts.

Thus, it is important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible if you believe that your loved one died due to another’s negligence.

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Dealing with an insurance company while seeking fair compensation for personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death can be extremely frustrating, especially for someone who has not yet retained counsel. Even when attorneys are involved, however, the insurance company may still hold tightly to its purse strings, refusing to offer a settlement that the plaintiff and his or her counsel believe is reasonable.

Under Massachusetts wrongful death law, there are consequences for insurance companies that refuse to negotiate claims in good faith, as well as for those that engage in unfair or deceptive acts. However, defining what is or is not good faith in a given situation can be even more contentious that the claim itself.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a woman (his deceased mother) who allegedly perished as a result of the negligence of a certain nursing home. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home, and the case proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the trial court entered judgment upon a multi-million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the nursing home was liable to the plaintiff for his mother’s wrongful death and her conscious pain and suffering. Continue reading

Massachusetts medical malpractice law requires that a party who is seeking to assert a claim of negligence against a health care practitioner provide proof of his or her claim before a malpractice review tribunal before his or her case can proceed to a regular court of law.

If the tribunal does not find enough evidence for the case to continue, the plaintiff does have an “out,” in that he or she can post a bond. If this is not economically feasible, the plaintiff also has the option of appealing the tribunal’s decision to the appellate court for further review.

Facts of the Case

In a recent wrongful death case considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a 29-year-old woman who died while under the care of the defendant doctors and others. The decedent presented herself at the hospital when she was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, complaining that she was in labor. She was in good health and had given birth two two children previously. She died at the hospital some 25 hours later.

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When someone loses a loved one due to the negligence of an individual, business, or governmental entity, he or she should consider discussing the possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit with a qualified Massachusetts civil litigation attorney. It is important that this be done in a timely manner in order to comply with the statute of limitations for such claims.

Sometimes, there can be other considerations, as well, such as happened in a recent case involving a woman who allegedly passed away due to a nursing home’s negligence. In that case, the personal representative of the woman’s estate found herself as the defendant in a federal lawsuit brought by the nursing home, which alleged that the woman’s claim had to be arbitrated instead of being brought in the court system.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent federal appellate court case was the daughter and personal representative of the estate of a woman who died in 2013 while in the care of a nursing home owned and operated by the plaintiffs. The defendant, acting as personal representative of her mother’s estate, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against one of the plaintiffs in a Massachusetts state court in 2016. According to the defendant’s state court complaint, she brought suit “on behalf of the heirs of the decedent.”

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Filing a Cape Cod medical malpractice lawsuit is a multi-step process. Unlike other types of negligence cases (such as those stemming from car crashes or slip and fall accidents), a plaintiff must first present his or her proof to a reviewing board. If this tribunal does not find that the plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence so as to warrant a trial, his or her case will be dismissed unless a bond is posted.

However, the tribunal’s decision is reviewable by the courts, and sometimes such the tribunal’s decision is reversed on appeal.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) Massachusetts Appeals Court case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a man who allegedly died due to the negligence of the defendants, two hospitals and several doctors. The plaintiff presented her case to a medical malpractice tribunal, which ruled that there was not enough evidence to raise a legitimate issue of liability as to four of the physicians or as to one of the hospitals. The plaintiff did not post the bond required under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 60B, and thus the trial court dismissed her case as to those defendants. She appealed.

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When someone is killed while working on another’s property, those left behind may wish to consider the possibility of filing a Cape Cod wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, the likelihood of success in such a case depends very much on the particular circumstances of the decedent’s passing.

If the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant owed the decedent a legal duty, that this duty was breached, and that the decedent’s death was a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of duty, then the decedent’s estate may be entitled to substantial compensation for the decedent’s wrongful death.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent appellate case was the personal representative of the estate of a man who died after suffering a fall while making repairs to a three-story home that belonged to two of the defendants. The plaintiff also named a relative of one of the homeowners as a defendant; this individual was allegedly involved in the decision to hire the decedent to make the repairs that led to the decedent’s death. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the defendants did not supply the decedent with any safety equipment, nor did they apply for a building permit with regard to the work that was to be done. The decedent fell to his death when a ladder, lent to him by his brother, shifted.

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When someone causes the death of another person through an act of negligence or conduct that is considered to be willful, wanton, or reckless, the wrongdoer may be held liable through a Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, liability will not apply in every instance in which one person is responsible for the death of another, as there are several legal defenses to a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death.

If the defendant believes that he or she has a defense to the plaintiff’s claims such that a finding of liability would be improper, he or she may file a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. The trial court must then decide whether the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed or should proceed to trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recently reported case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a man who was killed by the defendant state trooper during an incident in 2013. The decedent had a long history of mental illness and sometimes failed to comply with doctor’s orders regarding the taking of his prescription medication. On the day of the incident at issue, the decedent had allegedly been traveling erratically along a multi-lane state highway before coming to a stop on the side of the road. Another motorist called 911, and the defendant trooper responded to the call during which the decedent was shot.

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In a Massachusetts wrongful death suit seeking compensation for the death of a loved one, a claim must be filed in a court with appropriate jurisdiction and venue over the matter. Generally speaking, venue in a personal injury or wrongful death case can be found in the county and state in which the accident happened.

Sometimes, however, a matter is more complicated, such as when the federal courts have either concurrent or exclusive jurisdiction over a particular claim. In such a situation, if suit is filed in an inappropriate or inconvenient forum it may be possible to have the case transferred to the appropriate federal court.

Facts of the Case

In a federal district court case originally filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, the plaintiffs were the owners of a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea during a clamming voyage that departed from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, in early December 2017. Two crew members perished during voyage, and representatives of their estates sought to file claims against the owners of the vessel. The vessel owners’ suit sought exoneration from or limitation as to liability based upon the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30501 et seq. The federal district court in New Jersey entered an order admonishing all persons with claims arising from the sinking of the plaintiffs’ vessel to file such claims by a certain deadline. Continue reading