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Massachusetts Court Discusses Personal Injury Claims Against the Federal Government

People in the military can receive health care at facilities run by the federal government. If they suffer harm in such facilities, they may be able to pursue claims for damages. However, proving liability can be difficult as the Federal Tort Claims Act (the Act) insulates the federal government from liability in many situations. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed immunity under the Act in a case in which it ruled that it was unclear whether the harm in question was caused by negligence as required to trigger the Act. If you were hurt due to the failure of a government employee, you should speak to a Cape Cod personal injury attorney to assess what claims you may be able to pursue.

The Decedent’s Harm

It is reported that the decedent, who was a veteran, was admitted to the defendant federal government’s medical facility for numerous mental health concerns. Before his admittance, he was searched for any weapons and illicit substances, but none were found. Throughout his stay, he expressed suicidal ideation and was subsequently closely monitored.

Allegedly, one afternoon a staff employee checked on the decedent sitting in a lounge area and found that he appeared calm. He was found dead approximately two hours later. The cause of his death was determined to be a fentanyl overdose. Neither he nor anyone else at the facility was prescribed fentanyl. The plaintiff instituted a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligence led to the decedent’s death. She later filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

Pursuing Personal Injury Claims Against the Federal Government

The Act provides that the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over claims seeking damages for the harm caused by the negligence of federal employees during the performance of their job duties. In the subject case, the parties did not dispute that the harm occurred when the defendant’s employees were acting within the scope of their employment.

However, the parties disagreed as to whether the harm suffered was caused by the negligence of the defendant’s employees. Under Massachusetts law, a party alleging negligence must show a duty, a breach, and harm proximately caused by the breach. In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, which allows a factfinder to infer negligence in the absence of evidence or a breach or causation, applied. Pursuant to the doctrine, a plaintiff can establish negligence if an accident is of a kind that does not happen absent negligence. In the subject, the court found that there was a material issue of fact as to whether the doctrine applied. Thus, it denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Meet with an Experienced Cape Cod Attorney

While the federal government is largely immune from liability for personal injuries caused by its employees, it may be held accountable in some situations. If you sustained losses due to the carelessness of a federal employee, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your potential claims. The experienced personal injury lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue any compensation you may be owed.  You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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