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Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds that Transportation Authority Failed to Plead Affirmative Defense Specifically and with Particularity in Negligence Case

In a Cape Cod personal injury case, the plaintiff’s case is usually premised on a legal theory known as “negligence.” When a defendant is accused of negligence, the plaintiff is averring that he or she failed to behave in a reasonably prudent manner under the circumstances. In other words, the defendant is said to have breached a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff, proximately causing some kind of damage to him or her.

Sometimes, however, a person who is hurt by another’s intentional – rather than negligent – act(s) may also seek compensation for injuries suffered to his or her person.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered on appeal by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the plaintiff sought compensation from the defendant transportation authority after one of the defendant’s bus drivers allegedly physically attacked him. The plaintiff’s complaint asserted claims for vicarious liability for the driver’s intentional actions and for direct negligence in the defendant’s hiring, training, and supervision of the employee. The defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that it was could not be held vicariously liable for the driver’s intentional tort and that the plaintiff had failed to adequately present his negligence case as required by the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.

The trial court judge agreed that the defendant could not be held vicariously liable but found that the defendant had waived the defense of defective presentment because it had failed to assert the defense with the specificity and particularly required under Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 9(c). The defendant filed an appeal with the intermediate court of appeals, from which the Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case on its own initiative.

The Outcome of the Case

The supreme court affirmed the lower tribunal’s order allowing in part and denying in part the defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Addressing the direct negligence claim (the trial court’s decision regarding vicarious liability was not part of the appeal), the supreme court found that trial court judge had correctly held that the defendant had not denied the plaintiff’s averment of proper presentment of his claim with the requisite specificity or particularity.

In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that he had notified the defendant of his claim on August 3, 2015, but the defendant did not assert that his presentment was inadequate on his direct negligence claim until June 1, 2017. Although a finding of prejudice was not strictly required, the court went on to find that, under the circumstances, the defendant’s failure to plead its affirmative defense specifically and with particularity “may in fact have prejudiced” the plaintiff.

Cape Cod Injury Attorney Offering Free Consultation

If you have been injured and would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with a helpful Cape Cod personal injury attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at 888-262-6664. Please be mindful that there are deadlines (such as the statute of limitations, the statute of repose, and the time for giving formal notice in certain types of cases) that, if not strictly complied with, will likely result in dismissal of your case. Thus, it is very important that you talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you have a claim against an individual, business, or governmental entity.

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