When someone is injured by another’s breach of the duty of due care, he or she has a right to file a negligence claim seeking compensation from the responsible party for his or her personal injuries. This includes payment for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages.
A Massachusetts wrongful death action may lie when a person is killed by another’s negligence. These suits are typically brought by the personal representative of the victim’s estate, acting on behalf of the beneficiaries enumerated under the state’s wrongful death statute, and, if successful, may result in the awarding of different elements of damages than would have been available in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the victim. The state’s highest court recently clarified the relationship between these two types of claims.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of a man who died in a scuba diving accident in 2014. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants, the manufacturer of the decedent’s dry suit, the person who supplied the decedent’s diving equipment, and the dive leader, seeking to assert a wrongful death claim under Massachusetts General Laws ch. 229, § 2. The plaintiff settled her case against all defendants except the dive leader. Thereafter, the dive leader filed a motion for summary judgment, relying upon a release and covenant not to sue that the decedent signed prior to his death. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the intermediate appellate court on its own initiative.