Summary Judgment Was Appropriately Denied When Plaintiff Was Not Injured “by Reason of a Defect in or Upon the Way” – Landry v. Massachusetts Port Authority

Any time that a person is hurt due to someone else’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner, there is the possibility of recovering money damages via a negligence lawsuit. This includes injuries caused by government employees, but lawsuits against the government are somewhat different from lawsuits against individuals or businesses. For instance, notice should be given within a certain time period, and there is a limit on the amount of damages that are recoverable.

Still, some recovery is better than none, and suits against the government are worth pursing if you are willing to comply with the additional procedural requirements. Just as with other defendants, governmental entities will avail themselves of every defense and loophole in an attempt to avoid a finding of liability if at all possible.

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Landry v. Massachusetts Port Authority, the plaintiff sought damages from the defendants (a port authority and a city) under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act for injuries he sustained at the Worcester Regional Airport when he was pinned to a metal bar by a motorized sliding gate. The plaintiff worked for a commercial laundry and was at the airport to deliver clean uniforms to maintenance workers employed by the city. The defendants sought summary judgment, urging that the plaintiff’s suit under the Act failed because he was injured by a defect in a way. They further sought judgment as a matter of law, due to the plaintiff’s alleged failure to provide notice within 30 days of his injury. The trial court denied relief to the defendants, and they appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The court dismissed the defendants’ appeal, holding that it was not properly before the court. In order for a defendant to have a right of appeal from an interlocutory order, such as the one at issue, the doctrine of present execution would have had to apply. Although the first criterion for the doctrine may arguably have been present (if the interlocutory ruling interfered with rights in a manner that could not be remedied on an appeal from the final judgment), the second criterion clearly did not apply because the matter to be decided on appeal was not collateral to the merits of the controversy.

The court went on to note, for the purpose of instruction in future cases, that the defendants had not shown that the injury in question was caused by a defect in a way, as would have been required for a dismissal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Law. ch. 84, as argued by the defendants. Even if the accident occurred “on a way,” which was not proven by the evidence before the court, there was no showing that it was caused “by reason of a defect in or upon the way.” Instead, the plaintiff’s theory that his injuries were caused by the negligence of a city employee (who caused the motorized fence to move unexpectedly while the plaintiff was walking through the gate) was factually supported.

To Talk to a Lawyer About Your Premises Liability Injury

If you have been hurt on government property and believe your injuries were the result of a government employee’s negligence, the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can help. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Cape Cod premises liability lawyer, call us at 888-262-6664. There is no charge for the consultation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis.

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