Do Governmental Immunity Caps in MA apply to Wrongful Death Cases?

  • Are MA Government entities immune from paying full damages when one of its employees is negligent causing a fatal Massachusetts accident?
  • Are the caps in Liability applicable in the event that a government worker accidentally kills a civilian in accident in Mass.?

The Liability caps do not apply in wrongful death lawsuits and fatal car accidents in Massachusetts. Conners v. Northeast Hospital Corp. 439 Mass. at 470 (2003). Thankfully, the MA Supreme Judicial Court refused to allow governmental immunity for fatal crashes and accidents. Therefore, if a government employee is involved in a fatal motorcycle, Semi Truck bicycle, car accident, pedestrian or premises liability accident the government cannot run from liability.

In Kromhout v Commonwealth the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court resolved the following issue: “This case presents an issue, specifically reserved in Patrazza v. Commonwealth, ante 464, 466 & n. 1 (1986), involving the Commonwealth’s liability in a wrongful death action arising from a defect in a State highway.” In Kromhout, the MA Supreme Judicial Court ruled “Death claims, on the other hand, being drastic in the extreme and relatively infrequent, need not be constrained to the recovery limits of G.L.c. 84.” (Citations omitted.) Gallant, supra at 714.

The Supre Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Kromhout, set forth the pertinent facts: “The case arises from the February 24, 1981, collision of the decedent’s automobile with a truck, owned by the Corenco Corporation and operated by Donald DeCelles, on Massachusetts State Highway Route 1A in Hamilton. The accident occurred on a rainy day at an S-curve on Route 1A near the intersection of Moulton and Gardner Streets. Due to precipitation on that and the previous day, a water puddle had accumulated in the southbound lane in which the truck operated by DeCelles was traveling. Just prior to the impact, DeCelles’ truck hit the puddle, covering his windshield with water and obscuring his vision for a second. Although there was conflicting testimony as to whether the collision took place in the northbound or the southbound lane, the impact forced both cars to the shoulder of the northbound lane. Herman Kromhout died as a result of the accident”

The Court reasoned that “Death claims, on the other hand, being drastic in the extreme and relatively infrequent, need not be constrained to the recovery limits of G.L.c. 84.” (Citations omitted.) Gallant, supra at 714.” The Law in Mass requires numerous hoops a claimant must jump through in order to pursue a personal injury case against a Mass Government entity.

For example, The Pertinent Massachusetts Governmental Immunity Statute states “Section 4. A civil action shall not be instituted against a public employer on a claim for damages under this chapter unless the claimant shall have first presented his claim in writing to the executive officer of such public employer within two years after the date upon which the cause of action arose, and such claim shall have been finally denied by such executive officer in writing and sent by certified or registered mail, or as otherwise provided by this section. The failure of the executive officer to deny such claim in writing within six months after the date upon which it is presented, or the failure to reach final arbitration, settlement or compromise of such claim according to the provisions of section five, shall be deemed a final denial of such claim. No civil action shall be brought more than three years after the date upon which such cause of action accrued. Disposition of any claim by the executive officer of a public employer shall not be competent evidence of liability or amount of damages.”

Please consult with a MA Personal Injury or Auto accident Attorney immediately after a motor vehicle accident or other accident involving a government entity in Massachusetts