Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial judge finding the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) liable for a retaliatory termination and awarding a total damages of $1,332,271, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. The jury found the MWRA terminated Plaintiff in retaliation for his taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2615, and expressing his intention to take FMLA leave in the future. The jury awarded back pay damages for Plaintiff's lost wages, made an advisory award of damages for the future loss of Plaintiff's pension benefits, and awarded damages for emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial judge further awarded liquidated damages and attorney's fees and costs. The MWRA appealed, primarily challenging the jury instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not commit prejudicial error in instructing the jury; and (2) there was no abuse if discretion in calculating and awarding damages. View "DaPrato v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant and dismissing Plaintiff's personal injury action on the grounds that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 84, 15, the road defect statute, provided the exclusive remedy for Plaintiff's claim and that Plaintiff had not provided the statutorily required notice, holding that section 15 did not limit Defendant's common-law liability under tort law and that Defendant may be sued for negligence without providing thirty days' notice under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 84, 18, the notice statute. Plaintiff was injured when, while riding his bicycle, he struck a utility cover that was misaligned with the road surface. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, Veolia Energy North America, for negligence. The superior court judge dismissed the lawsuit. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the road defect and notice statutes apply to governmental and quasi-governmental actors responsible for the public duty of maintaining the public way and not to a private party such as Veolia that has created a particular defect in the road; and (2) Veolia may be sued for its own negligence without providing thirty days' notice. View "Meyer v. Veolia Energy North America" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court answered a question certified to it by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts concerning whether the six-year statute of repose set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2B operates to bar tort claims arising from diseases with extended latency periods where the defendants had knowing control of the injurious instrumentality at the time of exposure. The Supreme Judicial Court answered in the affirmative, concluding that section 2B completely eliminates all tort claims arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction, or general administration of an improvement to real property after the established time period has run, even if the cause of action arises from a disease with an extended latency period, such as a disease associated with asbestos exposure, and even if a defendant had knowing control of the instrumentality of injury at the time of exposure. View "Stearns v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s order allowing in part and denying in part the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) motion for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff’s action alleging that Derek Smith, an MBTA bus driver, assaulted him, holding that the trial judge did not err. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims for negligent hiring, training, and supervision; and vicarious liability. In allowing in part the MBTA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, the superior court held (1) the MBTA was immune from the vicarious liability claim, and (2) Plaintiff failed adequately to present the negligence claim as required by the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4, but the MBTA had waived the defense of defective presentment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court judge was warranted in concluding that the MBTA waived the affirmative defense of inadequate presentment by failing to plead it with the required specificity and particularity. View "Theisz v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s dismissal of this complaint under the statute of repose, holding that a claim alleging that a building contractor committed an unfair or deceptive act under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2 and 9 by violating Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 142A, 17(10) is subject to the six-year statute of repose set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2B. In 2016, Plaintiff brought this action alleging that renovations performed in 2000 to 2001 by Defendants caused a fire in her home in 2012. A superior court judge dismissed the complaint as untimely under the six-year statute of repose. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim was sufficiently tort-like to bring it within the ambit of the statute of repose; and (2) because this action was commenced more than six years after the work was completed, it was barred by chapter 260, section 2B, and therefore properly dismissed. View "Bridgwood v. A.J. Wood Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Steward Carney Hospital owed Mary Miller, who was fatally stabbed in her home by N, a former patient of the hospital, and her family a duty of care, and if so, whether the hospital breached that duty when one of its physicians released N from involuntary psychiatric commitment. Plaintiffs, a representative of Miller’s estate and the mother of Miller’s granddaughter, brought this tort action against the hospital. A superior court judge allowed Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the hospital did not owe Plaintiffs any duty of care. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the hospital did not owe the victim or her family any duty of care at the time of the killing because the order of civil commitment to hold N did not impose an independent duty on the hospital for N’s treatment and did not require the hospital to exercise any medical judgment as to the appropriateness of N’s release. View "Williams v. Steward Health Care System, LLC" on Justia Law

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Neither a controlled affiliate nor the manager of a controlled affiliate is a “public employer” as defined in the Tort Claims Act (Act), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 2. Plaintiff allegedly injured himself when he slipped and fell while descending stairs at his apartment in a public housing development. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Farmington Housing Authority (authority); Musterfield Place, LLC, a controlled affiliate of the authority, which owns the property (owner); and FHA Musterfield Manager, LLC, the managing agent for the owner (manager). The owner and manager moved for partial summary judgment arguing that they should be deemed public employers under the Act and therefore may not be held liable for damages in excess of $100,000. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the owner and manager were not public employers under the facts of this case. View "Acevedo v. Musterfield Place, LLC" on Justia Law

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A pharmacy has a limited legal duty to take reasonable steps to notify a patient and his or her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time the patient tries to fill a prescription. Only the pharmacy, and not the physician or the patient, is notified by a health insurer when a prescribing physician must complete a prior authorization form and submit it to the insurer. In this case, prior authorization was necessary for Yarushka Rivera to obtain insurance coverage for Topamax, a medication she needed to control life-threatening seizures. When Rivera reached age nineteen, her insurer refused to pay for the prescription because it had not received the necessary prior authorization form. Rivera, who was unable to afford the medication without insurance, suffered a fatal seizure at the age of nineteen. Plaintiff brought this action for wrongful death and punitive damages against Walgreen Eastern Co., Inc. The superior court concluded that Walgreens had no legal duty to Rivera to notify Rivera’s prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Walgreens owed a legal duty of care to take reasonable steps to notify Rivera and her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time Rivera tried to fill her prescription. View "Correa v. Schoeck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the motion judge allowing summary judgment for Defendants, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and individuals associated with MIT, in this wrongful death action arising out of the suicide of Plaintiff’s son. Plaintiff commenced this action alleging that Defendants’ negligence caused the death of his son, who was a student at MIT. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was allowed, and Plaintiff’s cross motion for summary judgment was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) in certain circumstances not present in this case, a special relationship and a corresponding duty to take reasonable measures to prevent suicide may be created by a university and its student; but (2) here, the superior court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants on the tort claims as a matter of law and properly denied summary judgment on the workers’ compensation claim. View "Nguyen v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff who alleges that he was injured from his use of a generic drug because of a failure to warn of the drug’s side effects cannot bring a common-law general negligence claim against the brand-name manufacturer that created the warning label. The plaintiff, however, may bring a common-law recklessness claim against the brand-name manufacturer if it intentionally failed to update the label on its drug, knowing or having reason to know of an unreasonable risk of death or grave bodily injury associated with its use. Further, a plaintiff who is injured by a generic drug due to a failure to warn cannot bring a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9 against a brand-name manufacturer that did not advertise, offer to sell, or sell that drug because such failure did not occur in the conduct of “trade or commerce” as defined in section 1(b). In the instant case, the trial judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Merck & Co, Inc. asserting negligence for failure to warn and a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order dismissing Plaintiff’s common-law claim and remanded with instructions that Plaintiff be granted leave to amend his complaint and affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim. View "Rafferty v. Merck & Co., Inc." on Justia Law