Appeals Court Holds City Exempt from Suit Under Massachusetts Torts Claims Act
A 28-year-old man was seriously injured when a Somerville resident shot him in the neck, paralyzing him from the neck down. His family filed suit for negligence, arguing that the gun the shooter used had been wrongly returned to the shooter by the Somerville police department and the city of Somerville. The police department had previously confiscated the weapon in the course of revoking the shooter’s license to carry. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals concluded that the city’s conduct was “based upon” licensing activity described in section 10(e) of the Massachusetts Torts Claims Act (MTCA) and that therefore the city was exempt from liability in this Massachusetts personal injury case.The victim was shot outside the shooter’s parents’ home in November 2013. The victim was visiting one of the building’s tenants and preparing to walk home when the shooter came out and confronted him and two other men. The victim had a bullet lodged in his neck and was hospitalized for a prolonged period. He’s currently a quadriplegic.
At the resulting criminal trial, the shooter’s lawyer maintained the shooting was in self-defense. He claimed that the victim and the two other men would not let the shooter back into his parents’ home and attacked him when he threatened to call the police. But prosecutors argued that a cellphone video made by the shooter showed he escalated the incident and made attempts to make it appear to be self-defense.
Although the police department was waiting for the decision of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) regarding whether it could issue the shooter a new license, the department returned the guns to him following the lower court’s ruling. The EOPSS thereafter notified the department that the shooter was disqualified due to his juvenile record, and at a subsequent hearing, the lower court agreed.