Court Decides Whether 30-Day Notice Must Be Given to Private Companies Responsible for Massachusetts Road Defects

manhole cover

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In a recent case before Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court, the court was asked to clarify under what circumstances an injury victim was required to provide 30-day notice in cases involving road defects. In that case, the plaintiff was injured when he was riding his bike and hit a utility cover that was not completely aligned with the road. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the city, but the city claimed that an energy company was responsible for the misaligned cover. The plaintiff then brought a negligence claim against the energy company. However, a judge dismissed the plaintiff’s case for failure to provide notice to the company within thirty days of the plaintiff’s injury, as required by statute. The plaintiff appealed.

Under M. G. L. c. 84, § 15 of the Tort Claims Act, the statute generally imposes liability on the county, city, town or “person by law obliged to repair the same” for injuries caused by a defect “in or upon a way.” If a person’s claim falls under § 15, the plaintiff is required to give notice before bringing a claim. Under § 18, a person must provide notice within thirty days of the injury to the county, city, town or “person by law obliged to keep said way in repair.”

In this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court noted that a private party was not responsible for maintaining the roadway, but was responsible for the defect of the utility cover. However, the court determined that the statutes were meant to apply only to governmental and quasi-governmental actors. The court decided that the meaning of “person by law obliged to keep” the way “in repair” applies to a county, city, town “or person required to perform the public duty of maintaining the way” and does not apply to a private corporation, even if the private corporation has been authorized by the government to perform a particular function.

The court noted, however, that in cases involving multiple governmental or quasi-governmental parties that may have had repair duties on a road, notice should be given to each party. The court held that the statutes at issue require notice to be given to governmental and quasi-governmental actors that are responsible for maintaining the public way. However, they do not apply to a private party such as this defendant. Therefore, the court held the plaintiff was not required to give thirty days’ notice and reversed the judgment.

Do You Need Legal Representation?

If you have been injured in any kind of Massachusetts accident and believe another person or entity may be at fault, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Given the strict filing requirements in these cases, failure to do so could result in the untimely dismissal of your claim. Neumann Law Group represents victims in Massachusetts premises liability cases, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death claims, and other types of injury claims. Kelly Neumann is an award-winning personal injury lawyer with a track record of success. Contact attorney Kelly Neumann at 1-800-525-6386 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.

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