Chapter 84 Cases
One of the worst situations is when someone comes to us to discuss a fall that occurred on public property. This is made worse when the victim describes serious injuries. Though there are ways to get around it in circumstances, we have to describe the requirements of Chapter 84 of the Massachusetts Code, which addresses people who fall on public ways.Background Information
Almost every case against the government is based in statutory law, as there is often no common law way to sue the government. This dates back to the middle ages where kings were immune from being sued. Called Sovereign Immunity, it’s a legal doctrine where a state actor cannot commit a tort or do anything negligent. Therefore, before the law was enacted, people injured because of government negligence had nowhere to go.What Is a Chapter 84 Claim?
Chapter 84 cases deal with Defects in public ways or state highways. While the statute allows an injured victim to sue the government, there are many significant restrictions:
- Cap on Damages: The most you will be able to recover from the Government entity will be $5,000.00. While this might seem like a lot in certain cases, keep in mind that this money will have to pay your lawyer and your medical bills. This cap is why many lawyers do not accept clients who have this type of case. However, there is a potential exemption if the defect causes a death.
- Notice: There is a strict requirement that injured victims need to inform the government about the injury within 30 days. Even though the Statute of Limitations is 3 years, missing the 30 day requirement can be fatal to a case.
- Actual Knowledge: For many cases, the government needs to have been made aware of the defect.
- Sole Cause Rule: This doctrine requires that hte Plaintiff not be comparatively negligent in any way. Even if the Plaintiff is only 1% responsible, recovery can be barred.
If you fell on a sidewalk or a road, you might assume that you’re limited by Chapter 84. But, that’s not always the case.
- Sidewalk is Privately Owned: Many sidewalks that you assume are publicly owned are actually privately owned and maintained. If that’s the case, Chapter 84 doesn’t apply. There are no damage caps, and injured victims are free to sue the property owner and anyone else responsible for its maintenance.
- Dangerous Condition Caused by Private Party: If a dangerous condition was caused by someone other than the government, you may be able to get around Chapter 84. For example, if a property owned has a gutter downspout that drains to the sidewalk and causes a buildup of ice, you may be able to sue that private property owner.
- Assumption of Responsibility: Some private property owners assume care for the maintenance of adjacent public property. This is especially true for commercial property owners who want to create a welcoming environment for their customers and/or clients.
If you fell on a public way, all is not lost. Call the experienced Premises Liability Attorneys at Marcotte Law Firm for a free, no obligation consultation.