Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts slip and fall case that was filed against the town of Leicester (the Town). The opinion highlights the importance of complying with all procedural rules when dealing with a government defendant. In this case, because the plaintiff failed to ensure that the Town was served with timely notice of her claim, the court concluded that the plaintiff lost her right to a remedy.
Under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA), before a citizen files a claim against a public entity, that person must send a “claim in writing to the executive officer of such public employer within two years after the date upon which the cause of action arose.” This is known as a presentment letter. Unless a plaintiff sends a presentment letter, they cannot pursue a claim against the government entity.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was picking up her son from school on January 19, 2016, when she slipped and fell while on school grounds. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered a fractured knee and wrist. Exactly two years later, the plaintiff sent a presentment letter to the Town. The Town received the letter on January 22, 2016, and issued a formal statement denying liability on February 7, 2018. The next month, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit.
The Town moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim, claiming that she failed to comply with the MTCA. Specifically, the Town argued that the plaintiff had two years to “present her claim” and that the Town did not receive the presentment letter until three days after this period. The plaintiff’s position was that she “presented” the claim when she placed the letter in the mail. The Town’s position was that it was “presented” with the claim once it received the letter.
The court agreed and found in favor of the Town, but offered a different rationale. Initially, the court acknowledged that the form and content of the plaintiff’s letter were fine; however, the court held that “presentment occurs upon delivery to the office of the proper executive officer.” The court explained that the plaintiff’s interpretation did not comport with the accepted definition of “present,” because placing a letter in the mail does not automatically allow the recipient to review it. The court went on to explain that the presentment requirement should be strictly construed because it helps weed out meritless claims and affords the government adequate time to investigate allegations.
Have You Been Injured in a Massachusetts Slip and Fall Accident?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact the dedicated personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C. At our Massachusetts personal injury law firm, we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including car accidents, instances of medical malpractice, and premises liability lawsuits. We fearlessly take on even the largest, most powerful defendants, including government entities and insurance companies. To learn more, call 800-262-9200 to schedule a free consultation today.