Supreme Judicial Court’s Decision Agreed with Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane Attorney Regarding Tort Claims Act
On January 22nd, the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision in Magliacane v. City of Gardner which preserved key protections for municipalities facing tort claims. The SJC’s decision agreed with the arguments put forth by MHTL’s attorney Cindy Amara in an amicus brief she filed in the case on behalf of the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (“MMLA”), in support of the City of Gardner.
If the Court had not concluded that claims similar to those raised by the resident were governed by the Act, the financial impact on municipalities could have been catastrophic, considering the wide variety of activities a municipality offers for a fee (e.g. sports, recycling, trash removal). Murphy, Hesse Toomey & Lehane’s brief to the SJC laid out the magnitude of the financial impacts to a municipality if the Act did not apply to such “commercial” activities. For example, on the one issue, if residents were allowed to bring similar claims, the City could have been liable for more than forty-five percent of its annual budget for Fiscal Year 2020.
Given the important protections that the Act provides for municipalities and the potential fiscal cost that could have been imposed through this case, the SJC’s decision in Magliacane v. City of Gardner constitutes a major win for the Commonwealth and municipalities.
Attorney Felicia Vasudevan, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, received a favorable decision on behalf of her client, Marshfield Public Schools. The Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgement that upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). However, as the notice was filed more than 30 days after entry, the First Circuit ultimately dismissed the appeal for being untimely. The Plaintiff also appealed the district court’s order, denying her motion to vacate. Read More
Following our Alert from March 16, 2023, Civility is Dead – The Supreme Court Rules Municipal Control of Public Speak Limited to Reasonable Time/Place/Manner Restrictions, which discussed the holding to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284), we promised to bring you more detailed guidance on developing a Public Speak policy for your public body or municipality. The Barron case involved a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s public comment policy, which attempted to impose a code of civility on members of the public who participated in public comment before public bodies. In Barron, the court interpreted the state constitution to mean that public bodies may request, but not require, that public commentators be respectful and courteous. Instead, a public body may set restrictions on reasonable time, place, and manner comments to ensure that the meeting retains an orderly and peaceable manner.