Governmental, Municipal & School LiabilityPrint
We have a wealth of expertise in the defense of municipalities, local governments (including boards, committees and departments), school systems, public utilities, and other governmental entities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island courts, the Federal Courts, and before both state and federal administrative agencies. These cases vary from heated disputes between parents and a school committee, to a slip-and-fall on a city sidewalk, to wrongful death claims arising from automobile accidents, to property nuisance claims, to civil rights and employment claims. We have defended over two hundred cities and towns, numerous counties, many school districts, as well as their officers (both elected and appointed) and employees in actions arising out of the performance of their public duties, including those duties involving land management, zoning, planning, public works, police protection and student discipline. Our familiarity with local government and with the numerous procedural and substantive defenses available to our clients -- both statutory and common law -- enables us to protect municipalities, local governments and schools against the myriad lawsuits and administrative proceedings currently facing them in the public sector.
A considerable portion of our practice involves the defense of municipalities and municipal officials against an increasing number and variety of statutory claims. Thus, we have successfully defended law enforcement personnel, fire protection personnel, selectmen, department heads and numerous other public employees, in both state and federal court, against a variety of alleged statutory violations, including claims arising out of the Open Meeting Law, the Public Records Act, the Recreational Use Statute and the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, as well as their Rhode Island counter parts.
School liability claims form another substantial segment of our practice. In the landmark case of Brum v. Town of Dartmouth, we successfully defended Dartmouth against tort claims brought by parents of a deceased high school student who was fatally stabbed on school property by interlopers. In the realm of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, we have successfully defended principals and superintendents alleged to have fostered an inadequate hiring scheme. Our knowledge in these areas of the law, as well as our ability to navigate with sensitivity the volatile issues that exist in these matters, are assets to past, present and future clients.
A sampling of our reported decisions in the areas of governmental, municipal & school liability includes:
Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 2008) (parents cannot sue school district under § 1983 for including curriculum materials encouraging respect for gay persons and couples);
Ariel v. Town of Kingston, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 290 (2007) (municipality cannot be sued for actions of police officers directing traffic at accident scene);
Wood v. Town of Falmouth, 419 F.Supp.2d 3 (Dist. Mass. 2006;
Keenan v. Town of Weymouth Fire Department, 2006 WL 3258247 (October 31, 2006; MCAD);
Lacava v. Lucander, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 527 (2003) (dismissal of inmate’s claims of wrongful denial of public accommodations to burial plot in cemetery where his murder victim wife was buried);
Mullin v. Town of Fairhaven, 284 F.3d 31 (1st Cir. 2002) (upholding directed verdict in alleged wrongful discharge of local board appointees for their votes protected by First Amendment);
Collins v. Nuzzo, 244 F.3d 246 (1st Cir. 2001) (upholding summary judgment dismissing used car vendor’s claims of retaliatory denial of business permit);
Burnham v. City of Salem, 101 F. Supp. 2d 26 (D. Mass. 2000) (dismissal of landowners’ claims of retaliatory permitting and land use enforcement decisions); and
Brum v. Town of Dartmouth, 428 Mass. 684 (1999) (school was not liable for failure to protect student who was killed at school even though principal had reason to believe that assailants planned to return).