Deciding When to Sue and Where to Sue in a Personal Injury Case in Massachusetts

When you’re hurt outside Massachusetts, your case potentially presents an extra layer of complexity. You may have the choice to sue where your injury occurred or to sue back home in Massachusetts. Even if you sue here, the law may dictate that the courts here apply the legal rules of the state where the accident occurred. For example, you could possibly sue in Massachusetts but be required to follow legal rules like the statute of limitations established by the laws of the state where your injury took place. Determining where the most advantageous place to bring your injury lawsuit is can be an extremely important choice and is just one example among many of situations in which it pays to have representation from skilled Massachusetts injury counsel.

One case that presented a choice between multiple states was that of Susan, a phlebotomist at the UMass hospital in Worcester. Susan decided to book a Labor Day weekend vacation at a romantic resort in the Poconos. While on a boat ride tour operated by the resort, an extremely bumpy ride resulted in Susan being thrown about. By the end of the ride, she had suffered fractures to her T-12 vertebrae, along with bruises to her back, buttocks, and thighs.

The injury took place in early September 2012. Almost exactly two years later, she sued the resort in state court in Pennsylvania. Some time later, she chose to voluntarily dismiss that lawsuit and refile a different lawsuit, alleging the same claims. She filed this second lawsuit in state court in Boston in June 2015.

The resort successfully got the case moved from state court in Boston to federal court in Boston. Since Susan alleged damages in excess of $75,000, and since she and the resort were legal residents of different states (the resort was a Maryland corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut), that meant that the case qualified for “diversity jurisdiction,” which is a set of rules under which a case can be tried in federal court.

A key part of Susan’s case was the question of “choice of law,” meaning that the judge had to decide whether to use Pennsylvania law or Massachusetts law when it came to determining whether or not Susan filed suit in Massachusetts too late. Previously, in a case very similar to Susan’s, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the injured plaintiff was required to file her lawsuit within the limitations period of the state where she was hurt (Texas), rather than Massachusetts.

Ultimately, the federal District Court concluded that, based upon that Supreme Judicial Court ruling, it was clear that Pennsylvania law should decide how long the injured woman had to file. Pennsylvania law says two years. Since Susan filed her Massachusetts complaint two years and nine months after her injury, she was too late.

Choices related to when to file your lawsuit and where to file your lawsuit often benefit from the knowledge of experienced counsel. Skilled Plymouth County injury lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann has been providing effective representation to injured people from across Plymouth County, including in Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury, for many years. To find out more about how this office can assist you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Overcoming an ‘Open and Obvious’ Argument to Succeed in Your Massachusetts Trip-and-Fall Case, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2018

Getting Your Day in Court for Your Massachusetts Auto Accident Case, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2018