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Estate of Gavin v. Tewksbury State Hospital, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-082-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750;  (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us     SJC‑11422   ESTATE OF STEVEN GAVIN  vs.  TEWKSBURY STATE HOSPITAL & another.[1]     Middlesex.     January 6, 2014.  ‑  May 15, 2014. Present:  Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.     Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.  Wrongful Death.  Practice, Civil, Presentment of claim under Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Wrongful death, Standing.  Negligence, Wrongful death.  Executor and Administrator, Governmental claims.  Words, “Claimant.”       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on March 24, 2011.   A motion to dismiss was heard by Garry V. Inge, J.   After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.     Robert S. Sinsheimer for the plaintiff. Mark P. Sutliff, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendants. J. Michael Conley, Thomas R. Murphy, & Elizabeth N. Mulvey, for Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.     BOTSFORD, J.  The estate of Steven Gavin (estate) commenced this action for wrongful death in the Superior Court against the Commonwealth and Tewksbury State Hospital (hospital) under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (act), G. L. c. 258.  The estate seeks to recover damages on account of the death of Steven Gavin (decedent), a death allegedly caused by negligent conduct on the part of hospital staff members.  The primary issue before us is whether the statutory requirements for presentment of a claim under the act, see G. L. c. 258, § 4 (§ 4), were met when the presentment was made by the estate (through its attorney), and not by the duly appointed executor or administrator of the estate.  Ruling on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint, a judge concluded that the presentment requirement was not met in these circumstances, and allowed the motion.  A divided panel of the Appeals Court affirmed.  Estate of Gavin v. Tewksbury State Hosp., 83 Mass. App. Ct. 139 (2013).  The case is before us on further appellate review.  We conclude that in the circumstances of this case, the presentment made by the estate was proper.  We therefore vacate the judgment of the Superior Court. 1.  Background.  The decedent died on August 11, 2008.  In the weeks preceding his death, he was receiving inpatient care at the hospital for Huntington’s disease; the estate claims that his death was caused by a bacterial infection due to the improper reinsertion of […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - May 15, 2014 at 9:22 pm

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