A potential client called us looking to investigate a claim they had against a town and its officials for committing, what they considered to be, negligence that caused the person to suffer serious injuries. Unfortunately, they had been dropped by another attorney because they informed the potential client the State was protected and could not be sued.
Our Client’s Fear
The potential client did not understand the Maine Tort Claims Act and why it ‘protects’ employees of towns from being sued for negligence when doing their job or for failing to do their job.
How Garmey Law Helped
We had to explain the background of the Maine Tort Claims Act and that it replaced what is called statutory or qualified immunity from lawsuits. Statutory or Qualified immunity meant that we, as people in Maine, could not sue the State or local Government because of this ‘protection.’ The legislature enacted the Maine Tort Claims Act to replace that immunity and provide only four (4) narrow exceptions to allow you to sue the Government for negligence in Maine:
- For employee negligence related to operating vehicles;
- For the negligent maintenance of property owned by the State of Maine;
- For the negligent dumping of toxic waste by the State; or
- For negligence arising from active road construction, street cleaning, or repairs (not after the work is completed, only during the work itself).
In this case, the person was hurt because they argued the Town and its employees had not sufficiently repaired a road, which was done years before the injury. Because the construction was not active, and the potential client’s argument for their claim was lack of sufficient repair, the potential client did not have a claim that would survive the Maine Tort Claims Act protections and would likely be dismissed at summary judgment in the case (where the Defense argues there is no legal way for the Plaintiff to succeed because the law prevents them from recovering under the facts and circumstances of that particular case).
Our potential client was devastated since they could not continue to seek damages for their injuries. We had to approach the discussion with empathy. We provided the potential client with the knowledge and understanding that resonated with them to allow them to accept this fact and come to terms with it. The conversation took almost an hour, but at the end of the discussion, the potential client understood and was prepared to move on with their life positively, knowing everything that could have been done was done.