Massachusetts Medical Malpractice at a Glance

Massachusetts State Tort Law Statute of Limitations Three years from injury

Damage Award Limits $500,000 for non-economic damages

Joint Defendant Liability There is no separation of liability Expert Witness No provisions provided for

Attorney Fees No more than 40% of first $150,000

33.33% of next $150,000

30% of next $200,000

25% of damages over $500,000

Statutes of Limitations in the State of Massachusetts

Any medical malpractice law action in Massachusetts needs to be filed within three years of the cause, but never more than seven years after the alleged act or omission occurred, except in the case of foreign object actions. A cause of action for medical malpractice accrues when a plaintiff learns or reasonably could have learned, that harm has been brought to him as a result of the defendant's conduct.

The statute of limitations for minors is the same as for adults excepting that a child under six can always be brought before the child's ninth birthday.

Massachusetts and Contributory or Comparative Negligence

Massachusetts follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. According to this, a claimant's action is barred if their own negligence exceeds the combined negligence of all defendants. Otherwise, the claimant's recovery is reduced proportionally according to his degree of negligence.

Joint and Several Liability In Massachusetts

Joint tortfeasors are severally liable, and have the right of contribution. Relative degrees of fault may not be considered in determining liability. Instead the judgment is divided equally among the tortfeasors.

Massachusetts and Vicarious Liability

If a physician is an actual agent of the hospital, the hospital can be held liable for his or her actions.

Expert Testimony Requirements in Massachusetts

Expert testimony hast to be presented in support of a claim under medical malpractice in Massachusetts.

Damage Caps in Massachusetts

In all medical malpractice cases, juries are instructed that if they find the defendant or defendants liable, they cannot award the plaintiff more than $500,000 for items of general damages unless it determines that there is substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function or substantial disfigurement, or other special circumstances.

Immunities in Massachusetts

Public employees, however, are immune from liability; only the state can be held liable for personal injury or wrongful death. A public entity's liability is limited to $100,000 and they cannot be liable for punitive damages.

Charitable organizations have limited immunity for acts performed in pursuit of the organization's charitable purposes and their liability is capped at $20,000 per occurrence.

Massachusetts Arbitration

A tribunal consisting of a judge, a physician, and a lawyer must review every medical malpractice action to determine whether "the evidence presented if properly substantiated is sufficient to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry or whether the plaintiff's case is merely an unfortunate medical result."

The panel's findings, along with any expert testimony are admissible at trial