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When Might Damages be Capped?

Massachusetts, like many jurisdictions, caps the amount of damages that a plaintiff in a personal injury matter may receive. There are various types of damages that a plaintiff may be awarded in a personal injury case, including the following categories of damages: (1) Economic (monetary reimbursement for losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and more); (2) Non-Economic (pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, loss of life, and more); (3) Compensatory (may include economic and non-economic as compensation for injuries); and (4) Punitive (punishes a defendant for the defendant’s wrongdoing).

Depending upon the type of personal injury matter in which a plaintiff is injured, Massachusetts courts place limits on the amount of damages that a plaintiff is entitled to receive. Specifically, Massachusetts requires that for non-economic damages, the limit is $500,000.00. This means that for malpractice, negligence, unauthorized rendering of services, or other types of personal injury cases, a Massachusetts court is required to instruct a jury that the jury may not award a plaintiff more than five hundred thousand dollars for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, or other items of damages unless the jury determines that there is substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily function.[1]

If a case is tried without a jury, however, a Massachusetts court shall not award a plaintiff more than $500,000.00.[2] If there is more than one plaintiff with damages from the same single injury, then each plaintiff may receive no more than each plaintiff’s proportional share of the possible $500,000.00 within the limits, and the limits apply regardless of the number of persons liable, jointly or severally, for the damages.[3]

Another limit that may be placed upon a plaintiff’s award is if the defendant is a charitable organization. In this instance, Massachusetts law provides that a plaintiff may not receive more than $20,000.00 of damages, or $100,000.00 if in the medical malpractice context.[4] Although there is a limit against what a plaintiff may recover from a charitable organization, there is not currently a limit if “the tort was committed in the course of activities primarily commercial in character even though carried on to obtain revenue to be used for charitable purposes.”[5] Additionally, directors, officers, or trustees within a tax-exempt charitable organization are not liable unless the damage that they cause is “willful or wanton misconduct.”[6]

If you would like to learn more about being made whole as a result of damage that you’ve incurred or if you would like to learn more about damages in a personal injury case, call us for a free consultation at 617-657-HURT (4878) or fill out our contact form here.


[1] Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 231 § 60H

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 231§ 85K

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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