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MBTA Bus Hits Bullock Movie Truck; Is the Public Agency Liable?

Everybody is excited that Hollywood wants to spend its money in Boston. Maybe it was the massive amount of charm and good PR that started with Good Will Hunting and was boosted by The Departed, The Town, and The Fighter, or all of them together.

When the latest Hollywood invasion occurred (a Sandra Bullock movie) the production came equipped with of its necessities in trucks. Sometimes these trucks can get in the way of the MBTA buses, as evidenced by the accident that occurred Monday between a MBTA bus and a semi-truck filled with movie gear, reports the Boston Globe.

This raises the issue of whether MBTA could be held liable for either the damages to the movie production equipment or the people on the bus.

Traditionally, governmental entities have sovereign immunity from being sued for personal injuries. This immunity has been lowered over the years by different federal and state laws.

In Massachusetts, all government entities were immune from personal injury suits until the enactment of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act in 1977. The MTCA allows for personal injury claims against governmental agencies, but limits recovery to $100,000 and does not allow for punitive damages.

However, there is no limit for compensatory damages in claims of serious bodily injury against the MBTA. While there is no limit for the MBTA itself, the claim cannot be brought against the driver, unless the driver was acting outside the scope of his duties.

Here, there was damage to movie equipment and harm to people on the bus. There are no facts showing that the bus driver was acting outside of his duties as a bus driver at the time of the accident. Therefore, it is possible for the passengers and the production company for the Sandra Bullock movie to file suits for their harm.

It’s likely that we’ll hear about the MBTA settling any claims that may happen very quickly. At least, that will be true for the production company, because of the amount of money flowing in to the state and city from the production.

So, if you are hurt by the MBTA or by another governmental employee, know that you have the right to sue the agency for damages.

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