Massachusetts Slip and Fall Accidents and “Charitable Immunity”

In Massachusetts, those injured on the property of a "charitable institution" may face a grim reality.  That is because the Massachusetts charitable immunity statute found at M.G.L. 231, section 85k imposes a cap on personal injury damages at $20,000.00.  So no matter how bad your injuries, no matter how much your medical bills are, your damages will effectively be capped at $20,000.00.

Examples of "charitable institutions" in Massachusetts are churches and hospitals.  Why you may ask does this cap exist?  It is meant to protect the financial interests of these charitable institutions in their furtherance of charitable causes and to prevent them from being financially crippled by tort (personal injury) liability.

So, if you have experienced a slip and fall, trip and fall, or any other type of accident on the premises of a properly designated Massachusetts charitable institution, please understand and recognize that your damages, no matter how great, will be limited to $20,000.00.

Here is the statute:

"It shall not constitute a defense to any cause of action based on tort brought against a corporation, trustees of a trust, or members of an association that said corporation, trust, or association is or at the time the cause of action arose was a charity; provided, that if the tort was committed in the course of any activity carried on to accomplish directly the charitable purposes of such corporation, trust, or association, liability in any such cause of action shall not exceed the sum of twenty thousand dollars exclusive of interest and costs. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the liability of charitable corporations, the trustees of charitable trusts, and the members of charitable associations shall not be subject to the limitations set forth in this section 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.

"No person who serves as a director, officer or trustee of an educational institution which is, or at the time the cause of action arose was, a charitable organization, qualified as a tax-exempt organization under 26 USC 501(c)(3) and who is not compensated for such services, except for reimbursement of out of pocket expenses, shall be liable solely by reason of such services as a director, officer or trustee for any act or omission resulting in damage or injury to another, if such person was acting in good faith and within the scope of his official functions and duties, unless such damage or injury was caused by willful or wanton misconduct. The limitations on liability provided by this section shall not apply to any cause or action arising out of said person’s operation of a motor vehicle."