On September 1, 2015, the Berkshire County Superior Court allowed a motion for summary judgment filed by attorneys Nancy Frankel Pelletier and David S. Lawless on behalf of the Town of Williamstown, two of its employees, and five parent chaperones. Following a bicycle accident in which one of the plaintiffs was seriously injured, the plaintiffs brought suit seeking damages for injuries and loss of consortium. The accident occurred on the Cape Cod Rail Trial when one of the plaintiffs collided with a sixth grader who was taking part in an elementary school field trip.
The plaintiffs’ claims were based on multiple theories including allegations that the Town had failed to provide a sufficient number of chaperones for the trip and had improperly supervised the students on the trip. The plaintiffs also made the novel argument that the five parents who chaperoned the field trip were independent contractors who could be independently liable to the plaintiffs for failing to provide adequate supervision to the children on the bicycle trip.
Attorneys Frankel Pelletier and Lawless argued and the Superior Court agreed that parent chaperones are properly considered to be volunteer “employees” of a town under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. The Court held that neither the school staff members nor the parent chaperones on the trip could be held personally liable for any injury suffered by the plaintiffs. The Court also agreed that the Town itself could not be held liable to the plaintiffs because the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act provided it with immunity from suit in the circumstances.