Identify Malpractice ‘Traps,’ See Public Housing Example

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020
Article Picture

The Massachusetts Bar Association is in the process of updating its Traps for the Unwary publication, a member-exclusive reference guide last published in 2011 that looks at some of the malpractice hazards for attorneys who practice in a general, civil practice. We invite members to share any “traps” they’ve come across in their practice for possible inclusion in the next edition.

Share your trap suggestion by emailing it to Attorney James E. Harvey Jr. of O’Malley and Harvey LLP, who is again serving as editor-in-chief for the project and is working closely with liaisons from several MBA section councils.

To help you identify potential traps, the MBA will periodically publish excerpts from Traps for the Unwary in eJournal. View this week’s trap, plus previously shared examples, below.


Public housing authorities and public commissions are usually public employers. Therefore, they can be sued only in conformance with the State Tort Claims Act, M.G.L. c. 258. Commesso v. Hingham Housing Auth., 399 Mass. 805, 807, 507 N.E.2d 247 (1987). Presentment to the “executive officer” is a condition precedent to bringing suit. It must be made timely, within two years of accrual of the cause of action, to the chief executive or board of the authority, not to the mayor or town manager of an associated city or town. See, e.g., Bellanti v. Boston Pub. Health Comm’n, 70 Mass. App. Ct. 401, 402, 874 N.E.2d 439 (2007) (where ambulance emergency medical technicians worked for the public health commission).