The Law: Suing City Hall

Mishaps in Massachusetts challenge an antique rule

Five years ago, when Boston Policeman John O'Brien was rounding the corner of Brighton's Commonwealth Avenue and Washington Street at 10 m.p.h. in broad daylight, he lost control of his police car and struck an elderly woman named Bridget Neville. Six months in the hospital and $32,000 in medical bills later, Neville, now 83, won a belated jury award of $103,253. Fair enough?

Not at all. Unless a reluctant Massachusetts state legislature takes action, Neville is likely to end up with far less than $103,253, O'Brien could be driven from his home, and the city of...

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