David M. Moore
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The liability of the city is set and limited by state law. Generally, the city is liable only for specific acts of negligence in responding to dangerous conditions, not for the dangerous conditions themselves. For example, the city is liable if it does not repair a pothole within a reasonable time after discovering it - the city is not responsible for keeping the streets free of potholes. The law also imposes strict requirements for filing claims. Claims involving streets (potholes, etc) must be filed with 30 days of the incident. If you believe you meet the legal criteria for a claim against the city, you should file a claim against the city.
Potholes are generally caused by the combination of the expansion and contraction of freezing and thawing water underneath the road surface and the compression and recompression caused by motor vehicles passing over the surface. Once the surface of the road is broken, the pieces are knocked away by passing cars and the material underneath is washed away by rain. The freezing and thawing conditions in the early Springtime can produce a very large number of potholes overnight. DPW puts crews out in the Spring to fill potholes. Pothole reports can be submitted to DPW online with the Pothole Report Form or by calling Customer Service at (508) 929-1300. Potholes are also caused by contractors who dig up a street to make utility connections or repairs.
Under state law, the city is responsible for repairing defects in public ways. The law does not guaranty the safe condition of public ways. The law makes the city liable for damages caused by defects only if the city fails to make repairs within a reasonable time after the defect appears. We use 24 hours as a reasonable time to repair a pothole after it is reported. Even if the city is negligent for not repairing a pothole on a timely basis, state law prevents the city from paying the claim if the driver was also negligent. Exceeding the speed limit is the most common form of driver negligence.
If you believe that the city was negligent by not repairing this pothole within 24 hours, or if it appears that the pothole was within a portion of a street opened and patched by a contractor, you should file a claim against the city.