On November 1, 1995, the laintiffwas civilly committed to Bridgewater State Hospital under G. L. c. 123, § 35 on the petition of his wife, who feared he was a danger to himself because of his alcoholism. He was housed and treated with other civilly committed individuals in the Massachusetts addiction center. In addition to civilly committed individuals, present at the addiction center were guards and members of the inner perimeter security (IPS) unit. There werealso "trustees," criminal convicts who worked in the civil commitment area chores.
On November 23, 1995, sought to make a telephone call to his wife. When it was turn to use the phone, a criminal convict working there told the laintiff that hewould be using the telephone and that the laintiff could not use it. then went to a second telephone. Immediately thereafter and without any warning, struck the laintiff in the side of his face. There were many people in the common room that contained the telephones including a guard's station with two guards in it. No one in the immediate area responded to the attack.
The laintiff was eventually taken to the IPS office. When he told an IPS officer what had happened, the officer told him he was a liar and started putting on tight black leather gloves. The laintiff was ordered to strip, with no explanation, and then was told to put his clothes back on. He ultimately saw a nurse, who concluded that he needed to be seen by a doctor. Using an expletive, one of the IPS officers said, "Throw him in the cage" transported to Brockton Hospital. The plaintiff los his eye the bones on the side of his face and his eye.The lost sight in his left eye and continue to have pain.
After trial in the Superior Court, a jury found the Commonwealth liable and returned a verdict in Devlin's favor in the amount of $450,000. After a hearing, the trial judge denied motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial, but granted a motion for remittitur and reduced the judgment to $100,000 in accordance with G. L. c. 258, § 2, which provides that public employers shall not be liable for damages in excess of $100,000. he Commonwealth appealed.
The SJC upheld the lower court’s ruling. The court concluded that the Commonwealth lacked discretion to allow the convict into that area in accordance with G. L. c. 123 § 35. the Commonwealth was not entitled to immunity under § 10(j) of the MTCA. The affirmative decision by the Commonwealth to allow convicted criminals to work in the same space where civilly committed individuals were housed was an “original cause” of the laintiff’s injury.