LYNN — James Lamanna, Lynn’s first assistant city solicitor, is being recognized for his legal work.
The 46-year-old longtime Lynner was named one of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s Lawyers of the Year. Lamanna was one of 12 attorneys in the state to be chosen.
“It’s an extreme honor to be selected out of the thousands of lawyers in Massachusetts,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a job working for the city that I love.”
The publication came out at the end of January, but Lamanna said he received an email about the honor at the end of November. The recognition came after Lamanna successfully defended the city in a nine-year, $35 million legal battle.
In 2008, James Mumbauer and Alyssa Cormier’s then 11-year-old son, Matthew Mumbauer, suffered a paralyzing injury. They claimed the injury happened during their son’s time at Brickett Elementary School, alleging another student pushed him down the stairs. The parents filed suit in 2011, alleging the elementary school staff was aware their son was the victim of frequent bullying by his peers and failed to take action.
Lamanna, who at the time was the city attorney, defended the suit and presented evidence that the school kept careful records of instances of bullying, none of which named Matthew Mumbauer as a victim. Lamanna also presented evidence that the injury happened at the family’s home, not the school.
Lamanna made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, which bars negligence actions against cities and towns that aren’t the “original cause” of the harm, according to the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly profile.
In 2015, Superior Court Justice Robert Tochka dismissed the case, and the family appealed. In 2017, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
Lamanna based his defense on precedence, citing Brum v. Town of Dartmouth, a similar case from 1999. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in that case ruled municipalities could not be held liable for harm caused by a third party.
“Even if they believed the law was wrong, they had to follow how it was written by the legislature,” Lamanna said.
The law was on the city’s side during Lamanna’s case, he said, which resulted in the success of his defense. Being honored for that success in the state’s only weekly legal newspaper is a proud moment in his legal career, he said, calling the publication the “bible” for lawyers across Massachusetts.
Lamanna said he credits much of his success to his mentors Richard Vitale, George Markopoulos and former city solicitor Mike Barry.
“I think this demonstrates the dedication our office has for the city,” he said. “We live, breathe, and eat the city. Hopefully this recognition will have a positive impact on the way we are able to provide service to Lynn and its residents.”