New ‘Traps’ Highlight: Representations Made by a Government Official

Thursday, July 15, 2021
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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. Attorney James E. Harvey of O'Malley, Harvey and Brosnan LLP is again serving as editor-in-chief for the project and has worked closely with liaisons from several MBA section councils.

As the guide nears completion, we’re continuing to publish excerpts in eJournal to highlight some of the “traps” that readers will find in the upcoming Seventh Edition of Traps for the Unwary. View this week’s “trap,” plus previously shared examples, below.


A person relies at his or her peril on representations made by a government official concerning the legal requirements of a government program. A person who participates in a government program has a duty to become familiar with the program’s regulations, regardless of misrepresentations by officials. Reliance on such misrepresentations can be unreasonable as a matter of law. "Estoppel theories generally do not apply against the government." Harrington v. Fall River Hous. Auth., 27 Mass. App. Ct. 301, 308-309, 538 N.E.2d 24 (1989). See also, Morton St., LLC v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, 453 Mass. 485, 491-92, 903 N.E.2d 194 (2009), and Dagastino v. Comm’r of Correction, 52 Mass. App. Ct. 456, 459, 754 N.E.2d 150 (2001).