Massachusetts Appellate Court Discusses Importance of Establishing the Applicable Standard of Care in Motor Vehicle Accident Claims

Establishing that another party operated his or her vehicle negligently is a critical aspect of any car accident personal injury claim. This requires providing evidence that establishes the standard of care that the defendant should have used at the time of the crash. A failure to provide evidence of the standard of care can be fatal to your claim. As dedicated Boston car accident lawyers, we are well versed in personal injury law and will ensure that you put forth the strongest case possible.

The recent case of Cacchiotti v. Parry demonstrates how important it is to establish the applicable standard of care as part of a motor vehicle accident lawsuit. In the case, the plaintiff was driving on the Massachusetts Turnpike when a vehicle slid off of a flatbed trailer and struck his vehicle. The defendant had attached the vintage muscle car to the flatbed trailer with four chains and come alongs. The trailer was secured to a pickup truck owned by one of the defendant’s helpers.

The plaintiff filed a claim for negligence, seeking damages from the defendant. After the trial, the jury concluded that the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed on three separate grounds.

First, she alleged that the judge should have granted the plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial based on statements that defense counsel made during opening arguments indicating that the plaintiff waited 19 months to bring suit and that the plaintiff did not produce medical records until demanded to do so. The appellate court rejected these assignments of error finding that the plaintiff failed to object to the comments during trial and that the judge provided an appropriate limiting instruction to the jury about opening and closing statements not constituting evidence and that the trial was not intended to critique the parties’ discovery process. Had the plaintiff objected at trial, however, he would have properly preserved this issue for appeal.

Second, the plaintiff alleged that the judge erred in failing to give a res ipsa loquitur instruction to the jury. This instruction is given where an accident is the kind of thing that does not typically happen unless some type of negligence occurs and other potential causes of the accident are ruled out. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show that he or she did not act negligently. The appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s assignment of error finding that the plaintiff failed to offer any evidence establishing the standard of care for securing a vehicle to a flatbed truck for transportation. Had the plaintiff provided evidence, such as expert witness testimony, about the proper standard of care for transporting the rusty muscle car, the court may have found a res ipsa loquitur instruction appropriate.

Finally, the plaintiff alleged that the judge should have granted her motion for a new trial because the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence presented at trial. The appellate court started by stating the standard for granting a new trial, which requires a finding that the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence. An appellate court gives substantial deference to a lower court’s ruling on a motion for a new trial. The appellate court ultimately agreed with the lower court judge’s finding that while the plaintiff provided an array of evidence regarding the defendant’s purported negligence, the evidence did not establish a necessary and inescapable conclusion that the defendant acted negligently. The absence of any testimony regarding the appropriate standard of care for transporting a vehicle was the primary reason for this finding. Had the plaintiff offered evidence regarding this standard, a motion for a new trial may have been granted.

If you were hurt by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The seasoned team of car accident trial lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith are standing by to provide you with a free consultation. We will discuss your situation and how we can assist you in obtaining the outcome that you deserve. Call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

Related Posts

Massachusetts Appellate Court Explains Insurance Policy Coverage Rules Regarding Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Hit-and-Run Collisions

Massachusetts Appellate Court Dismisses Appeal in Car Accident Injury Case for Failure to Attach Medical Records