Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Multi-Million Dollar Verdict in Favor of Estate of Woman Killed in Convenience Store Parking Lot Car Accident

When it comes to car accidents, any type of injury can be devastating and life-changing. In accidents where someone loses their life as the result of another person’s negligence, however, the surviving family members and loved ones face unimaginable pain and loss. Our dedicated team of Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers has assisted numerous families with seeking the compensation they deserve after losing a loved one in a car accident.

Recently, a Massachusetts appellate court upheld a multimillion-dollar verdict in favor of the estate of a woman who was killed in a car accident involving a convenience store. The plaintiff was walking into the store when she was struck by a speeding SUV. The medics that responded to the crash concluded that the woman died on impact. According to evidence presented at trial, the vehicle was traveling at a high speed across an intersection through the entrance into the convenience store’s parking lot before it crashed into the storefront.

The decedent’s husband was appointed the executor of her estate and brought a wrongful death claim against the convenience store. According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the store had experienced hundreds of crashes at its convenience stores and that it was accordingly on notice that customers were at a risk of suffering injuries. The complaint also alleged that the store could have prevented the decedent’s death by constructing protective barriers or bollards along the walkway or closing off the entrance to the parking lot.

The defendant argued that there had been no prior crashes at this particular store location and that the accident was completely random and not foreseeable. It also argued that no reasonable measures existed that could have prevented a crash involving such a large vehicle going at such a high rate of speed.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarding roughly $32 million in compensatory damages to the decedent’s estate. It also concluded that the defendant was grossly negligent. The defendant appealed claiming that the judge erred by allowing an internal report regarding nearly 500 car accidents at its store locations without first requiring that each prior accident undergo a rigorous review to ensure that it was substantially similar to the car accident resulting in the decedent’s death. It also argued that it did not owe the decedent a duty of care because the sequence of events were entirely random and unforeseeable. It also claimed that a new trial was appropriate because the judge determined that the jury’s high award of damages was partly the result of passion, partiality, or prejudice.

The plaintiff appealed alleging that the judge erred in allowing the defendant’s motion for remittitur, which the lower court granted thereby reducing the damages award to $20 million. A judge can allow the reduction of a jury’s award of damages where the judge concludes that the jury acted at least in part out of passion, partiality, or prejudice.

The appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments finding that the plaintiff was not required to determine that each accident in the report was sufficiently similar. Instead, the plaintiff merely needed to show that the defendant was aware of the risk of vehicles striking its storefronts and endangering customers. The appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s challenge to the remittitur, finding that the reduction from $32 million to $20 million was appropriately supported in the record and judge’s findings.

If you were injured in a car accident, you deserve compassionate and dedicated legal counsel to help you determine your legal rights. At the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith, we have proudly served Massachusetts residents in a wide variety of accident cases including wrongful death actions. To schedule your free consultation call us at  617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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