Massachusetts Appeals Court Sides With Vintage Car Owner After Vehicle Rolls Off Truck and Causes Accident

The fact is, most Massachusetts car accident cases settle out of court, even though the litigants in such cases have a right to have a jury decide the merits of their claims (and defenses). There are many reasons for this, including the costliness and time involved in a jury trial. Additionally, when a case settles, both parties have a say in the outcome, while jury trials involve considerable risk and a lack of predictability.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case, the plaintiff was a man who was injured when a vintage “muscle car” slid off a flatbed trailer that was traveling in front of him on the Massachusetts Turnpike in 2011. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner of the car, and the case proceeded to a jury trial. The jury found that the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed, asking the court of appeals to find that he should have been granted a mistrial due to the opening statement of the defendant’s attorney, that the trial court should have instructed the jury on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, and that he should have been given a new trial after the jury’s verdict in favor of his opponent.

Decision of the Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling in the defendant’s favor. Although the plaintiff complained about opposing counsel mentioning in his open statement that the plaintiff waited 19 months to file suit and only produced his medical records after being ordered to do so, the appellate court found that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to refuse to grant the plaintiff a mistrial. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court judge had interrupted defense counsel and stated, “Let’s move on to another topic. I don’t think that’s relevant…”

As to the lack of a res ipsa loquitur instruction, the appeals court explained that such an instruction is only appropriate when an accident at issue was “the kind that does not ordinarily happen unless the defendant was negligent…” Here, there were several other individuals involved in the loading of the defendant’s vehicle onto the trailer from which it later fell, and the appellate tribunal found no reversible error in the trial court’s failure to give the instruction requested by the plaintiff.

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he should have been granted a new trial because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. Although the plaintiff did introduce “ample evidence” at trial, he did not provide any proof as to the standard of care for transporting motor vehicles on a flatbed truck. Since negligence cases require a plaintiff to prove both the applicable duty of care and a violation of that duty, it was not an error for the trial court to deny the plaintiff a new trial.

Speak with a Seasoned Cape Cod Car Accident Lawyer

Do you need to talk to a knowledgeable car accident attorney in the Cape Cod area? The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, offers a free, no-obligation consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 888-262-6664.

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