Woman’s Personal Injury Claim Not Waived By Lack of Inclusion as Asset in Divorce Papers, According to Massachusetts Appeals Court

Defendants in Cape Cod personal injury lawsuits can sometimes be very creative in their attempts to avoid liability for the wrong they have caused. Fortunately, the courts usually see through these attempts to defeat justice.

Recently, an ex-husband attempted to avoid paying a judgment in a tort action brought by an ex-wife for injuries she suffered because of his alleged abuse. As grounds, he claimed that she was barred from suing him because she did not list her claim against him as a potential asset in their divorce case.

Fortunately, the appellate court saw the move for what it was:  a feeble attempt to once again victimize the plaintiff.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was a woman who apparently sustained certain injuries as a result of the defendant’s wrongful conduct. A jury trial took place on the plaintiff’s tort action, and, after various post-trial proceedings, an amended judgment was entered by the trial court in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendant appealed.

Ruling of the Appellate Court

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s amended judgment. On appeal, the defendant argued that the plaintiff effectively waived her claim for personal injuries against him when she failed to list her then-potential claim on a financial statement filed in their divorce action. In asserting his argument on appeal, the defendant relied upon dictum in a footnote from a 1988 appellate case that stated, in essence, that it would be appropriate for the parties in a divorce action to list the existence of personal injury claims in their financial statements with the divorce court, even if the claim was not yet of ascertainable market value.

In rejecting the defendant’s argument, the appeals court noted that the claim discussed in the other case was filed while the divorce of the parties in that case was pending, although it was not served on the defendant until the divorce proceedings had concluded. Furthermore, the comment was in the context of an argument that the claim of the plaintiff in that case should be dismissed for a failure to prosecute.

In the case currently before the court, the plaintiff’s complaint was not filed until after her divorce was concluded, making her claim inchoate rather than pending. Furthermore, the court found nothing in the previous case to suggest that a plaintiff’s failure to list even a pending claim on divorce documents operated to preclude the prosecution of such a claim; in fact, the court in the previous case held that neither claim preclusion nor issue preclusion applied.

To Speak to a Cape Cod Attorney Experienced in Personal Injury Law

If you have suffered injuries due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party, you may be entitled to pursue compensation in the form of a settlement or a monetary judgment. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, we regularly assist clients in a variety of personal injury cases, including automobile accident cases, defective product lawsuits, and medical malpractice actions. Call 888-262-6664 to schedule a complimentary consultation about your case in Hyannis, Plymouth, or elsewhere in the Cape Cod area.

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