In Massachusetts, an injured party can be partially responsible for her or his own injuries and still recover damages from a negligent party. However, the responsibility for the injury cannot be greater than the defendant party or parties. If the injured person meets the threshold but contributed to the injury, the amount of damages is offset by the amount of fault assigned to the injured party. For example, if an injured person is found to be 47% negligent and awarded $100,000 in damages, the injured party can recover $53,000. If the negligent party is found to be greater than 50% negligent, she or he will receive none of the damages.
The Appeals Court reviewed this issue in a recent decision, Craffey v. Embree Construction Group (16-P-791), providing insight into the types of proof offered at trial in the pursuit of damages. In this case, the injured worker, a contractor, fell from the scaffolding at a construction site. After the injury, the worker filed suit, alleging the employer was negligent due to violations of both federal and state regulations for workplace safety.
At trial, the court allowed the introduction of the federal regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) but did not allow the introduction of state regulations, since the federal regulations pre-empted the state regulations. At the end of the trial, the jury found the defendant to be 49% negligent and the injured contractor to be 51% negligent, resulting in the dismissal of the injured man’s complaint and no award of damages. The injured contractor appealed, asking for a new trial. The contractor argued the judge’s ruling prohibiting the introduction of state regulations negatively influenced the verdict.