Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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In Massachusetts personal injury cases alleging a breach of duty, it is common for one or both parties to engage expert witnesses, to offer an opinion regarding whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, and whether the breach of any duty resulted in harm to the plaintiff. The testimony of expert witnesses can be precluded or limited if the court finds that the expert has a conflict of interest or has insufficient qualifications to opine on a certain issue.

In a recent case, Kahyaoglu v. Adams, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts held that if a party fails to request a hearing to establish the reliability of expert testimony, he or she waives to right to object on that issue, affirming Commonwealth v. Fritz. If you sustained personal injuries because of someone else’s negligent actions, it is important to retain a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to prevent expert testimony that should be precluded from being used as evidence against you.

Factual Background

Reportedly, the plaintiff alleged she suffered personal injuries due to the defendant’s negligence in exiting his vehicle. Following a trial, a jury found in favor of the defendant. The Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Plaintiff filed a pro se appeal of both the jury verdict and the denial of her motion. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

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If you seek to pursue compensation for personal injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, it is essential to retain an attorney that can identify all parties that may be responsible for your harm and set forth all possible theories of liability, as the failure to do so can be fatal to your claim. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently held in Williams v. Steward Health Care System, that a hospital could not be held directly liable for harm caused by a psychiatric patient that was released by his treating physician. While the court noted that it was possible for the hospital to be liable under a theory of vicarious liability, plaintiff did not assert that cause of action. If you suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the facts of your case and your options for recovering damages.

Factual Background   

Allegedly, in Williams, the assailant fatally stabbed his neighbor. The assailant had been a patient at the hospital under multiple court orders. The orders directed he was to be committed to the hospital due to mental illness until there was no longer a danger of serious harm due to his illness, for up to six months. The assailant was admitted for twenty-one days, after which the doctor treating the assailant purportedly determined he no longer posed a risk of harm due to his mental illness and discharged the assailant. Approximately three weeks after his release the assailant allegedly broke into his neighbor’s apartment and fatally wounded her.

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Under Massachusetts law, if you slip and fall due to ice on someone else’s premises, you are required to provide the party responsible for the premises written notice of the place, time and cause of injury within thirty days. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently held in Lewis v. Rocco Realty Trust, that a plaintiff who failed to provide the required notice was precluded from recovering from the defendant. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident caused by ice, it is essential to seek the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible, as any delay may result in the waiver of your right to recover.

Factual Background

Purportedly, plaintiff filed a Complaint in which he alleged that he sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident that occurred three years earlier in a parking lot owned by the defendant. Plaintiff asserted the defendant’s negligent maintenance of the parking lot caused his fall. Defendant filed an Answer asserting, in part, plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed due to plaintiff’s failure to provide notice of the claim within the required time period. Defendant then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Defendant attached correspondence from plaintiff’s counsel to its motion. The letter, which was dated eight months after the fall, included the date of the alleged incident and stated plaintiff suffered injuries because of the negligent condition of the premises but did not state plaintiff fell or allege that ice was the cause of plaintiff’s injuries.

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In Massachusetts, to recover damages for pain and suffering in a personal injury case in which the alleged injuries arose out of the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle a plaintiff must prove medical costs incurred in treating his or her injuries were in excess of $2,000.00. Recently, in Chenell v. Central Wheelchair & Van Transportation, Inc., the Appeals Court of Massachusetts ruled that a plaintiff is not required to submit medical bills into evidence to prove medical costs exceeded the $2,000.00 threshold. If you sustained injuries in a car accident, you should seek the assistance of a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to assist you in recovering the full amount of compensation you are owed.

Factual Background

Allegedly, Plaintiff used an electric wheelchair and was a passenger in a wheelchair accessible van owned by Defendants. The van reportedly stopped abruptly, causing Plaintiff to fall out of her wheelchair and the wheelchair to fall on top of Plaintiff. Plaintiff sued Defendants for personal injuries and sought damages for pain and suffering. During the trial, Plaintiff presented evidence of medical treatment for injuries she sustained in the incident, including medical records, but did not introduce any medical bills. Additionally, Plaintiff introduced the report of an orthopedic expert who stated within a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Plaintiff suffered an acute injury to her cervical and lumbosacral spine due to the incident. Following the trial, Defendants filed a motion for a directed verdict on the grounds that Plaintiff did not prove the cost of her medical treatment, which the court granted. Plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court ruling, and Plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals of Massachusetts.

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Under Massachusetts personal injury law, to recover from a negligence claim you must show that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to you and that the breach caused you to suffer injuries. It is important to understand what must be proven in order to establish negligence, because a failure to prove the elements of negligence can affect your right to recover. In Caruso v. Catone, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently held that Plaintiff’s attorney waived the right to argue the judge gave improper instructions to the jury regarding breach of duty and causation, which ultimately resulted in a defense verdict.

In Caruso, plaintiff and defendant were involved in an accident in which defendant struck plaintiff with his car. Plaintiff sued defendant for negligence. Following a trial, a jury determined Plaintiff had not established the element of negligence and denied plaintiff the right to recover damages. Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, which the court denied. Plaintiff then appealed to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, which affirmed the lower court ruling. On appeal, plaintiff argued that defendant’s testimony at trial constituted an admission that he breached the duty of care. Specifically, defendant, who hit plaintiff when he was making a left turn, testified that he was looking right prior to the turn, even though he was driving toward the left. Further, defendant agreed with plaintiff’s counsel that he was not looking in the direction he was driving at the time of impact. Plaintiff believed defendant’s behavior constituted negligence as a matter of law.

The court found, however, that it was not necessary to address the issue of whether defendant acted negligently, due to the fact that the judge improperly addressed the jury on the issue of negligence. Specifically, in instructing the jury on the elements of negligence the judge conflated the elements of breach and causation and erroneously advised the jury that to find defendant negligent they must find that he breached the duty of care and that the breach was the cause of the accident. The court noted this was not a proper instruction under Massachusetts law, which requires breach and causation to be separate elements of negligence. As plaintiff’s attorney did not object to the instruction he waived the right to argue the issue on appeal. The court stated that due to the improper instruction the jury’s verdict may mean the jury found that the defendant drove negligently, but the accident may have occurred even if he was driving appropriately. The court noted, however, the record reflected that the accident would have occurred regardless, due to other facts regarding the incident.

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Most medications have side effects, but some medications can cause more harm than good. If you sustained injuries or illness caused by adverse effects of medication, you may be entitled to recover damages. To recover on a claim against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, under Massachusetts personal injury law you must present expert evidence regarding the cause of your injuries. In Jackson v. Johnson, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, due to Plaintiff’s failure to produce sufficient expert evidence in support of his claims. If you suffered injuries due to side effects caused by medication, it is essential to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure the evidence necessary to support your claim is obtained.

Facts of the Case

In Jackson, Plaintiff alleged he was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, which caused him to become obese and develop diabetes and gynecomastia. Plaintiff sued defendant pharmaceutical manufacturer, setting forth claims arising out of negligence (negligence, negligent failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation and negligent infliction of emotional distress), breach of warranty (breach of warranty and breach of express warranty), products liability (strict products liability and strict products liability failure to warn), fraudulent concealment, and unfair and deceptive practices. After Plaintiff filed his lawsuit he sought and received several extensions of the deadlines for completing discovery and for filing disclosures of the experts who he would call on to support his claims. Plaintiff eventually provided disclosures for three of his treating physicians, whom he identified as experts. Defendant subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, asking the court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff argued that the Motion was premature, as discovery had not yet been completed. The court granted Defendant’s Motion.

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Under Massachusetts law, every medical malpractice lawsuit must undergo an initial review by a tribunal to determine if the plaintiff has a possibility of recovering. The tribunal consists of a judge, a physician, and an attorney. If upon review the tribunal determines the plaintiff has insufficient evidence to raise a question of liability, the plaintiff must then file a $6,000.00 bond secured by cash or its equivalent to proceed with his or her case. While in some cases the bond can be reduced, the requirement that plaintiffs file a bond cannot be eliminated. If the bond is not filed, the plaintiff’s case will be dismissed. An inadequate bond is grounds for dismissal as well, as the Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently decided in Polanco v. Sandor. If you believe you were injured due to medical malpractice in Massachusetts, it is essential to retain an experienced Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney to pursue your claim, and to ensure you do not waive any rights to recovery.

In Polanco, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against three treatment providers. Following a review of the case, the medical malpractice tribunal determined the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to raise a question of fact regarding liability. Subsequently, to fulfill the bond requirement, the plaintiff filed a surety bond in the amount of $6,000.00, which he obtained for $120.00. The defendants then filed a motion to strike the surety bond and dismiss the Complaint, arguing the surety bond did not meet the statutory bond requirements. Defendants’ motion was granted. The judge then reported his ruling to the Court of Appeals. The case was subsequently transferred to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts under its own initiative.

The court noted that the $6,000.00 bond a plaintiff must pay if the tribunal finds there is insufficient evidence the defendant acted negligently is payable to the defendant in the event the plaintiff does not ultimately prevail in his or her action. The tribunal review and the bond requirement were instituted to reduce frivolous lawsuits against medical providers. Upon review of plaintiff’s surety bond, the court found that it failed to fulfill the bond requirement. The court stated that allowing the plaintiff to pursue his case after only paying $120.00, rather than the $6,000.00 required by law, would defeat the objective of the statutory requirement. Moreover, the court noted the plaintiff failed to set forth any argument in support of his position that the surety bond was adequate.

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People are often asked to sign waivers before engaging in activities that may be perceived as dangerous. Under Massachusetts personal injury law, signing such a waiver generally precludes the person who signed the waiver from pursuing a negligence claim against the released party. In Cahalane v. Skydive Cape Cod, however, the Appeals Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held that it would not prevent the injured party from recovering for any gross negligence in contravention of the terms of the agreement.

In Cahalane, Plaintiff engaged Defendant’s services to go on a tandem skydive jump. Prior to embarking on her jump, Plaintiff signed a waiver in which she released any claims against Defendant for negligence or gross negligence. Plaintiff was permitted to purchase a release from the waiver, but chose not to do so. During the jump, Plaintiff was attached to an instructor. As they approached the ground the instructor performed a hook turn. Hook turns are disapproved of in skydiving safety bulletins, as they are a leading cause of death and injury in skydiving. Due to the manner in which the pair landed, both of Plaintiff’s femurs were fractured on impact. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging negligence and gross negligence. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the waiver barred Plaintiff’s claims. The trial court granted Defendant’s Motion and Plaintiff appealed, arguing the waiver was induced by fraud and was unenforceable. On appeal, the court held that the waiver was enforceable and precluded Plaintiff’s negligence claim but ruled that it did not bar Plaintiff’s gross negligence claim.

The court noted that Plaintiff was given ample opportunity to review the waiver and did not produce evidence that anyone made any false representations to her regarding the waiver. As such, the court held it was enforceable. The court noted, however, that while Massachusetts law favors the enforcement of releases for liability for negligent acts, a party cannot immunize itself from liability for grossly negligent or reckless acts. The court explained that gross negligence is more than a failure to exercise ordinary care and was better explained as great negligence, or conduct without any diligence or care. The court noted each case must be analyzed on its facts to determine if the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent, but additionally noted that a moment of inattentiveness in a dangerous situation could constitute gross negligence. As such, the court held that the question of whether Defendant was grossly negligent and therefore liable to Plaintiff could not be decided via summary judgment but must be submitted to a jury.

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People routinely entrust their health to medical providers with the expectation they will be provided with appropriate care. Unfortunately, at times, the medical treatment provided falls short of what is expected and actually results in harm to the patient. If treating providers fail to adhere to the standard of care imposed on them, they should be liable for any damages caused. The attorneys who defend doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice cases are often aggressive and will engage in several tactics to try to diminish any damages caused by their clients. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently held in Larkin v. Dedham Medical Associates, Inc., however, that a plaintiff’s future medical damages in a medical malpractice case are not entirely reliant on their past medical expenses. If you are pursuing a medical malpractice case in Massachusetts, it is important to have an aggressive Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney advocating on your behalf to enable you to recover the maximum damages possible.In Larkin, the plaintiff-wife was diagnosed by her primary care physician with a venous varix on the left side of her brain and an aneurysm on the right side of her brain. She underwent initial diagnostic testing at the direction of her physician, but he failed to order any follow-up testing. Additionally, when she became pregnant, he failed to report her brain abnormalities to her obstetrician. Due to the physical stress of giving birth to her child, the plaintiff-wife’s venous varix experienced an increase in intracranial pressure, and a clot formed. The plaintiff-wife subsequently suffered a stroke, which required extensive surgery and resulted in the permanent loss of her ability to walk or care for herself. She requires constant care, day and night, for the rest of her life.

The plaintiff-wife, along with her husband and child, sued her primary care physician and his practice group, seeking damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, past medical expenses, and future medical expenses. The plaintiff-husband also sought damages for loss of consortium. Following a jury trial, the plaintiffs were awarded $35.4 million, which included an award of $11 million for future medical expenses. The defendants filed multiple post-trial motions, arguing, among other things, that the plaintiffs’ counsel misrepresented the cost of the plaintiff-wife’s past medical bills, resulting in inflated future medical damages. The court denied the majority of the post-trial motions, and the defendants appealed. On appeal, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals affirmed.

Regarding the plaintiff-wife’s medical expenses, it was undisputed that the plaintiffs’ attorney misrepresented the plaintiff-wife’s past medical expenses as $4 million, when they were in fact $1,272,013.70. Following the trial, the judge rectified this error by reducing the verdict award for past medical expenses to reflect the actual amount. The defendants argued, however, that since the plaintiffs introduced limited evidence regarding future medical costs, the jury relied on the inflated amount of past medical expenses in awarding damages for the cost of future care, leading to an improper amount. The court disagreed with the defendants and sustained the future damages award. First, the court noted that an expert opinion is not required to prove future medical damages. The court also found the jury could have reasonably awarded $11 million in damages for future medical costs without relying on the misrepresentation, and it found that the trial court did not err in reducing the award only for past medical bills.

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Bullying is a persistent and ever growing problem throughout the schools in our nation, including schools in Massachusetts. While generally bullying is thought of as causing emotional harm, it often results in physical harm as well. Parents may be unsure who should be held accountable when their child suffers a personal injury due to bullying. Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that public defendants in Massachusetts personal injury cases are protected from liability for negligently failing to prevent the bullying and physical assault of a child.

In Cormier v. City of Lynn, a classmate pushed the child victim down a flight of stairs. The fall caused a spinal injury that ultimately resulted in the victim’s permanent paralysis. The victim’s parents brought a lawsuit against several defendants, including the City of Lynn, the school district and their public employees. The victim’s parents alleged that the victim had been subjected to constant bullying over the school year, and that his mother had reported harassing acts to the school officials on several occasions. The victim had reported acts of bullying and harassment to his teachers and school administrators as well. The victim’s parents alleged the school negligently failed to enforce its own anti-bullying policies and procedures.

The City of Lynn, school district and public employees filed a motion to dismiss arguing the claims against them were barred by the Massachusetts Torts Claim Act. The motion to dismiss was granted and affirmed on appeal. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted the victim’s parents’ motion for further review on whether the Massachusetts Torts Claims Act barred them from bringing claims against the public defendants for negligently failing to prevent the victim from being bullied.