In most cases in which a party alleges harm due to someone else’s negligence, the injured party is required to prove the acts or omissions of the defendant constituted a breach of the duty owed to the plaintiff. In some cases, however, a defendant who is guilty of violating a law may be deemed negligent as a matter of law. Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed the standard for determining whether a person found guilty of violating a criminal statute may be deemed negligent based on the violation. If you or someone you love were injured by someone during the commission of a crime, it is prudent to consult a skillful personal injury attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your interests.
The Underlying Accident
It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent was stopped on a bridge because her car had a flat tire. She called for assistance, and while she was waiting, twenty-four vehicles passed her car. The defendant driver, however, struck the rear of the decedent’s car when he was driving a truck over the bridge, which caused the car to burst into flames. The decedent ultimately died due to injuries sustained in the collision. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer, alleging negligence and gross negligence, as well as wrongful death claims. The parties both filed motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff sought, in part, to have the defendant driver deemed negligent as a matter of law due to the fact that he was convicted of motor vehicle homicide due to negligent operation.
Collateral Estoppel in Civil Cases
Under Massachusetts law, anyone that causes the death of a person by operating a vehicle negligently can be convicted of homicide by a motor vehicle. Specifically, the statute requires the Commonwealth to show that the defendant operated a vehicle on a public road, in a negligent or reckless manner that endangered the lives and safety of other people and subsequently caused the death of another person.