Massachusetts Appeals Court Allows Injured Motorist to Proceed with Unique Claim Against Insurance Company

Most would agree that it is challenging to deal with any type of car accident, regardless of the level of the injury. In Adams vs. Congress Auto Insurance Agency (15-P-452), the injured driver had to unfortunately deal with an at-fault party who not only struck his vehicle but also called posing as a state police officer, attempting to intimidate him. The at-fault driver was chased by the police while driving his girlfriend’s car, ultimately wrecking it. The girlfriend, when filing her claim for her wrecked vehicle, also looked at the private information of the injured driver and provided this information to her boyfriend, which allowed him to make this call.

Eventually, the girlfriend and the boyfriend both pled guilty to criminal charges, admitting that they attempted to intimidate the injured driver. The individual involved in the accident then pursued civil action against the girlfriend’s employer, claiming that they were liable for the misuse of her position. Three years before this accident, the girlfriend had an encounter with law enforcement in Iowa. Two loaded semi-atomic weapons were found in her purse. She was eventually released on bail and returned to work at the agency. Eventually, she was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service at her workplace. Her manager advised the owner of the company of this arrest, but the owner conducted no independent examination of the arrest or the underlying case, figuring it did not have much to do with her employment. The girlfriend was allowed to continue work. Seven weeks later, the car accident that gave rise to this case occurred.

The appellate court first looked at whether or not the agency owed a duty to the injured driver. Common law imposes a duty upon employers to exercise reasonable care in their selection and retention of employees who have contact with members of the public. The appellate court pointed to the potential duty of care owed by employers to avoid facilitating harm caused by an employee. The court reasoned that for these duties to apply, the agency must be able to foresee the potential harm. The court concluded that the misuse of access to personal information was foreseeable and that the agency could be held liable for either allowing its employee to have unrestricted access to information related to a claim against her own insurance policy, or for failing to investigate whether or not the girlfriend was still fit to work there after her arrest. The court vacated the summary judgment in favor of the agency and allowed the injured driver to pursue this claim and other claims against the insurance company.

Car accidents can result in a number of unwelcome surprises. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan can help guide you through each challenge and seek the compensation available to you. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 508.822.6600.

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Rear-end Collision Appellate Case Helps Illustrate Burden of Proof Considerations in Massachusetts Personal Injury Cases, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 3, 2016