Massachusetts Severe Injury Case Assesses Comparative Negligence and Unreasonable Use

To succeed in a Massachusetts personal injury case, an injured person must show that the at-fault party was more than 50% responsible for the injuries suffered. In negligence actions, the defendant must owe a duty to the injured person, and the injured person is required to show that the defendant breached this duty and caused injury as a result of the breach. Recovery is possible, even if the injured person’s actions at the time of the accident contributed to the injury, as long as the percentage of responsibility remains lower than the defendant’s. This is known as comparative negligence, and it is codified under Ch. 231, Sec. 85 of the Massachusetts General Laws. While recovery is still possible, the amount of damages awarded can be reduced by the injured person’s percentage of negligence.

In Rose v. Highway Equipment Company, the Appeals Court reviewed a man’s claim against the manufacturer of a broadcast spreader for negligence and breach of warranty. The man’s hand was severely injured following an accident with the spreader while oiling the chain. For the negligence claim, the jury found the injured man to be 73% negligent and the company to be 27% negligent, which precluded any recovery because he was deemed to be predominantly responsible for his own injuries.

For the breach of warranty claim, the jury found that the man was unreasonable in his use of the equipment. As stated in the opinion, breach of warranty actions generally focus on the nature of the product, not the actions of the user, unless the user acted unreasonably. If the injured person used the product after he or she knew it was defective and dangerous, the injured person is completely barred from any type of recovery. The appellate court upheld the jury’s determination against the injured person, finding there was enough evidence to support their decision. The testimony provided during trial revealed the injured person understood the dangerous nature of the project, failed to read the safety manual, and had oiled the machine several times.

The injured person pointed to the lack of evidence showing that he knew the product was defective, but the Court ruled the knowledge of the danger and defective condition had to be subjective and the use objectively unreasonable. The Appeals Court determined that the injured person’s inconsistent testimony about his knowledge of the dangers, paired with the testimony acknowledging his familiarity with operating the spreader and other heavy machinery, supported a finding that he subjectively knew that the product was defective. The Appeals Court affirmed the jury’s verdict finding that the injured person bore the majority of the responsibility and that his use of the product was unreasonable.

The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan understand that every case is unique and has its own challenges. Even if you feel you may have shared fault, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Our office has the professional experience you need to aggressively pursue all avenues of legal relief. For a free, confidential consultation, call our office at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Understanding Medical Reports in Massachusetts Car Accident Trials, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, July 30, 2014
When are Punitive Damages Available under Massachusetts Law?, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, July 21, 2014