Massachusetts Court Discusses Sudden Medical Emergencies in the Context of Negligence

Typically, when one car crashes into another, it is due to the negligence of the second driver, and the second driver should be held liable for any harm caused by the collision. In some cases, though, an accident is brought about by a sudden, unavoidable event, and no one will be deemed legally responsible for causing it. This was illustrated in the recent Massachusetts car accident case in which the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant were dismissed despite the fact that the defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff at a high rate of speed, causing her to sustain severe injuries. If you were injured in a car crash, it is prudent to meet with a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine whether you may be able to assert a claim for damages in a civil lawsuit.

The Subject Accident

It is alleged that the defendant was driving an SUV on a Massachusetts highway, with her friend sitting in the passenger seat when she suddenly lost consciousness. The friend attempted to steer the vehicle to the side of the road but was unable to regain control. The defendant proceeded to speed up and slow down, all while unconscious. She ultimately struck the plaintiff’s vehicle at a high rate of speed, causing the plaintiff to suffer severe injuries. The defendant, who did not regain consciousness after the accident, was injured as well and was airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Reportedly, during the defendant’s admission, it was revealed that she had a benign brain tumor that caused her to suffer a seizure. The plaintiff commenced a lawsuit against the defendant setting forth a negligence claim. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that she could not be deemed negligent because she suffered a sudden medical emergency. The court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims, after which she appealed.

Sudden Medical Emergencies in the Context of Negligence

Under Massachusetts law, it is well established that an unforeseeable and sudden physical seizure that leaves a driver unable to control a vehicle cannot be deemed negligence. The court noted that it was undisputed that the defendant lost consciousness prior to the accident and did not regain it until after the collision. Further, both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s experts found that the defendant suffered a medical emergency. The plaintiff nonetheless argued that summary judgment was improper because a jury could reject the testimony of the defendant’s passenger or find that the defendant regained consciousness at some point during the trip. The court was not convinced, stating that multiple levels of speculation do not amount to a triable issue of fact. As such, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Massachusetts Attorney

In most instances in which a person is injured in a car accident, the party that caused the crash will be found legally responsible. If you were hurt in a collision, the knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan, can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you whether you may be able to pursue damages. You can contact us via our online form or by calling 508-822-6600 to schedule a meeting.