Massachusetts Court Discusses When a Late Appeal is Permitted in a Personal Injury Case

Under Massachusetts law, even if a party obtains a successful verdict at trial, the other side has the right to appeal. As with all civil pleadings, however, if a party fails to file a notice of appeal within the time required by law, it may result in a dismissal of the appeal. In a recent personal injury case decided by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, the court explained what constitutes excusable neglect that would permit a party to file a late notice of appeal. If you suffered personal injuries due to someone else’s negligence, it is in your best interest to meet with a Massachusetts personal injury attorney adept at helping injured parties recover compensation to discuss your case.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered hip injuries while working at a site owned by the defendant.  He subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant filed a motion for a new trial. The court denied the motion. Pursuant to the rules of appellate procedure, the defendant had thirty days to file a notice of appeal. The defendant did not file a notice, however, until eight days after the deadline had passed. The court permitted the late notice of appeal, after which the plaintiff appealed the order allowing late notice.

Excusable Neglect Permitting Late Filing

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure, a party appealing a civil case is required to file a notice of appeal within thirty days of when the court enters a judgment or order denying a motion for a new trial. If a party misses this deadline, the court can only permit a motion for leave to file a late notice of an appeal if the party demonstrates excusable neglect. Excusable neglect is only meant to apply in extraordinary or unique circumstances, and not merely a delay caused by everyday oversight. Rather, excusable neglect should only be a valid explanation when it is required to remedy emergency situations.

In the subject case, the defendant’s attorney argued that he was only retained as appellate counsel and was on vacation at the time the notice was due. Further, he stated that he believed that the defendant’s trial counsel would file the late notice of appeal while he was away. The defendant’s counsel did not set forth the basis of his beliefs, however. The defendant’s attorney also stated that trial counsel believed the defendant’s attorney would file the notice but did not offer any evidence in support of that averment either.

Upon review, the court found that the defendant failed to establish any extraordinary or unique circumstances that caused the late filing. Thus, the court found that the defendant’s attorney’s oversight was insufficient to permit a finding of excusable neglect and reversed the trial court order.

Speak with a Trusted Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered harm while at work, your damages may not be limited to a workers’ compensation claim, and you should speak with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue. The proficient attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the skills and experience required to help you seek a successful outcome. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.