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Massachusetts Court Explains Standard for Taking Judicial Notice of a Document

The evidence presented by either party can make or break a personal injury case. If the court denies a plaintiff’s request that the court take judicial notice of certain evidence it can result in a defense verdict. The Massachusetts Rules of Evidence limit what materials a court may take judicial notice of, however.

This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, in which the court affirmed the trial court’s refusal to take judicial notice of a driver’s manual, or provide the jury with an instruction with language taken from the manual. If you suffered harm due to a car accident, it is important to retain an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to represent you in your claim for compensation so that your case is handled properly.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported the plaintiff was driving her vehicle when she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant while the defendant was backing out of a residential driveway. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and her harm. Following a trial, the jury found the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, arguing the court erred in declining to admit the Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver Manual (Manual) and in failing to provide the jury with the plaintiff’s requested instruction, which was obtained from the Manual. On appeal, the court affirmed.

The Standard for Taking Judicial Notice of Documents

The manual contained a dear motorist letter from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles directing drivers to follow the rules of the road for the safe operation of a vehicle, and the proper procedure for entering the road from a driveway. The court noted that while the Manual contained information about state laws and the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ policies, it was not a legal document. Further, the plaintiff did not produce any statute, regulation, or case law, that would allow the court to admit the document. The court noted that while the Massachusetts Rules of Evidence allowed the court to take judicial notice of certain types of documents, the manual was not included in those documents.

As such, the court found the trial court properly excluded the manual. Additionally, the court found that the trial court gave the jury the standard instruction regarding the elements of negligence and thus adequately advised the jury of the applicable law. The court held that the trial court was not required to instruct the jury with the exact words requested by the plaintiff, even if the plaintiff’s requested instruction provided a correct statement of the law.

Speak with a Seasoned Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you were harmed in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you should speak with a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your case and your options for seeking compensation.  The personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you pursue a favorable outcome under the facts of your case. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appellate Case Reviews Medical Lien on Car Accident Settlement, March 7, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog