Massachusetts Court Upholds Jurisdiction Over Out of State Defendants

Individuals injured by the negligence of another person typically do not contemplate the procedural aspects of filing a lawsuit, but they are vital to consider because the failure to follow the rules of procedure can result in the waiver of your right to pursue a claim. For example, the court in which a lawsuit was filed must have jurisdiction over both the claim and the parties, or the case may be dismissed.

Recently, a Massachusetts appellate court examined the factors necessary to establish jurisdiction over an out of state defendant, in Roch v. Mollica. If you were injured by an individual that does not reside in the state, you should consult a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the best manner in which to proceed in your pursuit of damages.

Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Injury

Reportedly, the plaintiff attended college in Massachusetts and was a member of the school’s softball team. She traveled to Florida with the softball team and stayed at a house rented by the defendants, who were the parents of the head coach. While she was there the plaintiff was pushed into a swimming pool as part of a hazing ritual and sustained an injury to her shoulder. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendants for negligence. The defendants, who reside in New Hampshire, were served with process while attending a softball game in Massachusetts. The defendants subsequently filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the court lacked jurisdiction over them. The court granted the motion and the plaintiff appealed.

Personal Jurisdiction Under Massachusetts Law

Under Massachusetts law, the courts have jurisdiction over anyone domiciled in the state. The plaintiff argued that under the rule of transient jurisdiction, the state has jurisdiction over anyone served with process while present in the state. The court recognized that the doctrine of common law jurisdiction had indeed been established in the Massachusetts courts. The court noted, however, that Massachusetts courts have also ruled that for a court to exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident it must be permitted by a statute, such as the long arm statute, and the exercise of jurisdiction must comply with the rules regarding due process. In attempting to reconcile the disparity between transient jurisdiction and the requirement that jurisdiction is permitted by a statute, the court ultimately held that jurisdiction can be exercised over anyone served with process while knowingly and intentionally present in the state.

The court declined to abolish transient jurisdiction, finding the arguments in favor of doing so weak. Further, the court noted that there were other procedural safeguards that would allow a defendant to transfer or seek the dismissal of a case, even if jurisdiction was proper. As the defendants in this case intentionally and purposefully entered the state, and were served while in the state, the court found jurisdiction could properly be exercised over the defendants. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured in an accident in another state, you may still be able to file a lawsuit in Massachusetts. You should meet with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. The personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will work diligently to help you pursue any compensation you may be owed. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or through our online form to schedule a free and confidential conference.

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Massachusetts Court Rules a Contractor’s Death is not a Foreseeable Risk of a Homeowner’s Breach of the Duty to Obtain a Permit for Building Construction, December 11, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog