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Massachusetts Court Affirms Verdict Against Drunk Driver, Despite Passenger’s Arguments that Second Motorist Was Also Liable – Cass v. Collins

headlights at nightDuring a jury trial, the judge is required to make a variety of rulings – beginning with the procedure for the selection of the jury and ending with a review of whether the jury’s verdict was supported by the evidence.

A party aggrieved by a decision of the trial court judge may file an appeal and ask a higher court to review the trial judge’s decisions.

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Cass v. Collins, the plaintiff was a woman who was hurt in a car accident that she alleged resulted from the negligence of the defendants, who were the driver of the car in which the plaintiff was riding and the driver of the car with which the first car collided. A jury trial resulted in a verdict against the driver of the car in which the plaintiff was riding and in favor of the driver of the other car. The plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court

The court affirmed the lower court’s entry of judgment on the jury’s verdict. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in placing certain limitations on the voir dire process, that the trial judge made mistakes in some of his rulings on the admission of certain evidence, and that the verdict in favor of the driver of the second car was against the weight of the evidence. The court rejected all of the arguments.

The court first noted that it was within the province of the jury to find that the driver of the car in which the plaintiff was riding had been drinking tequila before the accident, and she testified that she did see the other driver’s headlights before pulling out into traffic. It was not an abuse of discretion for evidence of the driver’s consumption of alcohol prior to driving with passengers late at night to be admitted at trial because this was “patently relevant” to whether she exercised reasonable care while driving.

It was likewise not erroneous for the trial court to reject the attempted stipulation of the driver of the car in which the plaintiff was riding that she was negligent and that this was a cause of the accident because the trial court found that the driver had not entered the stipulation knowingly and intelligently with a full understanding of the legal requirements to prove a case against her.

With regard to the plaintiff’s complaints about voir dire, the court decided on appeal that there had been no substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice with respect to jury selection. Although the trial judge placed some limits on the process, the plaintiff was allowed to ask as many as five or six questions of the potential jurors.

It may seem a bit odd that the plaintiff appealed, even though a verdict was entered against the drunk driver of the car in which she was riding. However, it may have been that this driver was uninsured or had only minimal liability limits. A verdict against the other driver would likely have meant that the plaintiff would have recovered more compensation, due to increased insurance coverage.

Do You Need to Talk to a Cape Cod Car Accident Lawyer?

If you have been injured in a serious motor vehicle accident, the experienced Cape Cod car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III will be glad to talk with you about your case. Call us at (888) 262-6664 to schedule a free consultation in our Plymouth or Hyannis office.

Related Blog Posts

Defense Verdict Affirmed in Car Accident Case, Despite Massachusetts Woman’s Request for Additional Instructions – Dahlquist v. Lydon Millwright Services, Inc.

Massachusetts Appellate Court Finds No Reversible Error in Evidentiary Rulings or Misconduct by Counsel in Case Arising After Police Car Struck Cyclist – Basiony v. Boston