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Articles Posted in Negligence

The vast majority of Cape Cod car accident lawsuits are settled out of court. In most cases, the parties’ respective automobile accident liability insurance companies are part of the settlement process and, consequently, are bound by the terms of the settlement.

Sometimes, however, instances arise in which an insurance company may not be part of the settlement negotiations in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit arising from an automobile accident. A recent case explored such a situation and gave instructions for how such matters are to be handled in similar circumstances in the future.

The case at bar differed from the “typical” case in one important respect: one of the primary issues in the underlying litigation was whether the incident giving rise to the suit was an accident or whether it was the result of an intentional act. Importantly, the insurer was not obligated to make certain payments for an intentional act but was obligated to pay for damages arising from an act of negligence.

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It is not unusual for a Cape Cod premises liability, personal injury, or other negligence-based lawsuit to involve multiple claims against multiple defendants. When this happens, a plaintiff may opt to settlement some claims against some parties, while the remaining claims proceed to trial. The procedural hurdles involved in such a situation must be carefully followed, in order to preserve the legal rights of all those involved.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a tenant who sued his landlord and an appliance store, after a stove in his apartment exploded, severely burning the tenant’s right hand. The tenant’s claims against the landlord included negligence, vicarious liability for the store’s negligence, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, and breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Against the store, the plaintiff sought compensation for negligence, breach of contract as a third-party beneficiary, violation of Massachusetts General Law ch. 93A, and strict liability. Various third-party and cross-claims were also filed in the lawsuit.

The tenant and the store entered into a settlement for $15,000. Without the tenant’s assent, the store filed a motion for entry of a separate and final judgment pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). The landlord opposed the motion. After a hearing, the trial court approved the settlement and ordered the entry of a separate and final judgment dismissing the tenant’s claims against the store. The landlord appealed.

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Under Massachusetts law, there are certain requirements for those who operate motor vehicles within the Commonwealth. In a Cape Cod car accident case, a dispute may arise as to whether a driver was in compliance with these laws at the time of the accident.

It should be noted that some of the rules that affect Massachusetts drivers may not apply to those from out of state who just happen to be passing through at the time of a collision. A recent court case explores the relationship between the amount of time that a nonresident has spent in the state and the requirements for certain insurance coverage.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported court case, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a two-car wreck allegedly caused by the defendant motorist’s negligence. The plaintiff’s suit also named the driver with whom he was riding at the time of the crash, her motor vehicle accident insurance company, and the defendant motorist’s insurance carrier as defendants in the suit. Only the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the defendant motorist proceeded to trial, the remaining claims having been dismissed on summary judgment or stayed.

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Hopefully, by now most people know how it important it is to file a claim for damages within the statute of limitations following a Cape Cod accident. However, many individuals may not realize that there can be additional matters of timeliness that must also be complied with, if a case is to be handled as assertively as possible.

One of these important deadlines is the 30-day period for the filing of a notice of appeal following entry of final judgment by a trial court judge. While there are some exceptions to the usual rule, these are few and far between, as the defendants in a recent premises liability lawsuit found out.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who fell while maneuvering a pallet jack from his delivery truck to a loading dock operated by the defendants. According to the plaintiff, his fall aggravated osteoarthritis in hip, requiring him to undergo a total hip replacement. The plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to maintain the mechanism that bridged the gap between his trailer and their dock, thus causing the accident and his resulting injuries.
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Timeliness is extremely important in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. First of all, a potential litigant has only a limited amount of time in which to assert his or her claim; generally speaking, a claim is barred if it is not filed within the period established by the statute of limitations (although there are a few, very limited exceptions).

Additionally, once litigation has begun, there are more deadlines, including time limits on responding to an opposing party’s discovery requests (such as interrogatories, which are written questions from one party to the other seeking more information about the claim).

When a party fails to meet the deadlines that have been established by the applicable court rules – or by the trial court judge, if a scheduling order has been entered – he or she risks dismissal of a claim that, if successful on its merits, could have yielded valuable compensation for medical costs, lost pay, and pain and suffering caused by another’s carelessness.

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In a Massachusetts negligence action seeking compensation for personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove several things in order to prevail at trial. First and foremost, the plaintiff must be able to show that a duty existed between him or her and the defendant.

If the plaintiff can show that the defendant breached this duty and that, as a proximate result, he or she suffered damages, he or she may be able to recover payment for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other associated expenses.

However, if the court does not agree that a duty of some sort existed between the parties, the plaintiff’s case will fail.

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The majority of Cape Cod personal injury cases based on the legal theory of negligence are filed against individuals or businesses. However, governmental entities can also be held accountable for negligence in some situations.

It is important to note that cases against the government may have special rules, including the requirement of giving written notice of one’s claim well in advance of the time that the statute of limitations would otherwise run (sometimes, the injured person has only a matter of days to take action).

There may also be a cap on the amount of damages that a city or other unit of the government will be required to pay.

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When someone is hurt on another’s property, there may be a possibility of filing what is commonly called a “slip and fall” or “premises liability” lawsuit against the landowner or business operator whose negligence caused the accident.

Of course, the defendant in such a case is likely to offer up a myriad of possible defenses, blaming the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the condition that led to the injury had been in place long enough for the defendant to have legal notice of it.

In some situations, there may be another possible defense, such as the recreational use statute.

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In a Cape Cod premises liability case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant landowner or shopkeeper was negligent in maintaining its property. Of course, the defendant will likely deny that it should be held liable for the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident, pointing the finger back at the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the dangerous condition described by the plaintiff even existed. It is up to the jury to resolve the factual issues between the parties.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished appellate court case, the plaintiff was reportedly an 84 year-old man whose shoe caught in an “eroded concrete surface” near a gas pump, causing him to fall. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant gas station owner, seeking monetary compensation for the injuries that he suffered in the fall. At trial, a fellow customer, who witnessed the incident, testified that the disrepair was readily apparent and had been in place for quite some time. In response, the defendant insisted that the gap that caused the plaintiff’s fall was so minor a defect that, as a matter of law, it could not give rise to a violation of the defendant’s duty of care to the plaintiff.

The jury found in the favor of the plaintiff (who was joined in the action by his wife, who asserted a loss of consortium claim), awarding him $450,000 and his wife $200,000. The trial judge issued a remittitur, reducing the plaintiff’s damages award to $300,000 and the wife’s to $125,000. The plaintiffs accepted the remittitur. The defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or for a new trial; the trial court denied both motions.
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Under Massachusetts law, those who are injured or lose a loved one due to another’s negligence have a limited amount of time in which to file a Cape Cod personal injury claim against the responsible party.

It is important to note that certain situations, such as cases involving a governmental entity, can result in much shorter deadlines, sometimes only a matter of days, than the general statute of limitations would suggest.

When a claim is not timely filed, the injured person will, most likely, be deemed to have waived his or her right to recover money damages.

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