When a case is tried to a jury, it is the responsibility of the trial court judge to instruct the jury on the law. This includes both general instructions, such as the burden of proof being on the plaintiff in a civil case, as well as specific instructions that arise from the facts of the case.
The parties may request that certain instructions be given, but the judge is not necessarily bound to honor those requests. Generally, a trial court’s decisions pertaining to jury instructions will not be disturbed on appeal as long as they are within the discretion of the court and are consistent with the evidence.
Facts of the Case
In the unreported case of Dahlquist v. Lydon Millwright Services, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that she was rear-ended at a stop sign by a truck owned by one of the defendants. She claimed that her head, neck, shoulder, arm, and hand were injured in the crash. She sued the driver and owner of the truck, seeking money damages for her injuries.
The driver of the truck averred that he did not crash into the plaintiff’s car when she first stopped at the stop sign (as the plaintiff had said) but instead collided with her vehicle “at a low-impact speed” after she stopped and then pulled forward from the stop sign in an apparent attempt to check for traffic. According to the driver of the truck, there was only “very minor damage” to the plaintiff’s car.
The case was tried to a jury, which found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Court’s Opinion
The court affirmed the lower court’s entry of judgment for the defendants, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the trial court had committed reversible error in failing to instruct the jury as she had requested. The court noted that, although the trial court had declined to give an instruction on comparative fault or on the defendant’s alleged violation of a certain safety statute (because there was no evidence that the accident happened on a public highway, as would have been required in order for the statute to apply), it provided adequate instructions of the four elements of negligence and the duty to exercise reasonable care while operating an automobile in Massachusetts.
Get Advice from an Experienced Massachusetts Trial Lawyer
Automobile accident cases are often hotly contested by negligent drivers and their insurance companies. Facts can be twisted, and creative legal arguments can, unfortunately, make a seemingly clear-cut case of liability difficult to prove in court. It helps to have a knowledgeable and assertive injury attorney on your side. To talk with one of our dedicated Massachusetts car accident lawyers about your case, call 888-262-6664 and schedule a free, confidential consultation. We have offices in Hyannis and Plymouth and handle cases throughout the Cape Cod region, as well as other areas throughout the state of Massachusetts.
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