There are thousands of laws on the books in Massachusetts and across the nation. What happens when two of those laws potentially conflict? For instance, if a driver is obligated to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but the pedestrian is obligated to obey a pedestrian crossing signal, what happens if both the driver and the pedestrian disregard their statutory duties?
Does one law trump the other? Not necessarily. According to a recent case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the laws have equal force, and it is up to a jury to decide the relative fault between two parties who may have violated their respective duties.
Facts of the Case
In the case of Weiss v. City of Cambridge, the plaintiff was a woman who was struck by a truck while walking across a street in Cambridge. At the time of the accident, the driver of the truck was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto the street that the plaintiff was crossing. The woman filed sued against the defendant city, for which the truck driver was working at the time of the accident.
The case was tried to a jury, which found the plaintiff 35% at fault in the accident. (Although the woman was in a crosswalk, there was evidence that she may have been disobeyed a pedestrian signal.) The trial court entered a judgment for the plaintiff, reducing her damages award in proportion to her level of comparative fault. The city appealed, challenging the trial court’s instructions to the jury with regard to a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 89, § 11.
Holding of the Massachusetts Appeals Court
The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, describing the matter in controversy as a “simple question of statutory interpretation.” According to the court, the trial judge correctly instructed the jury as to the statute. The pedestrian crossing signal did not trump or negate the driver’s obligation to stop at a crosswalk. Inasmuch as both the plaintiff and the defendant’s employee could have violated their respective regulatory obligations, it was up to the jury to sort out their relative degrees of fault. The jury having done so, the appellate court found no valid reason to overturn the verdict.
Get Reliable Advice from an Experienced Cape Cod Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an car crash or pedestrian accident, you need legal representation on which you can depend. To talk to a knowledgeable Cape Cod automobile and pedestrian accident attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at (888) 262-6664 and ask for a free, confidential case evaluation. We have offices in both Hyannis and Plymouth, from which we serve clients throughout Massachusetts.
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