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Massachusetts Court Discusses Evidence in Personal Injury Matters

Those who are hurt on the job may be eligible to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. They may also be able to file civil claims for damages if their injuries were caused by someone other than their employer. During civil cases, defendants will commonly try to submit proof of the plaintiff’s  payments from other sources, but typically be barred from doing so because it would be prejudicial to the plaintiff. Recently, a Massachusetts court recently addressed the question of whether the inverse is true, in  a dog bite case in which the plaintiff introduced evidence of the workers’ compensation benefits he received.  If you were hurt in a dog attack, it is smart to speak to a Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Defendant’s Injury

Reportedly, the plaintiff, a mailman, offered to cover a route for one of his coworkers. When the plaintiff was delivering mail to the defendant’s house, the defendant’s dog approached him. He attempted to give the dog a treat, but the dog attacked him. He was eventually able to free himself from the dog, at which point the defendant came out of his house to inquire if the dog had bitten him.

Allegedly, the plaintiff submitted a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits for a wrist injury he sustained in the attack. He subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the defendant as well, seeking damages under the dog bite statute. The plaintiff requested that the court allow him to introduce evidence of the workers’ compensation benefits he received following the incident at trial. The defendant opposed the plaintiff’s request, arguing that that jury would interpret the evidence as proof of the defendant’s fault and the plaintiff’s damages. The plaintiff’s motion was granted, and the jury ultimately found for the plaintiff. The defendant subsequently appealed.

Evidence of Payments from Other Sources

The only issue on appeal was whether the trial judge erred in permitting the plaintiff to present evidence of his workers’ compensation claim. The appellate court explained that proof of payments from a collateral source is generally omitted from evidence because it could lead juries to believe that the plaintiff is seeking a double recovery or that their claim is frivolous.

Despite the fact that the opposite scenario transpired in this case, the appellate court determined that the trial court admitted such evidence in error. In other words, it found that the evidence indicated to the jury that a third party had determined that the defendant was accountable for the plaintiff’s injuries. However, the limiting instructions the judge provided to the jury were determined to reduce the risk of prejudice. As a result, the verdict was upheld.

Speak to an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

Dog attacks can cause significant injuries, and dog owners will typically be deemed strictly liable for damages their pets cause. If you were hurt in a dog attack, you may be owed compensation, and you should speak to an attorney.  The experienced lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your potential claims and help you to seek a favorable outcome.  You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a meeting.

 

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