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Massachusetts Court Explains Jurisdiction Over an Out-of-State Vehicle Owner

People frequently allow their spouses to drive their cars without a second thought. If the spouse causes an accident, though, both the spouse and the owner may be held responsible for any injuries that arise as a result of the collision. Under Massachusetts law, though, liability will only be imposed on both spouses, if the courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over them. This was demonstrated in a recent lawsuit arising out of a car accident, in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against an out of state defendant who had no contacts with the state.   If you were hurt in a car accident, numerous parties could be to blame, and you should consult with a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury lawyer about your possible claims.

The Subject Collision

Allegedly, the plaintiff and his wife both resided in Massachusetts. The defendants, who were married, lived in Virginia. They visited Massachusetts in September 2018 to attend a family friend’s wedding. The defendant husband was waiting for his wife to pick him up outside of a hotel. At the same time, the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle. The defendant wife, who was operating her husband’s car, struck the plaintiff, causing him to suffer significant harm. The plaintiff subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the defendants. The defendant husband moved for dismissal of the claims against him, arguing the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction Over an Out-of-State Vehicle Owner

A court can exercise jurisdiction over a person who causes a tortious injury through an omission or act, either directly or through an agent, under Massachusetts’s long-arm legislation. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant wife was acting as his agent. However, the court determined that there was insufficient evidence to show agency.

The court explained that agency necessitates a demonstration of consent in which one person authorizes another to act on his behalf and under his supervision. While one spouse can serve as the other’s agent, the sheer fact that two people are married is insufficient to establish that one spouse is the other’s agent. The Complaint in this instance lacked any accusations that would demonstrate agency and instead relied on conclusory remarks. The wife was not doing business for her husband; instead, she was simply picking him up in his car, which was insufficient to demonstrate agency.

The plaintiff’s argument that a Massachusetts law imposing legal responsibility on a person who owns a car for any individual that drives it provided a sufficient basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the owner was also rejected, with the court noting that the plaintiff failed to cite any case to support this claim. As a result, the court determined that the plaintiff had failed to establish that she had appropriate personal jurisdiction over the defendant husband.

Speak with a Capable Massachusetts Attorney

Car accidents often cause significant damages, and in many instances, more than one party will be deemed accountable for the harm suffered. If you were hurt in a collision, you have the right to pursue damages, and you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.  The capable lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can adivse you of your rights and aid you in seeking any compensation you may be owed. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.

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