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Pro Se Litigant’s Petition for Review Dismissed by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

In a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit, there are many laws, procedures, and rules that guide a case through the legal system. Experienced litigation attorneys are schooled in these matters and have systems in place to make sure that everything is filed in a timely and appropriate matter.

Those who chose to represent themselves – rather than hire a knowledgeable accident and injury attorney – are at a huge disadvantage in the court system. While a pro se litigant may be able to access some information about the court system online or at a law library, this limited knowledge is very rarely enough to result in a successful outcome in the case. Much more frequently, the plaintiff ends up having his or her case dismissed – often on procedural grounds – effectively forfeiting any chance of obtaining a verdict against the opposing party.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the record was sparse, but it appeared that the plaintiff was a man who had attempted to represent himself pro se in a personal injury lawsuit asserting a negligence claim against the defendant grocery store. The district court apparently dismissed the plaintiff’s cause of action. Rather than file a traditional appeal from the district court’s ruling, the plaintiff filed a petition in the county court, relying upon Massachusetts General Laws ch. 211, § 3 and seeking review of certain aspects of the district court’s ruling in his personal injury case.

The county court denied the plaintiff’s petition. His appeal from that denial was dismissed by a second district court judge on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to take the appropriate steps as required under Massachusetts appellate procedure. The plaintiff made two more fruitless attempts to have his case reviewed, after which the district court issued an order precluding the plaintiff from subsequent filings without prior judicial authorization.

The Appellate Tribunal’s Decision

On appeal, the reviewing court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The court began its review of the district court’s decision by pointing out that, in seeking relief under Massachusetts General Laws ch. 211, § 3, the plaintiff had the burden of creating a record upon which the district court could base its decision. This required more than simple allegations; to comply with the statute, the plaintiff should have provided copies of documents such as pleadings, motions, orders, transcripts from hearings, docket entries, and so forth in order to substantiate his claim that the lower court had violated a substantive right of his and that this violation could not be remedied in another manner, such as a normal appeal.

Rather than doing what was required of him under the applicable rules, the plaintiff had merely filed a handwritten petition without any supporting documentation supporting his claim that the court had acted improperly. On this record, the reviewing court agreed with the district court that the plaintiff was not entitled to relief under Massachusetts General Laws ch. 211, § 3  because he not supplied the necessary documentation (nor had he served a copy of his petition on the opposing party, which was another prerequisite for relief under the statute.)

Hire a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Cape Cod Accident Case

It is unclear whether the litigant in the case set forth above had a viable personal injury claim, but, if he did, he probably cost himself the chance of any monetary recovery by going it alone instead of hiring an experienced negligence attorney to represent him. If you believe that you have been hurt because of someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, please do not make the same costly mistake. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, offers a free consultation in Cape Cod slip and fall and other personal injury cases – and, we make sure that all of the necessary paperwork gets filed in court so all you have to worry about is getting well. Call us at 888-262-6664 for an appointment.