Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Hill-Junious v. UTP Realty, LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this negligence action brought by Plaintiff seeking damages for wrongful death and loss of consortium, holding that summary judgment was appropriately granted in favor of Defendant.Drake Scott, Jr. was shot and killed outside the exit door of a nightclub leasing space in a commercial property. Plaintiff, Scott's mother, filed this negligence action against the owner of the property, alleging that Defendant knew or should have known about potential dangers and threat of violence on the property and that Defendant breached this duty, resulting in Scott's death. The trial judge allowed Defendant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the shooting was not foreseeable, and therefore, Defendant owed no duty to protect Scott. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding the the shooting that occurred in this case was not reasonably foreseeable to Defendant, and therefore, Defendant had no legal duty to prevent it. View "Hill-Junious v. UTP Realty, LLC" on Justia Law
Fabiano v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court held that in the instant cases, where the decedents had no right to bring a cause of action for the injuries that caused their deaths at the time that they died as a result of the running of the statute of limitations on the decedents' underlying tort and breach of warranty claims, Plaintiffs, as personal representatives of the decedents' estates, had no right to bring wrongful death actions based on those injuries.The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts dismissing these separate actions for wrongful death under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, 2. Both superior court judges ruled that, because wrongful death recovery is derivative of a decedent's own cause of action, the underlying wrongful death claims were precluded, as each decedent could not have brought claims based on the injuries that caused his death had he survived. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, thus following the majority approach precluding recovery for wrongful death where the statute of limitations on the decedent's underlying claims ran before the decedent's death. View "Fabiano v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
Garcia v. Steele
The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances of the underlying case, the Graves Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 30106, protected an automobile dealership from being held vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of the driver of its courtesy vehicle.An automobile dealership based in New Jersey provided a courtesy vehicle to a customer while it serviced the customer's vehicle in its automobile service center. Contrary to the terms of the courtesy vehicle agreements, the customer drove the vehicle beyond the permitted radius of travel and into the Commonwealth, where the vehicle struck one of the plaintiffs, causing serious injuries. Plaintiffs brought a negligence action against the dealership and the customer. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that the dealership, as the owner of the courtesy vehicle, was presumptively vicariously liable for the injuries caused by the customer's wife. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment for the dealership and vacated the judgment for the customer, holding (1) the Graves Amendment protected the dealership from liability in this case; and (2) there was a dispute of material fact as to the negligent entrustment claim against the customer. View "Garcia v. Steele" on Justia Law
Doucet v. FCA US LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court dismissing FCA US LLC from the underlying tort lawsuit, holding that Massachusetts had personal jurisdiction over FCA US under the Commonwealth's long-arm statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, 3, and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.Paul Doucet was the passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in New Hampshire, rendering him incapacitated. Doucet's guardians filed suit against FCA US, the vehicle's manufacturer, and the Massachusetts distributor-dealership Sudbay Chrysler Dodge, Inc. FCA US, a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Michigan, filed a motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction. The trial judge granted the motion and dismissed FCA US as a party to the case, concluding that Massachusetts lacked personal jurisdiction under both the long-arm statute and the due process clause of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding that personal jurisdiction existed in Massachusetts over FCA US for the underlying claims pursuant to both the Commonwealth's long-arm statute and the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. View "Doucet v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law
Greene v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in this personal injury action against Philip Morris USA Inc., holding that Philip Morris was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.Plaintiff, who smoked Marlboro brand cigarettes for several decades and was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer, brought this action. The jury returned a verdict for Philip Morris on Plaintiff's negligence and breach of warranty claims but found for Plaintiff on her civil conspiracy claims. The trial judge subsequently entered judgment for Plaintiff on her Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the jury verdict against Philip Morris for civil conspiracy and the trial judge's finding of liability under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A were supported by the evidence; (2) Philip Morris waived its argument regarding a contested jury instruction; and (3) the twelve percent pre- and post judgment statutory interest rates pass rational basis review and, thus, are constitutional. View "Greene v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
Waters v. Kearney
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court dismissing as moot Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in dismissing the petition on the basis that it was moot.In 2018, Petitioner commenced this action against Respondent, alleging several tort claims. Shortly before a scheduled pretrial conference in the trial court, Petitioner filed this petition asking the court to, among other things, sanction Respondent. While the petition was pending the underlying case was dismissed for failure to prosecute. The single justice then dismissed Petitioner's Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition as moot. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the dismissal of the case rendered the issues Petitioner raised on appeal moot. View "Waters v. Kearney" on Justia Law
Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss this suit alleging sexual abuse by leadership of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield that Plaintiff allegedly endured as a child in the 1960s, holding that common-law charitable immunity did not insulate Defendants from certain counts in the complaint.Defendants moved to dismiss this complaint on the grounds of common-law charitable immunity and the doctrine of church autonomy. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' arguments pertaining to common-law charitable immunity fell within the doctrine of present execution and were properly before the Court; and (2) common-law charitable immunity insulated Defendant from the count alleging negligent hiring and supervision but did not protect Defendant from the counts alleging sexual assault against Plaintiff. View "Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield" on Justia Law
Lanier v. President & Fellows of Harvard College
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress and affirmed the dismissal of her other claims, holding that the alleged facts, taken as true, plausibly supported claims for negligent and reckless infliction of emotional distress.At issue in this case was daguerreotypes made in 1850 by the Harvard University professor Louis Agassiz of Renty Taylor and his daughter, Delia, who were enslaved on a South Carolina plantation. Plaintiff, the alleged descendent of the Taylors, brought this action against Harvard, seeking relief for emotional distress and other injuries and restitution of the daguerreotypes to her. The superior court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal in part, holding that the facts alleged plausibly supported a claim of reckless infliction of emotional distress. View "Lanier v. President & Fellows of Harvard College" on Justia Law
Ashe v. Shawmut Woodworking & Supply, Inc.
In this negligence suit, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the motion judge allowing a defendant's motion pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 35(a) seeking a court order requiring the injured individual to submit to a neurological examination, holding that neuropsychologists are physicians for the purpose of rule 35.Thomas Ashe suffered injures as a result of an accident allegedly caused by multiple parties, including Shawmut Design & Construction, Inc. Defendant sought to have Ashe examined by its expert, a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, but Plaintiffs declined to make Ashe available on the grounds that Rule 35, which applies to examinations performed by a "physician," precluded the examination. The motion judge granted Shawmut's motion for an order requiring Ashe to submit to the examination. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the motion judge did not abuse her discretion by allowing the motion. View "Ashe v. Shawmut Woodworking & Supply, Inc." on Justia Law
Berry v. Commerce Insurance Co.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the tortfeasor in this case, a police officer, was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, holding that there was no error.Officer Shawn Sheehan and Officer Russell Berry, both of the Raynham police department, were undergoing a day-long mandatory firearms training on town-owned property when Sheehan struck Berry with his car after purchasing lunch. Berry sustained severe injuries to his leg and submitted a written demand letter to Commerce Insurance Company, claiming that Sheehan's liability was clear and that Commerce, as Sheehan's automobile insurer, was responsible for payments to cover his damages. Commerce denied coverage, claiming that Sheehan was immune from tort liability under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 2. Berry then commenced this action against Commerce seeking a judgment declaring that Sheehan was not immune under the Act. The superior court entered judgment in favor of Berry. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly determined that Commerce was liable for Berry's injuries because Sheehan was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. View "Berry v. Commerce Insurance Co." on Justia Law