When you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may think that your case will be a relatively straightforward matter, decided largely upon each side’s presentation of the facts. Sometimes that is how a case plays out. Other times, your case may hinge upon more technical legal rules and concepts, like consolidation of cases, issue preclusion, and claim preclusion. What all of these things represent is the extent to which any type of legal matter can end up succeeding or failing based upon things that require an in-depth knowledge of the law. To make sure that you are prepared for whatever your case presents, make sure you have a knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney representing you.
An example of such a scenario played out recently in the Massachusetts courts. The underlying incident was a straightforward intersection accident in Weymouth. John was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Kelly. At the intersection, Kelly’s vehicle and a vehicle driven by Noah crashed. The key factual issue in the case was which driver ran a red light to cause the collision. John sued Noah, and, sometime shortly after that, Kelly sued Noah.
Both lawsuits were filed in Brockton. Both John and Kelly had the same attorney. The judge who oversaw the cases decided to consolidate both lawsuits and determined that Kelly’s case versus Noah should be tried first. At the close of the evidence in that case, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Noah. Since the jury found Noah not negligent in that case, the judge reasoned that John could not win his case and entered judgment for Noah on that part too.
John appealed and won, meaning that the appeals court revived his action and gave him a renewed chance to present his case to a jury. The negligence lawsuit that John presented was something that generally allows for a trial by jury. There are only a few circumstances in which a plaintiff in John’s shoes might not be entitled to a jury trial.
One of those is something called “res judicata.” That is a Latin phrase that means “a matter judged” already. There are two ways that a case can be considered “judged already.” One is “claim preclusion,” which means a “valid, final judgment conclusive on the parties and their privies.” That didn’t apply to the verdict in Kelly’s case because John was not a party in Kelly’s lawsuit. The other type of res judicata is “issue preclusion,” which refers to situations in which “the same issue arises in a later action, based on a different claim, between the same parties or their privies.” That also didn’t match the facts of John’s actions because, again, he was not a party to Kelly’s lawsuit.
John and Kelly were occupants of the same car that collided with Noah, and both John and Kelly accused Noah of negligence for causing that one accident. These facts alone were not enough to trigger the legal rules of issue preclusion or claim preclusion. In other words, these facts were not enough to warrant denying John “his day in court,” which he definitely did not receive.
Certainly, John’s case involved a lot of technical legal terms and complex, intricate legal arguments. What John’s case and successful appeal represent, though, is a very basic reality about litigation. Even when you have what might seem like a straightforward case of negligence based upon an intersection collision, your case may still come down to very technical decisions about rules of law. To make sure that you are prepared for any twists and turns your case takes, retain experienced Plymouth County car accident lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann. Our team has diligently and effectively represented injured drivers and passengers from across Plymouth County, including in Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury. To find out more about how we can assist you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.
More Blog Posts:
Winning Your Pedestrian Accident Case in Massachusetts Even if You Crossed Against the Light, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, Feb. 6, 2018
Enforcing the Settlement You Achieved Through Mediation in Your Massachusetts Auto Accident Case, Plymouth County Injury Lawyer Blog, Dec. 22, 2017