Morrison Mahoney Partner Joe Yannetti recently obtained a defense verdict following a six-day jury trial in Essex Superior Court. The plaintiff alleged that our client negligently entrusted his vehicle to the codefendant who later rear-ended the plaintiff on the Massachusetts Turnpike causing head, shoulder, neck and back injuries. The plaintiff’s wife asserted a claim for loss of consortium.
At trial, the codefendant testified that she was a “horrible driver,” and that she was driving with a suspended license at the time of the accident. Over our objection, the court allowed the codefendant’s driving record into evidence. The driving record showed multiple license suspensions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, multiple driving offenses, and a lifetime license disqualification. The plaintiffs’ attorney argued that our client had actual knowledge that the codefendant was unlicensed when he let her borrow his vehicle given our client’s 30+ year relationship with the codefendant, his knowledge of a prior similar accident, and his previously having picked her up from tow yards after she had been pulled over while driving with a suspended license. Following the accident, the plaintiff underwent back fusion surgery and was determined to be permanently disabled from his job as a commercial driver.
We conceded that the codefendant was unfit/incompetent to operate a motor vehicle and that our client had given her permission to drive his vehicle. We defended the claim on the basis that despite the codefendant’s driving record, our client did not have actual knowledge of her unfitness/incompetence at the time that he let her borrow his vehicle. We argued that the codefendant never told our client about any issues with her license, that she had borrowed the vehicle on multiple prior occasions without incident, and had always returned the car in excellent condition.
The plaintiffs’ attorney asked the jury to return a verdict of $900,000. Our client had a $100,000 automobile policy, which was offered and rejected prior to and during trial. Given the low insurance limit, our client had significant unprotected assets that were at risk in the event of an adverse verdict.