Massachusetts Appellate Court Discusses When Jury Instruction Is Necessary

Judges have many duties when they oversee a personal injury trial. One of a judge’s most important roles is to make evidentiary rulings to ensure that the jury considers only relevant and probative evidence. This requires a judge to apply the rules of evidence to determine which evidence is admissible and which evidence is not admissible.

GavelOften, there is considerable litigation over the admissibility of evidence. In some cases, evidence that is very favorable to a party may not be admitted before the jury. When this is the case, that party is prohibited from referring to that evidence at all. A party’s reference to inadmissible evidence or a party’s improper comment on admitted evidence may require the judge to provide a curative instruction to the jury. In a recent medical malpractice case, the plaintiff took issue with the judge’s curative instruction after the plaintiff’s counsel made what the judge determined to be an improper comment.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young child who suffered serious birth injuries and died within a few minutes of being born. The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians who cared for the baby’s mother during her delivery. Essentially, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to correctly monitor the baby’s heart rate and waited too long to perform a necessary cesarean section.

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Massachusetts Appellate Court Declines to Apply “Mode of Operation” Doctrine and Affirms the Dismissal of Premises Liability Case

Will This Decision Affect My Brockton Personal Injury Case?

Earlier last year, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a written decision in an interesting premises liability case that required the court to discuss the “mode of operation” doctrine. In the case, Amara v. Falcon Holding Corporation, the court determined that the facts of the plaintiff’s accident did not fall within the doctrine, and the court ultimately affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Wet Floor SignThe Facts of the Case

Amara was attending a conference at a Sheraton Hotel. On a trip to the restroom, Amara slipped and fell on the ceramic tile floor, sustaining serious injuries as a result. Upon getting up, she noticed that the floor was covered in a wet foamy substance that smelled like furniture polish. Upon further investigation, Amara located an uncapped bottle of furniture polish in a nearby cabinet that was leaking onto the floor. Evidently, another person attending the conference thought that it was an air freshener and sprayed the substance accordingly.

Amara filed a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the hotel. In response, the hotel asked for the case to be dismissed because the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the floor. Amara did not argue that anyone at the hotel knew about the spill but instead argued that under the “mode of operation” doctrine, the hotel could still be held liable. The trial court disagreed with Amara and granted the hotel’s motion to dismiss. Amara appealed.

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