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Estate of Edmund M. Carman v. Tinkes: On Motions for Summary Judgment

Our Boston car accident lawyers know defendants will file pre-trial motions to dismiss in nearly all negligence cases.

1057590_old_pickup.jpgIn the Estate of Edmund M. Carman v. Tinkes, the plaintiff’s car crashed into the back of the defendant’s commercial pickup truck. According to court records, the plaintiff was driving his car early one morning before dawn. He did not have his headlights on and was driving in what was described as a “quick” manner.

When the plaintiff approached a red traffic signal, he did not attempt to stop or slow down. Instead, he crashed into the back of a large commercial pickup truck driven by the defendant. The plaintiff’s car was completely destroyed in the accident, and the plaintiff was killed.

While all of these facts were undisputed by the plaintiff, there was a dispute about what the pickup truck was doing when it was hit. Some witnesses testified the pickup truck was sitting still at the light. Others testified the truck was pulling into the left turn lane in front of another vehicle, which would have been a traffic violation.

The defendants moved for summary judgment. If this case had taken place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Rule 56 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure would control summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment is basically saying that, even if everything in the plaintiff’s complaint were true, the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the case was dismissed. In order to recover on a negligence claim, as pointed out by the appellate court in Carman, the plaintiff must establish the required elements for negligence. This means that the plaintiff must prove the defendant owed a duty of care to protect the plaintiff from bodily harm or damage to her property. The plaintiff must also establish the defendant breached the duty of care and that breach of the existing duty resulted in the proximate cause of damages to the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff is unable to prove the traditional elements of negligence in a motor vehicle accident case, the plaintiff may still be able to establish a per se negligence case, if the driver was in violation of any traffic laws at the time of accident. Here, however, the court found even if the defendant was violating a traffic law at the time of offense, it was not a proximate cause of the crash.

Finally, the plaintiff attempted to prove that a metal bumper on the pickup was so hazardous that it was responsible for the extreme damage to the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff did not deny that the bumper was within state regulations.

The appellate court ultimately sided with the defendant and affirmed the decision to grant the motion for summary judgment.

This outcome should not be surprising, given that the plaintiff was driving a car with no headlights in the dark when he crashed into a very large pickup truck from the rear. However, every situation is different and you should speak to your attorney about the facts of your particular case.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Estate of Edmund M. Carman v. Tinkes, August 7, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
More Blog Entries:

Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Stacking, July 3, 2014, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog