Jeffrey N. Catalano offered commentary in a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article previewing a Supreme Judicial Court case that could alter the standard for setting aside jury verdicts in personal injury cases.
The SJC is considering whether a trial judge applied the correct legal standard in setting aside a $150,000 jury verdict for a woman’s dental injuries from biting into a Wendy’s hamburger that contained a bone fragment. The verdict was set aside by the judge based on remarks by plaintiff’s counsel during closing argument that the defense claimed were impermissible.
The firm is not involved in the case.
The judge’s mistrial ruling – rendered after the jury reached its verdict – was later overturned by the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
A key problem for the defendant in the case is that it failed to raise objections during the plaintiff’s closing argument.
“The Appeals Court focused on the fact that the defendant didn’t object during closing,” Mr. Catalano told the publication. “That factor weighs against [granting a mistrial]. You don’t want to take a verdict away from a jury. There’s a procedure in place for defense attorneys to deal with this issue upfront ahead of trial, during closing argument, and then after closing argument. They struck out on all three opportunities. In my mind, that ship had sailed. It was too little, too late.”
Mr. Catalano, a partner at Todd & Weld, represents victims of catastrophic injuries in medical negligence, construction accident, food poisoning, auto accident, and other personal injury cases.
Todd & Weld COVID-19 Update.