A woman filed suit on behalf of her daughters, based on a a Massachusetts car accident that occurred in December 2010. The defendant was driving a tractor-trailer owned by the co-defendant when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The defendants conceded liability, and the trial proceeded strictly on the issue of damages. The jury returned a verdict of $6,749.29 to the woman, $6,414.70 to one daughter, and no damages to the other daughter. The plaintiffs moved to set aside the jury verdict and for a new trial, both of which were denied.The plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) the trial judge abused her discretion in refusing to continue the trial when co-counsel withdrew after jury empanelment; (2) the trial judge wrongfully excluded the plaintiffs’ revised medical records; (3) the trial judge wrongfully admitted certain medical records offered by the defendants; and (4) there was ineffective assistance of counsel. The Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected these arguments and affirmed the lower court’s judgment.
The appeals court first considered the plaintiffs’ claim that the judge abused her discretion in denying their motion for a continuance and “forcing” them to trial without adequate assistance of counsel. After jury empanelment, “lead counsel’s” renewed motion to withdraw was permitted due to what he described as an ethical conflict. The judge then stated her intention to dismiss the case for want of prosecution if the plaintiffs did not go forward without him. The plaintiffs did not object to the judge’s decision at that time. Since they raised the issue for the first time on appeal, the appeals court explained that the argument was waived.
Either way, the court found that it was not an abuse of discretion for the judge to require the plaintiffs to go forward with their two remaining attorneys, who had been counsel of record from the beginning of the case and who also had been actively involved throughout discovery and pretrial proceedings. The judge concluded that since the plaintiff’s behavior had triggered the ethical issue that prompted the attorney’s withdrawal, she should not be rewarded with a continuance.