Morrison Mahoney Associate Chris Davidson secured a defense verdict in a trial involving a motor vehicle property damage claim. The plaintiff's vehicle was totaled in a hit-and-run accident by a motor vehicle owned by the defendant. The plaintiff’s theory of liability was premised upon Massachusetts General law Chapter 231 s. 85a, which provides that evidence of a vehicle being registered in the name of the defendant shall be prima facie evidence that the vehicle was operated by and under the control of a person for whose conduct the defendant is legally responsible. At issue was whether the defendant, who denied authorizing her son to use her vehicle, was covering up her son's involvement in the accident to prevent her son from being criminally charged with operating under the influence of alcohol. The plaintiff alleged $23,000 in damages.
The plaintiff offered eyewitness testimony to prove that the defendant's son was the operator of the vehicle at the time of the accident and that he ran from the scene after being questioned by the eyewitness. The plaintiff also presented discrepancies in the defendant’s testimony that plaintiff’s counsel argued was evidence of a cover up. However, Chris effectively cross-examined the eyewitness, who reneged on his testimony that he identified the operator of the vehicle as the defendant’s son. Chris also established that neither the defendant’s son, nor anyone else, was authorized to operate the motor vehicle on the night in question. The jury returned a defense verdict within twenty minutes.