Massachusetts Appeals Court Denies Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Due to Late Filing

Personal injury cases are complex at every stage. If you’ve been hurt in an accident that you believe was caused by someone else’s negligence, we are here to help. Our Massachusetts injury attorneys understand the both the substantive and procedural aspects of the law that are critical to every case, and we will make sure that absolutely nothing is overlooked.

In a recent case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court concluded that “garden variety oversight” by defense lawyers was not sufficient grounds to permit more time to file an appeal. The plaintiff in the case was hurt while working as he maneuvered a pallet from a truck onto a loading dock over a dock plate. The incident led to the man needing hip surgery and he was not able to go back to work. The man sued alleging that the defendants were negligent in failing to maintain the dock plate, thereby causing the accident and resulting injuries. The plaintiff stated that he was told by a coworker that there had been an issue with the dock place for “some time.” At the end of the trial, the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

The defendants filed a motion, within the proper time frame, requesting a new trial or a remittitur. On February 12, 2018, the trial court judge denied the defendant’s motion and the 30 day clock for filing an appeal began to run. The defendants, however, failed to file a notice of appeal within the 30-day time frame. Rather, approximately 8 days after the 30-day deadline, they filed a motion to extend the time to file notice of appeal. The trial court granted the motion. On April 2, 2018, an estimated 49 days after their post-trial motion was denied, the defendants filed an appeal. In response, the plaintiff filed a cross appeal, challenging the trial court’s judge’s decision to permit the defendants to file their late appeal.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court dismissed the defendants’ appeal for being untimely. Under state law, an appellant in a civil case must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the date that a final judgment is entered or after an order is entered denying a motion for a new trial. Once this deadline has gone, a trial court judge can simply permit a motion to file a late notice upon a showing of “excusable neglect.” In other words, if the record does not support a showing of excusable neglect, there is no room for judicial discretion.

To show excusable neglect, the defendants pointed to the fact that counsel was out of the country and showed the court an affidavit by a lawyer who had been hired as appellate counsel. Defendants said they had a good faith understanding that the notice of appeal would be filed on time by appellate counsel. In short, there was miscommunication. The appellate court held that this “garden variety oversight” was insufficient to warrant a finding of excusable neglect. Excusable neglect, according the court, is reserved for unique or extraordinary situations, not just simple miscommunication between counsel,

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a slip and fall accident, our Massachusetts injury attorneys can help. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., we understand how to navigate even the most complicated cases. We are here to answer your questions and address your concerns every step of the way. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our team, call us today at 1-800-262-9200 or reach us through our website.