Steve Coren Quoted in “Judge boots suit by pedestrian hit by postal truck”

KCL E. Steven Coren, Litigation, Personal Injury

By: KCL ~ November 2, 2021

Steve Coren was quoted in “Judge boots suit by pedestrian hit by postal truck” in the November 1, 2021 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The article discusses a recent summary judgment ruling from a federal district court in Massachusetts (Garcia v. United States, Civil No. 3:19-cv-30026-KAR) dismissing a personal injury claim by a pedestrian who was struck and injured by a U.S. postal truck.

By way of background, the pedestrian was injured while trying to cross the street. He did not use a crosswalk, but instead stepped from between two parked cars directly into the path of a U.S. Postal Service vehicle. The driver of the postal truck stated he was driving the speed limit (30 mph) and immediately applied his brakes but was unable to stop before hitting the pedestrian. The pedestrian filed a personal injury claim against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The government filed a motion for summary judgment relying partly on the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert who opined that the postal truck driver could not have avoided the accident in the estimated 1.5 seconds he had to react to the pedestrian entering the travel lane.

Relying on the testimony of the government’s expert witness, the judge found there was no genuine issue of material fact on the element of but-for causation given the expert’s testimony and evidence that speed was not a factor. She stated that the pedestrian’s claim that the accident could have been avoided if the postal truck driver had been more attentive was speculative and insufficient to defeat the government’s motion for summary judgment.

The case is unique because it’s unusual for a judge to keep a negligence case from a jury as there are often genuine issues of material fact that must be decided, such as whether the driver had difficulty seeing the pedestrian as it was getting dark. A trial also provides a jury with an opportunity to accept an expert’s testimony or discredit it. In this case, it could be argued that the judge took the expert’s testimony as fact, which may present grounds for appeal.

Weighing in on the decision, Steve Coren told MLW it was a “tough” case for the pedestrian. Having handled numerous personal injury cases, Steve noted “When somebody walks out from between two parked cars directly into the path of another vehicle, juries are very suspicious of that. Frankly, even without the expert, I don’t think the plaintiff would have prevailed, but it gave the judge an extra hook to hang [her] hat on in the sense of issuing a summary judgment.” He added that “the expert’s testimony was supportable and admissible for the limited area in which he was asked to testify.”

About Attorney E. Steven Coren
E. Steven CorenAttorney E. Steven Coren has more than 40 years of experience representing individuals and families in personal injury cases, divorce and family issues, and probate litigation. As a civil litigator, he has appeared in most courts in Massachusetts and the United States District Court in Massachusetts. He is an approved mediator for the Middlesex Probate and Family Court and was formerly a Hearing Officer for the Board of Bar Overseers (2006-2012). Attorney Coren is Chair of the firm’s Personal Injury practice group and a founding member of the firm.