The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently affirmed a $20,000,000 verdict in the case of Dubuque v. Cumberland Farms, Inc. Ms. Dubuque was tragically killed in 2010 when a motorist careened into a Cumberland Farms store in Chicopee, Mass. Attorney Jack Egan, of Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, served as lead trial counsel on behalf of Ms. Dubuque’s estate and family members. Egan also argued the successful appeal in the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
Attorney Jack Egan (above) has established himself as one of the top trial lawyers in the nation.
At the trial, the jury heard evidence that showed that prior to the accident, Cumberland Farms possessed an internal report documenting 485 similar collisions at Cumberland Farms locations over a ten-year span. The jury found that the accident and death were foreseeable based on additional evidence related to the store’s notorious apex entryway and previous requests by the City of Chicopee to the store to make the entryway safer. Additional evidence indicated that the store failed to implement inexpensive safety measures to offset this known danger, such as constructing bollards or other protective barriers where the car eventually crossed onto the Cumberland Farms site.
Expert testimony supported the proposition that a system of bollards could have prevented the vehicle from striking the victim. Further, the defendants’ risk-management director had requested the installation of bollards to protect people and property from uncontrolled car strikes.
After finding in favor of Ms. Dubuque’s family, the jury awarded $32,369,024.30 in damages. Later, the trial judge reduced this amount to $20,000,000, finding the award to be excessive. The verdict was the largest amount ever awarded in Massachusetts for a wrongful death claim where the death was instantaneous.
The defendants argued on appeal that the jury should not have seen the internal Cumberland Farms report indicating its knowledge of 485 prior incidents at its stores, and that the prior incidents were not sufficiently similar to the case at hand. The trial judge’s failure to do so, the defendants argued, resulted in unfair prejudice.
In response, Egan argued that the trial judge, Hon. Mark D Mason, was correct in allowing the report of prior known car-strikes at Cumberland Farms stores, and that the jury’s verdict should stand. Other Egan, Flanagan & Cohen attorneys who worked on the appeal were Attorneys Kevin D. Withers, Lauren F. Olanoff, and Michael G. McDonough.
The Appeals Court agreed with Egan’s argument and affirmed the $20,000,000 verdict. No additional appeals were filed.
“The ruling [reinforces] that while the judge’s primary function is to work as a gatekeeper, the ultimate decision as to substantial similarity lies with a properly instructed jury,” said Egan.
Based on his remarkable abilities in the courtroom, in 1995 Jack Egan was invited to join the highly selective American College of Trial Lawyers, which consists of the top 1% of trial lawyers in each state. Jack can be reached by telephone at (413) 737-0260 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.