Pierce & Mandell, P.C.

11 Beacon Street, Suite 800
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-3002

Phone: (617) 720-2444
Fax: (617) 720-3693

Insurance Defense and Litigation

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Bob Pierce Successfully Tries Four Jury Cases in 2016

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, December 15, 2016

Founding shareholder Bob Pierce took four cases to jury trials in 2016. The cases were tried in four separate superior courts: Essex (Newburyport), Middlesex, Suffolk, and Dukes County (Martha’s Vineyard). In three of the cases, Bob achieved defense verdicts on behalf of his clients; in the fourth, the case settled after several days of trial based on a payment of less than 10% of plaintiff’s pre-trial demand.

Two of the cases were tort cases with large claimed damages. In one case, the plaintiff suffered a herniated disc in her back, which was exacerbated by a botched surgery which required multiple surgeries to correct. The plaintiff had well over $300,000 in medical bills.  Despite the substantial damages and a sympathetic plaintiff, the jury returned a defense verdict for Bob’s client.

In the second tort case, the plaintiff claimed a serious brain injury, and over $1 Million in lost earnings.  Once again, the jury returned a defense verdict, awarding the plaintiff nothing.

The third case involved claims by the plaintiff that the defendants, one of whom was defended by Pierce & Mandell attorney Lena Finnerty, had made false statements to the police about the plaintiff’s actions. As a result of these alleged false statements, the plaintiff was arrested, and charged with crimes. The plaintiff’s arrest generated substantial publicity in Boston newspapers and TV news. The plaintiff claimed that the arrest and attendant publicity caused her to lose substantial money in connection with the business she ran. Specifically, plaintiff claimed well over $1 Million in lost income. However, as a result of rulings on motions in limine in favor of the defense, and the inability of the plaintiff to obtain favorable testimony from the six witnesses who testified at trial, the case settled for a modest amount that was a fraction of the pre-trial demand.

The fourth case was a product liability case in which the plaintiff lost his left eye. The case was tried on Martha’s Vineyard, and the plaintiff was very sympathetic because he had obviously suffered an extremely serious and life changing injury. After a trial spanning close to two weeks, the jury returned a verdict in Bob’s client’s favor and awarded the plaintiff nothing.

Pierce & Mandell Attorneys Achieve Defense Verdict

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bob Pierce and Lena Finnerty obtained a defense verdict on behalf of their client in a jury trial in Middlesex Superior Court that concluded on September 19, 2016.

The plaintiff in the case claimed that he suffered serious head injuries when he fell on black ice in the parking lot of the office park owned by Pierce & Mandell’s clients.  Plaintiff claimed in excess of $1 Million in lost earning capacity, and asked the jury for an award of over $4 Million.  The firm defended the case on the basis that the property owner client was not negligent, and that if the plaintiff did fall on black ice, the fall was caused by his own negligence.

The case was tried over 7 days, and the jury deliberated for approximately 2 ½ hours.  The jury determined that Pierce & Mandell’s client was not negligent, and the plaintiff was awarded nothing.

Bob Pierce has now achieved complete victory for his clients in well over 80% of the cases he has tried.

Bob Pierce tells Boston Business Journal to Expect a Major Spike in Winter-Related Litigation - Boston, MA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, March 06, 2015

Seasoned Pierce & Mandell litigator and founding partner Bob Pierce may not get his NCAA Final Four Championship bracket exactly right, but he was pretty confident when reached by The Boston Business Journal this week about the effect of this biblical winter on future litigation.  Unlike some past winters that were relatively mild with minimal snow and ice events, Pierce said that this year’s historic winter will inevitably lead to more litigation, predicting a 50 percent increase in winter related claims.

“By the summer we’ll see a spike in litigation,” the veteran attorney told the Boston Business Journal’s Greg Ryan, whose story describes this winter as ‘snowmaggedon.’

SJC Announces Interim Procedure for Attorney and Self-Represented Party Participation in Juror Voir Dire

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, December 11, 2014

by Robert R. Pierce and Curtis B. Dooling

On December 5, 2014 the Massachusetts Superior Court issued a standing order outlining interim procedures governing attorney-conducted voir dire in Superior Court civil and criminal trials. The standing order was issued in anticipation of the implementation of G. L. c. 254, § 2, which will go into effect on February 2, 2015. Although trial judges will still have discretion as to how attorneys conduct voir dire, this Standing Order represents a significant change in Massachusetts trial practice. Massachusetts, unlike most states, has never before permitted attorneys to directly question jurors. Attorneys will now have an opportunity to pose questions directly to jurors in an effort to uncover biases and to learn more about the background of potential jurors.

The Standing Order dictates the specific procedures attorneys must follow to conduct voir dire. For example, attorneys will be required to seek approval from the court as to the topics of questions posed to potential jurors and, in some cases, will be required to seek court approval regarding the wording of questions. Attorneys will be required to comply with Superior Court Rule 9A when serving and filing motions to conduct voir dire. Thus, attorneys will need to consider voir dire questions well before trial begins.

The Standing Order provides the trial judge with wide discretion in determining which questions attorneys will be permitted to ask and the manner in which the questions will be asked. The Standing Order also outlines topics which will generally be allowed (background, experience, bias, ability to listen to judge’s instructions) and those topics which will be disfavored (political views, religious beliefs, hobbies, participation as a juror in other cases) unless a specific showing is made that the topics are germane to the case.

The Standing Order, which goes into effect on February 2, 2015, will likely be superseded by rules established by the Supreme Judicial Court. However, at this point it is unclear when the Supreme Judicial Court will issue final rules implementing G. L. c. 254, § 2. Thus, trial attorneys must familiarize themselves with the new Standing Order and must be prepared to seek court approval for voir dire questions in advance of trial.

Plaintiff’s attorneys, who strongly supported the passage of G. L. c. 254, § 2, may not be content with the amount of discretion that trial judges have to control the types of questions attorneys may ask jurors. The plaintiff’s bar will likely urge the Superior Court to modify the Standing Order to provide more latitude to trial attorneys in conducting voir dire.

For example, Pierce & Mandell attorneys Bob Pierce and Curt Dooling recently received a pre-trial request from a plaintiff’s attorney to ask potential jurors the following questions:

  • Do you believe that there are too many big verdicts and/or jury awards to injured persons in the Courts? How have you come to that belief?
  • Some people believe that you should not receive money damages for injuries or pain and suffering. Other people feel it is appropriate. Which one of those groups are you closer to?

Based on the Standing Order, a judge has discretion not to permit these types of questions to be asked by plaintiff’s attorneys because they delve too far into a juror’s political beliefs. Whereas the plaintiff’s bar views these biases as an impediment to a fair and impartial jury.


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