John B. Stewart practices insurance defense law at Murphy & Manitsas, LLP, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He has tried over over 150 cases to a jury verdict, and is experienced in the defense handling of insurance claims in Massachusetts state and federal courts, as well as administrative agencies and appeals. He is certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and has coached the National Trial Team and AAJ Trial Team at Western New England College School of Law. He was also selected to Massachusetts Super Lawyers.
Significant cases defended include:
Products Liability. Burgos v. Danly Machine, U.S. District Ct., D.Mass., 17 Verdicts, Settlement and Tactics 361-362, 1997 WL 33345564, Natl. Jury Verdict Rptr. 10:15. Defense verdict for manufacturer of 50 ton power press sued by injured worker struck by metal blanks. Roberge v. Roberge, U.S. District Ct., D.Mass., 1999 WL 33488789, 15 New England Jury Verdict Rptr. 7:C8. Verdict of no defect in defendant's bicycle operated by boy whose jaw was fractured in accident. In DaConceicao v. Tru-Grit, U.S. Dist. Ct., D.Mass. 4/02), a jury returned a verdict of no liability for breach of warranty or negligence against the supplier of a knife-making machine. Summary judgment was granted for the manufacturer in Witte v. Thermold (Worc. Dist. Ct. 7/07) for an injury caused when a shower handle broke.
Wrongful Termination. Tuper v. North Adams Ambulance Service, Inc., 428 Mass. 132 (1998) http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/428/428mass132.html. After summary judgment on defamation and tortious interference claims, defense verdict was returned in wrongful termination case. On appeal Mass. Supreme Judicial Court upheld trial ruling that unemployment hearing decision finding employee was discharged without just cause was inadmissible and not binding in later breach of contract suit. Weissman v. Altra Marine Products (U.S. District Court, D.Mass), 1995 WL 1933839, 10 New England Jury Verdict Rptr. 12:6. Favorable verdict against manufacturer sued by representative for breach of agreement, fraud, tortious interference with advantageous relations with customer.
Defense Verdicts on Rear-End Collisions. In Rouvellat v. Guarco, 187 F.3d 622 (1st Cir. 1999), a federal jury found a defendant motorist not negligent where plaintiff claimed over $100,000 in medical and wage losses, following refusal of a generous settlement offer at mediation. In Martin v. McKenna, 2005 WL 4397793 (Hampden Super. Ct.), a jury found no negligence despite the admission in evidence that the case was previously tried to a judge who awarded $30,000 and that award was "prima facie" evidence in favor of the plaintiff. Similarly, in Mulvey v. Roy, 2006 WL 4654733 (Hampden Super. Ct.), the jury found no negligence on the part of a motorist who rear-ended another vehicle starting a four-car chain collision.
Defense Verdicts for Insurance Agents/Errors & Omissions. In Capozza v. Johnson, 6 Western Mass. Law Trib. 4, 1 (April 2005), 2005 WL 115548 (Hampden Super. Ct.), a jury found the agency did not err in obtaining insurance coverage on a Mercedes, there was a $1.5 million verdict against the co-defendant motorist. Similarly in Greaves v. K-D Agency, 2006 WL 4654729 (Worc. Dist. Ct. 7/06), a jury returned a verdict of no negligence where an insured had reduced his coverages below his mortagage balance and was underinsured for a fire. In Chenevert v. Remillard, 1999 WL 3348883, following an uninsured theft claim a jury found no negligence, deceit or contract breach in the procurement of a homeowners policy. In Miller v. Moulton, (Palmer Dist. Ct. 3/98), a judge entered judgment for the defendant agency following trial on a claim an agent was responsible for an insured being uninsured for a restaurant fire. In Harder v. Cebula, (Palmer Dist. Ct. 12/90), a defense finding was entered after trial exonerating an agent for uninsured damages for a boiler loss.
Summary Judgments/Dismissals for Insurance Agents/Errors & Omissions. In both Leger v. INA, 38 Mass. App. Ct. 1102 (1995), and Grey v. Finn, (Franklin Super. Ct. 11/1/00), an agent was granted summary judgment following an uninsured fire loss. In Lata v. Remillard (Norfolk Super. Ct. 11/04), summary judgment was granted on a claim an agent failed to procure sufficient underinsured motorist limits. In Sacadura v. Ideal (Springfield Dist. Ct. 7/04), a directed verdict was granted at trial where a homeowner sued his agent to cover an uninsured dog bite loss. In Klein v. W&T (Berkshire Super. Ct. 5/08), a motion to dismiss was allowed on the basis an agent had no responsibility to advocate the insurer to pay a loss. In Dominic's Pizza v. Bombard, (Springfield Dist. Ct. 8/01), a motion to dismiss was allowed on an underlying claim for civil penalties resulting for failure to procure workers' compensation insurance. Similarly, in Moccia v. Pelley (Hampden Super. Ct. 1998), summary judgment was allowed upon where the agent proved the carrier failed to correctly cancel a policy.
Summary Judgment in Legal Malpractice Claim. In Bratcher v. Moriarty, Donoghue & Leja, P.C., http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ma-court-of-appeals/1184311.html 54 Mass. 111 (2002), the court found no duty existed between the lawyer for the widow in a wrongful death action and the co-administrator of the decedent's estate.
Favorable Verdicts for at-fault Trucking Companies. In Fernandez v. May Trucking Co., 1993 WL 1466090, and Bird v. Lott Trucking, 2001 WL 1041973, jury verdicts were obtained in a nominal amount well below the last offer of settlement. In Digiovanni v. Borden and McCormick v. Borden (U.S. Dist. Ct. 10/92), a jury awarded nominal damages to a mother and daughter claiming injury from a rear-end collision. Similarly, in Gendron v. Waste Management, 2002 Mass. Super. LEXIS 32057895, a jury rejected a claim of permanent disability and awarded only special damages to a plaintiff.
Defense Verdicts where Motorist struck Bicyclist/Pedestrians. In Evans v. Devereaux Foundation, 1992 WL 1352918, a jury found a motorist who struck a pedestrian in a cross-walk not negligent. In Boyle v. Silluzio, 2005 WL 2148520, the jury found a negligent motorist who struck a bicyclist at an intersection cross-walk was not causally responsible for plaintiff's damages. In Delmolino v. Doyle (34 Mass. Lawyers Weekly 593, Nov. 7, 2005), a pedestrian struck by a backing motorist in a parking lot was found not negligent.
Summary Judgment for Nursing Home in Wrongful Death Action. In Fentross v. Geriatric Authority of Holyoke, 2002 Mass. Super. LEXIS 533, a dismissal was obtained for failure to make presentment under torts claims act. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:hp3chQOub8oJ:www.lexisone.com/lx1/caselaw/freecaselaw%3Faction%3DOCLGetCaseDetail%26format%3DFULL%26sourceID%3Dbdihja%26searchTerm%3DehWS.cXSa.aadj.eahC%26searchFlag%3Dy%26l1loc%3DFCLOW+fentross+v.+geriatric&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com
Partial Summary Judgment Enforcing Damages Cap. In Reynolds v. Williston Northampton School, 2006 Mass. Super. LEXIS 46, the court allowed motion for summary judgment enforcing charitable cap on claim of brain injury allegedly suffered by spectator due to premises defect at private school's hockey facility rented to outside group.
Directed Verdicts. In Roman v. Pulaski Club (Hampden Super. Ct. 10/92), a judge dismissed a negligent security claim against a private club where one patron assaulted another. In Ditto v. Town of Palmer, 1995 WL 1722613, a road defect claim alleged to have caused a motorcycle accident was dismissed at the close of the plaintiff's evidence.
Premises Defect Claims. In Lash v. Apollo, 1995 WL 1768599, 10 Nat'l. Jury Verdict Rptr. 7:26, a jury rendered a verdict of no negligence where a deliveryman was claiming $150,000 in special damages and permanent impairment from a fall at allegedly unsafe premises. In Cahill-Corbin v. Pride, Berkshire Super. Ct. 2/09, a defense verdict was rendered in a case seeking compensation for $30,000 in medical expenses, partial permanency and pain and suffering for a trip and fall on an convenience store entry ramp.
Defense Verdicts for Motor Vehicle Accidents. In Glabicki v. Sarad, 1991 WL 1063382, no negligence was found on the part of a truck driver for a broadside accident where plaintiff had significant special damages and permanency. In Antuna v. Bergollo, 2004 Mass. Super. LEXIS 2216614, a jury found no negligence on the part of a motorist who took a right on red and whose vehicle was then struck. In Reyes v. Florence Casket (Springfield Dist. Ct. 5/04), a jury found no negligence on the part of delivery truck alleged to have sideswiped a vehicle backing into a parking spot. In Meadows v. Travel Time, 7 New England Jury Verdict Rptr. 2:16, a bus company was found not negligent by a jury for a disc injury allegedly caused when the bus went over a speed bump at an inappropriate speed.
Appeals Court Reversal of Plaintiff's Verdict. In Gibbons v. Nichols [Tenneco], 1994 Mass. App. Div. 28, the Appellate Court vacated a finding for the plaintiff in an intersection accident and granted a new trial due to judicial error against the defendant.
New Trial Granted in $1.5M Verdict. In CIGNA Fire Underwriters Ins. Co. v. MacDonald & Johnson, Inc., 86 F.3d 1260 (1996), a federal judge allowed judgment notwithstanding the verdict of $750,000 on tortious interference counterclaim against insurer, and new trial on breach of contract claim verdict of $500,000, which was reduced to $250,000 on retrial.