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Law School Case Brief

Scaccia v. Bos. E. R. Co. - 317 Mass. 245, 57 N.E.2d 761 (1944)

Rule:

The authority of a judge of a superior court, as distinguished from a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, to report a civil action at law depends wholly upon Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 111, which authorizes a report in only three instances. The first instance is where there is an interlocutory finding or order. The second instance is where there is agreement as to all the material facts. These words are satisfied by nothing short of a case stated. Where there is a case stated, the superior court, under § 111, may report the case even without making any decision thereon. The third instance is a report after verdict, or after a finding of the facts by the court. A verdict ordered by the judge on the ground that there was no evidence warranting a contrary verdict, and consequently that there was no question of fact for the consideration of the jury, is nevertheless a "verdict."

Facts:

Defendant Boston Elevated Railway Company operated a motor bus. Plaintiff was a passenger on the bus when she slipped on a banana peel, which had been on the floor of the bus.  Plaintiff sued to recover damages for the personal injuries she had suffered in the fall. The action was tried before a superior court judge sitting without a jury, upon an “agreed statement of facts” submitted as evidence, from which the judge could draw inferences of fact. The plaintiff requested a directed verdict based entirely on the agreed statement of facts, which was denied by the superior court, which then reported the case for a determination of the correctness of its ruling that the evidence failed to raise a question of fact as to the negligence of defendant.

Issue:

Did the superior court have the authority to report the case?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts found that the superior court had authority to report the case. The phrase contained in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 111, "after a finding of the facts by the court," was merely an amplification of the phrase used in Mass. Pub. Stat. ch. 153, § 6 (1882), "after decision by the court," and the phrase used earlier in Mass. Pub. Stat. ch. 231, § 1 (1878), "after the finding upon the facts," without any intended change in meaning. A general finding or decision, such as was equivalent to a verdict in a jury case, was a sufficient "finding of the facts by the court" within Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 111, even though it resulted from a ruling of law that a contrary finding or decision would not be warranted by the evidence. The report was within Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 111. It could be found that a banana peel on which the injured party slipped had remained on the floor of a company bus so long that in the exercise of due care the company should have discovered and removed it.

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