Search Site
Menu

How Can a Criminal Case Affect the Outcome of a Civil Case in Massachusetts?

In this video blog, we discuss the effects that a criminal case can have on a civil matter with a guest attorney, Rick Sinnott, who has a significant background in both criminal and civil matters.

We first discuss an example involving a vehicular homicide resulting in an impending criminal case, which at the same time leads to a civil suit. Thus, there are parallel criminal and civil actions. Attorney Sinnott explains that the criminal case can work in favor of the plaintiff’s attorney in the civil case. First, he cites the doctrines of res judicata/collateral estoppel. This can be very beneficial for the civil case because if the criminal case has resolved with a finding of guilt, that should have conclusive effect on the civil matter. After all, the standard in the criminal case is higher– reasonable doubt– and if a determination of guilt has already been made, then surely the civil case standard of preponderance of the evidence has been met. (Conversely, if the defendant was found not guilty, that finding will not have any preclusive effect in the civil case nor will it be permitted into evidence. I tell clients to think of the O.J. Simpson case, where a criminal jury found him not guilty but that finding had no bearing on a civil jury which found Simpson liable.)

If the two cases– the criminal and civil cases– are going on simultaneously, as is usually the case, the defendant in the civil case will plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer any questions. However, that need not interrupt the flow of discovery. A very useful source will be the police investigation. On numerous occasions, I have very happily used much of the criminal investigation to advantage in the civil case. It is a deep reservoir of information.

In our video blog we discuss filing a public records request with the police department for the records related to the plaintiff’s accident. However, as noted by Attorney Sinnott, there is little enforcement of the public records request law in Massachusetts. He states that if the police department refuses to comply with such a request, then the request must be sent to the Secretary of State’s office and then to the Attorney General’s office, both of which have been reluctant to intervene. I have found that the plaintiff’s attorney will nevertheless acquire enough information to proceed very successfully on the civil case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Feinberg & Alban, P.C. fervently protects your rights
  • The Boston firm of Feinberg & Alban, P.C. specializes its practice in the area of personal injury.

    The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.

  • $7.7 Million Award for Feinberg & Alban Client in Personal Injury Trial

    Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.

Client Reviews
  • google
    5.0/5.0

    I suffered injuries and total loss if my car last year in a head on collision. Colleen Santora took my case and fought well on my behalf. She thoroughly answered all my questions and concerns, always responding in a quick and timely manner. She helpe...

    Read more

    Jessica Matt

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Choosing Feinberg & Alban was probably one of the best decisions I ever took. Robert Feinberg and Perry Feinberg are amazing in their professionalism as well as in compassion. Perry was the lead attorney for me. He was always responsive to any questi...

    Read more

    Raja Bhattacharyya

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    I would like to express my gratitude to Feinberg & Alban PC. They are great people and professionals. If you need an attorney these are your guys. Thank you so much! Tatiana

    Read more

    Tatiana Andreeva

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    It was unbelievable!! I got into a motorcycle accident didn’t remember a thing when I woke up I was in the hospital and very terrified I thought to myself I think I need a lawyer I started looking online and I came across this law firm let me tel...

    Read more

    Vin Loco

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Colleen Santora helped immensely in every step along the way of my fight against the insurance company regarding my property damage and injuries sustained. I'm grateful and would recommend Colleen to anyone! Thanks

    Read more

    DatDude Lex

See all reviews
Awards & Affiliations
Contact us

Quick Contact Form