Beaumont v. Segal

Decision Date05 June 1972
Citation362 Mass. 30,283 N.E.2d 858
PartiesSusan BEAUMONT v. Samuel SEGAL et al.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Daniel Klubock, Boston, for plaintiff.

Christopher H. Worthington, Asst. Atty. Gen., for Morris L. Sharp et al.

Lionel H. Perlo, Boston, for Harlan Paine.

Before TAURO, C.J., and CUTTER, SPIEGEL, REARDON and HENNESSEY, JJ.

HENNESSEY, Justice.

This is an action of tort against four doctors arising out of the plaintiff's confinement at Westborough State Hospital. A Superior Court judge allowed motions for directed verdicts as filed by all four defendants at the conclusion of the opening statement to the jury by the plaintiff's attorney. The judge reported the case to this court under the provisions of G.L. c. 231, § 111. We have before us in the report the complete opening statement together with a stipulation by all parties that they are the same parties involved in the case of Beaumont v. Morgan, 427 F.2d 667 (1st Cir.), cert. den. sub nom. Beaumont v. Aussenheimer, 400 U.S. 882, 91 S.Ct. 120, 27 L.Ed.2d 121, in which judgments were entered for all defendants. The judge addresses to us in his report two specific questions, viz: (1) whether the above cited case provides the defence of res judicata for the defendants, and (2) whether his rulings in directing verdicts on the plaintiff's opening were correct.

1. In view of the conclusions which we have reached below, we need not consider the first question addressed to us by the judge, viz: whether the judgments entered in the Federal Court provide the defence of res judicata for the defendants.

2. In ruling on a motion for a directed verdict on the opening, the judge must take all statements in the opening as true, and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and if any reasonable view of the facts and rational inferences therefrom can be deemed sufficient to support the plaintiff's cause of action, the motion must be denied. Singarella v. Boston, 342 Mass. 385, 386, 173 N.E.2d 290, and cases cited. Matranga v. West End Tile Co., Inc., 357 Mass. 194, 196, 257 N.E.2d 433.

Applying this rule, we conclude that the judge properly directed verdicts for all defendants. The plaintiff's declaration, which was read to the jury in summary fashion, as part of the opening statement, consisted of nine counts, against four physicians. One of the physicians was identified in the opening as the superintendent of the Westborough State Hospital; two of them were stated to be staff psychiatrists at the same hospital; the fourth defendant (Dr. Paine) was described as a psychiatrist in private practice who did some consulting work for the hospital. All counts of the declaration concerned a confinement of the plaintiff at Westborough State Hospital from July 3, 1967, to July 19, 1967. In various counts she asserted actions of false imprisonment and negligent malpractice against each of the defendants. She also claimed damages for assault and battery against the superintendent, Dr. Sharp, by reason of the conduct of his 'agents and servants,' who were employees at the hospital.

As to the defendant, Dr. Paine, verdicts were properly directed because plaintiff's counsel stated in his opening that the doctor was dead, and we perceive nothing in the record aimed at an appropriate substitution of parties.

As to the counts against the superintendent and the two staff psychiatrists asserting false imprisonment we conclude that the opening failed to state a case. The plaintiff correctly contends that the burden of showing justification for the confinement rested on the defendants. Restatement 2d: Torts, §§ 35, 120(c). However, we also view the matter in light of the rule that statements in a plaintiff's opening may be binding admissions which serve to establish a defence as matter of law. Kolas v. LaRochelle, 270 Mass. 49, 53, 169 N.E. 662; McMahon v. Lynn & Boston R.R., 191 Mass. 295, 299, 77 N.E. 826. Cf. Sluskonis v. Boston & Maine R.R., 299 Mass. 413, 416, 12 N.E.2d 858. The opening stated facts to show that the plaintiff's initial confinement on July 3, 1967, was for ten days under G.L. c. 123, § 79 as that statute then appeared, and that her confinement after July 6, 1967, was under an order by a District Court judge for a temporary commitment for observation not to exceed forty days, under the terms of G.L. c. 123, § 77, then in effect, after a certificate signed by two examining physicians had been presented to the court. The opening statement detailed facts showing a compliance with the statute. Cf. Morrill v. Hamel, 337 Mass. 83, 85--86, 148 N.E.2d 283. It is of no assistance to the plaintiff that the opening asserted that there...

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7 cases
  • General Elec. Co. v. Board of Assessors of Lynn
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • December 31, 1984
    ...party of the necessity of presenting evidence on that issue." P.J. Liacos, Massachusetts Evidence, supra at 2. See Beaumont v. Segal, 362 Mass. 30, 32, 283 N.E.2d 858 (1972). Answers to interrogatories in the same case constitute evidentiary, not judicial, admissions. McMahon v. M & D Build......
  • O'Neill v. Mencher
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 2, 1986
    ...in a public school, so as to immunize the teacher but not the psychiatrist. We are also persuaded that the case of Beaumont v. Segal, 362 Mass. 30, 33, 283 N.E.2d 858 (1972), supports this conclusion. In referring to personnel at Westborough State Hospital, the court said: "The superintende......
  • Hubert v. Melrose-Wakefield Hosp. Ass'n
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • March 14, 1996
    ...and cases cited. Matranga v. West End Tile Co., Inc., 357 Mass. 194, 196, 257 N.E.2d 433 (1970), and cases cited. Beaumont v. Segal, 362 Mass. 30, 31, 283 N.E.2d 858 (1972). Monterosso v. Gaudette, 8 Mass.App.Ct. 93, 95, 391 N.E.2d 948 (1979) (citations omitted). See Urti v. Transport Comme......
  • Srebnick v. Lo-Law Transit Management, Inc.
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    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • July 24, 1990
    ...Fisher, 15 Mass.App.Ct. 957, 958, 446 N.E.2d 101 (1983); Liacos, Massachusetts Evidence 14 (5th ed. 1981). Compare Beaumont v. Segal, 362 Mass. 30, 32, 283 N.E.2d 858 (1972); Shamrock Liquors, Inc. v. Alcoholic Bevs. Control Commn., 7 Mass.App.Ct. 333, 334-335, 387 N.E.2d 204 (1979). There ......
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