Bridges v. Hart

Decision Date01 February 1939
Citation302 Mass. 239,18 N.E.2d 1020
PartiesBRIDGES v. HART and seven other cases.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Actions by Bertha Bridges, by Angie Doucette, by Francis Douey, by his next friend, and by Thomas Douey, against Joseph Hart, and by Bertha Bridges, by Angie Doucette, by Francis Doucette, by his next friend, and by Thomas Doucey, against Bernard Zilch, for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. From an order in each case dismissing the report of the trial judge, who found for the plaintiff, the defendants appeal.

Orders dismissing reports affirmed.Appeal from Appellate Division, First District Court of Eastern Middlesex; M. R. Flynn, Special Judge.

M. Z. Kolodny, of Boston, for appellants.

A. J. Voke, of Chelsea, for appellees.

COX, Justice.

The defendant appealed from an order in each case dismissing the report of the trial judge, who found for the plaintiff. All the cases are consolidated in a single report, which states that the only questions arising are those of the alleged illegal registration of the motor vehicle of which the plaintiffs were occupants, the knowledge of the plaintiffs as to the alleged illegal registration, and ‘the question of the plaintiffs' contributory negligence.’ By this reference to the plaintiffs' ‘contributory negligence’ it is assumed that it relates solely to the matter of the alleged illegal registration and the knowledge of some of the plaintiffs as to it, inasmuch as the defendants admit that there was sufficient evidence to warrant the judge in finding as a fact that ‘all the plaintiffs were in the exercise of due care.’

The automobile of which the plaintiffs were occupants was owned, controlled, and operated at the time of the injuries by the plaintiff Thomas Douey, hereinafter referred to as Douey. Douey testified that he came to this country in 1919 under the name of Theophilus Doucette; that he was married in 1921 under that name; that his parents' name was Doucette; that his wife died in 1933 and, at that time, her name was Doucette; that he lived in Medford under the name of Doucette in 1933; that in 1926 he adopted one of the plaintiffs, Francis Douey, and that he ‘signed all papers and appeared in court under the name of Theophilus Doucette. Without attempting to recite all of his testimony as to his true name, it is sufficient to say that he related many other instances where he had used the name of Doucette, and that the report states that ‘On every occasion presented to the plaintiff Thomas Douey, where formal signatures were necessary or where the matter at hand was of an official or legal nature, the plaintiff Thomas Douey used his true and legal name Theophilus Doucette or Theoph. Doucette, Theoph. being an abbreviation for Theophilus. The sole exception to this being the occasion on June 7, 1934, when he registered his car involved in this accident in the name of Thomas Douey.’ The accident happened on July 23, 1934. On the other hand, Douey testified that he used the name Thomas Douey for business purposes, and had been using it continously since 1931, and there was testimony from at least sixteen witnesses who lived in Medford, where Douey lived prior to 1934, and in Malden, where he lived thereafter, to the effect that they had always known him as Tom or Thomas Douey, and had never known him under any other name. Some of these witnesses had known him for periods varying from four to twelve years, and were his neighbors, neighboring storekeepers, wholesale supply dealers, customers for whom he had done work, and others in the communities. Two of these witnesses also testified that they knew Douey's son as Francis Douey. The report states that there was no evidence from the witnesses (whose testimony has just been summarized) or from any other witnesses who appeared in the case, as to what name Douey was commonly known by in the communities in which he lived or in which he carried on his business ‘except as the same might be inferred from the testimony of the said witnesses. They, excepting Thomas Douey, were asked in cross-examination if they knew that Thomas Douey and Theophilus Doucette were one and the same person, and they all replied in the negative.’ This statement in the report, however, does not seem to be consistent with the reported testimony of another witness who testified that she knew Douey in Canada under the name of Theophilus Doucette, but had been calling him Thomas Douey for several years. And in this connection it is to be borne in mind that Douey testified fully as to his use of his real name in certain transactions as late as 1933. In fact, the assessors' records in 1931 and 1933 for the city of Medford, where Douey was then living, showed that he had been living there under the name of Theophilus Doucette, and that his name as such appeared in the records.

The judge found that Douey was christened Theophilus Doucette, and that he lived in Canada under that name until about twenty years ago when he came to this country. After reciting the instances and occasions when Douey had used his true legal name, he further found that prior to 1931 or 1932, many people with whom the plaintiff did business were in the habit of calling him Tom or Thomas Douey; that in 1932 he went in business for himself as a carpenter; that ‘At least since this time he has been widely known to neighbors, neighboring storekeepers, wholesale supply dealers, customers for whom he has done work, and others in the community, as Thomas Douey; that he never entirely abandoned his true name, Theophilus Doucette, but for the ‘last five or six years he has used it only on rare occasions, and said occasions have been of a legal, formal or official nature.’ He also fund that in 1934 Douey could have been readily located at 6a Knollin Street, Malden (the address given by Douey in his application for registration of the automobile), under the name of Thomas Douey ‘if any one seeking him had made inquiry at said address in the community where he resided, from his neighbors or people with whom he carried on business transactions.’ Upon all the evidence he found that throughout the year 1934, and ‘more particularly on the above dates,’ Douey was commonly and generally known as Thomas Douey. He ruled that Douey's automobile was legally registered.

The appeals in the two cases in which Angie Doucette is the plaintiff have not been argued.

The findings of the trial judge will not be set aside if they can be supported on any reasonable view of the evidence with all rational inferences of which it is susceptible. Weiner v. Egleston Amusement Co. Mass., 199 N.E. 306. The general finding is conclusive if there is any evidence to support it. Moss v. Old Colony Trust Co. 246 Mass. 139, 143, 140 N.E. 803;State Street Trust Co. v. Lawrence Mfg. Co. 284 Mass. 355, 359, 360, 187 N.E. 755. The burden of proving that the registration in question was illegal rested upon the defendants. Conroy v. Mather, 217 Mass. 91, 94-96, 104 N.E. 487, 52 L.R.A.,N.S., 801. If the Douey automobile was illegally registered, Douey cannot recover. He is barred from recovery unless the defendants are guilty of wanton or reckless conduct of which there is no evidence or suggestion. Dean v. Boston Elevated Railway, 217 Mass. 495, 498, 105 N.E. 616. And the other plaintiffs cannot recover if they knew or had reasonable cause to know that the automobile was not legally registered. G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 90, § 9; Brennan v. Schuster, 288 Mass. 311, 192 N.E. 835.

G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 90 provides, in section 2, that the application for the registration of a motor vehicle may be made by the owner thereof, and shall contain, among other things, a statement of the name of the applicant. See Harlow v. Sinman, 241 Mass. 462, 135 N.E. 553. It has repeatedly been held that the main purpose of registration is to afford identification of the owner and of the motor vehicle. Fairbanks v. Kemp, 226 Mass. 75, 78, 115 N.E. 240;Koley v. Williams, 265 Mass. 601, 603, 164 N.E. 444 and cases cited. Nash v. Lang, 268 Mass. 407, 409, 167 N.E. 762;Topf v. Holland, 288 Mass. 552, 193 N.E. 364. But that this is not the sole purpose of the statute see Harlow v. Sinman, 241 Mass. 462, 464, 465, 135 N.E. 553. In construing the provision of section 2, that the application shall contain a statement of the name of the applicant, who, in the case at bar, was the owner, the court said in Crompton v. Williams, 216 Mass. 184, at pages 186, 187, 103 N.E. 298, at page 299, ‘* * * an individual may adopt a trade-name under which business can be transacted, actions instituted, or defended, and the title to property acquired and...

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