In Resende v. C.H. Babb Co., Inc., 77 Mass. App. Ct. 1112 (2010), plaintiff severely injured her arm when her sleeve got caught in a factory machine and, despite pulling the emergency stop cord, the machine continued for several seconds. Although the machine included a physical guard to prevent workers from making inadvertent contact, the guard was not in place at the time of the accident. Plaintiff sued the machine’s manufacturer and the company that linked the emergency stop to the electrical system, asserting product liability and negligence claims. After settling with the electrical system company, the case proceeded to trial against the machine’s manufacturer.
In closing argument at the conclusion of trial, defendant’s counsel stated: “Charlie and the good folks at [the defendant manufacturer] are good guys and deserve better than this. Unfortunately, it’s no wonder why so few manufacturers are left in the United States.” On plaintiff’s objection, the court immediately and forcefully instructed the jury to disregard the comment. After a jury returned a verdict for defendant, plaintiff moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial. The court denied the motion and plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court held that defense counsel’s comment was inappropriate for a variety of reasons, including because it was unsupported by the evidence. Nevertheless, the mistake was not fatal because the trial judge neutralized the comment’s effect through his forceful instruction. There was no objection to the judge’s instruction, and neither did plaintiff move for a mistrial. Accordingly, there were no grounds for a new trial.