(a) Scope. This section applies to all civil actions and proceedings, except as otherwise specifically provided by a statute, the common law, a rule, or a regulation.
(b) Inferences. An inference is a step in reasoning that the fact finder may make from evidence that has been accepted as believable. A fact may be inferred even though the relationship between the basic fact and the inferred fact is not necessary or inescapable, so long as it is reasonable and possible.
(c) Prima Facie Evidence. Where a statute or regulation provides that a fact or group of facts is prima facie evidence of another fact at issue, the party against whom the prima facie evidence is directed has the burden of production to rebut or meet such prima facie evidence. If that party fails to come forward with evidence to rebut or meet the prima facie evidence, the fact at issue is to be taken by the fact finder as established. Where evidence is introduced sufficient to warrant a finding contrary to the fact at issue, the fact finder is permitted to consider the prima facie evidence as bearing on the fact at issue, but it must be weighed with all other evidence to determine whether a particular fact has been proved. Prima facie evidence does not shift the burden of persuasion, which remains throughout the trial on the party on whom it was originally cast.
(d) Presumptions. A presumption imposes on the party against whom it is directed the burden of production to rebut or meet that presumption. The extent of that burden may be defined by statute, regulation, or the common law. If that party fails to come forward with evidence to rebut or meet that presumption, the fact is to be taken by the fact finder as established. If that party comes forward with evidence to rebut or meet the presumption, the presumption shall have no further force or effect. A presumption does not shift the burden of persuasion, which remains throughout the trial on the party on whom it was originally cast.
Subsection (b). This subsection is derived from Commonwealth v. Dinkins, 440 Mass. 715, 720–721 & n.8, 802 N.E.2d 76, 82 & n.8 (2004), and DeJoinville v. Commonwealth, 381 Mass. 246, 253 n.13, 408 N.E.2d 1353, 1357 n.13 (1980). “In this formulation, ‘possible’ is not a lesser alternative to ‘reasonable.’ Rather, the two words function in a synergistic manner: each raises the standard imposed by the other.” Commonwealth v. Dinkins, 440 Mass. at 721, 802 N.E.2d at 82. “[W]e have permitted, in carefully defined circumstances, a jury to make an inference based on an inference to come to a conclusion of guilt or innocence. But we require that each inference must be a reasonable and logical conclusion from the prior inference; we have made clear that a jury may not use conjecture or guesswork to choose between alternative inferences.” Commonwealth v. Dostie, 425 Mass. 372, 376, 681 N.E.2d 282, 284–285 (1997). See, e.g., Commonwealth v. White, 452 Mass. 133, 136, 891 N.E.2d 675, 678–679 (2008) (concluding that there was sufficient evidence connecting the defendant to a gun found at the crime scene, the court observed that “[w]e do not require that every inference be premised on an independently proven fact”). For a lengthy list of inferences, see W.G. Young, J.R. Pollets, & C. Poreda, Annotated Guide to Massachusetts Evidence § 301 (2011 ed.). See also Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court § 3.03 (Mass. Cont. Legal Educ. 2003).
Subsection (c). This subsection is derived from Burns v. Commonwealth, 430 Mass. 444, 450–451, 720 N.E.2d 798, 804 (1999); Ford Motor Co. v. Barrett, 403 Mass. 240, 242–243, 526 N.E.2d 1284, 1286–1287 (1988); and Cook v. Farm Serv. Stores, Inc., 301 Mass. 564, 566, 17 N.E.2d 890, 892 (1938). For a list of statutes that involve prima facie evidence, see W.G. Young, J.R. Pollets, & C. Poreda, Annotated Guide to Massachusetts Evidence § 301 (2011 ed.). See also Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court § 3.08 (Mass. Cont. Legal Educ. 2003).
Subsection (d). This subsection is based on the predominant approach in Massachusetts whereby a presumption shifts the burden of production and disappears when the opposing party meets its burden by offering evidence to rebut the presumption. However, the disappearance of the presumption does not prevent the fact finder from drawing an inference from one or more basic facts that is consistent with the original presumption. See Standerwick v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Andover, 447 Mass. 20, 34–35, 849 N.E.2d 197, 209 (2006), quoting Epstein v. Boston Hous. Auth., 317 Mass. 297, 302, 58 N.E.2d 135, 139 (1944) (in the context of the statutory provision that an abutter is presumed to have standing in cases arising under G. L. c. 40A, the court observed that “[a] presumption does not shift the burden of proof; it is a rule of evidence that aids the party bearing the burden of proof in sustaining that burden by ‘throw[ing] upon his adversary the burden of going forward with evidence.’”); Jacobs v. Town Clerk of Arlington, 402 Mass. 824, 826–827, 525 N.E.2d 658, 660–661 (1988) (rebuttable presumption of death). The quantum of evidence required to rebut the presumption may vary. See Yazbek v. Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liab. Policies & Bonds, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 915, 916, 670 N.E.2d 200, 201 (1996).
In civil cases, presumptions ordinarily require a party against whom the presumption is directed to come forward with some evidence to rebut the presumption; they ordinarily impose a burden of production, not persuasion, on that party. What has been termed an irrebuttable or conclusive presumption is not a rule of evidence, but rather a rule of substantive law designed to address a social policy, and cannot be rebutted by evidence. W.G. Young, J.R. Pollets, & C. Poreda, Annotated Guide to Massachusetts Evidence § 301(e) (2011 ed.), citing Commonwealth v. Clerk-Magistrate of the W. Roxbury Div. of the Dist. Ct. Dep’t, 439 Mass. 352, 354–356, 787 N.E.2d 1032, 1035–1036 (2003), and Commonwealth v. Dunne, 394 Mass. 10, 18, 474 N.E.2d 538, 544 (1985). See G. L. c. 152, § 32(e); Carey’s Case, 66 Mass. App. Ct. 749, 755–758, 850 N.E.2d 610, 616–617 (2006).
A presumption may give rise to a constitutional question even in civil cases. See, e.g., Care & Protection of Erin, 443 Mass. 567, 571, 823 N.E.2d 356, 361 (2005) (“[I]n cases that involve severing parental rights, the presumption that a child, who had been in the care of the department for more than one year, would have her best interests served by granting a petition for adoption or dispensing with the need for parental consent to adoption, violates the parents’ due process rights because it shifts the burden to the parent affirmatively to prove fitness and to prove that the best interests of the child would be served by maintaining parental rights.”). For a lengthy list of presumptions, see W.G. Young, J.R. Pollets, & C. Poreda, Annotated Guide to Massachusetts Evidence § 301 (2011 ed.). See also Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court § 3.07 (Mass. Cont. Legal Educ. 2003).