Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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Plaintiff, the former president and chief operating officer of PortfolioScope, Inc., brought suit against Portfolio and two individual defendants alleging, among other claims, breach of contract, violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, tortious interference with Plaintiff’s contractual rights, and fraudulent transfers pursuant to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. After a bench trial, the judge rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Defendants argued on appeal that the judge erred in her interpretation of an agreement and an amendment, as well as in her analysis of secured transaction principles, and that the errors affected the entire disposition of the case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in almost all respects, holding that any error in the judge’s interpretation of the amendment affected only Plaintiff’s claim for conversion. View "Weiler v. PortfolioScope, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a new vehicle from Dealer that was subject to Manufacturer’s limited warranty. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Manufacturer and Dealer (together, Defendants), alleging that the vehicle was defective and that Defendants failed to repair or remedy the defects under the warranty. Dealer demanded that Manufacturer reimburse Dealer for the attorney’s fees it incurred in defending against Plaintiff’s claims and indemnification for and liability incurred. Plaintiffs claims against Defendants were disposed of through summary judgment and voluntary dismissal. The judge also found that Dealer was not entitled to indemnificationt. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff’s allegations alleged the fault or negligence of both Manufacturer and Dealer, Manufacturer did not have a duty to defend under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93B, 8(a). View "Ferreira v. Chrysler Group LLC" on Justia Law

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The Estate of Steven Gavin filed a wrongful death action against the Commonwealth and Tewksbury State Hospital under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, alleging that Gavin’s death was caused by the negligence of hospital staff members. The presentment of the claim was made by the Estate, through its attorney, and not by the executor or administrator of the Estate. The superior court allowed Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the statutory requirements for presentment of a claim under the Act were not met in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the presentment made by the Estate, before the appointment of an executor or administrator, was proper. Remanded. View "Estate of Gavin v. Tewksbury State Hosp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on ice on the walkway of a public school. The walkway was owned and operated by the City of Haverhill, and Plaintiff was on the premises to attend a scheduled parent-teacher conference. Plaintiff sued the City for negligence. The superior court allowed the City’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff’s claim was barred by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21, 17C, which bars claims of ordinary negligence against a landowner, including a governmental entity, that has opened its land to the public for recreational, educational, or other enumerated purposes, without charging a fee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the limitation on liability provided by the statute extends solely to land open to the general public; and (2) when Plaintiff was injured, the school was open only to a discrete group and not to the general public View "Wilkins v. City of Haverhill" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff rented an apartment from Defendants, the owner and manager of the property. While ascending an exterior staircase leading to an outer door on the second floor landing, Plaintiff leaned against the staircase guardrail, which broke, causing Plaintiff to fall to the pavement below. Plaintiff sued Defendants. A jury found both parties negligent and concluded that, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 143, 51, Defendants were strictly liable for Plaintiff’s injuries because the injuries were caused by violations of the State building code. Defendants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial, arguing that section 51 did not apply to the circumstances. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the part of the order denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as related to the section 51 claim, holding (1) section 51 applies to all violations of the State building code, not just those concerning fire safety; and (2) the term “building” as used in the statute does not encompass within its ambit of strict liability of a small-scale residential structure like that occupied by Plaintiff, notwithstanding that the structure had some commercial characteristics. View "Sheehan v. Weaver" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the two defendants in this case were Roman Catholic priests. In 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendants published, in the parish where Defendant was serving, a false and defamatory stalking accusation against Plaintiff. Plaintiff knew that Defendants published the stalking accusation in 2005, but Defendant did not discover until 2007 that Defendants had fabricated the defamatory accusation. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the three-year statute of limitations barred Plaintiff’s claim and that the discovery rule did not toll the limitations period. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that, under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations should be tolled because, until 2007, Plaintiff reasonably could have believed that Defendants were permitted or privileged to repeat the defamatory statement. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment dismissing the complaint, holding (1) under the discovery rule, knowledge of the identity of the defendant is necessary for a cause of action to accrue; and (2) because Plaintiff knew in 2005 that Defendants were the publishers of the defamatory stalking accusation, Plaintiff’s complaint was not timely filed. View "Harrington v. Costello" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of possessing or concealing stolen paintings. The victim of the theft (Plaintiff) filed a civil suit against Defendant for, among other claims, violations of the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) due to Defendant’s transfers of assets to his family members following the discovery of his identity as the holder of the stolen paintings. Plaintiff also brought claims for relief under the UFTA against Defendant’s family members alleged to have received the fraudulent transfers. A jury found Defendant had made seven fraudulent transfers within the meaning of the UFTA, entering judgment against Defendant for more than $4.3 million. Additionally, the judge ordered equitable remedies against the relief defendants for the purposes of identifying specific assets that had been fraudulently conveyed and could be subject to reconveyance in satisfaction of the judgment against Defendant. Lastly, the judge dismissed the claim against one of the relief defendants concerning assets in a shared trust because the funds in the trust had been dissipated. Defendant appealed, arguing that money judgments should have been ordered against the relief defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment except in respect to a savings account and the shared trust. Remanded. View "Bakwin v. Mardirosian" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Moulton was employed as a residential treatment counselor at North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Inc. when she was assaulted by DeShawn Chappell, one of the facility’s residents, causing her death. Moulton’s estate brought an action against the directors of North Suffolk, among other defendants, asserting claims for wrongful death and breach of fiduciary duty. The director defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that (1) with respect to the wrongful death action, they were immune from suit, as Moulton’s employer, under the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (Act); and (2) with respect to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, they owed Moulton no such duty. The superior court denied the director defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding (1) the director defendants were immune from suit under the exclusive remedy provision of the Act for the injuries Moulton sustained while acting within the course of her employment; and (2) the directors, as Moulton’s employer, owed no fiduciary duty to their employee. Remanded for an entry of judgment for the director defendants on all claims. View "Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was Eaton v. Fed. Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, which held that a foreclosure by power of sale is invalid unless a foreclosing party holds the mortgage and also holds either the underlying mortgage note or acts on behalf of the note holder. In the instant case, Plaintiffs defaulted on their mortgage payments, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) sought to foreclose on the property. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against MERS claiming that MERS did not have standing to initiate foreclosure proceedings because it was not the holder of the promissory note or an authorized agent of any note holder. The superior court dismissed the complaint. Before Plaintiffs’ appeal was heard, the Supreme Court decided Eaton. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claim alleging a lack of authority to foreclose, holding (1) Eaton applies to cases, such as the instant case, that preserved the issue presented in Eaton and that were pending on appeal as of June 22, 2012; and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ complaint should not have been dismissed for failure to state a claim on the grounds that MERS lacked the authority to foreclose. Remanded. View "Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff applied for harassment prevention orders against Defendant because, apparently, several months after Defendant moved out of the apartment he and Plaintiff shared, Defendant drove past Plaintiff as she stood outside the front of her home and then drove past Plaintiff again two more times. The lower court judge found enough evidence to extend the orders. The appeals court dismissed Defendant’s appeal as moot because the harassment prevention order had expired. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) pursuant to Seney v. Morhy, Defendant’s appeal should not have been dismissed as moot; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the issuance of the harassment prevention orders. View "Smith v. Mastalerz" on Justia Law