Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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Neither a controlled affiliate nor the manager of a controlled affiliate is a “public employer” as defined in the Tort Claims Act (Act), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 2. Plaintiff allegedly injured himself when he slipped and fell while descending stairs at his apartment in a public housing development. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Farmington Housing Authority (authority); Musterfield Place, LLC, a controlled affiliate of the authority, which owns the property (owner); and FHA Musterfield Manager, LLC, the managing agent for the owner (manager). The owner and manager moved for partial summary judgment arguing that they should be deemed public employers under the Act and therefore may not be held liable for damages in excess of $100,000. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the owner and manager were not public employers under the facts of this case. View "Acevedo v. Musterfield Place, LLC" on Justia Law

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A pharmacy has a limited legal duty to take reasonable steps to notify a patient and his or her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time the patient tries to fill a prescription. Only the pharmacy, and not the physician or the patient, is notified by a health insurer when a prescribing physician must complete a prior authorization form and submit it to the insurer. In this case, prior authorization was necessary for Yarushka Rivera to obtain insurance coverage for Topamax, a medication she needed to control life-threatening seizures. When Rivera reached age nineteen, her insurer refused to pay for the prescription because it had not received the necessary prior authorization form. Rivera, who was unable to afford the medication without insurance, suffered a fatal seizure at the age of nineteen. Plaintiff brought this action for wrongful death and punitive damages against Walgreen Eastern Co., Inc. The superior court concluded that Walgreens had no legal duty to Rivera to notify Rivera’s prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Walgreens owed a legal duty of care to take reasonable steps to notify Rivera and her prescribing physician of the need for prior authorization each time Rivera tried to fill her prescription. View "Correa v. Schoeck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the motion judge allowing summary judgment for Defendants, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and individuals associated with MIT, in this wrongful death action arising out of the suicide of Plaintiff’s son. Plaintiff commenced this action alleging that Defendants’ negligence caused the death of his son, who was a student at MIT. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was allowed, and Plaintiff’s cross motion for summary judgment was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) in certain circumstances not present in this case, a special relationship and a corresponding duty to take reasonable measures to prevent suicide may be created by a university and its student; but (2) here, the superior court properly granted summary judgment for Defendants on the tort claims as a matter of law and properly denied summary judgment on the workers’ compensation claim. View "Nguyen v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff who alleges that he was injured from his use of a generic drug because of a failure to warn of the drug’s side effects cannot bring a common-law general negligence claim against the brand-name manufacturer that created the warning label. The plaintiff, however, may bring a common-law recklessness claim against the brand-name manufacturer if it intentionally failed to update the label on its drug, knowing or having reason to know of an unreasonable risk of death or grave bodily injury associated with its use. Further, a plaintiff who is injured by a generic drug due to a failure to warn cannot bring a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9 against a brand-name manufacturer that did not advertise, offer to sell, or sell that drug because such failure did not occur in the conduct of “trade or commerce” as defined in section 1(b). In the instant case, the trial judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Merck & Co, Inc. asserting negligence for failure to warn and a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order dismissing Plaintiff’s common-law claim and remanded with instructions that Plaintiff be granted leave to amend his complaint and affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim. View "Rafferty v. Merck & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act protected a school district and its employees from liability for negligence in failing to act reasonably to prevent the bullying that led to a public elementary school student’s injuries. Matthew Mumbauer was seriously injured when a classmate pushed him down a stairwell at school. Plaintiffs, Matthews’ parents, brought claims against a number of defendants. The superior court judge allowed a motion dismiss all claims against the city of Lynn, Lynn Public Schools, and their public employees. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the public defendants could not be held liable under the Act for not acting in a manner that ensured Matthew’s safety. View "Cormier v. City of Lynn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss the civil complaint filed by Plaintiff seeking compensation under the erroneous convictions statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258D. Plaintiff filed the complaint after the appeals court reversed his conviction for unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon. The superior court denied the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case to the superior court with directions to enter judgment for the Commonwealth, holding that Plaintiff’s conviction was not overturned on grounds tending to establish his innocence, thereby rendering him ineligible for compensation under the statute. View "Peterson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this case filed by a Massachusetts-based company (“LevelUp”) against a California-based company (“Punchh”), alleging defamation and related causes of action connected with Punchh’s allegedly false statements about LevelUp to LevelUp’s prospective clients, the superior court allowed Punchh’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that it would not comport with due process to hale Punchh into a Massachusetts court. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the superior court for further proceedings, holding (1) prior to exercising personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, a judge must determine that doing so comports with both the forum’s long-arm statute and the requirements of the United States Constitution; and (2) the requisite statutory analysis did not occur in this case. View "SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court finding that Defendant, an attorney, was negligent for his part in financing a real estate loan to Plaintiff. The judge found that Defendant had conferred apparent authority on Bernard Laverty to act as his agent for the loan. Laverty then persuaded Plaintiff to use a portion of the loan from Defendant to make a secured side loan to Laverty. The loan was unsecured, however, and Laverty defaulted. The judge found that, pursuant to the rule that imputes the knowledge of an agent to the principle, Defendant was negligent for failing to inform Plaintiff that the side loan was not secured. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the facts failed to establish that Laverty had the apparent authority to bind Defendant with respect to the side loan. View "Fergus v. Ross" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's complaint against Governor Deval Patrick did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a cognizable claim for defamation. After Governor Deval Patrick removed Saundra R. Edwards from her position as chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), Edwards filed an amended complaint asserting a wrongful termination claim against the State and two defamation claims against Patrick, individually. The basis for Edwards’s defamation claims were two statements Patrick made about Edwards’s abrupt departure explaining that he had decided to replace Edward because she had interfered with the independence of a SORB hearing officer. Patrick moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), claiming absolute privilege or, in the alternative, qualified privilege. A superior court judge denied Patrick’s motion to dismiss the defamation claims. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the amended complaint did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Edwards did not plead sufficient facts to state a cognizable claim for defamation. View "Edwards v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Boston police officer, filed an application for a criminal complaint alleging that Respondent, her supervisor, committed an assault and battery against her. Two clerk-magistrates denied the application for lack of probable cause. Petitioner then filed a petition under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking a rehearing on her application and a broader ruling requiring that applications for criminal complaints made against police officers be automatically transferred to a judge outside the police officer’s jurisdiction rather than being heard by a clerk-magistrate int he first instance. A single justice denied relief without holding a hearing. The Supreme judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances presented here, Petitioner was not entitled to extraordinary relief. View "In re Application for a Criminal Complaint" on Justia Law