Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court dismissing Plaintiff's negligence action against the Town of Leicester due to her untimely presentment, holding that Plaintiff's presentment was untimely because presentment occurs upon delivery to the office of the proper executive officer. Exactly two years after her claim arose, Plaintiff mailed her presentment letter to the Town. The Town denied liability for Plaintiff's injuries, and Plaintiff brought this action the following month. The superior court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint as untimely. At dispute on appeal was whether placing a presentment letter in the mail constitutes presentment under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4 or receipt by the proper executive officer. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on a third ground, holding (1) presentment occurs upon delivery to the office of the proper executive officer; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff's presentment was untimely. View "Drake v. Town of Leicester" on Justia Law

by
In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on the release from liability and covenant not to sue that the decedent signed before his death, holding that the beneficiaries of a wrongful death action have rights that are derivative of, rather than independent from, any claim the decedent could have brought for the injuries causing his death. The decedent, a certified open-water scuba diver, drowned while participating in a promotional diving equipment sponsored by Diving Unlimited International, Inc. (DUI). The decedent signed a release from liability prior to participating in the event. Plaintiff, in her capacity as the decedent's personal representative, sued DUI and Defendant, a DUI agent, for the benefit of the decent's statutory beneficiaries. Plaintiff settled with all defendants other than Defendant. The superior court then granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the waivers the decedent signed were valid and thus precluded any recovery on behalf of the decedent's beneficiaries, who had no rights independent of the decedent's cause of action, which was waived. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the valid waivers signed by the decedent precluded Plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries. View "Doherty v. Diving Unlimited International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this wrongful death action brought against a nursing home notwithstanding the existence of an arbitration agreement between the decedent and the nursing home the Supreme Judicial Court answered two certified questions by holding that the Legislature intended wrongful death actions to be derivative of the decedent's own cause of action and that, under the circumstances of this case, the arbitration agreement between the decedent and the nursing home controlled the decedent's statutory beneficiaries. After the decedent died in a nursing home, Plaintiff, her daughter, brought this wrongful death action. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified two questions to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) the wrongful death statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, 2, provides rights to statutory beneficiaries derivative of, rather than independent from, what would have been the decedent's action for the injuries causing her death; and (2) the arbitration clause in this case was enforceable. View "GGNSC Administrative Services, LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying, without a hearing, Appellant's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Appellant sought review of certain rulings in a personal injury action, holding that because of serious deficiencies in Appellant's petition, the single justice neither erred nor abused his discretion by denying extraordinary relief. The district court dismissed Appellant's complaint in the personal injury action, and Appellant's appeal was also dismissed. Two subsequent attempts to appeal were also dismissed. Appellant then brought this action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 asserting, without any supporting documents or other substantiation, that the district court judge acted improperly. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice properly denied extraordinary relief due to significant deficiencies in Appellant's petition. View "Wilson v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action suit alleging that the City of Gardner and its private water supply contractors were negligent and grossly negligent and created a nuisance in knowingly supplying corrosive water to the City's residents, holding that the superior court judge erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of timely presentment. In allowing the City's motion to dismiss the judge concluded that Plaintiff failed to make timely presentment as required by the Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal, holding (1) the Act covers all claims brought against a city, even claims arising from the city's sale of water to its residents; and (2) the trial judge erred in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of timely presentment. View "Magliacane v. City of Gardner" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the county court denying Petitioner's petition for relief in the nature of certiorari pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner brought this action against Respondent alleging slander, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Petitioner sought to have the Attorney General disqualified from representing Respondent, but Petitioner's motion and subsequent motion for reconsideration of the issue were denied. Petitioner filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 118 seeking review. The appeals court denied the petition on the basis that it was not timely filed. Petitioner then sought relief in the nature of certiorari. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that his claims were not otherwise reviewable. View "Padmanabhan v. Cooke" on Justia Law

by
In this case concerning the legal relationship between the commercial custodian of three nondiscretionary IRAs and a named beneficiary of those accounts the Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part the decision of the superior court judge allowing UBS Financial Services, Inc.'s (UBS) motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all of Donna Aliberti's claims, holding that the facts alleged stated a claim that UBS's conduct violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9 (chapter 93A). Following the death of the IRAs' original account holder this dispute arose between Aliberti, a named IRA beneficiary, and UBS, as IRA custodian. Aliberti asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of chapter 93A, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The superior court judge allowed UBS's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all claims. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding (1) there was no plausible claim for breach of fiduciary duty because the custodian of a nondiscretionary IRA does not generally owe a fiduciary duty to a named beneficiary of that IRA; and (2) the interactions between the commercial custodian of a nondiscretionary IRA and a named beneficiary of that IRA occur in a business context within the meaning of chapter 93A, and the alleged injurious conduct of UBS plausibly constituted a chapter 93A violation. View "UBS Financial Services, Inc. v. Aliberti" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the orders denying a motor vehicle insurer's motions to stay trial in a wrongful death action until the question of coverage had been determined in a declaratory judgment action but and denying the insurer's Mass. R. Civ. P. 67 motion and vacated the wrongful death judgment, holding that the matter must be remanded for a reasonableness hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court addressed issues that arose where Insurer recognized its duty to defend Insureds in a wrongful death action but did so under a reservation of rights and then brought a separate action seeking a declaratory judgment that it owed no duty to indemnify Insureds for damages arising from the wrongful death action. The parties subsequently settled the wrongful death action. The plaintiff agreed to release the defendants from liability and seek damages only from Insurer. Insurer moved to deposit with the court the policy limit and postjudgment interest under Rule 67. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge properly denied Insurer's motions to stay; (2) the judge properly denied Insurer's motion to deposit the funds; and (3) where the settlements were executed with no determination of reasonable, the case must be remanded for a hearing on the reasonableness of the settlement/assignment agreements. View "Commerce Insurance Co. v. Szafarowicz" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge denying Defendants' special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' defamation claim pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H, holding that the motion judge did not err in concluding that Plaintiffs' colorable defamation claim was not a SLAPP suit. Plaintiffs, nine nurses who had been fired from Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., filed this defamation action against the hospital and others (collectively, Defendants). Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the defamation claim under the anti-SLAPP statute. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., 477 Mass. 141 (2017), after augmenting the anti-SLAPP framework devised in Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 247 Mass. 156 (1998) (Duracraft) and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the motion to dismiss was again denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed after applying the newly augmented framework, holding that the defamation claim was not a SLAPP suit because it was not brought with the primary motivation of chilling the hospital defendants' right to petition. View "Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial judge finding the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) liable for a retaliatory termination and awarding a total damages of $1,332,271, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. The jury found the MWRA terminated Plaintiff in retaliation for his taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2615, and expressing his intention to take FMLA leave in the future. The jury awarded back pay damages for Plaintiff's lost wages, made an advisory award of damages for the future loss of Plaintiff's pension benefits, and awarded damages for emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial judge further awarded liquidated damages and attorney's fees and costs. The MWRA appealed, primarily challenging the jury instructions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not commit prejudicial error in instructing the jury; and (2) there was no abuse if discretion in calculating and awarding damages. View "DaPrato v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority" on Justia Law