Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate Law

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Plaintiffs were granted relief an action filed against Marion Haddad and the Holy Annunciation Monastery Church of the Golden Hills. Plaintiffs sought to satisfy the judgment, which represented the proceeds from a sale of property. The court ordered Holy Annunciation and Haddad to hold the proceeds of the sale in escrow, but Haddad deposited $40,000 of the proceeds in her retirement account with the State Board of Retirement. When Plaintiffs received no payment for the judgment, they brought this case in part to name the Board as trustee for the $40,000. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Haddad’s retirement account was exempt from attachment and that the Commonwealth was immune from suit. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Haddad did not have rights in the $40,000 she deposited with the Board, and therefore, those funds were not statutorily prohibited from being subject to attachment; and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiffs from summoning the Board as trustee with respect to those funds.View "Randall v. Haddad" on Justia Law

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Defendants and Plaintiff executed a purchase and sale agreement under which Defendants agreed to sell real property to Plaintiff. Later, Defendants’ attorney (“Attorney”) falsely told Plaintiffs that Defendants had received a higher offer for the property and to calculate its liquidated damages. Later, due to Attorney’s withholding of information before the closing, the parties were unable to close the sale. Plaintiff filed suit for specific performance. The superior court judge concluded that Defendants anticipatorily repudiated the agreement and that Attorney’s attempt to “scuttle the deal” at closing constituted an actual breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. As a result, the court allowed Plaintiff to choose either compensatory damages, as provided by the agreement, or specific performance. Plaintiff elected to receive compensatory damages. Defendants appealed, contending that they did not commit an actual breach, and therefore, monetary damages were not available. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not err finding of an actual breach by Defendants, and therefore, the judge’s decision offering Plaintiff a choice of remedy was proper.View "K.G.M. Custom Homes, Inc. v. Prosky" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this eminent domain action seeking damages from the Commonwealth on account of land takings that the Commonwealth made in connection with the Sagamore Bridge Flyover Project in Bourne that eliminated a traffic rotary north of the bridge. Plaintiff owned parcels of land near the former rotary and operated a gas station on one of the parcels. After a jury trial, Plaintiff was awarded almost $3 million in damages. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) because the flyover project was not laid over a public way that directly abutted Plaintiff’s property, Plaintiff was not entitled to damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 81, 7C as a matter of law; and (2) because Plaintiff retained reasonable and appropriate access to and from the gas station parcel, Plaintiff was not entitled to impairment of access damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 79, 12. View "Sorenti Bros., Inc. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. (NEFF) was a nonprofit corporation organized under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180 and the record owner of a parcel of forest land in the town of Hawley. The Board of Assessors for Hawley denied NEFF’s application for a charitable tax exemption on the parcel. The Appellate Tax Board (Board) also denied the application on the grounds that NEFF did not show that it occupied the land for a charitable purpose within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Third (Clause Third). The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Board’s opinion, holding that the Board erred in concluding that NEFF did not meet its burden to show that it occupied the property within the meaning of Clause Third.View "New England Forestry Found., Inc. v. Bd. of Assessors of Hawley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs refinanced their home in a mortgage loan transaction with Summit Mortgage. The mortgage was later assigned to Defendant, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. Facing foreclosure, Plaintiffs filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs filed an adversary proceeding against SunTrust in the pending bankruptcy case, seeking rescission of the loan transaction and damages. SunTrust filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because Plaintiffs filed their adversary complaint more than four years after the mortgage loan transaction, the defensive rescission-by-way-of-recoupment claim was barred by section 10(f) of the Massachusetts Consumer Credit Cost Disclosure Act (“MCCCDA”). In response, Plaintiffs asserted that the four-year statute of limitations did apply to their action because section 10(i)(3) of the MCCCDA allows for recoupment claims at any time. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts certified a question of law to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which answered by holding that a borrower who grants a mortgage in a consumer credit transaction may not rescind the transaction under the MCCCDA defensively by way of common law recoupment after the expiration of the statute of limitations set forth in section 10(f) of the MCCCDA.View "May v. Suntrust Mortgage, Inc." 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