Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Court held that because court orders issued in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic pursuant to the Court's superintendence authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221, 3 concerned court operations only and did not apply to executive agencies such as the registry of deeds, and therefore, a measure tolling statutory deadlines must be read as tolling only those deadlines that pertained to cases pending in court or to be filed in court.During the pandemic, Contractor sought to establish a mechanic's lien on land leased to Developer. Although Contractor recorded a notice of contract in the registry of deeds the notice failed to name the actual owners of the property. Contractor subsequently filed a complaint seeking to enforce the mechanic's lien. By the time Contractor recorded a property notice of contract in the registry of deeds the statutory deadline for making that recording had expired. Thereafter, Contractor brought claims against Owners for quantum merit, unjust enrichment, and for summary discharge of the mechanic's lien. The superior court judge allowed Contractor's motion to dismiss Owners' complaint for discharge. The Supreme Court reversed and allowed Contractor's motion to dismiss the complaint for summary discharge, holding that the emergency orders issued by the court did not apply to executive agencies. View "Graycor Construction Co. v. Pacific Theatres Exhibition Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court treating Petitioner's letter filed in the county court as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denying it, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner performed certain plumbing work for Defendants, and four different trial court cases stemmed from that work. Petitioner filed his letter seeking relief from various trial court rulings and judgments in the four district and superior court cases. The single justice treated the letter as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denied it. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, in each of the four cases, Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. View "Willitts v. Brogan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants and denying Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion.The Masonic Temple Association of Quincy, Inc. entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a trust under which the trust would develop the Mason's temple building into two condominium units, with the trust becoming the owner of one unit. The trust later assigned its interest to Jay Patel, the president and sole owner of Dipika, Inc. Later a fire broke out at the site. The Masons brought negligence claims against Patel and Dipika. Dipika brought third-party claims against Union Insurance Company for wrongful denial of coverage and Roblin Insurance Agency for professional negligence. The Masons then amended their complaint to assert claims against Union and Roblin. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Union and Roblin on all counts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Dipika's putative liabilities arising from the fire were not covered by its general liability insurance policy; and (2) Dipika's insurance broker did not commit a breach of its duty of care. View "Masonic Temple Ass'n of Quincy, Inc. v. Patel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the insurance policies of three restaurants (Plaintiffs), which suffered reductions in revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government restrictions on public gatherings, did not unambiguously cover Plaintiffs' losses, holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs brought a declaratory judgment action to determine the scope of their policies. The superior court granted judgment against Plaintiffs, finding that there was no "direct physical loss or damage" resulting from the COVID-19 virus. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were properly dismissed. View "Verveine Corp. v. Strathmore Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the doctrine of present execution does not permit an interlocutory appeal from a superior court judge's order denying a motion to enforce an alleged settlement agreement.Plaintiff filed this action asserting claims for summary process eviction and breach of contract regarding Defendant's lease of office space. The parties' counsel engaged in settlement negotiations via e-mail. Thereafter, Defendant moved to enforce what it asserted was a binding settlement agreement. After the motion judge denied the motion Defendant filed a petition for interlocutory review asserting that its interlocutory appeal was proper under the doctrine of present execution. A single justice presented questions for appellate review. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Defendant was not entitled to an interlocutory appeal under the doctrine of present execution. View "CP 200 State, LLC v. CIEE, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge's directed verdict in favor of DACA Delaware Dissolution Trust (DACA Trust) and Stebbins Duffy, a manufacturer's representative of Daikin Industries' products, on Ofer Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability and vacated the judgment entered against Daikin North America, LLC (Daikin NA), holding that the court erred in part.The trial judge declined to apply the "component parts doctrine" to the nondefective component distributed by Daikin NA because the component was not itself a "standalone" product and was designed specifically for use in the integrated product. The judge then granted directed verdict for Defendants on Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against the original sellers of the HVAC system. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) vacated the judgment entered against Daikin NA, holding that the component parts doctrine precluded liability; and (2) affirmed the judge's directed verdict for Defendants on Nemirovsky's claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against the original sellers of the HVAC system, holding that the claims were time barred. View "Nemirovsky v. Daikin North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded these consolidated actions against two insurance companies to the superior court for further proceedings, holding that inherent diminished value (IDV) damages, if adequately proved, are recoverable under part 4 of the standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy, 2008 edition.The three plaintiffs in these actions each owned an automobile that was involved in a collision with an automobile owned or operated by a party insured by either of the two insurance company defendants. Defendants compensated Plaintiffs' for the cost to repair their automobiles to their precollision condition but did not pay Plaintiffs for alleged IDV damages to the vehicles. The judge granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the motion judge erred in allowing summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs' claims of breach of contract; and (2) the motion judge properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' unfair business practices claims. View "McGilloway v. Safety Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the six-year statute of limitations for contract actions governed this case and that the efforts of Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) to collect overpayments made to providers in the State Medicaid program were time barred.In 2005, MassHealth sent an audit notice to a provider, Suburban Home Health Care, Inc., but took no further action until 2016, when it initiated recovery proceedings. Suburban sought declaratory relief, arguing that the proceedings were barred under the statute of limitations for "actions of contract" in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2. The superior court denied relief, concluding that the administrative proceedings to collect the overpayments could not be considered civil actions, and therefore, no statute of limitations applied. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the six-year statute of limitations for contract actions applied and that MassHealth's action was time barred. View "Suburban Home Health Care, Inc. v. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court allowing Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that the claims in this case were based on issues that had been litigating and decided in previous litigation between the same parties, holding that this action was precluded.In 2014, Plaintiff, the owner of the closely held corporation at the center of the parties' dispute, filed a complaint alleging that Defendants breached a contract and their fiduciary duties. The superior court judge found against Plaintiffs on his claims and found in favor of Defendants on their counterclaims. In 2017, Plaintiff brought this action alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and asserting derivative claims. The superior court judge allowed Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) issue preclusion applied in this case; and (2) where the interests of the parties fully coincided with that of the closely held corporation, Plaintiff was precluded from asserting his claims by means of a derivative action. View "Mullins v. Corcoran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the trial court's judgment denying Plaintiff's claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 and affirmed the remainder of the judgment, holding that the judge erred in instructing the jury under section 11.The attorney defendants in this case misappropriated propriety materials from their employer during their employment and subsequently used those materials to compete with their former employer. A jury found Defendants liable on claims for conversion, conspiracy, and breach of the duty of loyalty. The jury denied relief on the plaintiff employer's claims for unfair or deceptive trade practices, in violation of section 11. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that Defendants may be liable for unfair or deceptive trade practices, and the judge erred in instructing the jury that Defendants' conduct before leaving their employer was not relevant to Plaintiff's claim under section 11. View "Governo Law Firm LLC v. Bergeron" on Justia Law