Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Fairhaven Housing Authority v. Commonwealth
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court judge dismissing the underlying declaratory judgment complaint in this declaratory judgment action regarding the scope of the Department of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7A, holding that dismissal was warranted.Plaintiffs - location housing authorities (LHAs) of various cities and towns, current and former executive directors of LHAs and others - sought a judgment declaring that DHCD exceeded its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7A by promulgating guidelines that govern contracts between an LHA and its executive director and making compliance with the guidelines a requirement to obtain contractual approval from DHCD. A superior court judge allowed DHCD's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that LHAs have authority to hire executive directors and "determine their qualifications, duties, and compensation, under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 121B, 7. View "Fairhaven Housing Authority v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
Gattineri v. Wynn MA, LLC
The Supreme Judicial Court held that an agreement entered into between Plaintiff Anthony Gattineri and Defendants Wynn MA, LLC and Wynn Resorts, Limited (collectively, Wynn) in San Diego California (the San Diego agreement) was unenforceable for reasons of public policy.Wynn entered into an option contract with FBT Everett Realty, LLC (FBT) to purchase a parcel of property. As Wynn's application for a casino license proceeded, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission discovered that there was a possibility of concealed ownership interests in FBT by a convicted felon with organized crime connections. In response, FBT lowered the purchase price for the parcel. The Commission approved the amended option agreement. Gattineri, a minority owner of FBT, opposed the price reduction and refused to sign the certificate required by the Commission. Gattineri alleged that at the San Diego meeting Wynn had agreed to pay Gattineri an additional $19 million in exchange for Gattineri signing the certificate. After the Commission awarded Wynn a casino license Gattineri brought suit claiming breach of the San Diego agreement because Wynn never paid Gattineri the promised $19 million. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the agreement was deliberately concealed from the Commission and inconsistent with the terms approved by the Commission; and (2) enforcement of such a secret agreement constituted a clear violation of public policy. View "Gattineri v. Wynn MA, LLC" on Justia Law
Cummings Properties, LLC v. Hines
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Cummings Properties, LLC in this suit brought to enforce Darryl Hines's obligations as guarantor of a commercial lease, holding that Hines failed to meet his burden to prove that the amount provided for in the lease's liquidated damages clause was an unreasonable forecast of damages at the time the lease was signed.At issue was whether a liquidated damages clause in the lease was unenforceable where Hines's company defaulted on the rent but Cummings was able to relet the property. The trial judge found in favor of Cummings and awarded it the balance owed under the lease's liquidated damages clause. The appeals court reversed, determining that the liquidated damages provision was an unenforceable penalty because it did not account for the possibility that Cummings could, in mitigation of Hines's breach, relet the premises and collect rent. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court has never required that the amount of a liquidated damages clause take into account any future rents collected from a new tenant to be enforceable; and (2) Hines failed to meet his burden to show that the liquidated damages clause was unenforceable. View "Cummings Properties, LLC v. Hines" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts
Metcalf v. BSC Group, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge granting summary judgment in favor of BSC Companies, Inc., BSC Group, Inc., and the companies' president (collectively, BSC) in this action brought by BSC's former employees alleging claims under the Prevailing Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 26-27H, holding that the contracts at issue were not governed by the Act, and BSC was not required to pay its employees a prevailing wage pursuant to the contracts.At issue were two professional engineering services contracts awarded by the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to BSC. The contracts were not competitively bid and were not awarded to the lowest bidder, unlike contracts for public works construction projects governed by the Act. Further, the contracts did not specify that BSC's employees would be paid at least a prevailing wage determined by the Department of Labor Standards. The superior court judge granted summary judgment to BSC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to a prevailing wage for their work under the professional services contracts. View "Metcalf v. BSC Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Fabiano v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court held that in the instant cases, where the decedents had no right to bring a cause of action for the injuries that caused their deaths at the time that they died as a result of the running of the statute of limitations on the decedents' underlying tort and breach of warranty claims, Plaintiffs, as personal representatives of the decedents' estates, had no right to bring wrongful death actions based on those injuries.The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts dismissing these separate actions for wrongful death under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, 2. Both superior court judges ruled that, because wrongful death recovery is derivative of a decedent's own cause of action, the underlying wrongful death claims were precluded, as each decedent could not have brought claims based on the injuries that caused his death had he survived. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, thus following the majority approach precluding recovery for wrongful death where the statute of limitations on the decedent's underlying claims ran before the decedent's death. View "Fabiano v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law
Suburban Electric Contracting, Inc. v. Ozdemir
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioner's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner was awarded monetary damages after a jury trial on a breach of contract claim against Respondent. The appellate division affirmed. Petitioner later moved for the appointment of a special process server to conduct a sale of Respondent's real property in order to satisfy the amended judgment and execution. Thereafter, Respondent presented a check for the execution amount plus postjudgment interest. Petitioner refused to accept payment and continued to litigate its motion. A judge declined to take action and ordered that further accrual of postjudgment interest would be tolled. Petitioner moved to vacate the judge's tolling ruling, but the trial court declined to rule on the motion. Petitioner then filed this petition requesting relief from the tolling order. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief. View "Suburban Electric Contracting, Inc. v. Ozdemir" on Justia Law
Dorchester Mutual Insurance Co. v. Miville
In this case concerning the term "physical abuse" as used in an "abuse and molestation" policy exclusion the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer on its action for declaratory relief, holding that the abuse and molestation exclusion did not exempt coverage under the circumstances of this case.The homeowners' insurance policy at issue precluded coverage under a policy exclusion exempting coverage for "[b]odily injury...arising out of sexual molestation, corporal punishment or physical or mental abuse." Insured initiated an unprovoked attack on Leonard Miville by punching and kicking him repeatedly. When Insurer denied coverage Miville commenced an action against Insured. Insurer brought this action seeking a judgment declaring that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Insured for the personal injury claims. The judge granted summary judgment for Insurer. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that a reasonable insured would not expect the abuse and molestation exclusion to preclude coverage for the incident. View "Dorchester Mutual Insurance Co. v. Miville" on Justia Law
City of Chelsea v. New England Police Benevolent Ass’n, Local 192
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the trial judge granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the New England Police Benevolent Association, Inc., Local 192 (NEPBA), denying the city of Chelsea's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and confirming the underlying arbitration award in this labor dispute, holding that the trial court did not err in confirming the arbitration award.After NEPBA replaced another union as the exclusive bargaining representative for the emergency dispatchers in the city, NEPBA sought to arbitrate a grievance regarding an emergency dispatcher's termination following the change in union representation. While the NEPBA and city bargained to a new contract, employees had been working under the city's prior collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the former union. Because the CBA contained an arbitration provision, the arbitrator ruled that the dispute was arbitrable. The superior court confirmed the decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the dispute was arbitrable. View "City of Chelsea v. New England Police Benevolent Ass'n, Local 192" on Justia Law
Huang v. Ma
In this case concerning the law involving breach of an exclusive real estate broker agreement, the Supreme Judicial Court held that an enforceable contract was created in this case, Defendants committed a breach of that contract, and Plaintiff was entitled to her expectation damages.Plaintiff, a licensed real estate broker and her wholly-owned real estate brokerage firm, brought this action against Defendants, two former clients, after Plaintiff performed substantial services pursuant to the contract and Defendants terminated their relationship without paying her. Because there was no written agreement for brokerage services the motion judge granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Appeals Court reversed on the grounds that there is an express exemption to the Statute of Frauds for real estate brokers. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that a contract was former and that a breach occurred, entitling Plaintiff to her expectation damages. View "Huang v. Ma" on Justia Law
Ken’s Foods, Inc. v. Steadfast Insurance Co.
The Supreme Judicial Court held that there is no common-law duty for insurers to cover costs incurred by an insured to prevent imminent covered loss when the plain, unambiguous terms of the insurance policy speak directly to the question of mitigation and reimbursement and do not provide coverage and the costs are otherwise excluded by other policy provisions.Insured sought recovery from Insurer for various costs it incurred after a wastewater treatment system at its manufacturing facility malfunctioned, claiming coverage under its pollution liability policy. In dispute were costs incurred that were not cleanup costs or costs necessary to avoid imminent endangerment to public health or welfare but necessary to avoid a business interruption. The district court held that the costs at issue were not recoverable and that there was no basis to impose a common-law duty that was inconsistent with the policy's coverages and exclusions. View "Ken's Foods, Inc. v. Steadfast Insurance Co." on Justia Law