Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Goodwin v. Lee Public Schools
Plaintiff, a high school student, was suspended from school for conduct that took place outside of school grounds. The suspension - which was mistakenly ordered on the ground that Plaintiff had been charged with a felony - lasted an entire semester, and Plaintiff was unable to graduate with her class. Plaintiff commenced this action asserting that her suspension was unlawful. The judge allowed Defendants’ motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 72, 37H1/2 before filing her complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that because the tort recovery a student may seek under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, 16 provides a separate and distinct remedy from that available under section 37H1/2, Plaintiff was not obligated to exhaust the statute’s administrative remedies before pursuing a tort claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, 16. View "Goodwin v. Lee Public Schools" on Justia Law
Bowers v. P. Wile’s, Inc.
Plaintiff was injured after slipping and falling on a walkway leading into a garden store owned by Defendant. Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting that she tripped on a stone that had traveled from a gravel area near the concrete walking leading into the store to the walkway. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not prevail under the traditional theory of premises liability. Plaintiff, in turn, argued that, although she could not prevail under a traditional theory of premises liability, she could prevail by applying a mode of operation analysis. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the mode of operation approach was not applicable in these circumstances. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that the mode of operation analysis was applicable under the circumstances presented here. View "Bowers v. P. Wile's, Inc." on Justia Law
Bayless v. TTS Trio Corp.
The decedent in this case was killed in a one-car accident when he drove in an intoxicated state after leaving a restaurant owned by Defendants. Plaintiff filed a complaint under the Commonwealth’s wrongful death statute, alleging that Defendants exhibited negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless conduct by selling and serving alcoholic beverages to the decedent prior to the decedent’s fatal motor vehicle accident and that such conduct was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death. Plaintiff submitted an affidavit pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 60J (commonly referred to as the dram shop act) stating that it was based on information and belief gathered from witness statements, a police report, and a medical toxicology report. Defendants moved to strike the affidavit and for partial summary judgment of Plaintiff’s complaint, arguing that a section 60J affidavit must be based upon personal knowledge. The superior court denied Defendants’ motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a section 60J affidavit based on information and belief may be sufficient to satisfy the procedural requirements of the statute; and (2) in this case, the affidavit satisfied the requirements of section 60J. View "Bayless v. TTS Trio Corp." on Justia Law
Van Liew v. Stansfield
Stansfield sought a harassment prevention order against Van Liew alleging four incidents of harassment. The alleged harassment concerned a local municipal election and general issues of local public concern. The District Court judge denied the request. Van Liew then filed this action against Stansfield in the district court, asserting claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. Stansfield filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 238, 59H. The District Court judge allowed the special motion after a hearing. Van Liew appealed to the Appellate Division of the District Court Department. The Appellate Division vacated the order of dismissal, concluding that Van Liew had presented sufficient evidence to show that Stansfield lacked any reasonable factual support for her petitioning activity. Stansfield filed an appeal in the Appeals Court from the decision and order of the Appellate Division. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Stansfield’s appeal was properly filed in the Appeals Court; and (2) with one possible exception, the speech at issue in this case did not qualify as either “fighting words” or “true threats,” and therefore, no civil harassment prevention order should have issued. View "Van Liew v. Stansfield" on Justia Law
DiCarlo v. Suffolk Constr. Co., Inc. v. Angelini Plastering, Inc.
Two employees were injured in the course of their employment, collected workers’ compensation benefits and then reached settlement agreements with third parties including damages for their pain and suffering. The same insurer insured by employers and sought reimbursement from the employees’ recoveries. In one employee’s case, the superior court judge rejected a settlement agreement providing that the insurer would not have a lien on the damages for pain and suffering. In the second employee’s case, a superior court judge approved a settlement agreement similar to the agreement rejected by the judge in the first employee’s case. The Appeals Court determined that the employees’ awards for pain and suffering were exempt from the insurer’s liens. The Supreme Judicial Court combined the two cases for argument and held that an insurer’s lien does not extend to damages allocated to an employee’s pain and suffering. View "DiCarlo v. Suffolk Constr. Co., Inc. v. Angelini Plastering, Inc." on Justia Law
Maling v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
Plaintiff engaged Defendants, a law firm and three individual attorneys, to represent him in connection with the prosecution of patents for Plaintiff’s inventions for a new screwless eyeglasses. After learning that Defendants had been simultaneously representing another client that competed with Plaintiff in the screwless eyeglass market, Plaintiff commenced this action alleging harm resulting Defendants’ failure to disclose the alleged conflict of interest. The trial judge dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the simultaneous representation by a law firm in the prosecution of patents for two clients competing in the same technology area for similar inventions is not a per se violation of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct; and (2) based on the facts alleged in his complaint, Plaintiff failed to state a claim for relief. View "Maling v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP" on Justia Law
Scholz v. Delp
In 2007, Brad Delp, the lead singer of the rock band “Boston,” committed suicide. The Boston Herald, Inc., published three stories regarding Brad’s suicide. The two authors of the newspaper articles relied on information from Brad’s former wife, Micki Delp. Donald Scholz, who founded “Boston,” filed an action for defamation against Micki, arguing that her statements insinuated that Scholz was responsible for Brad’s suicide. Scholz then brought an action for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Boston Herald and the two authors (collectively, the Herald) based on the same statements as reported in the three articles. The superior court granted summary judgment for Micki. The appeals court reversed. A different superior court judge allowed the Herald’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court paired the cases for judgment and held (1) the second motion judge properly granted summary judgment for the Herald, as the newspaper articles and statements contained therein constituted nonactionable opinions based on disclosed nondefamatory facts that did not imply undisclosed defamatory facts and therefore could not form the basis of a claim of defamation; and (2) the first motion judge correctly allowed Micki’s motion for summary judgment, as Micki’s statements were opinions and thus were nonactionable. View "Scholz v. Delp" on Justia Law
In re Custody of Victoria
Victoria was born in Mexico in 1997 and later moved to Texas. The Office of Refugee Resettlement designated Victoria as an unaccompanied refugee minor and assigned her for placement in Massachusetts. Three weeks after Victoria’s arrival in Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families filed a petition for custody of Victoria in the Probate and Family Court. The probate and family court judge concluded that Massachusetts lacked child custody jurisdiction under the Massachusetts Child Custody Jurisdiction Act but that jurisdiction was proper where Massachusetts was an “appropriate court” under federal law governing custody and resettlement of unaccompanied refugee minors. The judge stayed further custody proceedings pending resolution of questions regarding jurisdiction. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Massachusetts has jurisdiction over the custody proceeding under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209B, 2(a)(2) because (1) no other state has home state jurisdiction, and (2) it is in the best interest of Victoria that a Massachusetts court assume jurisdiction of the custody proceeding. View "In re Custody of Victoria" on Justia Law
Murray v. Town of Hudson
Plaintiff injured his knee while warming up in the bullpen of a public park in the Town of Hudson before a varsity game between two high school teams. Plaintiff, a ballplayer with the visiting team, brought this action against the Town under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act alleging negligence and wanton and reckless conduct. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, concluding that Plaintiff’s negligence claim was barred by the recreational use statute and that the evidence did not support a finding of wanton or reckless conduct. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) despite the recreational use statute, the Town may be found liable for negligence in providing the pitchers from the visiting team with a bullpen that was not reasonably safe; and (2) Plaintiff complied with the Act’s presentment requirement, and it cannot be determined until trial whether liability is barred by the Act’s discretionary function exemption. View "Murray v. Town of Hudson" on Justia Law
Rodriguez v. City of Somerville
Plaintiff, acting on behalf of his minor son, commenced this negligence action against the City of Somerville. The City filed a motion to dismiss under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), claiming that Plaintiff failed to meet the statutorily-required presentment requirements. The superior court denied the motion. The City appealed, arguing that its interlocutory appeal was proper under the doctrine of present execution. The Appeals Court dismissed the City’s appeal, concluding that the doctrine of present execution did not apply. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the City’s appeal was not moot; (2) the appeal was proper under the doctrine of present execution; and (3) the City’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint should have been allowed because presentment in this case was deficient. View "Rodriguez v. City of Somerville" on Justia Law