Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc.
Plaintiff broke her leg after slipping and falling on a wet dance floor at a nightclub owned by Defendant. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff failed as a matter of law to carry her burden under the “traditional” approach to premises liability because she did not show that Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the “mode of operation” approach to premises liability, which alleviates the plaintiff’s burden of proving notice, provided the proper legal standard. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the facts presented by the case, the mode of operation approach applied; and (2) summary judgment was improperly granted because Defendant had notice of the inherent risks associated with its chosen mode of operating its dance floor. Remanded. View "Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law
Maryland Cas. Co. v. NSTAR Elec. Co.
When a fire caused by NSTAR Electric and Gas Company employees damaged a building owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two insurers paid the claims of the building’s tenants. The insurers then brought this complaint against NSTAR Electric Company and NSTAR Electric & Gas Company (collectively, NSTAR) seeking to recover for the claims paid. NSTAR moved for partial summary judgment, contending that, to the extent to which the insurers sought recovery for business interruption losses, the claims were barred by Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy Tariff No. 200A, filed with and approved by the Department of Public Utilities, and in effect when the explosion occurred. The tariff contained a limitation of liability clause that limited NSTAR from liability to nonresidential customers for special, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from the utility’s gross negligence. A judge of the superior court allowed NSTAR’s motion for partial summary judgment, concluding that a tariff filed with and approved by a regulatory agency may limit a public utility’s liability. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the limitation of liability clause in the tariff precluded Plaintiffs’ claims to recover for business interruption and other consequential or economic damages. View "Maryland Cas. Co. v. NSTAR Elec. Co." on Justia Law
Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson
When Samantha Reckis was seven years old, she developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, a life-threatening skin disorder, after receiving multiple doses of Children’s Motrin, an over-the-counter medication with ibuprofen as its active ingredient. Plaintiffs, Samantha and her parents, sued the manufacturer and marketer of Children’s Motrin and its parent company, alleging that Samantha developed TEN as a result of being exposed to ibuprofen in the Children’s Motrin and that the warning label on the medication’s bottle rendered the product defective because it failed to warn consumers about the serious risk of developing a life-threatening disease from it. A jury found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded Samantha a total of $50 million in compensatory damages and each of Samantha’s parents $6.5 million for loss of consortium. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ claim of failure to warn was not preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; (2) a pharmacologist who offered the causation evidence essential to Plaintiffs’ case was qualified to testify as to specific medical causation, and the testimony was reliable and admissible; and (3) the damages awarded to each of the plaintiffs were not grossly excessive or unsupported by the record. View "Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co.
Plaintiffs, twelve residential and business customers of Defendant Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company who lost power during a major ice storm, filed suit on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, asserting claims of gross negligence and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Plaintiffs moved to certify a class, and the parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ chapter 93A claims. In their motion for partial summary judgment, Plaintiffs sought issue preclusive effect of findings made by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in two previous administrative adjudications related to Defendant’s conduct during the storm. The superior court judge (1) denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification; and (2) primarily denied the motions for summary judgment after applying offensive issue preclusion to factual findings made by the DPU. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the judge did not abuse his discretion in declining to certify a class and in applying issue preclusion to facts found after evidentiary hearings at the DPU. View "Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co." on Justia Law
Roe No. 1 v. Children’s Hosp. Med. Ctr.
Dr. Melvin Levine worked as a pediatric physician at Children’s Hospital Medical Center from 1966 to 1985. After leaving Children’s Hospital, Levine resumed practicing medicine as an employee of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (UNC) in North Carolina. In 2011, eleven former patients of Levine at UNC (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought this negligence action against Children’s Hospital, alleging that Children’s Hospital knew or should have known Levine was conducting inappropriate genital examinations of minors during his employment at Children’s Hospital yet failed to report Levine’s conduct. Due to this alleged negligence, Plaintiffs asserted that Levine was able to continue his abuse of patients, including Plaintiffs, during his employment at UNC. The superior court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Children’s Hospital did not owe a legally cognizable duty of reasonable care to Plaintiffs requiring it to take affirmative action to protect them from Levine. View "Roe No. 1 v. Children's Hosp. Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
Weiler v. PortfolioScope, Inc.
Plaintiff, the former president and chief operating officer of PortfolioScope, Inc., brought suit against Portfolio and two individual defendants alleging, among other claims, breach of contract, violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, tortious interference with Plaintiff’s contractual rights, and fraudulent transfers pursuant to the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. After a bench trial, the judge rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Defendants argued on appeal that the judge erred in her interpretation of an agreement and an amendment, as well as in her analysis of secured transaction principles, and that the errors affected the entire disposition of the case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in almost all respects, holding that any error in the judge’s interpretation of the amendment affected only Plaintiff’s claim for conversion. View "Weiler v. PortfolioScope, Inc." on Justia Law
Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo
Stephanie Moulton was employed as a residential treatment counselor at North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Inc. when she was assaulted by DeShawn Chappell, one of the facility’s residents, causing her death. Moulton’s estate brought an action against the directors of North Suffolk, among other defendants, asserting claims for wrongful death and breach of fiduciary duty. The director defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that (1) with respect to the wrongful death action, they were immune from suit, as Moulton’s employer, under the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (Act); and (2) with respect to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, they owed Moulton no such duty. The superior court denied the director defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding (1) the director defendants were immune from suit under the exclusive remedy provision of the Act for the injuries Moulton sustained while acting within the course of her employment; and (2) the directors, as Moulton’s employer, owed no fiduciary duty to their employee. Remanded for an entry of judgment for the director defendants on all claims. View "Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo" on Justia Law
Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc.
At issue in this appeal was Eaton v. Fed. Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, which held that a foreclosure by power of sale is invalid unless a foreclosing party holds the mortgage and also holds either the underlying mortgage note or acts on behalf of the note holder. In the instant case, Plaintiffs defaulted on their mortgage payments, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) sought to foreclose on the property. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against MERS claiming that MERS did not have standing to initiate foreclosure proceedings because it was not the holder of the promissory note or an authorized agent of any note holder. The superior court dismissed the complaint. Before Plaintiffs’ appeal was heard, the Supreme Court decided Eaton. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claim alleging a lack of authority to foreclose, holding (1) Eaton applies to cases, such as the instant case, that preserved the issue presented in Eaton and that were pending on appeal as of June 22, 2012; and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ complaint should not have been dismissed for failure to state a claim on the grounds that MERS lacked the authority to foreclose. Remanded. View "Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Mastalerz
Plaintiff applied for harassment prevention orders against Defendant because, apparently, several months after Defendant moved out of the apartment he and Plaintiff shared, Defendant drove past Plaintiff as she stood outside the front of her home and then drove past Plaintiff again two more times. The lower court judge found enough evidence to extend the orders. The appeals court dismissed Defendant’s appeal as moot because the harassment prevention order had expired. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) pursuant to Seney v. Morhy, Defendant’s appeal should not have been dismissed as moot; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the issuance of the harassment prevention orders. View "Smith v. Mastalerz" on Justia Law
Seney v. Morhy
Plaintiff was an assistant coach of a little league baseball team for which Defendant’s son played. Plaintiff applied for a harassment prevention order against Defendant, stating that he was fearful for himself and his family. A district court judge issued a harassment prevention order against Defendant. Defendant filed her appeal on May 19, 2011. The harassment prevention order expired on April 20, 2012. On November 13, 2012, the appeals court dismissed Appellant’s appeal as moot because the harassment prevention order had expired. The Supreme Court remanded for entry of an order vacating the harassment prevention order against Defendant, holding (1) appeals from expired harassment prevention orders should not be dismissed as moot where the parties have a continuing interest in the case, and Defendant in this case still had a stake in the outcome of the appeal, including removing any stigma from her name through the destruction of the order; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to issue the harassment prevention order against Defendant. View "Seney v. Morhy" on Justia Law