Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Klairmont v. Gainsboro Rest., Inc.
After falling down a staircase at a bar and restaurant in Boston, a college student died. Plaintiffs, the student's parents, filed this action against the restaurant and trustees of a trust that owned the land and buildings within which the restaurant operated. The complaint alleged claims against the restaurant and trustees for wrongful death and for violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Plaintiffs based their chapter 93A claim on Defendants' alleged building code violations, which Plaintiffs claimed constituted unfair or deceptive conduct. A jury returned a verdict for Defendants on Plaintiffs' wrongful death claims, and the trial judge found in favor of Plaintiffs on the chapter 93A claim, finding that the student fell and suffered a fatal injury because the stairs were in an unsafe, defective condition having been rebuilt without necessary building permits. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiffs were entitled to recover on their chapter 93A claim but that the judge erred in her calculation and award of damages. Remanded. View "Klairmont v. Gainsboro Rest., Inc." on Justia Law
Dos Santos v. Coleta
Plaintiff was injured when he unsuccessfully tried to flip into an inflatable pool from a trampoline that had been set up directly adjacent to the pool in the backyard of a property he was renting from Defendants. Plaintiff filed a claim for negligence against Defendants for setting up and maintaining the trampoline next to the pool and for failing to warn him of the danger of jumping from the trampoline into the pool. The trial court ruled in favor of Defendants. The appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a landowner has a duty to remedy an open and obvious danger where he has created and maintained that danger with the knowledge that lawful entrants would choose to encounter it despite the obvious risk of doing so; and (2) the judge erred in instructing the jury to cease deliberations if they concluded that the danger was open and obvious, and should have further instructed the jury that a landowner is not relieved from remedying open and obvious dangers where he can or should anticipate that the dangerous condition will cause physical harm to the lawful entrant notwithstanding its known or obvious danger. View "Dos Santos v. Coleta" on Justia Law
Medina v. Hochberg
In 2001, Robert Riskind suffered a grand mal seizure while driving home from work, causing him to strike Plaintiff. Plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident. Riskind's seizure was triggered by an inoperable brain tumor, a condition for which he had been receiving treatment from Dr. Fred Hochberg since its diagnosis. Riskind died in 2002 as a result of the brain tumor. Plaintiff subsequently filed a negligence action against Hochberg. Hochberg moved for summary judgment, arguing that, as a matter of law, he owed Plaintiff neither a duty to control Riskind nor a duty to warn Riskind against driving. A superior court judge granted Hochberg's summary judgment motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a medical professional, other than a mental health professional, owes no duty to a third person arising from any claimed special relationship between the medical professional and a patient; and (2) Hochberg did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff under ordinary negligence principals. View "Medina v. Hochberg" on Justia Law
Bar Counsel v. Farber
G. Russell Damon filed with bar counsel a complaint regarding attorney Peter Farber's alleged fraudulent misrepresentation of certain facts in connection with a real estate purchase. After bar counsel filed a petition for discipline against Farber, Damon testified as a witness before a hearing committee of the board of bar overseers (board) on the matter. The hearing committee made findings consistent with the allegations in the petition for discipline, and the board adopted the committee's factual findings. Thereafter, the Supreme Court issued an order of public reprimand. Farbert subsequently filed a civil suit against Damon asserting, inter alia, claims of defamation and wrongful instigation of civil proceedings based on statements made in the complaint, in follow-up communications with bar counsel, and in the testimony Damon gave. Bar counsel filed this action for declaratory judgment to resolve controversy between the parties relating to the proper interpretation of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, 9. The Supreme Court held that, under section 9, a bar discipline complainant is entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability with respect to his complaint filed with bar counsel or the board and his sworn testimony given or communications made to bar counsel or the board or any hearing committee thereof. Remanded. View "Bar Counsel v. Farber" on Justia Law
HipSaver, Inc. v. Kiel
Plaintiff, HipSaver, Inc., was a Massachusetts corporation engaged in the design, manufacture, and sale of hip protectors. In 2007, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article authored in part by Defendant, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, that concluded based on the results of a clinical trial that hip protectors were "not effective in nursing home populations." HipSaver filed a complaint against Defendant, claiming that Defendant had disparaged HipSaver's product in the JAMA article and was liable for monetary damages. The trial judge granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed HipSaver's complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly entered for Defendant where HipSaver failed to demonstrate that it had a reasonable expectation of proving all of the essential elements of a cause of action for commercial disparagement. View "HipSaver, Inc. v. Kiel" on Justia Law
Jones v. Boykan
In 2003, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against a police officer and city, alleging that, in 1999, the officer entered Plaintiffs' convenience store, arrested two of the plaintiffs, and beat all of the plaintiffs. Two of the plaintiffs were acquitted of criminal charges, but, in the meantime, Plaintiffs lost their business and suffered physical and emotional injuries. More than thirteen years after the incident and after a "tortuous" procedural history, the case arrived at the Supreme Court on limited further appellate review. In Jones II, the appeals court ordered the reinstatement of a 2004 default judgment against Defendants. The Court also had before it on direct appellate review an order of the superior court that amended the 2004 default judgment to correct a clerical error and that reinstated it. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the default judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings to assess damages, holding that, under the circumstances here, a remand was necessary; and (2) vacated the amended judgment, holding that the superior court did not have jurisdiction to entertain a motion to amend the earlier default judgment, even to correct a clerical mistake, at the time the motion judge acted in 2012. View "Jones v. Boykan" on Justia Law
Shapiro v. City of Worcester
Two sets of plaintiffs brought actions against the city of Worcester, alleging that the city was liable to them for nuisance, continuing nuisance, and continuing trespass arising from the discharge of effluent from the city's sewer system onto their properties. After the lower courts made a series of rulings in favor of the city, Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs' nuisance claims were not barred because they failed to satisfy the presentment requirement of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, as application of the presentment requirement in these cases would be egregiously unfair to Plaintiffs given that the law did not require presentment of nuisance claims at the time they filed their lawsuits; and (2) none of the statutory exceptions to sovereign immunity by the city was applicable in this case, and the city remained subject to suit. Remanded. View "Shapiro v. City of Worcester" on Justia Law
Murphy v. Contributory Ret. Appeal Bd.
Ernest Murphy was employed by the Commonwealth as a superior court judge for eight years. Following the publication of libelous articles about Murphy's performance of his judicial duties, and his subsequent receipt of hate mail and death threats, Murphy was diagnosed with PTSD and major depressive disorder and was unable to continue performing the essential duties of his job. The state board of retirement rejected his application for accidental disability retirement benefits pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws 32, 7, and this denial was upheld by the contributory retirement appeal board (CRAB). At issue before the Supreme Court was whether Murphy was entitled to receive accidental disability retirement benefits on the grounds that he was permanently disabled from performing the essential duties of his job by reason of a personal injury sustained as a result of, and while in the performance of, his duties. The Court affirmed, holding that Murphy did not sustain his disabling injuries while in the performance of his judicial duties, as (1) Murphy was not engaged in judicial work during the time he opened and read the death threat; and (2) the act of opening and reading his mail was, in itself, not a judicial duty. View "Murphy v. Contributory Ret. Appeal Bd." on Justia Law
LeBlanc v. Logan Hilton Joint Venture
An electrician was killed by electrocution while attempting to repair an electrical transformer at the Logan Airport Hilton Hotel (Hilton). Plaintiff, as administratrix of the electrician's estate, filed suit against, inter alia, Hilton, the architect who designed the hotel (Cambridge Seven), the consultant Cambridge Seven retained to provide electrical engineering services (Costentini), and the construction subcontractor for electrical services (Broadway), alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty. Hilton and Broadway filed cross claims against Cambridge Seven and Cosentini for indemnification and contribution. The superior court granted the motion for summary judgment brought by Cambridge Seven and Cosentini as to the complaint and cross claims and ordered final judgment. Hilton and Broadway appealed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the grant of summary judgment on behalf of Cambridge Seven and Cosentini as to the cross claims brought by Hilton and Broadway for indemnification; but (2) reversed as to the cross claims for contribution. Remanded. View "LeBlanc v. Logan Hilton Joint Venture" on Justia Law
Smith v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Auth.
This case stemmed from plaintiff's suit against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) where plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident with a bus operated by a MBTA employee. Effective November 1, 2009, the amendments to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, G.L.c. 258, sections 1-14, and the MBTA's enabling statute, G.L.c. 161A (collectively, 2009 amendments), made the MBTA a "public employer" covered by the Tort Claims Act, G.L.C. 258, section 1. At issue was whether the 2009 amendments applied retroactively, allowing the MBTA the protections of public employer status against a plaintiff whose claims accrued prior to November 1, 2009. The court concluded that the 2009 amendments did not so apply. Accordingly, plaintiff was not precluded from recovering prejudgment interest and costs of postjudgment interest against the MBTA that accrued prior to November 1, 2009. View "Smith v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Auth." on Justia Law