Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Plaintiff's complaint against Governor Deval Patrick did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a cognizable claim for defamation. After Governor Deval Patrick removed Saundra R. Edwards from her position as chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), Edwards filed an amended complaint asserting a wrongful termination claim against the State and two defamation claims against Patrick, individually. The basis for Edwards’s defamation claims were two statements Patrick made about Edwards’s abrupt departure explaining that he had decided to replace Edward because she had interfered with the independence of a SORB hearing officer. Patrick moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), claiming absolute privilege or, in the alternative, qualified privilege. A superior court judge denied Patrick’s motion to dismiss the defamation claims. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the amended complaint did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Edwards did not plead sufficient facts to state a cognizable claim for defamation. View "Edwards v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Petitioner, a Boston police officer, filed an application for a criminal complaint alleging that Respondent, her supervisor, committed an assault and battery against her. Two clerk-magistrates denied the application for lack of probable cause. Petitioner then filed a petition under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking a rehearing on her application and a broader ruling requiring that applications for criminal complaints made against police officers be automatically transferred to a judge outside the police officer’s jurisdiction rather than being heard by a clerk-magistrate int he first instance. A single justice denied relief without holding a hearing. The Supreme judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances presented here, Petitioner was not entitled to extraordinary relief. View "In re Application for a Criminal Complaint" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendants owned abutting parcels of property. After several years of Defendants opposing Plaintiff’s redevelopment plans, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging abuse of process and a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP statute,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) affirmed the denial of Defendants’ special motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff’s claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11; and (2) vacated the denial of the special motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff’s abuse of process claim, holding that Defendants met their threshold burden under the anti-SLAPP statute of showing that this claim was solely based on Defendants’ petitioning activity. Given that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the entirety of Defendants’ petitioning activities lack a reasonable basis in fact or law, it may attempt upon remand to make the showing outlined in Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., 477 Mass. , (2017), which augments the framework in Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156 (1998). View "477 Harrison Ave., LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court took this opportunity to augment the framework set forth in Duracraft v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156 (1998), regarding anti-SLAPP suits. Plaintiffs, nine registered nurses who previously worked in a hospital's adolescent psychiatric unit, fired the hospital and its then-president, alleging defamation based on the president’s statements - both to hospital employees and to the Boston Globe - regarding the nurses’ culpability for the incidents that took place at the unit. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP statute,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of Defendants’ special motion to dismiss as to the president’s statements to the Boston Globe and otherwise affirmed, holding that a portion of Plaintiffs’ defamation claim was based solely on Defendants’ petitioning activity. Therefore, Defendants satisfied in part their threshold burden under Duracraft. However, because the statute, as construed under current case law, remains at odds with legislative intent and raises constitutional concerns, the court broadened the construction of the statutory term “based on.” The court remanded the matter to the superior court where the burden will shift to Plaintiffs to make a showing adequate to defeat the special motion to dismiss. View "Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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This lawsuit arose from the explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon that caused 4.9 million barrels of oil to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Defendants, environmental activists, contributed an article appearing in an Internet Web site that contained criticism of Plaintiff, a scientific consulting firm retained to assess the toxic effects of the oil spill on cleanup workers. Plaintiff brought claims for defamation in Massachusetts and in New York. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the Massachusetts suit under the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The superior court denied the motion, concluding that Defendants failed to meet their threshold burden of showing that the suit was based exclusively on the exercise of their right of petition under the Constitution. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendants met their threshold burden because they were engaged in protected petitioning activity; and (2) Plaintiff could not show that such petitioning was devoid of reasonable factual support or arguable basis in law and therefore could not defeat the special motion. View "Cardno ChemRisk, LLC v. Foytlin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Odin Anderson, his wife, and his daughter (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed personal injury action for injuries Odin suffered after being struck by a bus owned by Partners Healthcare Systems that was being driven by one of its employees. Plaintiffs then filed a separate action against Partner’s insurers and claims representatives. A jury awarded Odin $2,961,000 in damages in the personal injury action and awarded Odin’s wife and daughter $110,000 each. At a subsequent jury-waived trial, a judge found that the insurers and claims representatives violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D by their misconduct. The judge awarded Plaintiffs treble damages using as the “amount of the judgment” to be multiplied the combined amount of the underlying tort judgment and the accrued postjudgment interest on that judgment. The appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that, in a case where the amount of actual damages to be multiplied due to a wilful or knowing violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D are based on the amount of an underlying judgment, that amount does not include postjudgment interest. View "Anderson v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh Pa." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a new vehicle from Dealer that was subject to Manufacturer’s limited warranty. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Manufacturer and Dealer (together, Defendants), alleging that the vehicle was defective and that Defendants failed to repair or remedy the defects under the warranty. Dealer demanded that Manufacturer reimburse Dealer for the attorney’s fees it incurred in defending against Plaintiff’s claims and indemnification for and liability incurred. Plaintiffs claims against Defendants were disposed of through summary judgment and voluntary dismissal. The judge also found that Dealer was not entitled to indemnificationt. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff’s allegations alleged the fault or negligence of both Manufacturer and Dealer, Manufacturer did not have a duty to defend under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93B, 8(a).View "Ferreira v. Chrysler Group LLC" on Justia Law

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The Estate of Steven Gavin filed a wrongful death action against the Commonwealth and Tewksbury State Hospital under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, alleging that Gavin’s death was caused by the negligence of hospital staff members. The presentment of the claim was made by the Estate, through its attorney, and not by the executor or administrator of the Estate. The superior court allowed Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the statutory requirements for presentment of a claim under the Act were not met in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the presentment made by the Estate, before the appointment of an executor or administrator, was proper. Remanded.View "Estate of Gavin v. Tewksbury State Hosp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on ice on the walkway of a public school. The walkway was owned and operated by the City of Haverhill, and Plaintiff was on the premises to attend a scheduled parent-teacher conference. Plaintiff sued the City for negligence. The superior court allowed the City’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff’s claim was barred by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21, 17C, which bars claims of ordinary negligence against a landowner, including a governmental entity, that has opened its land to the public for recreational, educational, or other enumerated purposes, without charging a fee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the limitation on liability provided by the statute extends solely to land open to the general public; and (2) when Plaintiff was injured, the school was open only to a discrete group and not to the general publicView "Wilkins v. City of Haverhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff rented an apartment from Defendants, the owner and manager of the property. While ascending an exterior staircase leading to an outer door on the second floor landing, Plaintiff leaned against the staircase guardrail, which broke, causing Plaintiff to fall to the pavement below. Plaintiff sued Defendants. A jury found both parties negligent and concluded that, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 143, 51, Defendants were strictly liable for Plaintiff’s injuries because the injuries were caused by violations of the State building code. Defendants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial, arguing that section 51 did not apply to the circumstances. The court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the part of the order denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as related to the section 51 claim, holding (1) section 51 applies to all violations of the State building code, not just those concerning fire safety; and (2) the term “building” as used in the statute does not encompass within its ambit of strict liability of a small-scale residential structure like that occupied by Plaintiff, notwithstanding that the structure had some commercial characteristics. View "Sheehan v. Weaver" on Justia Law