Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Styller v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Lynnfield
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Land Court's judgment affirming the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the town of Lynnfield upholding the decision of the building inspector ordering Plaintiff to cease and desist offering his family home for short-term rentals, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the use of his home for short-term rentals constituted a prior nonconforming use that was exempt from the town's zoning bylaw that, as amended, expressly forbade short-term rentals in single-residence zoning districts. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff's use of the property for short-term rentals was not a permissible use under the town's zoning bylaw as it existed prior to its amendment. View "Styller v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Lynnfield" on Justia Law
Cobble Hill Center LLC v. Somerville Redevelopment Authority
The Supreme Judicial Court held that the broad eminent domain powers granted to redevelopment authorities by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12B, 11(d) include demonstration projects under Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 121B, 46(f).The Somerville Redevelopment Authority (SRA) took by eminent domain approximately four acres of land from Cobble Hill Center LLC as a demonstration project pursuant to section 46(f). Following the taking, Cobble Hill brought this action asserting that section 46(f) does not authorize takings by eminent domain. The trial judge entered judgment in favor of SRA. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the demonstration project plan at issue satisfied the definition of "demonstration" for purposes of section 46(f); and (2) the SRA's taking was a lawful demonstration under section 46(f) and was constitutional. View "Cobble Hill Center LLC v. Somerville Redevelopment Authority" on Justia Law
Massachusetts Port Authority v. Turo Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court allowing Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction but amended the first numbered paragraph of the order to affirmatively restrain only Turo Inc.'s conduct, holding that the preliminary injunction was properly granted.The Massachusetts Port Authority (Plaintiff) filed suit against Turo, RMG Motors LLC, and John Doe Nos. 1 through 100 (collectively, Defendants) in this dispute over the unregulated pick up and drop off of passengers at the Logan International Airport. At issue on appeal was the superior court judge's order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Plaintiff that restricted Turo from conducting commercial activity at the airport without written permission from Plaintiff. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order, holding that the judge did not err in issuing the preliminary injunction but that a modification of the terms of the injunction to comply with the requirements of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) was required. View "Massachusetts Port Authority v. Turo Inc." on Justia Law
Governo Law Firm LLC v. Bergeron
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the trial court's judgment denying Plaintiff's claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 and affirmed the remainder of the judgment, holding that the judge erred in instructing the jury under section 11.The attorney defendants in this case misappropriated propriety materials from their employer during their employment and subsequently used those materials to compete with their former employer. A jury found Defendants liable on claims for conversion, conspiracy, and breach of the duty of loyalty. The jury denied relief on the plaintiff employer's claims for unfair or deceptive trade practices, in violation of section 11. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that Defendants may be liable for unfair or deceptive trade practices, and the judge erred in instructing the jury that Defendants' conduct before leaving their employer was not relevant to Plaintiff's claim under section 11. View "Governo Law Firm LLC v. Bergeron" on Justia Law
Sullivan v. Five Acres Realty Trust
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment to Defendants on some of Plaintiffs' claims and granting judgment for Plaintiffs on their implied warranty of habitability and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claims, holding that Defendants' motion for directed verdict or motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been allowed on the chapter 93A and warranty of habitability claims.After Plaintiffs purchased a piece of real property from Defendants they discovered various defects in the property. They brought this action against Defendants. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiffs' fraud and misrepresentation and defective and deficient renovation work claims. After a trial, the jury found in favor of Plaintiffs on the warranty of habitability and chapter 93A claims. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that Defendants' motions for a directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been allowed on the chapter 93A and warranty of habitability claims. View "Sullivan v. Five Acres Realty Trust" on Justia Law
Concord v. Water Department of Littleton
The Supreme Judicial Court held that should Littleton, Acton, or both towns choose to exercise their rights to take the waters of Nagog Pond and apply for a permit under the Water Management Act (WMA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21G, a special act passed by the Legislature in 1884 - St. 1884, c. 201 (1884 act) - the WMA will not provide the towns with a priority right over Concord's registration.The 1884 act granted Concord the right to use Nagog Pond, located in Littleton and Acton, as a public water supply. The act, however, provided that Littleton, Acton, or both could take the pond waters and that their water needs "shall be first supplied." Because Concord had exercised its rights under the 1884 act but Littleton and Acton had not exercised their rights, at issue was whether those rights still existed after the passage of the WMA. The Supreme Court held (1) the WMA impliedly repealed the provision in the 1884 act that provided that the needs of the residents of Littleton and Acton "shall be first supplied"; but (2) the WMA did not impliedly repeal the provisions of the 1884 act that granted Concord the right to "take and hold" the Nagog Pond waters. View "Concord v. Water Department of Littleton" on Justia Law
Linardon v. Boston Housing Authority
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking an order keeping her approved federal rental voucher under the Massachusetts rental voucher program in active status, holding that, under the circumstances, the single justice was within his authority in declining to grant relief.In her petition, Petitioner contested an order transferring her case against the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Housing Court and then appealed that order. Petitioner also sought to restore her federal housing benefits pending her appeal. After the superior court denied relief Petitioner filed this petition seeking the same relief. A single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err in denying relief. View "Linardon v. Boston Housing Authority" on Justia Law
Abuzahra v. City of Cambridge
The Supreme Judicial Court held that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 79, the so-called "quick take" statute, permits a property owner to both accept a pro tanto payment for an eminent domain taking and simultaneously challenge the validity of the underlying taking.Plaintiff argued that Defendant, the City of Cambridge, must immediately tender him the full amount of the pro tanto payment because the quick take statute does not condition his acceptance of the pro tanto payment on waiving his right to challenge the City's taking of his real property. The superior court denied Plaintiff's motion to compel payment of the pro tanto amount, but a single justice in the Appeals Court vacated that decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the quick take statute does not condition a property owner's acceptance of the pro tanto payment under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 79, 8A on waiving her or his right to contest the validity of the taking under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 79, 18. View "Abuzahra v. City of Cambridge" on Justia Law
Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Judicial Court answered a certified question from the Court of Appeals for the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit by concluding that a challenged statement in a default and acceleration notice did not render the notice inaccurate or deceptive in a manner that rendered the subsequent foreclosure sale void under Massachusetts law.After Plaintiffs defaulted on their mortgage payments, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. foreclosed on Plaintiffs' home and sold it at auction pursuant to the statutory power of sale. Plaintiffs commenced this action to set aside the foreclosure, arguing that the Bank's default and acceleration notice was misleading and potentially deceptive. A federal district court judge granted summary judgment to Chase. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the notice was potentially deceptive and, therefore, void. On petitioner for reconsideration, the First Circuit vacated its decision and certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Court answered the reported question in the negative, holding that the notice was neither inaccurate nor deceptive. View "Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Blake v. Hometown America Communities, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the determination that time of entry into a lot rental agreement does not render the renters dissimilar under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 32L(2), holding that the requirement that renters pay ninety-six dollars per month in additional rent for essentially the same lots was a violation of the statute.Defendants, the new owners of a manufactured home community, charged those who had rented their lots after Defendants purchased the community ninety-six dollars per month more for lot rent than those who had rented their lots before the change in ownership, despite the lots being essentially the same. A group of people brought suit, and a class was certified. A housing court judge determined that Defendants violated section 32L(2). The Supreme Court affirmed but reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration of a different judge's class certification decisions, holding that the judge erred in requiring class members to opt in. The Court further held that the judge who conducted a trial on damages considered improper factors, and therefore, the subclassifications for damages calculations also required reconsideration. View "Blake v. Hometown America Communities, Inc." on Justia Law