Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the superior court dismissing FBT's claim against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission alleging intentional interference with a contract and granting summary judgment on the remaining regulatory taking claim, holding that summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim was improper.Plaintiff brought this suit against the Commission alleging various claims including tortious interference with contract and a regulatory taking after the Commission refused to allow Plaintiff to receive a "casino-use premium" on the sale of a parcel of land in Everett. The superior court dismissed the tortious interference claim and granted summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim, holding that there were material disputed facts at issue precluding summary judgment. View "FBT Everett Realty, LLC v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments denying Defendant's motion to file an appeal bond late and allowing Plaintiff's motion to dismiss Defendant's appeal from a summary process judgment, holding that the decision to allow Plaintiff's motion to dismiss on the basis that Defendant had not filed the bond was erroneous.Plaintiff and Defendant were the two children of the decedent and each had an interest in property that the decedent owned, where Defendant resided with the decedent at the time of the decedent's death. Plaintiff, the personal representative of the decedent's estate, commenced this summary process action to have Defendant removed. The housing court judge granted Plaintiff judgment for possession and set an appeal bond. Defendant filed a motion to pay the appeal bond late, which the judge denied. The judge then allowed Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the judge was mistaken about his lack of authority allow Defendant's motion to file the appeal bond late, requiring remand for further proceedings. View "McNeff v. Cerretani" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants and denying Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion.The Masonic Temple Association of Quincy, Inc. entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a trust under which the trust would develop the Mason's temple building into two condominium units, with the trust becoming the owner of one unit. The trust later assigned its interest to Jay Patel, the president and sole owner of Dipika, Inc. Later a fire broke out at the site. The Masons brought negligence claims against Patel and Dipika. Dipika brought third-party claims against Union Insurance Company for wrongful denial of coverage and Roblin Insurance Agency for professional negligence. The Masons then amended their complaint to assert claims against Union and Roblin. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Union and Roblin on all counts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Dipika's putative liabilities arising from the fire were not covered by its general liability insurance policy; and (2) Dipika's insurance broker did not commit a breach of its duty of care. View "Masonic Temple Ass'n of Quincy, Inc. v. Patel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the trial judge denying Barbara Howard's motion to dismiss a petition seeking to partition two adjacent parcels of land in Foster that Howard Dunn and Howard owned as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, holding that Howard's motion to dismiss should have been granted.During the partition proceedings, Dunn died. Howard subsequently filed her motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting that Dunn's death vested full title in her as the surviving joint tenant. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the partition proceedings and the acceptance of a buyer's offer to purchase the property did not sever the joint tenancy or terminate Howard's right of survivorship; (2) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 241, 26 does not confer standing on the heirs of a joint tenant to continue a partition action; and (3) where a party lacks standing under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 241, 1, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 241, 25 does not permit the land court to retain jurisdiction over the defective suit. View "Battle v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county count summarily denying Appellant's request to transfer to the Supreme Court a civil action currently pending in the superior court, holding that there was no error.In the pending superior court case, a judge denied Appellant's motion to enjoin an imminent foreclosure and then dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal. Appellant eventually filed a petition with the county court seeking a transfer to the Superior Court, alleging that she could not get a fair hearing in the superior court. The single justice treated the petition as one seeking relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and then denied relief without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that relief was properly denied. View "Sharma v. County Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court in this dispute over a commercial lease, holding that contractual provisions limiting liability for violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 will not be enforced to protect defendants who willfully or knowingly engage in the unfair or deceptive conduct prohibited by the statute.The statute at issue makes unfair or deceptive acts or practices between businesses unlawful. When Defendants attempted to terminate a lease agreement between the parties, Plaintiff alleged a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11. The judge found for Plaintiff on its claim and granted specific performance. After finding that Defendants' violations of the statute were willful or knowing the judge doubled the damages awarded. After reopening the trial, the judge awarded Plaintiff additional damages for willful or knowing violations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' conduct met the standard for unfair or deceptive acts or practices under chapter 93A, 11; (2) the double damages award was warranted; and (3) a limitation of liability provision provides no protection in a chapter 93A, 11 action where the violation of the statute was done willfully or knowingly, as in this case. View "H1 Lincoln, Inc. v. South Washington Street, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing a complaint brought by the Conservation Commission of Norton, holding that the Wetlands Protection Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 131, 40, did not bar this action.The Commission issued an enforcement order to owners of property on which unauthorized fill had been placed by a prior owner, ordering the current owners (Defendants) to remove the fill. The Commission brought this action seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties when Defendants failed to comply with the order. The superior court concluded that that the Act created a statute of repose that prevented the Commission from bringing the enforcement action more than three years following the first transfer of ownership in the property after the alleged violation occurred. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order below, holding that the Act did not bar the action because the Commission commenced this enforcement action against Defendants within three years of the recording of the deed by which they acquired title. View "Conservation Commission of Norton v. Pesa" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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