Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Golchin v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.
Claimant sustained injuries in a car accident. The car was insured under a standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy (auto policy) issued by Liberty Mutual that included optional "medical payments" coverage (MedPay). Claimant was also insured under a separate policy of health insurance issued by Blue Cross Blue Shield (Blue Cross). Liberty Mutual paid personal injury protection benefits to Claimant and Claimant's additional medical expenses. After Liberty Mutual declined to pay Claimant any MedPay benefits because Blue Cross had already submitted the expenses, Claimant commenced this action against Liberty Mutual on behalf of herself and a putative class of similarly situated individuals. On remand, the superior court granted Liberty Mutual's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Claimant was entitled to the MedPay benefits provided by her auto insurance policy, notwithstanding that her medical expenses were covered by and paid under a separate policy of health insurance. Remanded. View "Golchin v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Feeney v. Dell Inc.
In Feeney II, the Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the superior court invalidating a class action waiver in the parties' arbitration agreement, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not foreclose a court from invalidating an arbitration agreement that includes a class action waiver if it effectively denies the plaintiffs a remedy. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently issued an opinion in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant (Amex) holding that a class action waiver in an arbitration agreement is enforceable under the FAA even if a plaintiff proves that the class waiver effectively precludes the plaintiff from vindicating his federal statutory rights. The Massachusetts Supreme Court subsequently concluded that following Amex, the Court's analysis in Feeney II no longer comported with the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the FAA, holding instead that a class waiver may not be invalidated on the grounds that it effectively denies the plaintiffs a remedy. Remanded. View "Feeney v. Dell Inc. " on Justia Law
Mass. Cmty. Coll. Council v. Mass. Bd. of Higher Educ.
A union and college were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) containing a provision that the "granting or failure to grant tenure shall be arbitrable but any award is not binding." A professor at the college, who was a member of the union, was denied tenure and submitted a grievance to arbitration. The arbitrator found that the college violated the terms of the CBA and ordered that the professor be reinstated to his position. A superior court judge confirmed the arbitrator's award. The appeals court reversed, holding that the arbitrator's award was not binding on the college pursuant to the CBA, and therefore, the judge erred in confirming that arbitrator's award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the terms of the CBA, the college and the union did not agree to binding arbitration of a tenure denial determination and therefore did not agree to binding arbitration of the grievance in this case; and (2) because the arbitrator's award was nonbinding, the union was not entitled to have the award judicially confirmed and enforced. View "Mass. Cmty. Coll. Council v. Mass. Bd. of Higher Educ." on Justia Law
Drakopoulos v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n
Plaintiffs refinanced their home through Lender. The monthly payment on the loan was $600 greater than Plaintiffs' total monthly income. After the mortgage was funded, it was sold and assigned to Bank. Servicer serviced the loan. After Plaintiffs defaulted on the loan, Bank foreclosed on the mortgage. Plaintiffs subsequently brought this action asserting violations of the Consumer Protection Act, the Predatory Home Loan Practices Act, and the Borrower's Interest Act, and asserting that the loan was unenforceable because it was unconscionable. A superior court judge granted summary judgment to Defendants, Bank and Servicer, on all claims based on the ground that Defendants, as assignees, had no liability for the acts of Lender. The Supreme Court (1) reversed summary judgment in favor of Bank, holding that Bank was not shielded from liability as a matter of law by virtue of its status as an assignee and that Bank failed to establish the absence of material issues of disputed fact entitling it to judgment on any individual claim; and (2) affirmed summary judgment in favor of Servicer because Servicer was not shown to be an assignee and Plaintiffs offered no alternative basis on which Servicer might be held liable. Remanded. View "Drakopoulos v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n" on Justia Law
Deutsche Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. First Am. Title Ins. Co.
Karla Brown brought a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and others seeking rescission of a note and first mortgage securing that note, alleging that she was the victim of a predatory lending scheme. The mortgage was originated by Deutsche Bank's predecessor in interest in connection with the purchase of Brown's home. Deutsche Bank requested that First American Title Insurance Company defend Deutsche Bank's mortgage interest pursuant to the terms of its title insurance policy. First American refused coverage, claiming the lawsuit did not trigger its duty to defend because Brown was claiming she was misinformed as to the terms of the note rather than challenging that she granted the mortgage. Deutsche Bank subsequently brought this action seeking a judgment declaring First American had a duty to defend it in Brown's lawsuit. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of First American. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the allegations in Brown's complaint did not trigger First American's duty to defend because the complaint's claims were not specifically envisioned by the terms of the title insurance policy. View "Deutsche Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. First Am. Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l, Inc.
Plaintiff, a janitorial cleaning services franchisee, along with franchisees from other states, filed a putative class action in the U.S. district court against Defendant, the Massachusetts corporation that franchised Plaintiff's business, alleging that Defendant misclassified him as an independent contractor and committed various wage law violations. The district court certified several questions of law to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which answered by holding (1) a plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150 by filing a complaint with the attorney general does not deprive a court of jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's claims under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148, 148B, 150, and 151(1) and (1a); (2) a franchisor is vicariously liable for the conduct of its franchisee only where the franchisor controls or has a right to control the specific policy or practice resulting in harm to the franchisee; and (3) a defendant may be liable for employee misclassification where there was no contract for service between the plaintiff and the defendant. View "Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Taylor v. E. Connection Operating, Inc.
Plaintiffs were individuals who lived in New York and worked there as couriers for Defendant, a corporation headquartered in Massachusetts. Plaintiffs brought this action in a Massachusetts court to enforce certain Massachusetts independent contractor, wage, and overtime pay statutes. The superior court dismissed the complaint, concluding (1) the Massachusetts independent contractor statute does not apply to non-Massachusetts residents working outside Massachusetts, and (2) as independent contractors, Plaintiffs failed to state claims under the Massachusetts wage statutes. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings, holding that, insofar as the written contract between the parties contained an enforceable clause requiring both that actions be brought in Massachusetts and requiring that the contract and all rights and obligations of the parties be determined under Massachusetts law, and where application of Massachusetts law is not contrary to a fundamental policy of the jurisdiction where the individuals live and work, it was error to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint. View "Taylor v. E. Connection Operating, Inc." on Justia Law
275 Washington St. Corp. v. Hudson River Int’l, LLC
Landlord and Tenant entered into a twelve-year lease for commercial space. The lease required a separate guaranty agreement to be executed by Guarantor. Tenant stopped making rent payments a couple of years later, and thereafter, Landlord reentered and took possession of the premises, thereby terminating the lease. Landlord subsequently filed suit against Tenant and Guarantor for damages arising from the breach of contract. The superior court granted summary judgment to Landlord as to liability and awarded damages in the amount of $1,092,653, for which Tenant and Guarantor were jointly liable. The appeals court affirmed in part and vacated the judgment assessing damages and remanded. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the part of the judgment finding Tenant liable for breach of the lease and assessing damages for the period before termination of the lease in the amount of $37,276 plus prejudgment interest; and (2) vacated the part of the judgment assessing damages for the period following termination of the lease and awarding attorney's fees. View "275 Washington St. Corp. v. Hudson River Int'l, LLC" on Justia Law
DeWolfe v. Hingham Centre, Ltd.
Plaintiff purchased real property after a real estate broker gave him incorrect information about the zoning classification of the property. Plaintiff was thereafter unable to use the property as he intended. Plaintiff sued the broker and the real estate agency that employed her, alleging misrepresentation and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) a broker has a duty to exercise reasonable care in making representations as to a property's zoning designation, and where the misrepresentations were based on information provided by the seller, as in this case, the question of whether it was reasonable in the circumstances to rely on such information is to be determined by the trier of fact; and (2) an exculpatory clause in the purchase and sale agreement did not preclude the buyer's reliance on prior written representations as to zoning classification. View "DeWolfe v. Hingham Centre, Ltd." on Justia Law
GMAC Mortgage, LLC v. First Am. Title Ins. Co.
This case involved multiple litigations among three parties - Insurer, insured Mortgagee, and Homeowner - arising out of a defect in the title to Homeowner's home. Insurer brought suit in the land court on behalf of Mortgagee seeking to reform the deed to the property or to equitably subrogate Homeowner's interest in the property behind Mortgagee's mortgage. Homeowner initiated suit in the superior court against Mortgagee. Eventually, all claims in both actions became part of a federal court case, which settled. Thereafter, Mortgagee filed a complaint against Insurer in the U.S. district court seeking to recover from Insurer for the costs Mortgagee incurred in defending against Homeowner's claims. The judge determined Insurer had no obligation under its title insurance policy to pay Mortgagee's defense costs but certified two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The Court answered by holding that, under Massachusetts law (1) a title insurer does not have a duty to defend the insured in the entire lawsuit where one claim is within the scope of the title insurance coverage and other claims are not; and (2) a title insurer that initiates litigation similarly does not have a duty to defend the insured against all reasonably foreseeable counterclaims. View "GMAC Mortgage, LLC v. First Am. Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law