Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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In this action where the trial court allowed Defendant's special motion to dismiss, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was entitled to appellate attorney's fees under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 184, 15(c). Plaintiffs and Defendant executed a written offer to purchase certain property. When discussions related to the purchase and sale agreement were unsuccessful Defendant notified Plaintiffs that it could not make the deal work. Plaintiffs commenced this action alleging breach of contract and other claims. Plaintiffs also applied for a memorandum of lis pendens, which was approved. Defendant filed a motion to dissolve the lis pendens and a special motion to dismiss the action. A judge denied the motion to dissolve the lis pendens but allowed the special motion to dismiss. The Appeals Court affirmed the judgment of dismissal but denied Defendant's request for appellate attorney's fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding that Defendant was entitled to an award of appellate attorney's fees and costs. View "DeCicco v. 180 Grant Street, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court finding that Defendant committed a breach of contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and awarding $10.2 million in damages, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion. The jury awarded Plaintiff in excess of $22 million in damages after Defendant withdrew its support for Plaintiff's research laboratory. The judge conditionally ordered a new trial unless Plaintiff agreed to remit all but $10.2 million of the awarded damages, which represented in part $10 million that Plaintiff testified was necessary to reestablish her laboratory. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial evidence supported the finding that Defendant committed a breach of both the express terms of the contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (2) the cost of reestablishing the laboratory was a permissible element of the damages; and (3) the judge did not abuse her discretion in adding a remittitur of all but $10.2 million of the award of damages. The judges were equally divided as to whether the $10 million should go to Plaintiff outright or subject to a restriction, and therefore, the award of damages stood without any restriction. View "Hlatky v. Steward Health Care System, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the trial judge's order setting aside the jury verdict and reinstated the original judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the contract at issue in this appeal did not require an obligation that Plaintiff register as a securities broker-dealer under Massachusetts and Federal securities laws. Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. A jury found Defendant liable on all claims and awarded treble damages. Thereafter, the judge set aside the jury's verdict in its entirety, concluding that Plaintiff had been required to register as a securities broker-dealer and that its failure to do so rendered its contract with Defendant invalid and unenforceable. The contract required Plaintiff to "source capital and structure financing transactions from agreed-upon investors and/or lenders" for Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the contract, on its face, did not require Plaintiff to "effect" transactions in "securities"; and (2) because Plaintiff's purported obligation to register as a broker-dealer was the sole basis for the judge's decision that Plaintiff could not maintain its breach of contract and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claims, the judge's decision to set aside the jury verdict was erroneous. View "NTV Management, Inc. v. Lightship Global Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant based on the release from liability and covenant not to sue that the decedent signed before his death, holding that the beneficiaries of a wrongful death action have rights that are derivative of, rather than independent from, any claim the decedent could have brought for the injuries causing his death. The decedent, a certified open-water scuba diver, drowned while participating in a promotional diving equipment sponsored by Diving Unlimited International, Inc. (DUI). The decedent signed a release from liability prior to participating in the event. Plaintiff, in her capacity as the decedent's personal representative, sued DUI and Defendant, a DUI agent, for the benefit of the decent's statutory beneficiaries. Plaintiff settled with all defendants other than Defendant. The superior court then granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the waivers the decedent signed were valid and thus precluded any recovery on behalf of the decedent's beneficiaries, who had no rights independent of the decedent's cause of action, which was waived. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the valid waivers signed by the decedent precluded Plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries. View "Doherty v. Diving Unlimited International, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action brought against a nursing home notwithstanding the existence of an arbitration agreement between the decedent and the nursing home the Supreme Judicial Court answered two certified questions by holding that the Legislature intended wrongful death actions to be derivative of the decedent's own cause of action and that, under the circumstances of this case, the arbitration agreement between the decedent and the nursing home controlled the decedent's statutory beneficiaries. After the decedent died in a nursing home, Plaintiff, her daughter, brought this wrongful death action. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified two questions to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) the wrongful death statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, 2, provides rights to statutory beneficiaries derivative of, rather than independent from, what would have been the decedent's action for the injuries causing her death; and (2) the arbitration clause in this case was enforceable. View "GGNSC Administrative Services, LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that Defendant committed a breach of an "anti-raiding" restrictive covenant entered into between between the parties but held that the equitable remedy fashioned by the trial judge, which expanded the restrictive covenant beyond its plain terms, constituted an abuse of discretion. The restrictive covenant in this case prohibited Defendant from soliciting or hiring employees from Plaintiff, his former company, for a defined period of time. Defendant, however, hired employees from his former company in breach of the restrictive covenant. The superior court judge concluded that the restrictive covenant was enforceable and that Defendant had committed a breach of the covenant. The judge issued injunctive relief extending the length of the restrictive covenant for an additional year beyond the date provided for in the contract. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the restrictive covenant was necessary to protect a legitimate business interest; (2) Defendant committed a breach of the anti-raiding provision; but (3) the use of an equitable remedy to extend the restriction beyond the plain terms of the contract was not warranted without a finding that damages would be inadequate. View "Automile Holdings, LLC v. McGovern" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court allowing Insurer's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' action claiming that Insurer failed to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement, holding that consent-to-settle clauses in professional liability policies do not violate Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, 3(9)(f). Insurer issued a professional liability policy to Insured that contained a consent-to-settle clause. Plaintiffs sued Insured for engineering design errors in their house, and Insured refused to consent to settle. Plaintiffs then brought this action under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The motion judge granted summary judgment in favor of Insured, concluding that the consent-to-settle clause in this case limited Insurer's ability to engage in further settlement practices with Plaintiffs once Insured refused to give Insurer consent to settle Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Insurer made good faith efforts to investigate the claim and encourage Insured to settle and where Insurer's shortcomings did not proximately cause harm to Plaintiffs the superior court did not err in allowing Insurer's motion for summary judgment. View "Rawan v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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In this appeal from ongoing litigation involving adjoining property owners the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the motion judge's order denying plaintiff developer's special motion to dismiss defendant abutters' counterclaims, holding that the abutters could not demonstrate that their claims were not strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits). The developer filed a complaint against the abutters alleging abuse of process and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Both parties were then involved in motions filed under the anti-SLAPP act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. Here, the developer appealed from the denial of its special motion to dismiss the abutters' counterclaims alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, abuse of process, and violation of chapter 93A. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for entry of an order allowing the special motion to dismiss, holding (1) none of the abutters' contract-based counterclaims was colorable; and (2) the abutters failed to demonstrate that any of their remaining counterclaims were not retaliatory. View "477 Harrison Avenue, LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the legal relationship between the commercial custodian of three nondiscretionary IRAs and a named beneficiary of those accounts the Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part the decision of the superior court judge allowing UBS Financial Services, Inc.'s (UBS) motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all of Donna Aliberti's claims, holding that the facts alleged stated a claim that UBS's conduct violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9 (chapter 93A). Following the death of the IRAs' original account holder this dispute arose between Aliberti, a named IRA beneficiary, and UBS, as IRA custodian. Aliberti asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of chapter 93A, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The superior court judge allowed UBS's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all claims. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding (1) there was no plausible claim for breach of fiduciary duty because the custodian of a nondiscretionary IRA does not generally owe a fiduciary duty to a named beneficiary of that IRA; and (2) the interactions between the commercial custodian of a nondiscretionary IRA and a named beneficiary of that IRA occur in a business context within the meaning of chapter 93A, and the alleged injurious conduct of UBS plausibly constituted a chapter 93A violation. View "UBS Financial Services, Inc. v. Aliberti" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court allowing Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s action for legal fees, holding that Plaintiff’s claim for fees was time barred by the statute of limitations applicable to contract actions set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2. Plaintiff, an assignee of a law firm, brought this action for legal fees against a former employee of the law firm, as representative of the estate of the decedent, a former law firm client, for the payment of certain legal fees allegedly owed by the decedent to the law firm under a contingent fee agreement. A superior court judge granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s claim for fees was barred by the statue of limitations applicable to contract actions set forth in Conn. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2. View "Halstrom v. Dube" on Justia Law