Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs were granted relief an action filed against Marion Haddad and the Holy Annunciation Monastery Church of the Golden Hills. Plaintiffs sought to satisfy the judgment, which represented the proceeds from a sale of property. The court ordered Holy Annunciation and Haddad to hold the proceeds of the sale in escrow, but Haddad deposited $40,000 of the proceeds in her retirement account with the State Board of Retirement. When Plaintiffs received no payment for the judgment, they brought this case in part to name the Board as trustee for the $40,000. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Haddad’s retirement account was exempt from attachment and that the Commonwealth was immune from suit. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Haddad did not have rights in the $40,000 she deposited with the Board, and therefore, those funds were not statutorily prohibited from being subject to attachment; and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiffs from summoning the Board as trustee with respect to those funds. View "Randall v. Haddad" on Justia Law

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Defendants and Plaintiff executed a purchase and sale agreement under which Defendants agreed to sell real property to Plaintiff. Later, Defendants’ attorney (“Attorney”) falsely told Plaintiffs that Defendants had received a higher offer for the property and to calculate its liquidated damages. Later, due to Attorney’s withholding of information before the closing, the parties were unable to close the sale. Plaintiff filed suit for specific performance. The superior court judge concluded that Defendants anticipatorily repudiated the agreement and that Attorney’s attempt to “scuttle the deal” at closing constituted an actual breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. As a result, the court allowed Plaintiff to choose either compensatory damages, as provided by the agreement, or specific performance. Plaintiff elected to receive compensatory damages. Defendants appealed, contending that they did not commit an actual breach, and therefore, monetary damages were not available. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not err finding of an actual breach by Defendants, and therefore, the judge’s decision offering Plaintiff a choice of remedy was proper. View "K.G.M. Custom Homes, Inc. v. Prosky" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this eminent domain action seeking damages from the Commonwealth on account of land takings that the Commonwealth made in connection with the Sagamore Bridge Flyover Project in Bourne that eliminated a traffic rotary north of the bridge. Plaintiff owned parcels of land near the former rotary and operated a gas station on one of the parcels. After a jury trial, Plaintiff was awarded almost $3 million in damages. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) because the flyover project was not laid over a public way that directly abutted Plaintiff’s property, Plaintiff was not entitled to damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 81, 7C as a matter of law; and (2) because Plaintiff retained reasonable and appropriate access to and from the gas station parcel, Plaintiff was not entitled to impairment of access damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 79, 12. View "Sorenti Bros., Inc. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. (NEFF) was a nonprofit corporation organized under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180 and the record owner of a parcel of forest land in the town of Hawley. The Board of Assessors for Hawley denied NEFF’s application for a charitable tax exemption on the parcel. The Appellate Tax Board (Board) also denied the application on the grounds that NEFF did not show that it occupied the land for a charitable purpose within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Third (Clause Third). The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Board’s opinion, holding that the Board erred in concluding that NEFF did not meet its burden to show that it occupied the property within the meaning of Clause Third. View "New England Forestry Found., Inc. v. Bd. of Assessors of Hawley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs refinanced their home in a mortgage loan transaction with Summit Mortgage. The mortgage was later assigned to Defendant, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. Facing foreclosure, Plaintiffs filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs filed an adversary proceeding against SunTrust in the pending bankruptcy case, seeking rescission of the loan transaction and damages. SunTrust filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because Plaintiffs filed their adversary complaint more than four years after the mortgage loan transaction, the defensive rescission-by-way-of-recoupment claim was barred by section 10(f) of the Massachusetts Consumer Credit Cost Disclosure Act (“MCCCDA”). In response, Plaintiffs asserted that the four-year statute of limitations did apply to their action because section 10(i)(3) of the MCCCDA allows for recoupment claims at any time. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts certified a question of law to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which answered by holding that a borrower who grants a mortgage in a consumer credit transaction may not rescind the transaction under the MCCCDA defensively by way of common law recoupment after the expiration of the statute of limitations set forth in section 10(f) of the MCCCDA. View "May v. Suntrust Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiff was the owner of two adjacent unimproved lots in the town of Scituate. The lots were located in a flood plain and watershed protection district (FPWP district). Plaintiff applied for special permits from the Town’s planning board to construct residential dwellings on the lots. The Board denied the applications, concluding that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that her lots were not “subject to flooding” within the meaning of the applicable zoning bylaw. A land court judge affirmed the Board’s decision. The appeals court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the appeals court adopted an incorrect definition of the phrase “subject to flooding,” and the land court judge adopted the correct meaning of the phrase. View "Doherty v. Planning Bd. of Scituate" on Justia Law

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On April 12, 2010, U.S. Bank National Association initiated a summary process action against Defendant, seeking to evict him from property he owned following the property’s sale to the Bank at a foreclosure auction. On May 25, 2012, a judge entered judgment in favor of the Bank for possession. Defendant appealed, arguing that the foreclosure sale was void because the notice of his right to cure a default did not satisfy the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 244, 35A, which gives a mortgagor of residential real property a ninety-day right to cure a payment of default before foreclosure proceedings may be commenced. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 35A is not one of the statutes relating to the foreclosure of mortgages by the exercise of a power of sale, and (2) that being the case, and given the deficiencies in the steps Defendant took to obtain relief, Defendant was precluded from challenging the Bank’s compliance with section 35A in this summary process action. View "U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Schumacher" on Justia Law

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Petitioners owned thirty-six acres of land in Hampden. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Division), a unit of the Department of Environmental Protection, restricted Petitioners’ ability to construct a home on their land by delineating the property as a “priority habitat” for the eastern box turtle, a “species of special concern” under 321 Mass. Code Regs. 10.90. Petitioners challenged the validity of the priority habitat regulations insofar as they allowed the Division to designate priority habitat without affording landowners the procedural protections due under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) to those owning property within significant habitats. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of the Division, concluding that the regulations did not exceed the scope of the Division’s authority as granted by MESA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the priority habitat regulations were a reasonable implementation of the enabling statute. View "Pepin v. Div. of Fisheries & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was Eaton v. Fed. Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, which held that a foreclosure by power of sale is invalid unless a foreclosing party holds the mortgage and also holds either the underlying mortgage note or acts on behalf of the note holder. In the instant case, Plaintiffs defaulted on their mortgage payments, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) sought to foreclose on the property. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against MERS claiming that MERS did not have standing to initiate foreclosure proceedings because it was not the holder of the promissory note or an authorized agent of any note holder. The superior court dismissed the complaint. Before Plaintiffs’ appeal was heard, the Supreme Court decided Eaton. The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claim alleging a lack of authority to foreclose, holding (1) Eaton applies to cases, such as the instant case, that preserved the issue presented in Eaton and that were pending on appeal as of June 22, 2012; and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ complaint should not have been dismissed for failure to state a claim on the grounds that MERS lacked the authority to foreclose. Remanded. View "Galiastro v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc." on Justia Law