Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part the Housing Court judge's grant of summary judgment in favor of HSBC Bank USA, N.A., as trustee of the Fremont Home Loan Trust 2005-E, Mortgage Backed Certificate, Series 2005-E (HSBC), in this summary process action, holding that one of Defendants' counterclaims was not barred.Defendants purchased their home with proceeds from two loans secured by a mortgage on the property. The primary loan was at issue on appeal. After Defendants defaulted on their monthly payments HSBC, the assignee of the home mortgage loan, held a foreclosure sale and sold Defendants' home to the highest bidder. When Defendants refused to vacate the property HSBC initiated the present summary process action. Defendants brought counterclaims under section 15(b)(2) of the Predatory Home Loan Practices Act (PHLPA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183C and under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of HSBC. The appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendants were entitled to assert a counterclaim under PHLPA to limited monetary damages; and (2) Defendants' counterclaim under chapter 93A was barred. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Morris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the housing appeals committee had jurisdiction over the projects at issue in this case and the power to remove or modify conditions that made such projects significantly more uneconomic.Under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40B, 20-23, qualifying developers of low or moderate income housing have access to a comprehensive streamline permitting process and expedited appeal before HAC. The Act further authorizes HAC to strike or modify any conditions on a comprehensive permit application that would make it "uneconomic" to proceed with a project. At issue was whether the HAC has the power to reject conditions where a project has received a funding commitment from a public subsidizing agency and the developer receives a comprehensive permit subject to conditions but the rate of return for the original proposal is found to be uneconomic and HAC determines that the imposed conditions make the project "significantly more uneconomic" and therefore rejects them. The Supreme Judicial Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that HAC is authorized to eliminate conditions that effectively prevent such projects by rendering them significantly more uneconomic. View "Zoning Board of Appeals of Milton v. HD/MW Randolph Avenue, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress and affirmed the dismissal of her other claims, holding that the alleged facts, taken as true, plausibly supported claims for negligent and reckless infliction of emotional distress.At issue in this case was daguerreotypes made in 1850 by the Harvard University professor Louis Agassiz of Renty Taylor and his daughter, Delia, who were enslaved on a South Carolina plantation. Plaintiff, the alleged descendent of the Taylors, brought this action against Harvard, seeking relief for emotional distress and other injuries and restitution of the daguerreotypes to her. The superior court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal in part, holding that the facts alleged plausibly supported a claim of reckless infliction of emotional distress. View "Lanier v. President & Fellows of Harvard College" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the land court judge determining that the decision of Waltham officials not to allow a developer to construct an access road to certain property was improper, holding that there was no error.The developer in this case sought to build a solar energy system in Lexington and an access road to the facility to Waltham. The access road would be on property zoned for residential use, and the system would be on property zoned for commercial use. When Waltham officials indicated informally that the developer could not construct the access road because it would constitute a commercial use in a residential zone the land court the developer brought suit seeking a declaration that Waltham could not prohibit the developer from building the road. The land court judge granted summary judgment for the developer. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 3 prohibited Waltham from banning the solar energy system, including its access road, from all but one to two percent of Waltham's land area. View "Tracer Lane II Realty, LLC v. City of Waltham" on Justia 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