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Condo Owner’s Claims Seeking to Hold Developer Liable Survive Motion to Dismiss

In Hershey v. Mount Vernon Partners, LLC, Judge Green faced dueling motions to dismiss in a dispute arising from the purchase of an “ultra-luxury” condominium in Beacon Hill. Judge Green granted Brett Hershey’s motion, in part, dismissing counterclaims for interference with business relations and violation of the Massachusetts Wiretap Act brought by the defendants, Mount Vernon Partners, LLC, Marcel D. Safar, Chevron Partners, LLC and Chevron Builders, LLC. Judge Green also denied most of the defendants’ motion to dismiss, allowing all but one of Hershey’s claims (a claim against Safar in his individual capacity) to proceed.    

Justice: Justice Green
Comcast Prevails in Dispute over Interpretation of Commercial Lease

Maynard Industrial Properties Associates Trust (MIPA), a commercial landlord, sued Comcast of Massachusetts III, Inc. (Comcast). The dispute focused on the amount Comcast would owe under an extension of the amended lease.

The amended lease had a base rent of $8.75 per square foot and stated that the lease term would expire on May 31, 2019. The amended lease gave Comcast the option to extend the lease. If exercised, the first option would commence on June 1, 2019, and last five years, with a base rent of 100% of the then-prevailing market rate for similar quality buildings in Maynard, Massachusetts, provided that the rate would not be less than the current rent of $8.75 per square foot and not more than 110% of the rent for the preceding lease year.

Justice: Justice Green
lululemon’s Motion to Dismiss Eviction Case Denied

In CWB Retail Limited Partnership v. Lululemon USA, Inc., lululemon moved to dismiss a summary-process action brought by its landlord, CWB Retail Limited Partnership. CWB sought to evict lululemon after CWB sent three notices of default. The notices alleged that lululemon was unlawfully storing goods in a corridor leading to an emergency exit. lululemon moved to dismiss the action on three grounds: (1) the notices of default were ineffective because they were sent to the wrong address; (2) the notices were inadequate because they did not specify what code provision lululemon had violated; and (3) the claimed defaults were not serious enough to warrant forfeiture of the lease. Judge Salinger denied the motion. 

John J. Donovan Loses Again: Court Rules that Award in Derivative Action be Distributed Based on Shareholders’ Investment to Avoid Windfall to Disloyal Fiduciary

In Brining v. Donovan, the latest blow to former MIT business professor, John J. Donovan, Judge Davis held that shareholders in Donovan’s failed internet start-up, SendItLater (SIL), could recover more than $700,000 in attorneys’ fees in addition to a December 2019 award of $1.57 million in damages. Relying on equitable principles, Judge Davis also prohibited Donovan’s company and SIL shareholder, Securenet Holdings, LLC (Securenet), from sharing in the award. Judge Davis also ruled that the award must be distributed to the remaining shareholders based on each shareholder’s investment, rather than per-share basis, so as to render shares obtained by Donovan’s wife, Linda Donovan, under “suspect” conditions effectively worthless.

Justice: Justice Davis
Atomic Café Trademark Litigation Against LeanBox and Cold Brew Does Not Trigger Travelers Indemnity’s Duty to Defend or Indemnify, Judge Green Rules

In The Travelers Indemnity Company v. Lean & Local LLC, Travelers sought a declaration that it did not owe its insureds indemnity or a defense. Judge Green granted Travelers summary judgment. The claims asserted against the insureds in a trademark case, Judge Green ruled, did not trigger coverage under the policies’ “advertising injury” provision.

The trademark case, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, involved claims by Atomic Café against LeanBox and Cold Brew, the insureds under the policies. Atomic Café alleged that the defendants’ use of Atomic Café’s mark on the defendants’ website constituted trademark infringement.

Justice: Justice Green
Judge Salinger Thaws Defendants’ Attempt to 'Chill' Malicious Prosecution Claims under Massachusetts’ Anti-SLAPP Statute

In Crotty v. Continuum Energy Technologies, Judge Salinger granted Thomas Crotty’s special motion to dismiss counterclaims for tortious interference brought by Continuum Energy Technologies (CET) and John Preston under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute.   

This is the latest litigation chapter in "the unravelling of a lengthy business relationship" between CET’s co-founders, John Preston and Christopher Nagel, after Nagel resigned in 2014 to form a competing business, IDL Development, Inc. (IDL). Preston and CET brought claims against Nagel and IDL alleging that Nagel had utilized and exploited CET’s proprietary information without a license. In March 2018, the parties entered into settlement and licensing agreements, under which CET licensed certain intellectual property to IDL. Crotty had participated in these settlement negotiations on behalf of IDL as its lead investor. IDL subsequently defaulted on its payment obligations and declared bankruptcy. 

‘Notice Pleading’ Passes the Smell Test in Noxious Odor Matter

Emphasizing the concept of “notice pleading” under Mass. R. Civ. P. 8, Judge Salinger recently denied a gelatin factory’s motion to dismiss. In Baranofsky v. Rousselot Peabody, Inc., a proposed class of neighboring City of Peabody residents brought nuisance, negligence, and trespass claims against Rousselot Peabody, Inc. based on “overpowering smells of rotting flesh” allegedly emitted by its factory.

Summary Enforcement of Settlement Agreement Not Appropriate Due to Ambiguity

In Flessas v. Rouisse, Judge Davis denied “dueling motions” seeking enforcement of the parties’ settlement agreement. The settlement agreement arose out of a dispute in which Costas Flessas alleged that he was fraudulently induced into purchasing a 15% interest in the Essex Sports Center, LLC, which operates an indoor sports facility. The settlement agreement provided that certain defendants would purchase Flessas’ ownership interest, who would thereafter release his claims.

Justice: Justice Davis

As we previously blogged, Facebook and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AG) are embroiled in a dispute over documents. After Facebook refused to produce certain information created in the course of its “App Developer Investigation,” the AG filed a petition in the BLS to compel Facebook’s compliance with her civil-investigative demand. Facebook opposed the petition, claiming that the sought-after information was work product and protected by the attorney-client privilege. Judge Davis rejected Facebook’s arguments, ordering Facebook to produce documents within 90 days of his order.

After Judge Davis handed down his order, Facebook filed a notice of appeal and moved for a stay pending appeal. The AG opposed the stay. Judge Davis denied the motion.

Judge Davis grounds his denial on two main points.

First, according to Judge Davis, the automatic-stay provision of Mass. R. Civ. P. 62(a) does not apply to the court’s prior order compelling production of documents. That prior order, Judge Davis wrote, “is most appropriately viewed as ‘an interlocutory or final judgment in an action for an injunction,’ which does not qualify for an automatic stay under Rule 62(a).”

Second, Facebook failed to convince Judge Davis that he should exercise his discretion to stay the prior order.

Recognizing that this Judge represents a difficult audience to convince that the [prior order] is erroneous, the Court—viewing the question as objectively as it reasonably can—sees nothing in Facebook’s motion papers which lead it to believe that Facebook’s pending appeal is likely to prevail. The arguments that Facebook intends to pursue on appeal all were considered and rejected by this Court . . . . The Appeals Court may see it otherwise, but this Court remains of the humble opinion that [its prior order] was correctly decided and is likely to be affirmed—rather than overturned—on appeal. For this reason alone, the Court, acting within its discretion, chooses to deny Facebook’s request for a stay of the [prior order].

The Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court

Docket Number: 1984CV02597-BLS1

Case Name: Attorney General v. Facebook, Inc.

Dates of Decision: March 2, 2020

Judge’s full name: Brian A. Davis

Justice: Justice Davis
Facebook Ordered to Turn Over Internal Investigation Documents to Massachusetts Attorney General

Judge Davis of the BLS ordered Facebook to produce documents to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AG). The AG obtained the order while investigating Facebook’s policies and protections related to user data. The AG’s decision to investigate Facebook was prompted, in part, by media reports about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user information, including private data associated with millions of Facebook users residing in Massachusetts.

Justice: Justice Davis

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