Judge Krupp, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, awarded a defendant more than $240,000 in attorneys’ fees, expenses, and interest under G.L. c. 231, § 6F, the Massachusetts statute authorizing fee shifting for frivolous claims.
216-218 Newbury Street Realty LLC sued Tivoli Audio, Inc., seeking declaratory relief about the definition of “gross sales” in the parties’ lease. The complaint alleged “on information and belief” that Tivoli marketed audio equipment over the internet from the leased premises and had more than $500,000 in gross sales.
Joe Alves filed a class-action complaint against BJ’s Wholesale Club, alleging that BJ’s uses computer code, called Session Replay Code (SRC), to secretly record consumer activity on BJ’s website. Alves claims that BJ’s conduct violates the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute, G.L. c. 272, § 99, and the Massachusetts Right of Privacy Statute, G.L. c. 214, § 1B. BJ’s moved to dismiss. Judge Krupp, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, denied the motion.
BJ’s sells groceries, electronics, furniture, and other products through its website. According to the complaint, BJ’s embeds SRC on its website. SRC operates in the background unbeknownst to the BJ’s website visitors. SRC tracks mouse movements, clicks, scrolls, zooms, and keystrokes. Third-party service providers, in turn, create video replays of the visitors’ behaviors and provide them to BJ’s for analysis. Alves alleges that when he visited BJ’s website to shop for tires, SRC captured his website activity, and that activity was shared with third-party service providers for BJ’s monetary gain.
In Vicarious Surgical Inc. v. Beth Tragakis, Judge Salinger, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, dismissed a robotics company’s Chapter 93A claim for lack of any allegations that the robotics company was harmed by a former employee’s alleged copying and retention of its technical information.
The robotics company, Vicarious Surgical, alleged that its former employee, Beth Tragakis, copied and retained the company’s trade secrets and other proprietary information. Tragakis was employed at Vicarious for over three years, first as Director of Quality Systems and later as Vice President of Quality. Vicarious nowhere alleged in its complaint that Tragakis disclosed or used those materials after she left Vicarious and started her new job.
Where a party prevails on a Chapter 93A claim, the party should submit a fee application that segregates the fees for the work necessary to prevail on the Chapter 93A claim. That’s the key takeaway from Commonwealth Insurance Partners, LLC, et al. v. Patricia Boucher, et al., a case in which the plaintiffs asserted claims for breach of contract, violation of fiduciary duties, and violation of Chapter 93A.
After prevailing on their claims at trial, the plaintiffs filed an application for attorneys’ fees under Chapter 93A. Judge Ricciuti, sitting in the Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court, found that “the result obtained by Plaintiffs’ counsel under Chapter 93A was substantial and the successful result was achieved by experienced, reputable and capable attorneys.” He ruled that the plaintiffs’ lawyers “merit[ed] an appropriate legal fee.”
Judge Ricciuti, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, rejected a shareholder’s claim that she could shed herself of the fiduciary duty she owed to a close corporation by renouncing her shares in the corporation.
In Empire Dealer Services, Inc., et al. v. Guerin, et al., Empire Dealer Services, a close corporation, and John Kane, Empire’s sole director, president, treasurer, and secretary, sued Guerin, a former vice president and a minority shareholder of Empire, and Drive Dealer Performance, Guerin’s new company. The plaintiffs sought an injunction to stop Guerin from pursuing the new venture, claiming that Guerin was violating her fiduciary duties owed to Empire and Kane.
In Archer, et al. v Grubhub, Inc., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that § 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) applies to Grubhub delivery drivers.
The plaintiffs, former delivery drivers for Grubhub, commenced a putative class action against Grubhub in the Massachusetts Superior Court. The drivers alleged that Grubhub violated Massachusetts statutes, including the wage act (G.L. c 149, §§ 148 and 150), the tips act (G.L. c. 149, § 152A), and the minimum-wage act (G.L. c. 151, § 7).
Under its recently issued Standing Order 1-22 (link here), the Massachusetts Superior Court increased the number of hearing types that it will “presumptively” conduct by videoconference. The standing order applies to Massachusetts state trial courts, including the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session.
The Superior Court, according to Chief Justice Heidi Brieger, designated the types of hearings that it will presumptively hold by videoconference or in-person “consistent with constitutional, statutory, and other applicable rights, and in the interest of justice.”
Judge Krupp, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, ruled that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s tort, contract, and unfair and deceptive practices claims against Williams-Sonoma.
In Gattineri v. Williams-Sonoma Stores, the plaintiff, a former Williams-Sonoma sales employee, alleged that she showed her idea of “The Perfect Brownie Pan” to a Williams-Sonoma district manager in 2003. Although the district manager signed a non-disclosure agreement, the agreement did not signify that the manager was signing it in any representative capacity. Williams-Sonoma never developed the pan into a marketable product. In mid-2009, the plaintiff saw a television infomercial for a virtually identical product marketed under the name “The Perfect Brownie Pan.” In early 2018, the plaintiff learned that the district manager had shown the plaintiff’s prototype to an entity affiliated with the informercial back in 2003. The plaintiff sued Williams-Sonoma (as well as other defendants) in November 2021.
Considering Williams-Sonoma’s motion to dismiss, Judge Krupp observed that the Massachusetts “discovery rule” only “tolls the statute of limitations until a plaintiff knows, or reasonably should have known, that it has been harmed or may have been harmed by the defendant’s conduct.” A plaintiff may be put on inquiry notice that a cause of action has accrued, Judge Krupp wrote, “where it is informed of facts that would suggest to a reasonably prudent person in the same position that an injury has been suffered as a result of the defendant’s conduct.”
Judge Krupp ruled that because the “plaintiff saw her pan advertised on television in mid-2009,” she knew then “that someone else had brought her idea to market” and therefore the plaintiff at that time “had actual knowledge that she had been harmed.” According to Judge Krupp, the fact that the plaintiff “did not know the mechanism of injury—i.e., exactly how her idea for the Perfect Brownie Pan got from [the district manager] to [the advertiser]” in mid-2009—did not toll the statute of limitations. In mid-2009, the plaintiff “knew that she had been injured,” explained Judge Krupp.
Judge Krupp also rejected the plaintiff’s contention that the reasonable-person standard requires a court to look to every particular of a plaintiff’s circumstance. “Individual variations in judgment, intellect, or psychological health which are unrelated to the complained of conduct are not considered,” Judge Krupp wrote. “The reasonable person standard,” he explained, “requires the Court to consider whether a reasonable person who had invented ‘The Perfect Brownie Pan’ would have discovered, or should have discovered, that she had been harmed and who had caused that harm when she learned that the pan was being marketed on television.”
You can read the decision here.
In Lubin & Meyer v. John J. Manning, Judge Salinger, sitting in the Business Litigation Session, ruled that Lubin & Meyer’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty against its former associate, John Manning, survived summary judgment.
According to Judge Salinger, Lubin & Meyer claimed that Manning breached his duty of loyalty to the firm by “continu[ing] to work on cases that the firm had rejected, l[ying] to clients about whether the firm was representing them, and l[ying] to the firm about what he was doing.”
Adversaries often challenge each other’s privilege calls in the thick of litigation, and sometimes those challenges are elevated to a court’s in camera review. In Governo Law Firm LLC v. CMBG3 Law LLC, et al., Judge Salinger, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, ruled that the attorney-client privilege protected from production a confidential email from the defendants to their counsel “seeking feedback on a draft press release . . . embedded in the text of the email.”
After reviewing the email in camera, Judge Salinger ruled that “it is evident that this defendant sent this confidential communication to counsel in order to elicit legal advice as to whether issuing a press release in this form could create any legal exposure for the Defendants.” Although the communication “does not contain legal advice,” “that does not matter,” explained Judge Salinger. “Any confidential communication between attorney and client, in either direction, is privileged if it [is] made for the purpose of obtaining or giving legal advice—whether the communication conveys legal advice or not.”