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  • Posts by Eric P. Magnuson
    Partner

    Eric P. Magnuson co-chairs Nutter’s Business Litigation practice group. Blending practicality with tenacity and strategic thinking, Eric helps clients solve legal challenges so that his clients can focus on what they do ...

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
Governor Baker’s Emergency Order Closing Adult-Use Marijuana Establishments Survives Constitutional Challenge in BLS

To help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Baker has ordered businesses to suspend physical operations unless he deems them “essential.” Under his emergency orders, Governor Baker considers medical-marijuana treatment centers (MTCs) and liquor stores to be essential, but he considers adult-use marijuana establishments to be non-essential.

Establishment of Nation-Wide Class Rejected in Securities Case

In Jackie 888, Inc. v. Tokai Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Jackie 888 sued Tokai on behalf of itself and a putative class of individuals who had purchased Tokai stock, alleging Tokai made misleading statements in an IPO registration statement and prospectus. Jackie 888 moved for class certification.

Hotel’s Rejection of Confidentiality Agreement Constitutes Rejection of $83 Million Offer to Sell under 'Right of First Offer' Provision

In Headquarters Hotel v. LBV Hotel, Judge Davis ruled that Headquarters rejected LBV’s offer to sell a property interest under a right-of-first-offer provision by refusing to execute a confidentiality agreement included with the offer.

Under an agreement between the parties, LBV has an estate for years in the real estate owned by Headquarters at 154 Berkeley Street, Boston, until 2131 (2131 is not a typo). The agreement includes a right-of-first-offer provision. Under that provision, if either party wants to market its interest to third parties, the selling party must first offer the interest to the other party at the same price and on the same terms the selling party would offer to third parties.

Justice: Justice Davis
Client’s Malpractice Action Against Boston Law Firm Survives Summary Judgment Challenge in Massachusetts State Court

In Caper v. Foley Lardner, LLP, Adam Caper is suing his attorneys, claiming that they committed malpractice, breached their fiduciary duties, made misrepresentations (negligent and intentional), and violated G.L. c. 93A. Caper’s theory is twofold. Caper alleges that his attorneys committed malpractice when they advised him that he could defer salary payments to his business’s chief operating officer. Caper also alleges that his attorneys stopped legal work, focused on refinancing his business, to coerce him to release his malpractice claim.

Justice: Justice Davis
Class Certification Denied in Action Against Auto Max for Alleged Failure to Disclose Structural Damage to Vehicles

In Cabrera v. Auto Max, Carlos Cabrera moved to certify a class of Auto Max vehicle purchasers who did not receive disclosures informing them that their vehicles had suffered structural/frame damage. Auto Max’s alleged failure to provide those disclosures, Cabrera alleged, violated 940 Code Mass. Regs. §§ 3.05(1) and 3.16(2)—and, in turn, G. L. c. 93A.

Judge Kaplan denied the class-certification motion for two main reasons.

Community Health Systems Affiliate Found Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in Massachusetts

In Steward Health Care System v. CHSPSC, Judge Sanders found that CHSPSC, an affiliate of Community Health Systems (CHS), is subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts for claims made under transition-services agreement (TSAs) signed along with an asset-purchase agreement (APA).

Under the APA between Steward Health Care System LLC (Steward) and CHSPSC, Steward agreed to purchase eight hospitals outside Massachusetts. Under the TSAs between the same parties, CHSPSC agreed to provide services to facilitate the transition of the hospitals.

This month, Judge Karen Green is replacing Judge Mitchell Kaplan as the judge for the January - June rotation of BLS1. Governor Charlie Baker appointed Judge Green to the Superior Court in 2016. Before her appointment, Judge Green was a senior partner in Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP’s Boston office where she focused her practice on complex business litigation. During her legal career, she served in various public service positions, including as an Assistant US Attorney. More information about Judge Green can be found here.  

After prevailing at trial, Cedar Hill Retreat Center sought sanctions against the plaintiffs under G.L. c. 231, § 6F. That statute authorizes a judge to award a moving party reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs if the judge finds that “all or substantially all of the claims, defenses, setoffs or counterclaims . . . made by any party who was represented by counsel . . . were wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith.” Judge Salinger denied the motion because he was not convinced that “all or even substantially all of the claims against Cedar Hill were frivolous and not advanced in good faith.”

That is not to say, however, that the court did not find one of the claims “troubling.” Judge Salinger struggled to “discern what good faith basis the [Reed] Foundation had for alleging that Cedar Hill’s challenged activities were in trade or commerce and therefore subject to c. 93A, or that those activities constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices and would have violated c. 93A if the statute applied in the first place.” But even if he assumed that the 93A claim was wholly insubstantial and not asserted in good faith, that was not enough, according to Judge Salinger, to impose § 6F sanctions. Cedar Hill did not show, Judge Salinger wrote, “that all or substantially all of the Reed Foundation’s claims . . . were both frivolous and not asserted in good faith” (emphasis added).

Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, Inc. v. Cedar Hill Retreat Center, Inc., et al. (September 3, 2019)

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