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  • Posts by Matthew P. Ritchie
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    Matthew P. Ritchie is a partner in Nutter’s Litigation Department and focuses his practice on complex civil litigation matters, including commercial disputes and business torts, antitrust law, M&A and shareholder litigation ...

On June 11, the Boston Bar Association hosted its annual “Business Litigation Session Year in Review.” The BLS judges, including incoming Judge Brian Davis (who is taking over for Judge Leibensperger in BLS1), shared tips and other thoughts for attorneys practicing in the BLS to consider.

In July 2018, Judge Brian Davis will replace Judge Edward Leibensperger as the judge for the July-December rotation period of BLS1. Governor Deval Patrick appointed Judge Davis to the Superior Court in 2013. Before his appointment, Judge Davis spent his legal career in private practice where he focused on complex commercial disputes, torts, product-liability defense, fraud and insurance, and corporate governance. More information on Judge Davis’s background can be found here and at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

In Bay Colony, Judge Salinger denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss a contract claim as time barred even though one defendant (AMB) had sent a letter to the plaintiffs more than six years earlier disputing the existence of a binding agreement between the parties.

Key Takeaway: While Massachusetts courts have jurisdiction over internal church disputes involving church property, they must defer to the decision-making process of a hierarchical religious organization when a dispute is intertwined with religious doctrine.

Ruling on an issue of first impression in Massachusetts, Judge Kaplan determined that he had authority under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(f) to strike class allegations from a complaint. Judge Kaplan framed the issue this way: “[T]he practical issue raised by [the defendant’s] motion [to strike] is whether there are sufficient facts pled in the Complaint to permit the class claims to proceed and the plaintiff to take class discovery from [the defendant].” Noting the absence of any Massachusetts cases addressing the issue, Judge Kaplan turned to Federal law and followed the First Circuit’s decision in Manning v. Boston Medical Center Corp., 725 F.3d 34 (1st. Cir. 2013). “In reliance of the federal court decisions interpreting Rules 23 and 12(f),” Judge Kaplan wrote, “this court concludes that . . . a Massachusetts trial court can dismiss class allegations under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(f).”

In Mooney v. Diversified Business Comms., Judge Sanders addressed a number of discovery issues, including the relevance of requested documents, the redaction of non-relevant information in responsive documents, and privilege. The most notable—an issue of first impression in Massachusetts—was whether a former officer suing his old company could discover privileged communications that occurred when he had been employed with the company.

The “mail box rule” found in Mass. Civ. P. 6(d) applies to deadlines triggered by “service of a notice or other papers,” not deadlines triggered by an event other than service. That is the key takeaway from Judge Salinger’s ruling in New England Patriots Fans v. National Football League.

Although this blog focuses on BLS cases, a recent decision from the First Circuit merits attention here. The case highlights a key difference between federal and state practice on Chapter 93A claims, which are as commonly asserted in Massachusetts civil litigation as streets are jammed with traffic in Boston. In Full Spectrum Software, Inc. v. Forte Automation Systems, Inc., the First Circuit ruled that there is a right to a jury trial for Chapter 93A claims pending in federal court, at least in certain circumstances. The Supreme Judicial Court decided years ago in Nei v. Burley, in contrast, that no such right exists in connection with Chapter 93A claims pending in Massachusetts state courts.

The BLS’ new Administrative Directive 17-1, effective March 1, 2017, gives the litigation bar new guidance on venue in the BLS—and practical instruction on how to effect transfers either into or out of that court. While all these procedures were already embedded in the various statutes, rules, and cases, this new administrative directive consolidates this procedure in one place.

In IBEW Local No. 129 Ben. Fund v. Tucci., the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed a decision by Judge Leibensperger of the BLS dismissing a class action brought by EMC shareholders against EMC board members. The plaintiff alleged that the board members violated their fiduciary duties when they approved the sale of EMC to Dell for $64 billion. Affirming Judge Leibensperger’s decision, the SJC held that directors of a Massachusetts corporation generally have a unitary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation, rather than dual duties that run to both the corporation and its shareholders.

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