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  • Posts by Matthew P. Ritchie
    Partner

    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 ...

Judge Davis’s recent denial of an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss provides helpful guidance on how to distinguish between counterclaims used as solely as a “cudgel” and meritorious claims in breach of contract cases. The ruling also underscores the importance of drafting clear release language in a settlement agreement.

Justice: Justice Davis

It’s been a busy year at the BLS Blog. As we wrap up 2018, take a look at our top five most well-read posts:

  • America’s Test Kitchen Faces Abuse of Process Claim: Judge Salinger denied
    America’s Test Kitchen’s motion to dismiss an abuse-of-process claim asserted by William Thorndike, Jr. According to Thorndike, America’s Test Kitchen brought a baseless lawsuit to hinder Christopher Kimball’s efforts, supported by Thorndike, to compete against America’s Test Kitchen. That assertion, according to Judge Salinger, was sufficient to state an abuse-of-process claim.

In a case concerning allegedly unfair student loan collection practices, Judge Salinger concluded that a Pennsylvania public corporation, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), is a “person” potentially subject to Chapter 93A liability.

In a case concerning alleged violations of the Massachusetts law governing the involuntary towing of motor vehicles, Judge Salinger concluded that the defendant’s “attempt to ‘pick off’ the named plaintiff did not moot [the plaintiff’s] individual claims or the class action.”

In a dispute between a former employee and former employer over violation of a non-compete/non-disclosure agreement and other related claims, Judge Salinger denied the employee’s motion to dismiss under Massachusetts’ anti-SLAPP statute, G.L. c. 231, § 59H, finding that none of the employer’s claims were based solely on the employee’s petitioning activity.

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).”

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