Last month, the Social Law Library sponsored the Business Litigation Session 2021 Year in Review. The panel included Judge Kenneth Salinger, the BLS Administrative Justice, as well as Michael Tuteur and Andrew Yost, attorneys at Foley & Lardner LLP.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) recently ruled that a limitation-of-liability provision provides no protection for defendants who willfully or knowingly engage in unfair or deceptive conduct in violation of G. L. c. 93A, § 11.
In H1 Lincoln Inc. v. South Washington Street, LLC, the SJC invalidated a limitation-of-liability clause in a commercial leasing contract. The SJC held that the provision was “unenforceable as contrary to public policy” because of the lessor’s “fraudulent misrepresentations and intentional schemes to string along and take advantage of” the leasee. When a party’s conduct is sufficiently “callous and intentional” to “merit multiple damages” under G. L. c. 93A, § 11, the SJC reasoned, public policy concerns and the legislative intent of the statute to deter intentionally unfair and deceptive acts require invalidation of contractual limitations on liability.
As reported here last summer, Judge Salinger denied lululemon’s motion to dismiss a summary process action brought by lululemon’s landlord, CWB Retail. Later in the litigation, CWB voluntarily dismissed the action with prejudice. lululemon then brought a motion for attorney’s fees under the parties’ lease.
It was another eventful year at the BLS, which included Judge Green replacing Judge Kaplan in the BLS1. As 2020 concludes, check out our top five widely read posts:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.