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.
In McCarthy v. Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, an employee brought a lawsuit against his former employer, alleging that the employer breached the parties’ contract by failing to pay the employee severance benefits. The employer moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the contract requires the parties to arbitrate disputes about its enforcement or interpretation. The employee counterargued that the contract, at the very least, is ambiguous. The arbitration provision, according to the employee, conflicts with the contract’s forum-selection provision. That latter provision states that “each party . . . consents to the jurisdiction of a competent court in Massachusetts to hear any dispute arising out of this Agreement.”
Key Issue: In G4S Technology LLC v. Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation, Judge Sanders faced the question of whether a state agency acting pursuant to a legislative mandate has standing to bring a claim under G.L. c. 93A, § 11.
Key Takeaway: The G4S decision follows a line of Massachusetts decisions holding that public entities acting under legislative mandates are not engaged in “trade or commerce” for purposes of Chapter 93A, even if the public entities are engaged in commercial transactions.
- Senior Editor, Co-Chair, Business Litigation Practice Group