A few weeks ago, the Social Law Library sponsored its annual review of the BLS. Like most events over the past year, the 2020 Year in Review was conducted virtually with Judge Kenneth Salinger and BLS practitioners logging on to discuss significant decisions as well as practice tips and court procedures during these unusual times. While the way the BLS conducts its business changed in 2020, it is evident that the court’s ability to effectively manage complex business and commercial disputes has not. Below are five key takeaways from the 2020 Year in Review program:
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.
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. Relying on equitable principles, Judge Davis also prohibited Donovan’s company and SIL shareholder, Securenet Holdings, LLC (Securenet), from sharing in the award. Judge Davis also ruled that the award must be distributed to the remaining shareholders based on each shareholder’s investment, rather than per-share basis, so as to render shares obtained by Donovan’s wife, Linda Donovan, under “suspect” conditions effectively worthless.
In Flessas v. Rouisse, Judge Davis denied “dueling motions” seeking enforcement of the parties’ settlement agreement. The settlement agreement arose out of a dispute in which Costas Flessas alleged that he was fraudulently induced into purchasing a 15% interest in the Essex Sports Center, LLC, which operates an indoor sports facility. The settlement agreement provided that certain defendants would purchase Flessas’ ownership interest, who would thereafter release his claims.
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: Brian A. Davis
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.
For the second time, sanctions have been ordered against the plaintiff in Tam v. Federal Management Co., Inc., et al.
In 2016, we blogged about Judge Leibensperger’s sanction to disqualify Siew-Mey Tam as a class representative after finding that she made materially false and misleading statements in her affidavit to the court in support of her motion for class certification. These false statements came to light during post-certification discovery, when Tam’s deposition testimony revealed inconsistencies with her affidavit and cast substantial doubt on her credibility. Judge Leibensperger also decertified the class, in part, because of Tam’s inconsistent representations.
In Galloway v. SimpliSafe, a putative class action of customer support representatives sued their employer, SimpliSafe, Inc., alleging various Massachusetts Wage Act violations, including failure to pay the plaintiffs “Sunday Premium Pay” as required by the “Sunday Pay Statute.” The defendant argued, among other things, that it was not subject to the “Sunday Pay Statute” because it was not a “store or shop.” The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Judge Davis held that internet-based retail employers operating in Massachusetts must comply with the “Sunday Pay Statute.”
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.
In Metal Seal Precision, Ltd. v. Sensata Technologies, Inc., Metal Seal sued Sensata for allegedly breaching the parties’ Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which required Sensata to purchase minimum quantities of metal components from Metal Seal. Responding to the complaint, Sensata denied that it agreed to a minimum-quantities requirement. Sensata also alleged that the minimum-quantities requirement was unenforceable because it was based on Metal Seal’s fraud. According to Sensata, while negotiating the MOU, Metal Seal falsely represented that its insurer required that any contract with Sensata include minimum volumes of components.
Metal Seal moved for summary judgment on Sensata’s G.L. c. 93A and fraud claims. Metal Seal also moved for summary judgment on Sensata’s affirmative defense based on Metal Seal’s alleged “material misrepresentations.”
- Senior Editor, Co-Chair, Business Litigation Practice Group