Judge Kaplan’s recent ruling in the “Burns Bridge” litigation provides helpful guidance on the interplay between breach of contract and professional negligence claims.
In The Middlesex Corporation, Inc. v. Fay, Spofford, & Thorndike, Inc., plaintiff The Middlesex Corporation, Inc. (Middlesex) alleged that defendant Fay, Spofford, & Thorndike, Inc. (FST) negligently prepared engineering designs and drawings that caused Middlesex to underestimate steel costs by $4 million for the Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project. In its motion for summary judgment, FST argued in part that Middlesex’s breach of contract claim must be dismissed because the “gist” of the claim is for professional negligence, a claim that Middlesex had also alleged.
Earlier this fall, the Social Law Library sponsored a panel discussion entitled Written Motion Practice at the BLS: A Deep Dive on Effective Techniques. The four BLS judges—Judges Davis, Kaplan, Salinger, and Sanders—participated on the panel. Three lawyers also joined the panel: Maureen Mulligan, Peabody & Arnold LLP; David H. Rich, Todd & Weld LLP; and Daniel P. Tighe, Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP. Eric Magnuson served as moderator.
Judge Kaplan stayed a securities litigation filed in the BLS in favor of a securities litigation filed in federal court. The plaintiff in Lowinger v. Solid Biosciences Inc. filed his putative class action in the BLS. A day earlier, the plaintiff in Watkins v. Solid Biosciences Inc. filed his putative class action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Both cases alleged that the defendant, Solid Biosciences Inc. (SBI), had violated the Securities Act of 1933 when shares of SBI stock were sold to SBI investors.
Judge Kaplan recently ruled that the Superior Court does not have jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant under the Massachusetts long-arm statute, G.L. c. 223A, § 3. The case involves two competing businesses that design and market apps for restaurants: SCVGR d/b/a LevelUp and Punchh.
A business plaintiff’s assertion of a Chapter 93A claim could boomerang where the plaintiff moves to dismiss a Chapter 93A counterclaim. That’s a key takeaway from Judge Kaplan’s decision in Microsemi Corp. v. Langlois.
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.
Key Takeaway: In Roche Brothers Supermarkets v. Continental Casualty Company, Judge Kaplan ruled that monies expended by an insured to prevent property damage were not recoverable under a commercial property insurance policy. The policy insured against the risk of loss of, or damage to, property—not the cost of eliminating the risk of loss of, or damage to, property.
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).”
Key Takeaway: Where there were “serious questions” about the independence of a board and the good faith of its decision not to pursue a derivative suit against a former director, Judge Kaplan refused to apply the business-judgment rule (BJR).
As we previously noted, Judge Kaplan invalidated a directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). Directive 17-1 would have required internet vendors outside of Massachusetts to collect and remit sales taxes to the DOR where certain thresholds of product sales into Massachusetts were met. Judge Kaplan ruled that because the directive substantially altered the rights and interests of internet vendors, the directive amounted to an improperly imposed regulation. That was chapter one.
- Senior Editor, Co-Chair, Business Litigation Practice Group