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Justice: Justice Sanders.

Judge Sanders refused to grant summary judgment for America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) on Christopher Kimball’s defamation claim. According to Kimball, ATK defamed him when it posted information on its website after the litigation began. That information included, among other things, ATK’s complaint against Kimball, a chronology of events, and a section on frequently asked questions.

Judge Sanders certified a class of more than 18,000 Six Flags seasonal employees complaining that the amusement park failed to pay overtime.

The park pays its seasonal employees on an hourly basis, but not overtime. In support of this policy, Six Flags relied on G.L. c. 151, § 1A(20), which excuses amusement parks from paying overtime if they do not operate more than 150 calendar days a year. The plaintiffs countered that in recent years Six Flags recorded attendance at the park on 150 days or more—in addition to days when the park is open for private or special events. Judge Sanders granted the motion for class certification because the plaintiffs’ claim that Six Flags operated more than 150 days of the year was common to all members of the overtime class.

In the litigation between Equifax and Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Judge Sanders rejected certain provisions of Equifax’s proposed protective order for the production of sensitive discovery materials, including documents about Equifax’s network and cybersecurity program. Equifax moved for the protective order in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Equifax, a case arising from the 2017 Equifax data breach that affected roughly 143 million U.S. consumers. Judge Sanders’ ruling on the protective order follows Judge Salinger’s denial of Equifax’s motion to dismiss on April 2, 2018.

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.

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 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.”

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.

Judge Sanders issued an interesting summary-judgment decision in Bassett v. Triton Technologies. She teed up the issue this way:

In Fratea, Judge Sanders held that an employee separation agreement that specifically referenced the waiver of Massachusetts Wage Act claims was enforceable. Judge Sanders applied the legal standard established by the SJC in Crocker v. Townsend Gulf Oil Co., Inc. In Crocker, the SJC held that a termination agreement that includes a general release will be enforceable as to Wage Act claims only if such an agreement is stated in clear and unmistakable terms: “[T]he release must be plainly worded and understandable to the average individual and must specifically refer to the rights and claims under the Wage Act that the employee is waiving.” The general release in Crocker failed because it did not reference the Wage Act.

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.

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