Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Kingara v. Secure Home Health Care Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court answered two questions of law concerning the authority of counsel or the courts to protect the interests of putative class members when the named plaintiff has died, no party has been substituted for the named plaintiff and no motion has been made to certify the putative class.Charles Kingara brought this lawsuit alleging both class and individual causes of action arising under the wage act, the minimum fair wage law, and the overtime law. Before Kingara's counsel had filed for class certification Kingara died. Thereafter, Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion to order notice to putative class members informing them of Kingara's death and inviting them to join the action. After the motion was granted, Defendants filed a petition for interlocutory relief, which resulted in the questions of law before this Court. The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances, counsel had no authority to act on behalf of Kingara or the putative class, but the courts may act to protect the interests of the putative class members when those individuals would face significant prejudice without notice. View "Kingara v. Secure Home Health Care Inc." on Justia Law
Calixto v. Coughlin
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s dismissal of employees’ (Employees) putative class action lawsuit brought against the corporate officers (Officers) of a ISIS Parenting, Inc. (Company), holding that the superior court judge properly granted the Officers’ motion to dismiss.After the Company abruptly ceased operations and terminated its entire workforce, the Employees brought a class action lawsuit against the Company in federal court alleging a violation of the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109 (WARN Act). After receiving a nearly $2 million default judgment, the Employees brought a putative class action lawsuit against the Officers in state court under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148 (Wage Act), alleging (1) the WARN Act damages constituted wrongfully withheld “earned wages” for which the Officers were liable; and (2) the Officers committed a breach of fiduciary duties owed to the Company by allowing the Company to violate the WARN Act. The superior court granted the Officers’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Employees’ complaint was properly dismissed because (1) WARN Act damages are not “earned wages” under the Wage Act; and (2) the Employees did not assert a viable claim for breach of fiduciary duties. View "Calixto v. Coughlin" on Justia Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 129 Benefit Fund v. Tucci
In these consolidated cases, shareholders of a publicly traded corporation (Plaintiffs) filed a complaint claiming that a merger transaction proposed by the board of directors would result in the effective sale of the corporation for an inadequate price. The superior court allowed Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, concluding that the board owed no fiduciary duty directly to the shareholders and that the action was necessarily derivative. At issue on appeal was whether Plaintiffs must bring their claims against the members of the corporation’s board of directors as a derivative action on behalf of the corporation or may bring it directly on their own behalf. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the injury claimed by Plaintiffs, and the alleged wrong causing it, fit squarely within the framework of a derivative action; and (2) Plaintiffs’ claim was properly dismissed because they did not bring their claim as a derivative action. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 129 Benefit Fund v. Tucci" on Justia Law
Cantell v. Commissioner of Correction
Plaintiffs in this putative class action were inmates serving criminal sentences in various Massachusetts prison facilities who had, for varying lengths of time, been placed in a special management unit (SMU) in nondisciplinary administrative segregation. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that their placements in the SMUs violated their constitutional rights to due process, as well as regulations of the Department of Correction. Plaintiffs sought to represent a class of similarly situated prisoners confined in SMUs. A judge denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and, relying on the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in LaChance v. Commissioner of Correction, dismissed Plaintiffs’ complaint. The Appeals Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ appeal as moot, as, by then, no named plaintiffs remained in SMUs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) in light of the class action allegations in Plaintiffs’ complaint, the appeal was not moot; and (2) LaChance did not resolve the merits of all of Plaintiffs’ claims. Remanded. View "Cantell v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law
Commonwealth v. Bigelow
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of criminal harassment. The convictions were based on five letters that Defendant wrote and sent to Michael and Susan Costello after a local election in which Michael had been elected as a town selectman. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed Defendant’s conviction of criminal harassment of Michael and vacated Defendant’s conviction of criminal harassment of Susan and remanded for a new trial on that count, holding (1) in light of First Amendment constitutional protections afforded to political speech and the lack of evidence of serious alarm of Michael’s part, the evidence was not sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction of criminal harassment of Michael; and (2) the speech on which the complaint of criminal harassment of Susan is premised might be found to qualify as fitting within a constitutionally unprotected category of speech that may be subject to prosecution as a form of criminal harassment. View "Commonwealth v. Bigelow" on Justia Law
Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co.
Plaintiffs lost electric power during a major winter ice storm in 2008. Plaintiffs sued Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company (FG&E) and sought class certification for themselves and other residential and business customers of FG&E who were injured by FG&E’s allegedly inadequate preparation for and response to the storm. The superior court judge denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of class certification, concluding that the asserted injuries suffered by the class members were too dissimilar. Plaintiffs then filed a renewed motion for class certification premised on an alternate theory of injury. Specifically, Plaintiffs contended that they suffered economic injury by overpaying for a level of emergency preparedness that FG&E deceptively failed to provide. The superior court judge certified two classes of FG&E customers and reported the class certification order. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order certifying the class, holding that, under the circumstances, Plaintiffs’ assertion of overpayment for FG&E’s services did not set forth a cognizable injury under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9(1) and 11 and therefore did not support class certification pursuant to the statute. View "Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co." on Justia Law