Boston Business Litigation Blog

Business Litigation Section Holds That Director In Professional Corporation Owes Fiduciary Duty To Fellow Shareholders

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In a fascinating decision, the Business Litigation Section of the Superior Court of Massachusetts recently held that a terminated doctor/shareholder could bring a breach of fiduciary duty action against the controlling director.  

The New York Convention Preempts State Law Regulating The Business of Insurance - Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal In Favor of Arbitration

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In McDonnel Group, LLC v. Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch (5th Cir. 2019)the Fifth Circuit recently held that the New York Convention trumps state insurance law.  When its insurance claim was denied, McDonnel Group, LLC ("McDonnel") sued the insurers seeking a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to coverage.  The insurers moved to dismiss arguing that the policy contained a provision to arbitrate all disputes between the parties.  The policy, however, also contained a conformity to statute provision, meaning that if any term of the policy conflicts with a state statute, then "the terms are amended to conform to such statutes."  Invoking that provision, McDonnel argued that it had no obligation to arbitrate because the arbitration clause was void as it conflicted with a Louisiana statute forbidding arbitration in insurance contracts.  

When The Price Isn't Right: Mortgagees Must Ascertain The Fair Market Value Of A Property Before Conducting A Foreclosure Auction

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The foreclosure process varies across the United States, but the process traditionally occurs in one of two ways:  judicial or  non-judicial foreclosures.  Residential foreclosures in Massachusetts are non-judicial, which means that the foreclosure process happens outside of the courtroom.  Non-judicial foreclosures, also known as power of sale foreclosures, allow the mortgagee to sell the property if the mortgagor defaults on their loan provided the mortgagee complies with the statutory requirements under G.L.c. 244 §§ 11-17B.  In addition to the requirements under the statute, mortgagees owe mortgagors a duty of good faith and reasonable diligence to protect their interest in the property. 

"Merged" Versus "Surviving" Provisions of a Separation Agreement

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The vast majority of divorce cases are resolved not by trial, but by the parties agreeing upon and submitting a Separation Agreement to the Probate and Family Court for approval.  One of the more confusing elements of a Separation Agreement for many clients is the fact that certain provisions of the agreement are deemed to "merge" with the Judgment of Divorce and other provisions are deemed to "survive."  Although these terms may be unfamiliar to non-attorneys, the distinction between the two is not particularly complex.  

Fitch Arguments Prevail as Supreme Court Rules on How Foreign Governments May Be Served with Process

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On March 26, 2019, the Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit in the case of Sudan v. Harrison, which involved how foreign states may be served under the Foreign Sovereigns Immunities Act ("FSIA").  28 USC § 1608 governs service of process on foreign states, and explains that a foreign state may be served (1) "in accordance with any special arrangement," (2) "in accordance with an applicable international convention on service of judicial documents," (3) "by sending a copy of the summons and complaint and a notice of suit ... by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and dispatched by the clerk of the court to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned," or (4) by requesting the State Department to make service on the foreign state.  In Sudan v. Harrison, the plaintiffs mailed service of process to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs care of Sudan's US embassy.  When Sudan did not answer the complaint, a $314 million default judgment entered, which Sudan then challenged asserting that the mailing should have gone to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs at the actual ministry of foreign affairs, where that official works.

Can the Judge Give "Decisive Weight" to a Child's Preference?

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Recently in Jouret v.  Buteau, Docket-18-P-68 (Mass. App. Ct. April 11, 2019) (Memo and Order Pursuant to Rule 1:28), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts vacated those parts of a modification judgment that eliminated Father's parenting time and prohibited his contact with the children, holding that the trial court should not have given the children's preference "decisive weight."

Business Valuation in Divorce Cases

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Business valuation arises in divorce cases where one or both spouses have an ownership interest in a closely held corporation - that is, a corporation which has a limited number of shareholders. This ownership interest is usually considered a marital asset, just like real property or a bank account, and is thus subject to equitable division in a divorce. Valuing a spouse's interest in this type of business can be a complex process due to the fact that there is no market on which a spouse could readily liquidate his or her shares. Accordingly, in many cases, the divorcing parties will retain a business valuator to determine the value of the spouse's ownership interest in the company.

School district fails to establish that full-time work is an essential function of a teacher's position in summary judgment proceeding

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Last month in Incutto v. Newton Public Schools, et al., the United States District Court - District of Massachusetts denied a Newton Public Schools' motion for summary judgment regarding a former kindergarten teacher's claim for disability discrimination, despite the school district's assertion that the teacher's ability to work full-time was an essential function of her job as a full-time teacher. 

Nonjudicial Foreclosures are not Subject to the FDCPA, says the Supreme Court

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Until the Supreme Court's recent decision in Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP, 139 S. Ct. 1029 (2019), if you were an entity engaged solely in the enforcement of security interests on loans, such as through nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the "FDCPA") would have been applied to you in some states but not others.  That is because the United States Courts of Appeals were divided on the issue, with the Ninth and Tenth Circuits finding that the Act did not apply, and the Third, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits finding that it did apply.  The Supreme Court resolved that Circuit split last month when it found that businesses engaged solely in security-interest enforcement do not qualify as "debt collectors" under the FDCPA.  

The Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Act Is A Powerful Tool For Homeowners When A Dream Renovation Turns Into A Nightmare

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Even a smooth and successful home renovation project can be an enormous source of stress for a homeowner.  Often, homeowners feel powerless and overwhelmed when the inevitable hiccups arise in a renovation project due to the high cost and because the work may occur within one's living space.  For these reasons, and in recognition of the inherent imbalance in bargaining position once a renovation project is underway, homeowners should be aware of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 142A, also known as the Home Improvement Contractor Act. 

First Circuit Interprets the Rights of Receivers under 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(2)(A) in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Favor

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In Zucker v. Rodriguez, No. 17-1749 (1st Cir. 2019), the First Circuit interpreted the rights of Receivers under 12 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(2)(A) in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's favor.

United States Supreme Court to Consider Whether Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Subject to the Discovery Rule

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The United States Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case that could resolve a split among the United States Courts of Appeals as to whether the discovery rule applies to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. ("FDCPA").  Rotkiske v. Klemm, et al., No. 18-328 (U.S., certiorari granted Feb. 25, 2019).

Does The Wage Act Apply To Employment In A Foreign Country?

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The answer is: it depends.  A Superior Court recently addressed that issue in Lockley v. Studentcity.com (Suffolk Superior Court, No.201801293-BLS2). Ms. Lockley, a resident of Colorado, brought a putative class action lawsuit alleging violation of the Wage Act against Studentcity.com, Inc. ("Student City"), a foreign corporation doing business in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Federal Court Finds Mediation Privilege Waivable, Applies "Manifest Disregard" Standard In Med-Arb Case

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Last month, one defendant's application to vacate a med-arb award brought about two important developments in ADR case law in Massachusetts.

Business Litigation Session Holds That Memorized Information Derived From Employment Can Violate Confidential Information And Non-Solicitation Clauses

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In a novel recent decision, the Business Litigation Session of the Superior Court of Massachusetts held that a financial consultant who had left his job and then allegedly prepared a list of his old firm's clients entirely from memory on his first day with his new employer had violated the non-solicitation and confidential information provisions in his employment agreement with the former employer.  

Giving clarity - and teeth - to a surviving spouse's elective share of the decedent's estate.

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Described by the Supreme Judicial Court as "unwieldly and perplexing to apply in most instances," the Massachusetts spousal elective share statute, "is intended to prevent spousal disinheritance, either by inadvertence or design," through allowing "a dissatisfied surviving spouse" to "waive the provisions of a deceased spouse's will and take a statutorily prescribed share of the decedent's estate." Ciani v. MacGrath, 481 Mass. 174, 175, 186 n12 (2019). In Ciani, the SJC attempted both to clarify and fortify the statute, holding in part that it allows a dissatisfied surviving spouse to bring an action to realize the value of his or her share of the decedent's real estate. Where the decedent has left issue (i.e., offspring or lineal descendants), the statute entitles a dissatisfied surviving spouse to elect - in lieu of his or her formal bequest (or lack thereof) - to receive a share of the decedent's estate comprising one-third of the decedent's personal property and one third of the decedent's real property. The SJC focused its analysis on situations in which that share exceeds $25,000 in value, reading the elective share statute to allow a dissatisfied surviving spouse to receive (1) the first $25,000 from the decedent's personal property or, if necessary, from the decedent's real property as well; (2) income from the a trust containing the remaining third of the personal property for life; and (3) an ownership interest the remaining third of the decedent's real estate, for life. 

What Happens if Nothing is Happening in my Divorce Case?

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Although it may be difficult to imagine for someone going through the difficult process of a divorce, on occasion divorce cases can linger for months, if not years, with little to no activity on the docket. The parties may have filed divorce papers, but never got around to following through with the divorce process. Or, the parties may have separated and then settled into new lives, never actually filing divorce papers or finalizing the divorce. The parties may have even reconciled. It is not unusual to have a client who has been separated for five, ten, sometimes fifteen years without having formalized his or her divorce.

Top Five Reasons to Include International Arbitration Provisions in Cross-Border Contracts

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In our modern, globally interconnected world companies from different nations frequently enter into business agreements with one another. While such joint ventures can create exciting opportunities, they can also run into challenges, or sour altogether. Thus, it is important to consider dispute resolution mechanisms at the outset of a contract or joint venture between international partners. International arbitration is the dispute mechanism best suited to resolving cross-border disputes. As the following five reasons show, international arbitration should be selected as the dispute resolution method between international partners for virtually any international contract:

SJC Expands What Constitutes an Adverse Employment Action for Employment Discrimination

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the "SJC") recently held that an employer's failure to approve a lateral transfer request of an employee can qualify as an adverse employment action in the context of employment discrimination.

What Qualifies As An Educational Use Under The Dover Amendment?

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The Superior Court of Massachusetts recently annulled the decision of a local zoning board that had permitted construction of an outdoor aerial adventure park pursuant to what is commonly referred to as the "Dover Amendment" - i.e., G.L. c. 40A, § 3. In Sullivan v. Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Inc., 35 Mass. L. Rptr. 281 (2018) ("Heritage Plantation"), the Court found that the particular outdoor adventure park at issue did not have a primary goal of educational significance and did not involve a nonprofit organization using its land for educational purposes, and, therefore, could not take advantage of the significant zoning exemptions offered by the Dover Amendment. 

Alimony based on "bonus income" is not available when income is determined to be payment for stock options

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In a recent summary decision, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court considered whether or not certain payments that a former husband received in addition to his base salary constituted "bonus income," of which husband would then be obligated to pay his former wife a percentage as alimony.  (See Dunbar v. Dunbar, 2019 WL 993330) (Pursuant to Rule 1:28).  

Handling your First International Arbitration

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It was bound to happen eventually.  Maybe your company just went global or maybe they've been working internationally for years.  But eventually, whether through some mistake in translation in an international contract, some global or local change in circumstances, or just picking a poor foreign partner, a dispute has arisen over some international transaction.

SJC Approves Counsel's Fees In Settlement of Wage Act Claim

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In a recently decided case, the Supreme Judicial Court held that two employees who asserted claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, §§148 and 150, were entitled to recover attorneys' fees from their former employer where the parties had entered into a private settlement agreement. In Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., the SJC held that the employees were entitled to an award of attorneys' fees where their lawsuit acted as a "necessary and important factor" in causing their former employer to "provide a material portion" of the relief they requested in the form of a private settlement.

Bankruptcy Court sets high bar for recovering debt owed by home improvement contractor: A cautionary tale for when home improvement projects go bad

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Too often parties to a construction dispute do not focus on the importance of proving and recovering damages until the later stages of the case.  A recent bankruptcy case, In re Patrick Gannon, shows why an analysis of damages and recoverability should be the highest priority when a home improvement project turns into a nightmare.  

Business Valuation in Divorce Cases

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Business valuation arises in divorce cases where one or both spouses have an ownership interest in a closely held corporation - that is, a corporation which has a limited number of shareholders. This ownership interest is usually considered a marital asset, just like real property or a bank account, and is thus subject to equitable division in a divorce. Valuing a spouse's interest in this type of business can be a complex process due to the fact that there is no market on which a spouse could readily liquidate his or her shares. Accordingly, in many cases, the divorcing parties will retain a business valuator to determine the value of the spouse's ownership interest in the company.

First Circuit Court of Appeals Holds that Foreign Manufacturer Can Be Sued in Massachusetts

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In an important decision for foreign companies, the First Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court ruling and held that a foreign manufacturer of an allegedly defective product was subject to personal jurisdiction and could be sued in Massachusetts.  In Knox v. Metalforming, Inc., 914 F.3d 685 (1st Cir. 2019), plaintiff Stephen Knox badly injured his hand at his place of work, Cape Cod Copper, while operating a machine manufactured by German company Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH and sold to Cape Cod Copper by MetalForming, Inc., Schechtl's Georgia-based exclusive U.S. distributor.  

Texas Supreme Court Holds Customer Liable for Forged Check Loss Where Bank Makes Available Statements of Account

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The Texas Supreme Court has found that where a bank makes available a statement of account, consistent with Section 4-406 of the Uniform Commercial Code ("UCC"), the customer must bear the loss of forged checks, even when the bank did not send physical statements for the account. Compass Bank v. Calleja-Ahedo, 2018 Tex. LEXIS 1314 (Tex. Dec. 21, 2018).

Key Changes in the 2019 Amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure

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Last month the Supreme Judicial Court announced amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure, which will take effect on March 1, 2019. The amendments include substantial modifications and clarifications to the rules of appellate procedure currently in effect. A key modification throughout the amendments is a change to filing deadlines. The deadlines for filing will be in 7-day increments, replacing the 10- or 20-day deadlines which have caused confusion because the deadlines sometimes landed on a weekend or holiday. Throughout the amendments there are general changes, such as using only gender-neutral terms, replacing "trial court" with "lower court", eliminating references to obsolete technology, and making the language of the rules more modern and easily understood. Additionally, the new rules are more handily broken down into parts and subparts, making referencing specific rule provisions easier for litigants and the courts.

I Have A Signed P&S Agreement But The Seller Refuses To Sign The Deed Because She Claims She Does Not Speak And Read English Fluently And Therefore We Have No Valid Agreement. What Can I do?

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You can sue for specific performance of the purchase and sale agreement ("P&S agreement").InOcean City Development, LLC v. Barrros,(Mass. Land Court, January 2, 2018), the Land Court addressed that issue, ordering the Seller to convey her property to the Buyer in accordance with the P&S agreement signed by the parties.

U.S. Court Stays Third Party Funder's Action To Enforce Foreign Arbitral Award Pending Decision In French Court Of Appeals

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The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has temporarily halted an effort to enforce a foreign arbitral awardagainst Uzbekistan where the prevailing party had previously initiated proceedings in France topartially vacatethe same award. The twist in Gretton Ltd. v. Republic of Uzbekistan, 2019 WL 464793 (C.A. No. 18-1755, February 6, 2019) ("Gretton v. Uzbekistan"), is that the prevailing partyinitiated the French proceedings, while the prevailing party'sthird party funder initiated the U.S. proceedings.

"I was laid off --- Will the judge attribute income to me when determining child support?"

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently addressed this issue in Miles v. Beusch, Docket 17-P-1511 (Mass. App. Ct. January 24, 2019) (Memorandum and Order Pursuant to Rule 1:28). In that case, the former Husband appealed the trial court's decision to attribute income to him for the purpose of calculating child support. 

What happens when a divorcing spouse actively misrepresents his or her income in the context of a child support or alimony analysis or tries to hide assets?

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A recent Appeals Court case addressed that issue, affirming the trial court's judgment that found that the husband's misrepresentations about his income were egregious enough that the trial judge's use of discretion to attribute and impute income to the husband was appropriate, and that the assets that he had tried to divert were subject to equitable division.

Fitch Represents International Law Professors at the Supreme Court

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Fitch attorney Jared Hubbard was at the Supreme Court this past November on behalf of a group of international law professors-including George Bermann of Columbia Law School and David Stewart of Georgetown Law School-who appeared as amici curiae (friends of the court) in the case of Sudan v. Harrison, Dkt. 16-1094.

Trustees of Non-Massachusetts Trusts May be Subject to Jurisdiction of Massachusetts Courts for Some Claims Related to the Administration of the Trust

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Under the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code, the Probate Court generally cannot "entertain proceedings" concerning the administration of trusts "registered or having [their] principal place of administration in another state." But does that mean a Massachusetts court cannot hear breach of fiduciary duty and other related claims against a Massachusetts-based trustee where the situs of the trust is another state? The Superior Court considered this question in Curran v. Berkshire Hills Bancorp, No. 1784CV03580-BLS2, 2018 WL 3431892 (Mass. Super. Ct. May 24, 2018), when the beneficiaries of a Vermont trust brought claims of breach of fiduciary duty and violation of Chapter 93A (the Massachusetts consumer protection statute) against the trustee, a Massachusetts bank. Over the bank's objections, the court allowed the suit to proceed, drawing a distinction between actions seeking an order instructing or compelling a trustee to act in a certain way concerning the ongoing management of trust assets, on the one hand, and actions seeking damages under a tort-based theory for the trustee's prior conduct concerning the trust, on the other, as in the present case. Similarly, the court found that, since the beneficiaries brought claims against the trustee itself rather than claims regarding the status or disposition of trust assets (such as for an accounting or other relief concerning ongoing administration of the trust), asserting jurisdiction over those claims in Massachusetts would not raise the potential to disrupt or disrespect any pending Vermont proceedings concerning the administration of the trust.

An Employer Cannot Retaliate Against an Employee for Filing a Lawsuit for a Workplace Injury

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An employee who filed a workers' compensation claim for a workplace injury while she was a temporary worker may file a negligence lawsuit against the company even though the company became her employer after she received workers compensation benefits for the injury from the temp agency's insurer, and the law prevents the employer company from taking retaliatory action against her for doing so. This principle was recently clarified by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, in Bermudez v. Dielectrics.

Condominium Boards and Fiduciary Duty: To Whom Does the Duty Extend?

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Do you know what fiduciary duties your condominium board owes? And to whom the duty is owed?

First, what, exactly, is a fiduciary duty? The nature of fiduciary duties depends on the nature of the relationship between the parties but, at its simplest, it is a duty of loyalty and good faith. It is an obligation to act for the benefit of another. It is a well-established general principle that an organization's board has a fiduciary duty to the organization.

Consistent with this general principle, members (or trustees) of a condominium's board also have certain fiduciary duties. But, you may be asking, to whom is that fiduciary duty owed? The answer is surprisingly clear: In Massachusetts, members of condominium boards owe a fiduciary duty to the condominium association (or trust), not to any individual condominium owner. See, e.g., Cigal v. Leader Dev. Corp., 408 Mass. 212, 219 (1990).

Can I relocate with my child after divorce?

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If you're a parent of a minor child of divorce in Massachusetts, can you relocate to a different state or country with your child (an issue the courts call "removal")?

Assuming no negotiated agreement to relocate with your co-parent (a preferred outcome in resolving these highly contentious disputes), and to help you answer this question in the context of contested litigation, Fitch family law attorneys will walk you through a judge's required functional analysis that is based on current Massachusetts law. It's a complicated process of gathering the facts of your particular case and connecting them to the correct legal standard.

Commission Payments Are "Compensation" Under the Massachusetts Wage Act

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The Massachusetts Wage Act, M. G. L. c. 149, § 148, governs how and when an employee's wages must be paid and provides that an employer who fails to comply with the Wage Act may be subject to treble damages and be ordered to pay the attorneys' fees of the employee who has to turn to the courts to enforce their rights under the Wage Act. Commission payments are considered "wages" and, therefore, are governed by the Wage Act. For a commission to be "wages," the Wage Act provides that the amount of the commission must be "definitely determined" and "due and payable to [the] employee." Commission compensation has been "definitely determined" when the amount of the compensation due is "arithmetically determinable." Commission compensation is "due and payable" to the employee when "dependent contingencies have been met and it is thus owed to the employee." Practically speaking, that means that the employee (or the court considering whether an employer has violated the Wage Act by failing to pay a commission) must be able to calculate how much commission was owed to the employee and that all of the conditions that must be met for the commission to be payable must have been met.

Property Inspections Are Not Debt Collection Under FDCPA

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that inspections of properties encumbered by defaulted mortgages, even where the property inspector left a hang tag requesting the homeowner contact the mortgage servicer, is not debt collection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Schlaf v. Safeguard Property, LLC, No. 17-2811, 899 F.3d 459 (7th Cir. 2018).

Texas Judge Dismisses Suit Against ICDR

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A judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has dismissed a case against the International Centre for Dispute Resolution on the basis of arbitral immunity. The holding in Wartsila North America, Inc., et al v. International Centre for Dispute Resolution, et al., 2018 WL 3870015 (S.D. Tex. 2018), C.A. No. H-18-1531, was based in large part on precedent from the First Circuit.

Does ROTC Participation Create an Emancipating Event?

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In a recent decision by the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, the concept of a child's emancipation was at issue. In Bobblis v. Costa (https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/10/18/17P0557.pdf), the court ruled that enrollment in ROTC does not constitute emancipation pursuant to the parties' separation agreement, as joining an ROTC program is not considered entry into the military for purposes of emancipation.

How does my pension get divided during divorce?

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Part II of this blog post focuses on how pension plans are divided during divorce. You can read Part I on our site.

Pension plans are different than other assets divided during divorce because we are trying to calculate the present value of a future benefit (a benefit that will be received but has not yet been received). The process that goes into dividing a pension during divorce can be complicated. As a result, we have broken down each factor of the process to first show in a segregated way how a pension plan gets divided during divorce. We then show in an integrated way how the pension plan's disparate factors connect to complete the whole of the process of dividing a pension during divorce. The attorneys at Fitch have the deepest respect for the enormity of time, effort and dedication it takes for clients to accumulate a pension and Fitch attorneys do their very best to provide detailed information, knowledge and transparency when it comes to valuing and dividing a pension plan during divorce. The following factors are used to calculate the present value of a pension plan:

Massachusetts Court Finds Bank Not Liable for IOLTA Scam Loss

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The Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court has joined other courts in holding that a bank is not liable to its customer for wiring money to a foreign account at the customer's instruction. The Plaintiff, Sarrouf Law LLP ("Sarrouf"), alleged negligence and breach of the California Uniform Commercial Code, but the Court found that the UCC expressly displaced common law and that the bank's conduct comported with the UCC's requirements. Sarrouf Law LLP v. First Republic Bank, No. SUCV2016-03069-BLS1 (Mass.Super. Aug. 2, 2018).

Seeking Special Findings of Fact Regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) in the Probate and Family Court

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Congress created the classification of "special immigrant juvenile" in the Immigration Act of 1990, providing that a certain percentage of immigrant juveniles would be allowed to petition for lawful U.S. permanent residency (i.e. "Green Card") if they met specific requirements. 8 U.S.C. § 1101 (a) (27) (J). In 2008, Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA"), which amended and clarified SIJS requirements.

Emails and Agreement for Judgment Can Satisfy Statute of Frauds

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Many consumers and corporate executives alike believe that in order to have a contract that a court will honor, a prospective litigant must produce a written contract signed by both parties to the agreement. In fact, oral agreements are often enforceable, but Massachusetts law provides through the colorfully-named "Statute of Frauds" that certain categories of contracts must be in writing to be enforceable. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 259, §1 provides several categories of contracts that can only be enforced by way of a civil action if there is a written agreement "signed by the party [or an agent of the party] to be charged therewith," including agreements for the sale of land and other real estate, and contracts that cannot be performed within one year.

Seeking Special Findings of Fact Regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) in the Probate and Family Court

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Congress created the classification of "special immigrant juvenile" in the Immigration Act of 1990, providing that a certain percentage of immigrant juveniles would be allowed to petition for lawful U.S. permanent residency (i.e. "Green Card") if they met specific requirements. 8 U.S.C. § 1101 (a) (27) (J). In 2008, Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA"), which amended and clarified SIJS requirements.

Neighbors and Trees; Common Disputes and How They Are Treated Under Massachusetts Law

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It has been said that "the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." These words reflect the wisdom that few things are as beautiful and capable of enhancing the appeal of property as much as a mature tree. It is therefore not surprising that an entire body of law exists concerning tree-related disputes between neighbors.

Getting the All Clear: Court Found Law Firm's Reliance on Representation from Bank that Funds had Cleared was Unreasonable

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In Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. v. Citizens Bank of Massachusetts, No. CV 15-13536-GAO, 2018 WL 1567605, at *1 (D. Mass. Mar. 30, 2018), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts awarded summary judgment to Citizens Bank of Massachusetts ("Citizens Bank") on a law firm's claim of negligent misrepresentation, finding that the law firm's reliance was unreasonable pursuant to New York law.

What are the Rule 410 Mandatory Document Disclosures?

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The Rule 410 Mandatory Self Disclosure provisions of the Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rules is one of the most basic, yet misunderstood, requirements of divorce litigants.

Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act Fails to Pass

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Last month, the Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives essentially killed any chance of the passage of the Jim Brooks Community Stabilization Act, Bill H.4142, by "referring the Act to study," a euphemism generally understood in the Massachusetts legislature to mean that a bill will languish and, eventually, fail to pass.

Third Circuit Holds FDCPA Statute of Limitations Runs from Violation, Not Discovery

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has split with the Fourth and Ninth Circuits and held, en banc, that civil lawsuits alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., must be filed within one year of the alleged violations, and that the statute of limitationsis not tolled until the violations are discovered by the plaintiff. Rotkiske v. Klemm, 890 F.3d 422 (3d Cir. 2018).

Supreme Court Holds That Foreign Companies Cannot Be Sued Under Alien Tort Statute

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The Supreme Court of the United States has held in a recent decision that foreign corporations that have committed human rights violations outside of the territory of the United States may not be sued in the United States federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. §1350. In Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, 138 S.Ct. 1386 (2018), the plaintiffs (and the persons on whose behalf the plaintiffs advanced claims) were foreign nationals who were allegedly injured or killed by terrorist attacks in Israel and Palestine. Plaintiffs claimed that Jordan-based Arab Bank, PLC was partly liable for those injuries and deaths because individuals and organizations that supported and funded Hamas and other alleged terrorist organizations had accounts with Arab Bank that were used to pay the families of suicide bombers. Id. at 1394.

What Is the Length of the Marriage When There Is More than One Complaint?

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The Alimony Reform Act specifies statutory limits for the duration of alimony depending on the length of the marriage. The shorter the marriage, the shorter the duration of an alimony obligation. The length of marriage is defined as the "number of months from the date of legal marriage to the date of service of a complaint or petition for divorce or separate support." But what happens in the event that there is more than one complaint for divorce, or complaints for support and modification? What becomes the "end date" of the marriage so that one can determine how long the marriage was and, consequently, how long the alimony obligation will last?

How Does My Pension Get Valued During Divorce?

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A pension is one of the hardest earned assets a spouse can own. Divorce professionals are acutely aware of this and take great care to apply the same kind of focus, hard work and attention to detail to value a pension as the plan owner applied to earning it. This blog will be divided into two parts. The first part will explain the nature of a defined benefit pension plan and detail the information required to properly value a pension. The second part, to be published August 13, 2018, will focus on how pension plans are divided during divorce.

When Determining Alimony, the "Length of the Marriage" May Start Before "I Do"

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The United States Census Bureau shows the median age of individuals at the time of their first marriage is becoming increasingly older for both men and women. Meanwhile, the number of unmarried individuals cohabiting with their significant others is growing. These trends may be due in some part to couples delaying the responsibilities of marriage as they focus on their careers, but here is something all couples should know: for purposes of determining the length of a marriage for an alimony award, the period of premarital cohabitation could be included regardless of whether both parties were contributing financially.

My Home Contractor Is Unresponsive And Abandoned The Project Before Completion: What Damages Can I Recover?

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Dealing with an unresponsive contractor who abandons a project before its completion is unfortunately a situation that many homeowners face. Left with an incomplete bathroom or kitchen, the homeowner has no choice but to promptly find a new contractor to complete the project, usually at a higher price. As discussed below, there are different categories of damages that a homeowner can recover.

Do Former Corporate Officers Hold the Attorney-Client Privilege Jointly with the Corporation?

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Until late 2017, the question of whether a former officer of a Massachusetts corporation has access to attorney-client privileged communications made while that officer was employed at the corporation, had not been directly addressed by Massachusetts courts.

Inadequate Petition For Grandparent Visitation Must Be Dismissed

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In a decision handed down on May 3, 2018, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a Probate and Family Court Judge's ruling and held that the court must dismiss a petition for grandparent visitation "when the petition does not sufficiently allege why visitation is necessary to protect the child from significant harm." See Martinez v. Martinez-Cintron, No. 17-P-1056 (Mass. App. Ct. May 3, 2018).

The Wage Act and Equity Grants: Some Risks That Startup Should Consider

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One of the biggest challenges startups and early stage companies face is attracting and retaining talented employees. When the potential of a company outstrips its ability to pay market value salaries, compensation packages that include grants of stock or options can bridge the gap until the business has sufficient cash flow. There are many advantages to these compensation arrangements, but companies need to be aware of some of the legal pitfalls as well.

Appeals Court Confirms Neighbors' Easement Grants Right To Use of Beach in Hingham Harbor

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In a recent case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed a Land Court decision holding that plaintiffs hold easement rights to access and use a beach in Hingham Harbor close to the parties' homes. Kane v. Martel, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1130, at *1 (2018). Litigation between the neighbors over beach rights had been ongoing for more than a decade when the Appeals Court rendered its decision on March 5, 2018, a fact representative of the often bitter and protracted nature of disputes over beach access between neighbors living on the water in Cape Cod and other Massachusetts vacation destinations.

Passive Debt Buyers are not "Debt Collectors" Under Massachusetts Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

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In an important decision for debt investors, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that passive debt buyers are not "debt collectors" under the Massachusetts Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("MDCPA"). The decision, Dorrian v. LVNV Funding, LLC, can be found here.