The Land Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court exists, in part, because issues involving title, easements, and the various other rights in property are complex enough that judges with special expertise are preferable.
The Land Court’s limited jurisdiction, however, can sometimes make it difficult to know where you should file a complaint that partially involves complex land issues but also involves other claims over which the Land Court does not have jurisdiction. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 185, section 1, the Land Court is the only Massachusetts court that can rule on confirmation of easements and title over property, boundary disputes, property registration, tax foreclosure issues, and complaints to discharge mortgages. The Land Court also has concurrent jurisdiction with the Probate and Family Court over cases involving petitions for partition and concurrent jurisdiction with the Massachusetts Superior Court over a wide variety of other real estate-related matters, including zoning, subdivision and permit cases, specific performance, and petitions to partition.
The Land Court does not, however, have jurisdiction over cases seeking monetary damages, including claims for Chapter 93A violations, which are commonly used as a means to get punitive damages and attorneys’ fees in cases involving unfair and deceptive business practices. In what court, then, do you file a complaint that involves complex property issues but also seeks monetary damages?
One solution is to request what is referred to as “interdepartmental consolidation” pursuant to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 211B, section 9(x) and the Trial Court Rules Part XII. If granted, such consolidation allows a Land Court judge, for example, to hear claims that are not typically within the Land Court’s subject matter jurisdiction.
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