Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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This appeal was the last chapter in a case with a "long and tortuous procedural history." The sheriff of Suffolk County brought this appeal after Plaintiff, a jail officer employed by the sheriff, filed an action to enforce an arbitrator's award of back pay to Plaintiff after a finding that Plaintiff was wrongfully discharged. The sheriff appealed from the superior court ruling that Plaintiff had no duty to mitigate his damages by seeking comparable employment. The union for the jail officers and employees of the county, on behalf of Plaintiff, cross appealed from the judge's decision not to assess statutory postjudgment interest on the arbitrator's award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff had a duty to mitigate his damages, but the sheriff waived this issue by failing to raise it earlier in the proceedings; and (2) the superior court judge did not err in deciding not to assess postjudgment interest on sovereign immunity grounds. View "Sheriff of Suffolk County v. Jail Officers & Employees of Suffolk County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were individuals who entered into contracts with Defendants for the provision of janitorial services to third-party customers. Plaintiffs filed this putative class action, alleging that Defendants violated the Massachusetts Wage Act. Defendants moved to stay the court proceedings pending arbitration according to the terms of the arbitration clause contained in the parties' franchise agreements. The superior court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration clause was unenforceable as set forth in Feeny v. Dell Inc. (Feeney I). After the United States Supreme Court decided AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, Defendants sought appellate review, which the Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court reversed the order invalidating the arbitration in light of its interpretation of Conception and its impact on Feeney I, as set forth in Feeney II, holding (1) Massachusetts public policy in favor of class proceedings in certain contexts may no longer serve, in and of itself, as grounds to invalidate a class waiver in an arbitration agreement; and (2) in this case, Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they lacked a practical means to pursue their claims on an individual basis. View "Machado v. System4 LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs commenced a putative class action against Defendant, alleging violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Dell successfully moved to compel arbitration according to an arbitration agreement signed by the parties. An arbitrator concluded that the parties waived class action relief by signing the agreement. In Feeney I, the Supreme Court invalidated the class waiver provision in the arbitration agreement. In this subsequent appeal, the Supreme Court held that the arbitration agreement was properly invalidated where (1) Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court after Feeney I, precluded the invalidation of class waiver provisions in arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, such as the one at issue here, and therefore, Concepcion undid the principal rationale for the Court's decision in Feeney I; (2) a court is not foreclosed from invalidating an arbitration agreement that includes a class action waiver where a plaintiff can demonstrate he effectively cannot pursue a claim against the defendant in individual arbitration according to the terms of his agreement, thus rendering his or her claim nonremediable; and (3) Plaintiffs demonstrated that they could not pursue their statutory claim under the individual claim arbitration process required by the arbitration agreement. View "Feeney v. Dell Inc." on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff became the subject of a federal indictment, the school department (Defendant) suspended her without pay from her position as a school adjustment counselor. Ultimately, the indictment was dismissed. Plaintiff sought reinstatement to her position, but Defendant terminated her employment. Plaintiff filed a grievance challenging the termination, and an arbitrator ordered that she be reinstated. Plaintiff then filed an action seeking confirmation of the arbitration award and back pay for the period of her suspension an the period between her termination and reinstatement. The superior court affirmed the arbitration award but granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant with respect to Plaintiff's back pay claims. The appeals court affirmed the denial of back pay with respect to the period between Plaintiff's termination and reinstatement but reversed with respect to the period of her suspension. The Supreme Court affirmed. Remanded. View "Serrazina v. Springfield Pub. Schs." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a teacher with professional teacher status, was dismissed by the superintendent of the school district for multiple instances of conduct unbecoming a teacher. On appeal, plaintiff argued that G.L.c. 71, section 42, which compelled arbitration of a wrongful dismissal claim made by a public school teacher with professional teacher status, violated art. 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because it impermissibly delegated to a private individual (an arbitrator) a judicial function and denied meaningful judicial review. The court concluded that this statute's provision authorizing arbitration of a principal or superintendent's dismissal decision did not interfere with core judicial functions and that the scope of judicial review set forth in the statute did provide for meaning judicial review such that there was no art. 30 violation. Plaintiff also contended that, pursuant to G.L.c. 150C, section 11, the arbitration award should be vacated because the arbitrator acted in excess of her authority, engaged in misconduct, and exhibited bias against him. The court concluded that the judge properly concluded that the arbitrator did not exceed her authority or act in manifest disregard for the law. The court also rejected plaintiff's claims that the arbitrator engaged in misconduct and exhibited bias. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Atwater v. Commissioner of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed from a judgment of a single justice of this court denying his petition for relief under G.L.c. 211, 3, alleging, inter alia, violations of the Wage Act, G.L.c. 149, 148 and 150, when plaintiff filed an action in superior court against his former employers and their officers. At issue was whether the justice erred by denying plaintiff's second petition of relief from an order granting defendants' motion to compel arbitration as to some of plaintiff's claims and staying his remaining claims pending arbitration. The court held that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion by denying relief where plaintiff offered several arguments that the justice's order was wrong on the merits and each of his arguments could be addressed in an appeal from a final judgment and where plaintiff had an alternative interlocutory remedy, namely, a petition for relief under G.L.c. 231, 118.