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Legal Update
January 11, 2018

First Circuit upholds dismissal of Westport case against Monsanto, agreeing there is insufficient evidence chemical company should have known PCBs in construction caulk might require remediation

The First Circuit federal appellate court has affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit by the Town of Westport against the chemical giant Monsanto and related entities, ruling that the company could not have foreseen, in 1969, that PCBs it sold to manufacturers of caulk could volatilize at levels harmful to humans, in uses such as the construction of a town school in Westport. The decision, in Town of Westport v. Monsanto Company, also is likely to lead to dismissal of a parallel lawsuit against Monsanto by the Town of Princeton, also pending in federal court. A third federal suit against Monsanto, brought by the Town of Lexington, was dismissed in 2015. All three towns were seeking to recover the costs of remediating the PCB-containing caulks in their school buildings. The fate of the three school cases illustrates the multitude of challenges in seeking to hold Monsanto itself liable…

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Press Release
April 24, 2020

Sugarman Rogers and three partners receive 2020 Chambers USA recognition

Sugarman Rogers partners Anthony M. Doniger, Lisa C. Goodheart and C. Dylan Sanders have been recognized by Chambers USA 2020. Doniger received a top “band 1” ranking for his High Net Worth success in the area of family law. Goodheart received a top “band 1” ranking for her work in Environmental Law as well as a “band 2” ranking in the area of General Commercial Litigation. Sanders received a “band 3” ranking in the area of Environmental Law. Chambers USA described Anthony M. Doniger as “a notable litigator who regularly handles sophisticated matrimonial matters, including divorces.” A peer stated that Doniger “is someone we have traditionally referred clients to a lot of the time. He's really well respected in the Boston community." Lisa C. Goodheart “has a first-class environmental practice and frequently counsels clients on high-profile disputes” according to Goodheart’s Chambers USA review. One peer commented that Goodheart is “the…

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Ed Barshak – Honoring a lifelong leader

(This article originally appeared on the Boston Bar Association website. Reprinted here with permission.) The Boston Bar Association will honor Edward Barshak with its Lifetime Achievement Award on September 12 at the 2014 Annual Meeting Luncheon. A leader isn’t always the first one to speak up. A true leader exhibits command of speech so that when they do speak, their words carry weight. As we interviewed Boston’s most respected advocates and citizens for this profile, one phrase resonated among countless sound bites. “When Barshak speaks, everybody listens.” From Fitchburg’s Finest to One of Boston’s Best When he joined Mapplebeck, Alberts & Sugarman in 1957, Fitchburg native Edward J. Barshak had already carved out a reputation as one of Boston’s most promising trial attorneys. As the fifth attorney at what would later become Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, Ed set to work building what would soon become Boston’s top tier civil…

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Press Release
May 9, 2019

Goodheart and Sanders receive 2019 Chambers USA recognition

Sugarman Rogers partners Lisa Goodheart and Dylan Sanders have been recognized by Chambers USA 2019. Lisa received a top “Band 1” ranking for her work in Environmental Law as well as a “Band 2” ranking in the area of General Commercial Litigation. Dylan received a “Band 3” ranking in the area of Environmental Law. “Hailed as an ‘outstanding environmental litigator,’ Lisa Goodheart has an impeccable record serving clients on complex land use and environmental matters. A peer reports: ‘She is a terrific environmental litigator; she is very expert in this area, a strong advocate and just a pleasure to work with,’” reported Chambers USA. In the area of general commercial litigation, Chambers USA stated that “Lisa Goodheart is highly sought after for her prowess in contested real estate, energy and commercial matters. Sources praise her ‘tremendous gravitas’ and say: ‘She always does a great job with her case.’” Additionally, Chambers…

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Press Release
October 29, 2019

Meet the new BBA president: Sugarman Rogers’s managing partner Christine M. Netski

Published by the Boston Bar Association on October 25, 2019 (here). The importance of public service and academic excellence was instilled in Chris Netski at a young age while she was growing up in upstate New York. Both her parents were public educators and the first in their families to go to college. Her late father, a first-generation Polish-American who went to college under the G.I. Bill following service in World War II, understood the importance of equal opportunity and promoted diversity and inclusion throughout his career, including helping to lead the effort to integrate the public schools in their town in the late 1960s. Her parents’ commitment to their community and their positive influence on the lives of so many young people continue to inspire Netski today. “They inspired me to always be alert to how I might contribute to the betterment of our society, and they taught me…

Related Services: Employment Law, Business Disputes

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Legal Update
September 25, 2017

Are state law public nuisance suits over global warming in Massachusetts’ future?

Last week the cities of San Francisco and Oakland followed three other coastal California communities in filing lawsuits against the largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies, seeking to force them to create an “abatement fund” to pay for infrastructure costs—allegedly in the billions of dollars—the cities say they will incur to respond to sea level rise, storm surges and other effects of global warming. The lawsuits, which follow suits recently filed by Imperial Beach and by San Mateo and Marin counties, name as defendants BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell, among others. The suits allege that the companies have long understood that the use of the fossil fuels they extract, refine, market, and deliver would drastically change the earth’s climate. With Massachusetts’ coastal communities also facing billions of dollars in infrastructure, adaptation, and resiliency costs, are similar lawsuits in the Bay State soon to follow? The main legal theory in the California…

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Press Release
August 17, 2020

In Memoriam: Edward J. Barshak
May 21, 1924 – August 12, 2020

  The Boston legal community has lost one of its finest. Edward J. Barshak passed away peacefully on August 12, 2020, at age 96. For more than five decades as one of our founding partners, Ed was an icon of the trial bar and a fearless defender of civil rights. As a young lawyer, he courageously represented lawyers charged with engaging in communist activities during the McCarthy investigations and achieved the groundbreaking SJC ruling in Brown v. Commonwealth, 335 Mass. 476 (1957), recognizing a right to counsel for criminal defendants under the Massachusetts constitution – six years before the US Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright. He later represented Mitchell Goodman in the now-famous federal prosecution against Dr. Benjamin Spock, Goodman, and three other co-defendants for advocating resistance to the Vietnam-War draft, culminating in the 1969 First Circuit decision vacating their convictions. In her book about the Spock trial,…

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Legal Update
September 5, 2014

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issues annual report for 2013

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) recently issued its Annual Report for 2013 providing a useful window into the activities of the agency this past year. The report reflects that, as in past years, the Commission remains woefully understaffed in relation to its workload, resulting in long delays in processing cases. The Commission continues to be overwhelmed with new complaints, receiving more claims than it can resolve each year. In 2013 it received 3,224 new complaints. Consistent with the pattern in prior years, the vast majority (over 80%) of the new complaints concerned employment discrimination, with housing discrimination claims accounting for 11% of the filings. The total number of open cases at the investigative stage rose to almost five thousand (4,959), which translates to an average caseload of over 300 cases per investigator. In 2013 each investigator was assigned approximately 180 new cases yet, on average, they each closed only 108 cases during the year. The…

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Remote Access for Employees

The firm offers a variety of access points for remote access to resources. The preferred methods are either using your firm-issued laptop, or the remote desktop service, as these provide a more complete remote working experience. Individual services are accessible directly as well, and links have been provided below. VPN (for laptop users) Remote Desktop (remote access to virtual desktop) https://remote.srbc.com Outlook Web Access (email) https://outlook.com/sugarmanrogers.com Mimecast Personal Portal (manage messages on hold and backup access to recent mail in the event of a Microsoft outage) https://webmail-us.mimecast.com/ NetDocuments (document management system) https://vault.netvoyage.com/ Rippe LMS+ (time & billing) https://sugarmanrogers.rippe.com/ iTimeKeep (time entry) https://services.bellefieldcloud.com/newdesktop/#/login Rippe LMSV (for admin/billing) https://lms.rippecloud.com/rdweb Nextpoint (litigation support/document review and productions) https://sugarman-rogers-barshak-cohen.nextpoint.com/login LoopUp (conference calls) https://account.loopup.com/

Insight

Legal Update
October 5, 2017

SJC takes broad view of constitutional protection of public parklands

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week significantly expanded state constitutional protection for parks and other open public spaces. In doing so, the court came down on the side of conservationists in a common dispute with public officials over potential use of municipal land for public improvements, including roads and schools, but also including other newer uses of municipal open space, such as for wind turbines and solar arrays. The SJC ruled, in Smith v. City of Westfield, that the defendant city could not, without a super-majority vote of the state legislature, build an elementary school on city land that had long been used as a public park, even though no written restriction was ever recorded designating the land for protection under Article 97 of the Massachusetts constitution, the state’s “Environmental Bill of Rights.” Reversing a decision of the Appeals Court, the SJC held that no such recording in the…

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Legal Update
January 29, 2018

Massachusetts high court clarifies scope and time limit for property owner’s “residual damage” claim under hazardous material cleanup law

When does the three-year statute of limitations begin to run, under the Massachusetts hazardous waste cleanup statute, for a property owner’s claim for property damage that is not resolved by a cleanup? A January 19 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced an important clarification of the answer. Under General Laws Chapter 21E, the clock on such claims does not begin to run when the owner first learns that her property has been contaminated, but only when the owner learns that the damage is permanent and cannot be reasonably remediated, and also knows (or should have discovered) the identity of the party responsible for the contamination. The decision, in Grand Manor Condominium Association v. City of Lowell, revived a condominium’s property-damage claim against the city of Lowell for contamination from a city-operated landfill, for damage caused decades before the condominium’s construction. Chapter 21E Chapter 21E identifies five categories of…

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Legal Update
March 7, 2016

Employment Law Alert: Bulwer v. Mount Auburn Hospital

In a decision published on February 29, 2016, Bulwer v. Mount Auburn Hospital (473 Mass 672), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court clarified the evidentiary burden a plaintiff must meet to overcome a motion for summary judgment in an employment discrimination claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4. The Court held that where a reasonable jury could infer from evidence presented by a plaintiff that an employer's justification for terminating the plaintiff was false, the question of whether the given justification was a pretext for discrimination must be presented to a jury. The plaintiff in Bulwer, a black male from Belize who held a medical degree from a foreign medical school, practiced medicine outside the United States for thirteen years. Plaintiff came to Mr. Auburn Hospital to complete a residency program so that he could practice in the United States. The residency agreement was for a one-year term, renewable…

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Legal Update
February 26, 2013

New FMLA Final Rule: Summary of changes and next steps for employers

On February 6, 2013, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), the U.S. Department of Labor issued its Final Rule (the "2013 Regulations") on the FMLA. The 2013 Regulations become effective March 8, 2013. The 2013 Regulations incorporate -- and in some cases, expand -- the military leave amendments of 2008. Families of eligible veterans now have the same protections as families of active military service members. The definition of "serious injury or illness" now covers pre-existing conditions aggravated by military service. A new leave category, parental leave, has been added to the qualifying exigency leave. The period of leave to be granted for a service member's rest and recuperation has been extended from five to 15 days. In addition, private health care providers, not affiliated with the military healthcare system, are now authorized to issue FMLA certifications for military-related leave. Listed below is a…

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Legal Update
February 15, 2012

Supreme Judicial Court awards $22.6 million in punitive damages for insurer’s settlement delays

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has once again emphasized the high stakes, under the state’s consumer-protection statute, for an insurer who delays in settling a clear-liability case and allows the matter to go to trial. In its February 10, 2012 decision in Rhodes v. AIG Domestic Claims, Inc., the Court awarded $22.6 million in punitive damages—plus attorneys’ fees, on top of the $11.8 million already recovered by the plaintiffs—against an insurance claims service, AIGDC,1 for unfairly and willfully delaying settlement of a clear-liability automobile-accident case. The Court applied language of the Massachusetts consumer-protection statute, Chapter 93A, and made the $22.6 million award despite acknowledging that the figure bore no relationship to any identifiable harm caused by AIGDC’s settlement delay. The case arose from a 2002 accident in which a tractor-trailer rear-ended a car driven by 46-year-old Marcia Rhodes, who had been stopped by a police officer directing traffic around a…

Related Services: Insurance & Reinsurance

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Legal Update
September 5, 2018

SJC extends the protection of the statute of repose to violations of the home improvement contractor law asserted under Chapter 93A

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that claims for unfair and deceptive acts against contractors under the state’s consumer protection act–Chapter 93A–where they are premised on a breach of the home improvement contractor law–Chapter 142A–must be brought within six years of completion of the project. This six year window is absolute, even where a consumer has no reason to suspect any wrongdoing, or where the defects have been intentionally concealed. The rare split decision, Bridgwood v. A.J. Wood Construction, Inc., is a significant win for the construction industry. And it is the first time that the SJC has held that the six year “statute of repose” that limits common law construction defect claims for negligence and breach of the implied warranty of habitability also limits claims under Chapter 93A alleging violations of the home improvement contractor law. The decision, authored by Justice Cypher, was not unanimous. A dissent, by…

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Legal Update
February 13, 2012

Appeals Court: Insurer protected from liability for conduct of its lawyer in subrogation case

A recent decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court has extended the protection afforded to insurers against potential liability based on the conduct of the outside lawyers they hire. In Sandman v. Quincy Mutual Fire Ins. Co.,1 a divided panel of the Court rejected a homeowner’s claim against her insurer after it pursued its own subrogated claims against a third-party tortfeasor while the statute of limitations expired on the homeowner’s personal claims. The homeowner claimed that the lawyer for the insurer misled her about handling her claims against the tortfeasor, and failed to protect her interests. The Appeals Court held that because the homeowner claimed she had an attorney-client relationship with the lawyer, the case was governed by Herbert A. Sullivan, Inc. v. Utica Mutual Ins. Co.,2 which protects an insurer from vicarious liability for malpractice by a lawyer the insurer appoints to represent an insured under a liability policy. Thus,…

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Legal Update
June 29, 2017

Massachusetts utilities seek contracts for offshore wind energy, but for when?

Even as the federal government under the current administration is doubling down on fossil fuels, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved a plan submitted by the state’s utilities to begin soliciting the first round of long-term contracts for offshore wind energy, a process that will start with the issuance of a Request for Proposals on June 29, 2017. The DPU, however, rebuffed calls from some to set a deadline for commercial operation of the offshore wind farms under development sooner than January 1, 2027, which means that actual generation from those facilities – and the anticipated environmental benefits, including helping the state meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act – could be as much as a decade away. Under a law passed by the state legislature in 2016, the utilities must by June 2027 enter into long-term contracts to purchase at…

Related Services: Environmental & Energy Law

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Legal Update
December 19, 2016

Three things you need to know about changes in Massachusetts’s public records law

On January 1, 2017, for the first time in over four decades, the Massachusetts public-records law will undergo a significant overhaul. Chapter 121 of the Acts of 2016 substantially alters the state’s public-records landscape and the requirements for compliance. Here are three major changes to the public-records law that you should know about: 1. Enforcement Starting January 1, 2017, if a records-requester prevails in a lawsuit over a rejected public-records request, the superior court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The new law establishes a presumption in favor of such awards, except in cases where: the Supervisor of Public Records found no violation of the law; an agency or municipality based its denial of the records request on a published Massachusetts appellate opinion; an agency or municipality based its denial on a published opinion of the Attorney General; the request was made to harass or intimidate; or the request was…

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Employee Access

Citrix Remote Access https://remote.srbc.com You will need to download the Citrix client software before accessing the server. Clicking on this link should automatically detect your operating system and download the appropriate client for your computer: http://receiver.citrix.com **after installing on a MAC, click on this link to configure client settings: citrixreceiver://createprofile?pname=SRBC%20Citrix%20Applications&s=https%3A%2F%2Fremote.srbc.com&gw=0 Once you have the client software installed, point your browser to: https://remote.srbc.com If you have not installed the software prior to your first visit, you will be prompted to do so automatically. It is recommended you install the client from one of the above links prior to visiting the remote server. If you have installed the software, you will see a login screen. Simply enter your username and your network password. Once logged in, you may select individual applications to launch, or you may launch a desktop session. After you're done with your work, please make sure you log off…

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Legal Update
June 10, 2016

Supreme Judicial Court: an employee’s “self-help discovery” may be protected

On May 31, 2016, in a case of first impression, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") ruled in Verdrager v. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C., et al. (474 Mass. 382) that an employee who accesses and copies confidential company documents and shares those documents with an attorney as potential evidence in support of a discrimination claim may be deemed to have engaged in "protected activity" under G.L. c. 151B. Case Summary Verdrager, a female attorney, was employed by Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C., as an associate from June 2004 to November 2008. Shortly after Verdrager was hired, she reported to the firm’s management that a male partner had made inappropriate comments to her. Verdrager received mixed performance reviews until she took a parental leave in 2006. Several months after returning from leave, Verdrager received a negative review and was then asked to take a two-year…

Related Services: Employment Law

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Legal Update
August 14, 2018

New Massachusetts non-compete law: Five things every employer should know

Massachusetts’ new non-compete statute represents a substantial shift in the enforceability of restrictive covenants in this state. Employers that utilize these types of agreements will be well-served to closely examine their existing agreements and, in the weeks ahead, make the necessary revisions to ensure their new agreements will comply with all upcoming changes to the law. Moreover, given the many areas of uncertainty in the new statute, employers should consult knowledgeable counsel to identify potential problem areas, minimize exposure, and safeguard company information and goodwill.

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Press Release
May 23, 2014

Chambers USA ranks Sugarman Rogers partners Lisa Goodheart and Jean Musiker

Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business 2014 has recognized Sugarman Rogers partners Lisa Goodheart and Jean Musiker as leaders in their fields. In the 2014 directory, Lisa is described as “absolutely one of the top environmental litigators” and is recognized in the areas of Environmental Law (Band 1) and General Commercial Litigation (Band 3). Jean is named a leader in Labor & Employment (Band 4) and is regarded by her clients as “the ace in the hole.” Chambers USA is an annual publication distributed to general counsel of leading global and national businesses. Chambers researchers conduct in-depth interviews with in-house counsel and law firms, in an effort to systematically rank reliable and capable business lawyers. Full rankings and editorial commentary are available at http://www.chambersandpartners.com/.

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Press Release
June 10, 2014

Summary judgment win for malpractice insurer in $215 million fee case

A Delaware superior court has granted summary judgment for a lawyers' professional liability insurer represented by Sugarman Rogers's William Boesch, in a dispute with an insured law firm over a claim seeking return of some $215 million in fees awarded in a securities class action. The law firm was co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Tyco companies securities class action. The matter was settled in July 2007, and a New Hampshire federal judge approved the settlement, including over $460 million in contingent fees sought by the lead-counsel firms. In 2010, a member of the plaintiff class, Richard Gielata, sued the law firm, charging that the size of its fee violated a 2004 agreement in which the firm had agreed to cap the amount of its fees, and to oppose larger fees if sought by co-lead counsel. Gielata sought to have the firm return some $215 million in allegedly overcharged fees, plus punitive…

Related Services: Insurance & Reinsurance

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Legal Update
September 18, 2017

Harm from climate change is imminent —except when it is not

As the nation absorbs the tremendous scale of the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, a federal judge in Massachusetts this week kept alive a lawsuit charging that ExxonMobil has failed to adequately prepare an oil terminal in Everett Massachusetts to withstand storm surges, heavy rainfall and flooding. These are all effects that scientists warn will worsen and intensify with climate change. The succinct order, in Conservation Law Foundation v. ExxonMobil Corporation, permits CLF to seek a remedy against ExxonMobil for harms in what the court refers to as the “near future,” while barring litigation now over harm that may occur “far in the future.” The decision begs the question: Just what harms from climate change are sufficiently imminent to warrant granting judicial relief to litigants, and which are those that are “far in the future,” such that the courts should find that plaintiffs lack standing to sue? The…

Related Services: Environmental & Energy Law

Event

“1st Look” at the New Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Please join attorney Gwen Nolan King who is the chair of the MCLE New England's program, "'1st Look' at the new Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act", on September 12, 2017. On July 27, 2017, Governor Baker signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”). This “1st Look” program provides a comprehensive overview of the new law to get you up to speed on what you need to know and do before the law goes into effect on April 1, 2018. The faculty explore how the PWFA builds upon and differs from already existing state and federal law barring discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and discuss the effects of the new law from both the employer and employee perspective. This program is a must for in-house counsel, human resources personnel, and both employer-side attorneys and employee-side attorneys. Agenda Reasonable Accommodations under the PWFA The PWFA’s Lactation Protections Prohibited Practices under the PWFA…

September 12, 2017
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

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Legal Update
May 19, 2017

Policyholder was entitled to withhold dog’s history of attacking other dogs, Appeals Court rules

A question on an application for homeowner’s insurance that asked whether any household dogs had a “bite history” was, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held in a May 19 decision, ambiguous as to whether the question encompassed anything more than a history of biting people. Therefore, an applicant who denied that his dog had any history of “biting incidents,” and failed to tell the homeowner’s insurer about two recent incidents in which the dog had attacked (and bitten) other dogs—one of which resulted in police involvement and a $200 veterinary bill, which the applicant had paid on behalf of the victim—was not guilty of misrepresentation, and could look to his homeowner’s policy to cover a third attack resulting in injury to a dog and its owner. In the decision, Schultz v. Tully, the Appeals Court overruled a trial judge’s ruling that the application question about a dog’s “bite history” contained no…

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Legal Update
July 18, 2018

Stare decisis prevails: SJC refuses to adopt “Hawaii Rule” in disputes between neighbors over healthy trees in Massachusetts

The Supreme Judicial Court has refused to give property owners a right of action against neighbors for injuries resulting from healthy trees growing on an adjacent property.  In the decision, Shiel v. Rowell, the SJC re-affirmed the continued validity of the so-called “Massachusetts rule,” and refused the plaintiff’s invitation to adopt what some argue is a more modern standard, known as the “Hawaii rule,” that would give property owners a right to sue over injuries caused by healthy trees growing on a neighbor’s property. Property owners have always been able to unilaterally prune branches overhanging their property from a neighbor’s trees, as well as to remove intruding roots threatening damage to such structures as drain pipes, sewer lines and foundations.  And owners of diseased, unhealthy or dead trees could be held liable for trespass and/or creating a nuisance on their neighbor’s property by such compromised trees.  Massachusetts courts have long…

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