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Abrahamson v. Estate of LeBold

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Barnstable

March 17, 2016

Richard Abrahamson
v.
Estate of John LeBold

         Argued January 14, 2016.

          Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on July 3, 2014.

         A motion to dismiss was heard by Cornelius J. Moriarty, II, J.

         Alexander J. Durst, of Ohio ( David V. Lawler with him) for the plaintiff.

         Eric P. Finamore for the defendant.

         Present: Hanlon, Sullivan, & Maldonado, JJ.

          OPINION

          [47 N.E.3d 687] Sullivan, J.

          The plaintiff, Richard Abrahamson, appeals from a judgment dismissing his complaint because it was not filed within one year of the date of death of the decedent, John LeBold, as required by § 3-803( a ) of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC). See G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( a ). Abrahamson contends that his suit was timely filed pursuant to the savings statute, see G. L. c. 260 § 32, and, alternatively, he should have been granted equitable relief from the one-year limitations period in the MUPC. We conclude that G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( a ), governs, and G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( e ), bars, the award of equitable relief in the trial court.

         1. Procedural history.

         The following procedural history is undisputed on appeal. Abrahamson first filed suit against John LeBold in the Court of Common Pleas in Hamilton County, Ohio, in September of 2012. A little over two months later, on December 5, 2012, LeBold died. The Ohio trial court dismissed the suit

Page 224

for lack of personal jurisdiction on January 22, 2013, and Abrahamson appealed. While the appeal was pending, on February 13, 2013, LeBold's counsel filed a " Suggestion of Death" with the trial court. Abrahamson then successfully substituted LeBold's estate as the defendant in the Ohio appeal. On December 6, 2013, a year and a day after LeBold's death, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal on the ground of lack of personal jurisdiction. Abrahamson did not file suit in Massachusetts until July 3, 2014, over a year and a [47 N.E.3d 688] half after LeBold's death. The estate filed a motion to dismiss the Massachusetts action, which was allowed. In a comprehensive and well-reasoned memorandum, the motion judge ruled that Abrahamson's claims were barred as a matter of law because LeBold had died more than a year before the plaintiff filed suit in Massachusetts, thereby exceeding the one-year period of limitations for actions against the personal representative of the decedent set forth in G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( a ).[1] The judge concluded that, although G. L. c. 260, § 32, would otherwise " save" Abrahamson's action,[2] the savings provision is inapplicable to a special statute that contains an inconsistent statute of limitations. See G. L. c. 260, § 19 ( " If a special provision is otherwise made relative to the limitation of any action, any provision of this chapter inconsistent therewith shall not apply" ). Relying on O'Brien v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Authy., 405 Mass. 439, 442, 541 N.E.2d 334 (1989) ( O'Brien ), the motion judge concluded that the one-year limitations period in G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( a ), was a special statute, and that it was inconsistent with the three-,

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six-, and four-year limitations periods under G. L. c. 260 applicable to the tort, contract, and consumer protection claims at issue. The judge further concluded that dismissal was " consistent with the purpose" of G. L. c. 190B, § 3-803( a ), which, he found, " is ...


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