Maureen A. Maestranzi
Michael J. O'Brien No. 134491
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO VACATE DEFAULT JUDGMENT
D. Wilson, Justice of the Superior Court.
2002 lawsuit, Plaintiff Maestranzi sued her brother,
Defendant O'Brien, accusing him of failure to pay
Plaintiff her one-half share of the rents he received from
real estate that they jointly owned but O'Brien managed.
In 2003, the court entered a default judgment in this case in
the amount of $276, 500 plus interest and costs. Plaintiff
collected nothing from her brother during his lifetime, so,
after his death, she filed a claim with his probate estate
(the " Estate").
there was a substantial competing claimant, however. For the
last several years of his life, O'Brien had been cared
for in a rehabilitation center or nursing home, partly at the
expense of MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program.
MassHealth therefore filed a claim with his probate Estate
for the return of the amounts it had expended on his behalf.
Estate was not large enough to pay both claims. Therefore
O'Brien's personal representative moved to substitute
the Estate for O'Brien as the Defendant in this case, and
MassHealth moved intervene as well. Both the Estate and
MassHealth contend that the default judgment was improperly
entered, and so a motion to vacate the default judgment is
now pending before the court.
held two hearings on this matter. After the first hearing,
and after a careful review of the substantial court file, I
decided four preliminary motions. Specifically, I allowed
Plaintiff's motion to substitute the Estate for
O'Brien as the Defendant; denied two motions to strike
factual materials from the record, one filed by each party;
and ruled that Plaintiff's motion to strike
MassHealth's Rule 36 Request for Admissions was moot.
cleared away that underbrush, and having carefully reviewed
the lengthy briefs and the voluminous factual materials
submitted by the parties, I held the second hearing on July
20, 2016, at which the parties argued the merits of the
motion to vacate the default judgment. For the reasons set
forth below, I will allow Defendant's motion, and will
vacate the default judgment.
following facts are drawn from the factual materials
submitted by the parties, or from the court's docket, or
both. All of these facts are undisputed.
and O'Brien, sister and brother, jointly owned a parcel
of real estate at 44 and 46 Central Street in Manchester (the
" Property"). The Property contained three
apartments and a small house. The Property came with floats
at which boats could be moored. Until October 2002,
O'Brien lived in the house on the Property, and managed
the apartments. The parties did not get along.
October 2002, O'Brien suffered a severe stroke. For the
rest of his life, he lived in a rehabilitation facility or
nursing home or some other medical institution.
December 9, 2002, about two months after O'Brien's
stroke, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against O'Brien. The
complaint consisted of four paragraphs. The first two
paragraphs identified the parties and their residential
addresses; for O'Brien, Plaintiff listed the Property as
his address, even though he was then in a medical facility
(and, as it turned out, would be for the rest of his life).
The third paragraph identified the Property and alleged that
Plaintiff and O'Brien owned it as tenants in commons.
fourth and final paragraph of the complaint concerned
damages. In its entirety, that paragraph said: " The
Defendant owes the Plaintiff the sum of $276, 500 for
contribution of rents the Defendant has received and not
accounted to the Plaintiff as shown on the statement hereto
attached and marked 'B.'"
B to the Complaint was headed " Rents Never Received by
Maureen Maestranzi @ 44 Central Street, Manchester,
Mass." Below this heading was a three-column chart
containing 18 entries. The first 16 entries were calculations
of rental income, beginning with:
7 years @ $1, 000/month
12 months @ $1, 750/month