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DeGiacomo v. City of Quincy

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

November 15, 2016

JAMES R. DeGIACOMO, trustee, [1]
v.
CITY OF QUINCY & others.[2]

          Heard: September 7, 2016.

         Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on February 19, 2014.

         The case was heard by Spina, J., on motions for summary judgment.

          James R. DeGiacomo (Susan J. Baronoff with him) for the plaintiff.

          James S. Timmins, City Solicitor, for city of Quincy.

          Barry S. Pollack (Phillip Rakhunov with him) for Quincy Historical Society.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          GANTS, C.J.

         In 1971, the city of Quincy (Quincy), as trustee of the Adams Temple and School Fund (Adams Fund), filed a "bill of complaint" in equity asking a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to enter a decree authorizing it to execute a proposed fifty-year lease of the building and parking lot of the Adams Academy that it had negotiated with the Quincy Historical Society (Society). The Attorney General was a defendant in that action, but the Woodward School for Girls, Inc. (Woodward School or School), which was the sole income beneficiary of the Adams Fund, was not. In 1972, the single justice decreed that Quincy was authorized to execute the proposed lease. The successor trustee of the Adams Fund now seeks rescission of that lease, as well as money damages and restitution, claiming that Quincy violated its fiduciary duty of loyalty by executing the lease approved by the single justice.

         The issue presented on appeal is whether the successor trustee of the Adams Fund is precluded by res judicata from obtaining that relief. The successor trustee contends that he should not be precluded because neither he nor the Woodward School was a party to the equity proceeding in 1972, and the School could not reasonably have intervened because it was not given notice of the proposed lease or the filing of the complaint. Quincy and the Society contend that preclusion is appropriate because, where the Adams Fund is a public charitable trust, the only necessary party to the equity proceeding was the Attorney General, who was in privity with the School based on a statutory responsibility under G. L. c. 12, § 8, to "prevent breaches of trust" in the administration of public charities. We conclude that the successor trustee is precluded by res judicata from prevailing on his challenge to the execution of the lease.

         Background.

         The Adams Fund arose from the 1822 deed of trust of former President John Adams, who deeded a portion of his estate to the benefit of Quincy and its residents. The history of the Fund is described in Woodward Sch. for Girls, Inc. v. Quincy, 469 Mass. 151, 154-155 (2014) (Woodward School), so we will recount here only those facts relevant to the disposition of this appeal.

         In 1953, this court decreed in an unpublished order that the net income from the Adams Fund shall be paid "for the conduct, operation, maintenance, management, and advancement" of the Woodward School. The Woodward School remains the sole income beneficiary of the Fund.

         In 2007, the Woodward School filed a complaint and petition for an accounting with a single justice of this court, and the single justice transferred the case to the Norfolk County Division of the Probate and Family Court Department. After the issuance of a report by a special master and a bench trial, the judge in February, 2011, entered findings of fact and an "amended judgment and rationale, " in which he concluded that Quincy had failed as trustee to manage the Adams Fund in a competent and prudent manner, and thus committed a breach of its "primary duty" to maximize the income of the trust. Among other relief, the judge removed Quincy as trustee and appointed the plaintiff as successor trustee.[3] The judge specifically found that Quincy had committed a breach of its "duty of loyalty to the Woodward School" when it petitioned the single justice for approval of a fifty-year lease of the Adams Academy to the Society for "nominal rent." The judge, however, did not order that any action be taken regarding the lease, apart from enjoining Quincy from negotiating any ...


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