ELNEDIS A. MORONTA
NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE, LLC, & another.
Protection Act, Demand letter.
H. Bagdoian for the plaintiff.
Matthew A. Gens for the defendant.
A. Moronta commenced this action in the Superior Court,
alleging that the defendants, Nationstar Mortgage, LLC
(Nationstar), and Fremont Investment and Loan, among other
things, violated his rights under G. L. c. 93A. Summary
judgment was entered against Moronta on all his claims. On
Moronta's appeal, the Appeals Court concluded that there
was a genuine issue of material fact as to Moronta's c.
93A claim and reversed the grant of summary judgment.
Moronta v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, 88 Mass.App.Ct.
621, 622 (2015) . In doing so, the Appeals Court rejected the
defendants' argument that Moronta's c. 93A claim was
barred due to his failure to serve a demand letter, on the
ground that no demand letter is required under G. L. c. 93A,
§ 9 (3), where "the prospective respondent does not
maintain a place of business . . . within the commonwealth,
" regardless of whether it "keep[s] assets"
here. Moronta, supra at 626 n.ll. We
granted Nationstar's application for further appellate
review, and we subsequently limited the scope of review to
issues concerning the demand letter.
underlying facts of the case are set forth in the Appeals
Court's opinion and need not be repeated here.
Moronta, 88 Mass.App.Ct. at 622-625. Before us is a
purely legal question concerning the correct interpretation
of G. L. c. 93A, § 9 (3). The question is whether, as
Moronta argues, a plaintiff is excused from serving a demand
letter if the defendant lacks either a place of
business cur assets in the Commonwealth, or whether, as
Nationstar argues, a plaintiff must serve a demand letter
unless the defendant has neither a place of business
nor assets in the Commonwealth. Put another way, the
question is this: if the defendant keeps assets in the
Commonwealth, but does not maintain a place of business here,
must the plaintiff serve a demand letter? We conclude, as did
the Appeals Court, that the plaintiff need not do so.
begin with the "general and familiar rule . . . that a
statute must be interpreted according to the intent of the
Legislature ascertained from all its words construed by the
ordinary and approved usage of the language, considered in
connection with the cause of its enactment, the mischief or
imperfection to be remedied and the main object to be
accomplished." Meikle v. Nurse, 474 Mass. 207,
209-210 (2016), quoting Lowery v. Klemm, 446 Mass.
572, 576-577 (2006). In relevant part, § 9 (3) provides,
"The demand requirements of this paragraph shall not
apply ... if the prospective respondent does not maintain a
place of business cur does not keep assets within the
commonwealth ..." (emphasis added). The use of the word
"or" to separate the prongs of a statute indicates
that the prongs are alternatives, that is, that either one
would be sufficient on its own and that it is not necessary
to establish both. See, e.g., Bleich v. Maimonides
Sen., 447 Mass. 38, 46-47 (2006), citing Eastern
Mass. St. Ry. v. Massachusetts Bay Transp.
Auth., 350 Mass. 340, 343 (1966) (where statute used
"or" to specify criteria for religious exemption
from State unemployment taxation, one criterion --that school
was "principally supported" by religious
organizations -- sufficed). If the Legislature had intended
to excuse the plaintiff from the demand requirement only
where both prongs are satisfied, it could have made this
clear by using the word "and."
grammatical structure of this provision further supports our
interpretation. In the dependent clause, "if the
prospective respondent does not maintain a place of business
cur does not keep assets within the commonwealth, " each
of the phrases, "does not maintain a place of
business" and "does not keep assets, " is a
predicate of "the prospective respondent." These
two phrases are elements of a parallel series, indicating
that they are functional matches of each other and that they
serve the same grammatical function in the clause. See The
Chicago Manual of Style § 5.212, at 259 (16th ed. 2010)
. The clause can be rephrased to provide that the demand
requirements do not apply "if the prospective respondent
does not maintain a place of business within the commonwealth
or if the prospective respondent does not keep assets within
the commonwealth." So rephrased, the provision clearly
excuses the plaintiff from serving a demand letter if the
prospective respondent either lacks a place of business in
Massachusetts or does not keep assets in Massachusetts.
interpretation is further supported by the purposes of c. 93A
generally and of the demand letter requirement in particular.
"General Laws c. 93A is a 'broad remedial'
statute, " intended "to deter misconduct" and
"to 'encourage vindicative lawsuits.'"
Auto Flat Car Crushers, Inc. v. Hanover Ins.
Co., 469 Mass. 813, 825 (2014), and cases cited. It
protects consumers from unfair conduct and provides them with
a remedy. The demand letter requirement is intended to
encourage settlement of disputes and to limit damages, not to
place an arbitrary obstacle in the consumer's path.
Moreover, it is difficult for us to imagine that the
Legislature intended, in 1969 when § 9 was added to the
statute to provide a private cause of action, that a consumer
undertake the formidable task of verifying that a respondent
have no assets in Massachusetts before being relieved of
having to send a demand letter. Ordinary consumers simply did
not have such information available at their fingertips in
1969, and the Legislature surely did not predict that it
might become easier to obtain such information years in the
future. In light of these important considerations, we
interpret the statute to enable consumers' access to the
remedies provided by G. L. c. 93A, not to frustrate it.
decision today does not put respondents who are not entitled
to receive a demand letter in an appreciably worse position
than those who are so entitled. When any of the exceptions to
the demand letter requirement applies, the "respondent
may otherwise employ the provisions of this section by making
a written offer of relief and paying the rejected tender into
court as soon as practicable after receiving notice of an
action commenced under this section." G. L. c. 93A,
§ 9 (3). This permits a respondent to limit its damages
even if it is not entitled to receive a demand letter because
it maintains no place of business in Massachusetts.
foregoing reasons and those stated by the Appeals Court, the
judgment of the Superior Court is reversed.
 Signature Group Holdings, Inc.,
successor to Fremont Investment & Loan. After the case
was entered in this court, a stipulation of dismissal was