Heard: February 7, 2017.
action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county
of Suffolk on January 6, 2016.
case was considered by Spina, J.
W. Morgan for the plaintiff.
Alan Curhan for the defendant.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd,
question before us is whether, pursuant to G. L. c. 218,
§§ 19 and 19A, a District Court judge may grant a
plaintiff's motion to dismiss a compulsory counterclaim
under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (10), as appearing in 450 Mass.
1403 (2008), because the counterclaim is reasonably likely to
result in the recovery of more than $25, 000. We conclude
that the judge may not.
dispute between the parties stems from two promissory notes
executed in 1984 and 1987 to Rockland Trust Company
(Rockland) from the Aunyx Corporation, of which the
defendant, Robert Langone, was a former officer and principal
owner. Alleging that Langone was a guarantor for the notes,
Rockland sued Langone in the District Court in 2003, after
Aunyx defaulted. Langone filed counterclaims asserting
damages of $6, 500. Initially, Rockland prevailed, but, for
reasons not relevant here, the judgment was later vacated in
Langone brought an additional counterclaim, asserting damages
of $110, 000. Citing rule 12 (b) (10), and G. L. c. 218,
§§ 19 and 19A (b), Rockland moved to dismiss the
counterclaim arguing that the District Court could not
proceed with a counterclaim in excess of $25,
The judge denied the motion, concluding that she had
discretion to retain the case. Rockland appealed to a single
justice of the county court under G. L. c. 211, § 3, who
denied its petition without a hearing. Rockland appealed to
the full court.
the issue raised relates to the efficient administration of
justice in the trial courts, we have elected to decide the
case under our power of general superintendence, G. L. c.
211, § 3, second par." Sperounes
v. Farese, 449 Mass. 800, 802 (2007). We
affirm the single justice's denial of Rockland's
the District Court may proceed with a case "only if
there is no reasonable likelihood that recovery by the
plaintiff will exceed $25, 000." G. L. c. 218, §
See G. L. c. 218, § 19A (b). This limitation is, however,
merely procedural, not jurisdictional. Sperounes,
449 Mass. at 806-807. See G. L. c. 218, § 19 (vesting
District Court with "original jurisdiction of civil
actions for money damages, " but providing that actions
"may proceed" only if no reasonable likelihood
plaintiff will recover more than $25, 000). If a defendant
makes a timely objection to a plaintiff's claim that is
reasonably likely to obtain more than $25, 000, the judge
must dismiss the claim without prejudice. Sperounes,
supra. If, ...