Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

George v. National Water Main Cleaning Co.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

June 26, 2017

ROBERT GEORGE & others[1]
v.
NATIONAL WATER MAIN CLEANING COMPANY & others.[2]

          Heard: February 14, 2017.

         Certification of a question of law to the Supreme Judicial Court by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

          Adam J. Shafran (Jonathon D. Friedmann also present) for the plaintiffs.

          Richard L. Alfred (Dawn Reddy Solowey & Anne S. Bider also present) for the defendants.

          John Pagliaro & Martin J. Newhouse, for New England Legal Foundation, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

          Annette Gonthier Kiely, Kathy Jo Cook, Thomas R. Murphy, & Timothy J. Wilton, for Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

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

          GANTS, C.J.

         Several employees of National Water Main Cleaning Company filed a class action suit against the company and its parent company, Carylon Corporation, in the Superior Court, alleging, among other claims, nonpayment of wages in violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, G. L. c. 149, §§ 148, 150 (Wage Act). After the case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the judge granted final approval of a class settlement agreement that resolved all outstanding issues except one question of law. To resolve that question, the judge certified to this court the following question pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 1:03, as appearing in 382 Mass. 700 (1981):

"Is statutory interest pursuant to [G. L. c. 231, § 6B or 6C, ] available under Massachusetts law when liquidated (treble) damages are awarded pursuant to [G. L. c. 149, § 150]?"

         In answer to the question, we declare that, under Massachusetts law, statutory prejudgment interest pursuant to G. L. c. 231, § 6H, shall be added by the clerk of court to the amount of lost wages and other benefits awarded as damages pursuant to G. L. c. 149, § 150, but shall not be added to the additional amount of the award arising from the trebling of those damages as liquidated damages.[3]

         Interpretation of the certified question.

         Before we answer the certified question, which the judge issued at the joint request of the parties, we must first ascertain its meaning. The question is an inquiry into the availability of statutory interest pursuant to two statutes: G. L. c. 231, § 6B, which directs the clerk of court to add interest at the rate of twelve per cent per year to awards of judgment "for personal injuries to the plaintiff or for . . . damage to property"; and G. L. c. 231, § 6C, which directs the clerk to add interest at the same twelve per cent rate to awards of judgment "[i]n all actions based on contractual obligations." The parties appear to treat the certified question essentially as two questions: first, whether Wage Act claims fall within the scope of either § 6B or § 6C, and second, if they do, whether prejudgment interest should be added to the award of damages for lost wages and other benefits where § 150, as amended in 2008, provides for the trebling of those damages and characterizes such an award as "liquidated damages." We decline to answer the first of these questions because, even if prejudgment interest could not be added to Wage Act awards under § 6B or § 6C, it plainly could be added under G. L. c. 231, § 6H, which declares that interest at the rate of twelve per cent per year shall be added to the award of damages "[i]n any action in which damages are awarded, but in which interest on said damages is not otherwise provided by law." The question we shall answer, which we consider to be the true gist of the certified question, is whether the Legislature, when it amended § 150 in 2008 to require the award of treble damages on Wage Act judgments and characterized the award as "liquidated damages, " intended that prejudgment interest not be added to any part of this award because such interest was included within the scope of "liquidated damages."[4] See Tyler v. Michaels Stores, Inc., 464 Mass. 492, 499 n.12 (2013) (declining to limit answer to narrow confines of certified question where broader discussion was necessary to articulate law regarding issue presented).

         Discussion.

         The Wage Act was enacted "to protect wage earners from the long-term detention of wages by unscrupulous employers." Melia v. Zenhire, Inc., 462 Mass. 164, 170 (2012), quoting Cumpata v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., Inc., 113 F.Supp.2d 164, 167 (D. Mass. 2000). Employers violate the Wage Act when they fail to pay "each . . . employee the wages earned" and when they ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.