United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ANITA M. BARROW, Plaintiff,
HERBERT A. BARROW, JR., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT WILLIS'S MOTION
DENNIS SAYLOR IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action arises out of the partition by sale of a property in
Falmouth, Massachusetts, formerly owned by Emma Barrow, the
mother of plaintiff Anita Barrow. Plaintiff is proceeding
will, Emma Barrow granted a life estate in the Falmouth
property to one of her daughters, Willinda Powell Gray.
Anita, Willinda, and a third sibling named Herbert Barrow
were devised equal shares of the proceeds from the sale of
the property as remaindermen. Willinda occupied the property
after Emma's death, but allegedly allowed the property to
fall into a state of disrepair. Willinda also allegedly
failed to pay the mortgage on the property, and took out a
new loan, secured by the property, on which she subsequently
property was ultimately sold for substantially less than its
fair market value. Anita then filed this action, contending
that her siblings and various other individuals-those
allegedly involved in either the decline in the
property's value or its ultimate sale-discriminated
against her on the basis of race in violation of federal and
state law. This Court has already granted the motions to
dismiss of all other defendants named in this case. Defendant
B. Grant Willis has now moved to dismiss the claims against
him for the failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be
facts are set out fully in this Court's prior Memorandum
and Order on Plaintiff's Motion for Lis Pendens,
Plaintiff's Motion to Strike, and Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss. (See Docket No. 58 at 2-5). As is
relevant here, the facts are as follows.
Barrow is an African-American woman. (Compl. ¶ 33).
Defendant Grant Willis is an attorney in Falmouth,
Massachusetts, who represented Anita's mother, Emma
Barrow, in preparing her will. (Id. at ¶¶
64-65). The will devised Emma's property in Falmouth to
her three children. (Id. at ¶ 33, 35, 48). The
will granted Willinda Powell Gray-the half-sister of Anita
and Herbert Barrow-a life tenancy in the property. The will
further provided that upon Willinda's option or at her
death, the property was to be sold, with the proceeds divided
equally between Willinda, Herbert, and Anita or their issue.
(Id. Ex. 2). She named Michelle Maldonado,
Willinda's daughter, as executor of her estate.
(Id. at ¶ 49).
Emma's death, Willis represented Maldonado, as executor,
in the probate of Emma's estate. (Id. at ¶
5). The complaint alleges that Willis prepared and recorded
in the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds an Executor's
Deed, which was a “void instrument” that included
“discriminatory provisions to the detriment of the
Plaintiff.” (Id. at ¶¶ 52, 66). The
complaint further alleges that Maldonado used the
Executor's Deed to attempt to sell the property to SDSB
Investment Group “to the detriment of Plaintiff, in a
wasted condition for $385, 000.00 without the knowledge or
consent of Plaintiff . . . .” (Id. at
¶¶ 52). The property was ultimately sold to
Falmouth Realty Investments for $385, 261.14. (Id.
at ¶¶ 19, 196).
18, 2016, plaintiff filed the complaint in this action. The
complaint alleges that the twenty named defendants
discriminated against her on the basis of her race in
violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42
U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. (Count 1); 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981, 1982, and 1983 (Count 2); and
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151B (Count 3). The
complaint also asserts a number of state-law tort claims for
breach of fiduciary duty (Count 4); waste (Count 5); and
fraud (Count 6). It also asserts an action to quiet title
November 29, 2106, this Court granted the motions to dismiss
of all other named defendants. On January 13, 2017, the Court
entered a default as to defendant Willis, who, at that time,
had not submitted either an answer or motion to dismiss. On
February 15, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for default
judgment as to Willis. On April 12, the Court issued Willis
an order to show cause why default judgment should not enter
against him. On May 3, counsel entered an appearance on
behalf of Willis and filed a response to the order to show
cause and an opposition to the motion for default judgment.
Willis demonstrated good cause why default judgment should
not enter against him, stating that he has been in ill health
and that the summons was served upon him when he was in the
process (at age 75) of closing down his solo law practice and
reviewing each client file in his office. On May 4, the Court
set aside the earlier default entered against him and denied
plaintiff's motion for default judgment.
25, 2017, defendant Willis filed a motion to dismiss the
claims against him. For the reasons stated below, that motion
will be granted.