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Gallagher v. Cerebral Palsy of Massachusetts, Inc.

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Norfolk

September 13, 2017

SUSAN GALLAGHER
v.
CEREBRAL PALSY OF MASSACHUSETTS, INC., & others. [1]

          Heard: April 6, 2017.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on December 10, 2015.

         A motion to dismiss was heard by Rosalind Henson Miller, J.

          Paul L. Nevins for the plaintiff.

          Jeffrey S. Beeler for the defendants.

          Green, Blake, & Lemire, JJ.

          LEMIRE, J.

Susan Gallagher, a personal care attendant (PCA) who provided in-home services for an elderly man (consumer[2]), brought an action in Superior Court against Cerebral Palsy of Massachusetts, Inc.; its president, Donald Uvanitte; and its treasurer, David Sprague (collectively, CPM), alleging that CPM was her employer and that it failed to pay her for her overtime hours, including failing to do so at an overtime rate. A judge granted CPM's motion to dismiss on the ground that, pursuant to the MassHealth regulations (regulations) governing Gallagher's work arrangement, she was employed by the consumer, not CPM. Gallagher appeals from the judgment, and we affirm.

         Standard of review.

          Although there were exhibits attached to both CPM's motion to dismiss and Gallagher's opposition, the judge ostensibly declined to treat the motion as one for summary judgment, and she excluded the additional material from consideration. See Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b), 365 Mass. 754 (1974). But in a footnote explicitly listing the excluded exhibits, the judge did not identify as having been excluded one of CPM's submissions: excerpts from a contract it executed with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. That document establishes the applicability of certain of the regulations, including CPM's role within that regulatory framework as a "fiscal intermediary, " i.e., an entity that serves in a facilitative role with regard to payroll and related matters. 130 Code Mass. Regs. § 422.402 (2006). These facts were not reflected in the complaint, but the judge cited them as dispositive. By relying on facts outside of the complaint, the judge essentially rendered a decision in the nature of summary judgment. Doucette v. Massachusetts Parole Bd., 8 6 Mass.App.Ct. 531, 533-534 (2014) .

         We will review the decision as such, including taking into consideration the other excluded material. We may do so without risk of procedural unfairness for two reasons. First, both parties in their briefs to this court addressed the implications of the facts reflected in the materials, compare Marram v. Kobrick Offshore Fund, Ltd., 442 Mass. 43, 45 n.4 (2004), and Gallagher's brief, in particular, argued that a summary judgment standard should have been applied. Second, as we will explain further, we agree with the judge's conclusion that CPM was entitled to judgment as a matter of law; this result could not be overcome with further evidence. "Accordingly, we review the judge's dismissal of this action as though [she] had granted a motion for summary judgment." Cousineau v. Laramee, 388 Mass. 859, 860 n.2 (1983).

         We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. Federal Natl. Mort. Assn. v. Hendricks, 463 Mass. 635, 637 (2012) . In doing so, we consider the pleadings and other record evidence, viewing them in the light most favorable to Gallagher and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, to determine whether, on the undisputed facts, CPM is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ibid.

         Background.

         In June, 2006, Gallagher began working as a PCA, providing in-home care to the consumer, who received these services in connection with his MassHealth benefits. Her work was facilitated, in part, by CPM. Pursuant to the regulations governing PCA benefits for MassHealth members, CPM acted as a fiscal intermediary. CPM's duties included forwarding notice of preapprovals, which were issued by MassHealth, for the number of hours of Gallagher's weekly work for which wages would be covered by MassHealth, issuing her paychecks, and making payments into the unemployment insurance system.

         In September, 2006, shortly after beginning her work, Gallagher signed a form given to her by CPM, acknowledging that the consumer was her employer. At approximately the same time, she signed two other forms given to her by CPM -- a W-4 form and an 1-9 form. Since that time, CPM has issued her annual W-2 forms. Although these tax form interactions are commonly conducted with an employer, here, the W-4 and 1-9 forms identified the consumer as the employer, and the single W-2 in the record states that it was issued by CPM "FBO [the consumer], " i.e., for the benefit of the consumer. Additionally, CPM's role with respect to these tax forms was consistent with its duties under the regulations as a fiscal intermediary. See note 9, infra.

         During the years she worked as a PCA, Gallagher sometimes worked more than forty hours per week, but she was not paid for any hours worked beyond forty per week. On December 10, 2015, Gallagher filed a verified complaint against CPM, including two of its officers, alleging violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act, see G. L. c. 149, § 148, and the Massachusetts overtime statute, see G. L. c. 151, § 1A. CPM responded with a motion to dismiss, which Gallagher opposed. As stated, both parties attached exhibits to their memoranda. On June 27, 2016, after a hearing, the judge granted CPM's motion on the ground that Gallagher was employed by the consumer, not CPM. Gallagher appeals.

         D ...


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