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Shea v. Cameron

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Essex

February 9, 2018

SUSAN SHEA
v.
MICHAEL CAMERON.

          Heard: October 4, 2017.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on July 24, 2014.

         The case was heard by Timothy Q. Feeley, J., on a motion for summary judgment, and the case was reported by him to the Appeals Court.

          John Taylor for the plaintiff.

          Mikalen E. Howe (Alan K. Posner also present) for the defendant.

          Present: Agnes, Sacks, & Lemire, JJ.

          LEMIRE, J.

         This appeal concerns whether a defendant's alleged fraudulent inducement to marry constitutes a valid civil cause of action. The plaintiff, Susan Shea, and the defendant, Michael Cameron, were married before receiving a judgment of annulment which incorporated their joint stipulation of Cameron's fraud. Following the annulment, Shea filed a civil action relating to Cameron's marriage fraud in Superior Court. Cameron filed counterclaims alleging fraud by Shea regarding entry of the stipulation and annulment. Cameron moved for summary judgment on all of Shea's claims. After granting Cameron's motion for summary judgment, the judge reported his order to this court pursuant to Mass.R.Civ.P. 64(a), as amended, 423 Mass. 1403 (1996), and stayed Cameron's counterclaims. We affirm.

         Background.

         Shea began a consensual romantic relationship with Cameron in June, 2005. By October, 2005, Cameron had moved into Shea's home, and soon thereafter, the two became engaged. Shea and Cameron married on September 22, 2007. In 2010, Shea transferred title to her home from herself individually to Shea and Cameron as joint tenants and Cameron was added to the mortgage. Over the course of their relationship, Shea and Cameron exchanged money, shared bank accounts, and worked together professionally.

         In 2011, Shea discovered that Cameron was having an affair and subsequently filed for divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown. On April 30, 2012, Shea withdrew her complaint for divorce and filed a complaint for annulment. At a deposition related to the annulment proceeding, Cameron admitted to being "unable to love [Shea] very early in the marriage" and that he did not ever believe that Shea was his "one true love."

         On June 7, 2013, Shea and Cameron entered into a joint stipulation of annulment based on Cameron's fraud, ending the marriage ab initio.[1] Unbeknownst to Cameron, Shea filed a complaint in Probate and Family Court on June 6, 2013, related to this stipulated fraud. Immediately following the entry of the judgment of annulment, Shea served Cameron with her complaint as he left the court room.

         Shea's complaint was dismissed by the Probate and Family Court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Shea then filed the same claims in Superior Court. Shea's theory of recovery on all claims is related to Cameron's false claims of love, Cameron's emotionally harmful conduct during their relationship, and Cameron's improper use of their shared finances. Cameron's counterclaims allege that but for Shea's deliberate concealment of her claims, he would not have entered into the stipulation of annulment.

         The judge entered summary judgment in favor of Cameron on all eight of Shea's claims. In his memorandum and decision, the judge accepted that Cameron made misrepresentations "about the genuineness of his love and commitment to Shea, " but concluded as a matter of law that the court was unable to intrude into private and personal relationships and provide remedy for the alleged harms. Following the entry of summary judgment the judge reported his decision to this court under Mass.R.Civ.P. 64(a) as an interlocutory finding and stayed Cameron's counterclaims.

         Report.

         As a threshold matter, we consider the propriety of the report on which this case comes before us. A Superior Court judge is authorized to report a case when "an interlocutory finding or order made by [him] so affects the merits of the controversy that the matter ought to be determined by the appeals court before any further proceedings in the trial court." Mass.R.Civ.P. 64(a). "Interlocutory matters should be reported only where it appears that they present serious questions likely to be material in the ultimate decision, and that subsequent proceedings in the trial court will be substantially facilitated by so doing." John Gilbert Jr. Co. v. CM. Fauci Co., 309 Mass. 271, 273 (1941) . See Cooney v. Compass Group Foodservice, 69 Mass.App.Ct. 632, 635 (2007).

         Facially, Shea's eight claims in her amended complaint and Cameron's five counterclaims appear inextricable. However, a closer inspection into the underlying factual circumstances show that the reported question as to Shea's claims is not material to the stayed counterclaims. Shea's claims rest on the factual circumstances surrounding Cameron's alleged amatory torts, alleged emotional harm, and alleged unjust dispossession of property. On the other hand, Cameron's counterclaims are based almost entirely on allegations regarding the parties' stipulation of fraud and the resulting judgment of annulment.[2]Any guidance to the Superior Court on the reported issue will not materially impact the decision on the stayed counterclaims and we have some doubt as to whether this case is appropriate for a report under Mass.R.Civ.P. 64(a).[3] See Cusicv.Commonwealth, 412 Mass. 291, 293-294 (1992) . ...


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