Heard: October 4, 2017.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on July 24,
case was heard by Timothy Q. Feeley, J., on a motion for
summary judgment, and the case was reported by him to the
Taylor for the plaintiff.
Mikalen E. Howe (Alan K. Posner also present) for the
Present: Agnes, Sacks, & Lemire, JJ.
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.
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
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."
7, 2013, Shea and Cameron entered into a joint stipulation of
annulment based on Cameron's fraud, ending the marriage
ab initio. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.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). See Cusicv.Commonwealth, 412 Mass. 291, 293-294 (1992) .