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Steele v. Kings Way Condominium Trust

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Barnstable

June 18, 2018

Shirley STEELE, Personal Representative[1]
v.
KINGS WAY CONDOMINIUM TRUST[2] et al.[3]

          OPINION

          Gregg J. Pasquale, Justice of the Superior Court

          This action arises from John Dacey Looney’s ("Mr. Dacey Looney") murder of Richard Steele ("Mr. Steele" or "decedent") at the condominium complex where they both resided. Shirley Steele, as personal representative of the estate of Richard Steele, has filed suit against the Kings Way Condominium Trust ("KWCT") and Mr. Michael J. Looney ("Defendant Michael Looney"), Mr. Dacey Looney’s brother, for wrongful death, under G.L.c. 229, and negligence. The matter is now before the Court on Defendant Michael Looney’s motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Defendant Michael Looney’s motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 23, 2012, Mr. Steele was assaulted by his neighbor, Mr. Dacey Looney, and later died as a result of his injuries. The assault took place at Kings Way, a condominium complex, consisting of three condominium associations and totaling 666 housing units, in Yarmouth Port.

         KWTC is one of the three condominium associations within the larger Kings Way community. KWTC’s responsibilities include the managing, supervising, and maintaining of the common areas in accordance with agreed-upon bylaws for 456 units, including the decedent’s unit and Defendant Michael Looney’s unit.

         The units are individually owned by unit owners while common areas are owned collectively by unit owners according to varying proportional interests. KWCT allows people from either of the trusts or the property management group to put up notices on bulletin boards in the community post office. The plaintiff contends that KWCT refused the Yarmouth Police Department and residents’ requests to post notice and tore down notices and photographs of Mr. Dacey Looney that residents posted.

         From December of 2005 until the murder, Mr. Dacey Looney-who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia characterized by auditory hallucinations and persecutory delusions-resided in a two-story townhome unit owned by Defendant Michael Looney, who did not live in the unit. Mr. Dacey Looney lived in the unit per an agreement with Defendant Michael Looney that provided Mr. Dacey Looney would take care of their elderly father, would contribute whatever funds he could toward household living expenses, would abide by his psychotherapeutic treatment regimen (which included obtaining a local psychotherapist and attending regular appointments), would take his prescribed psychotropic medications, and would not drink or take drugs other than his prescribed medications.

         Mr. Dacey Looney was a registered Level 3 Sex Offender. In 1992, he was convicted for an attempted rape in which he stabbed the victim in her arm. At the time of that conviction, Mr. Dacey Looney had been on probation for another attempted rape that took place in the mid-1980s. When Mr. Dacey Looney moved into Kings Way, he had completed his prison sentence for the 1992 conviction and was not on any kind of supervised release. KWCT distributed letters advising residents of Mr. Dacey Looney’s presence and Sex Offender status in December of 2005 and in January of 2006.

          In 2009, Mr. Steele moved into the unit adjacent to Mr. Dacey Looney. Mr. Steele rented his unit. According to Mr. Dacey Looney, the two became friends and socialized frequently. Mr. Dacey Looney also maintains that he informed Mr. Steele of his status as a Level 3 Sex Offender. The plaintiff disputes these facts.

         On the day of the murder, Mr. Steele was entertaining a houseguest, Ms. Lori Ulves. Mr. Dacey Looney visited Mr. Steele’s unit to see if Mr. Steele wanted to "hang out," but Mr. Steele rebuffed the invitation. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Dacey Looney confronted Mr. Steele and Ms. Ulves as they were leaving Mr. Steele’s unit and attacked them with a baseball bat. Mr. Steele later died as a result of his injuries. The parties agree that, at the time of the murder, Mr. Dacey Looney had stopped taking his medication as directed.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard

         Summary judgment is proper where no genuine issues of material fact exist and where the summary judgment record entitles the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Cassesso v. Commissioner of Corr., 390 Mass. 419, 422 (1983). The moving party bears the burden of affirmatively demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists for any relevant issue and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pederson v. Time, Inc.,404 Mass. 14, 17 (1989). The moving party may satisfy this burden by submitting evidence negating an essential element of the non-moving party’s case or by demonstrating that the non-moving party has no reasonable expectation of proving an essential element of its case at trial. See Flesner v. Technical Comm’n Corp., 410 Mass. 805, 809 (1991). Once this burden is satisfied, the party opposing summary judgment must allege specific facts establishing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in order to escape summary judgment. See Kourouvacilis v. General Motors ...


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