JUDY C. LYNCH & others
ROXBURY COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER, INC., & another.
Heard: October 4, 2018
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on October
case was heard by Paul D. Wilson, J., on motions for summary
judgment, and a motion for reconsideration was considered by
Christopher G. Clark for Keith D. Crawford.
E. Goloboy for the plaintiffs.
Present: Milkey, Desmond, & Wendlandt, JJ.
plaintiffs are former employees of the Roxbury Comprehensive
Community Health Center, Inc. (RCCHC), a now-defunct,
nonprofit health care provider. Alleging that they were not
paid wages owed to them, the plaintiffs brought the current
action against RCCHC pursuant to the Wage Act, G. L. c. 149,
§ 148. They also asserted that defendant Keith D.
Crawford, M.D., the chairman of RCCHC's board of
directors, personally was liable for the alleged Wage Act
violations.Crawford moved for summary judgment,
arguing that -- as a volunteer director of a nonprofit
institution -- he enjoyed immunity from Wage Act claims. He
asserted such immunity based on two separate statutes: the
Volunteer Protection Act (VPA), 42 U.S.C. § 14503
(2012), and G. L. c. 231, § 85W. A Superior Court judge
concluded that these statutes applied to Wage Act claims.
However, the judge ultimately denied Crawford's motion
for summary judgment on the ground that there was a dispute
of fact over whether Crawford's conduct here fell within
statutory exceptions to such immunity. After Crawford
unsuccessfully pursued a motion for reconsideration, he
appealed. We are now called upon to decide whether this
appeal is properly before us. For the reasons that follow, we
conclude that it is not, and we decline to exercise our
discretion to reach the underlying merits. Accordingly, we
dismiss the appeal.
summarize the relevant facts set forth in the summary
judgment record in the light most favorable to the
plaintiffs, the nonmoving party. Augat v.
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 410 Mass. 117, 120 (1991).
alleged Wage Act violations.
early 2013, RCCHC began to experience serious financial
difficulties. At that time, Crawford served not only as
chairman of RCCHC's board, but also held himself out as
its "[p]resident" and "acting CEO."
Crawford learned by February 25, 2013, that RCCHC did not
intend to pay its employees for future work unless and until
a Federal grant came through. He also learned that RCCHC
likely would be unable to meet its payroll obligations on
March 15, 2013. Nevertheless, he personally encouraged the
employees to keep working and assured them that they would
get paid. RCCHC did in fact miss its payroll on March 15,
2013, and it had not paid its employees by March 22, 2015
(the date by which Crawford alleges any Wage Act violation
accrued). As documented by electronic mail messages (e-mails)
sent a few days after that, once apprised of limited funds
remaining in RCCHC's payroll account, Crawford suggested
using that money toward paying off RCCHC's vendors
instead of its employees.
interlocutory rulings for which review is sought.
plaintiffs allege that with Crawford effectively having
served as "president" of RCCHC, he personally is
liable for the Wage Act violations. See G. L. c. 149, §
148 (defining "employer" for purpose of Wage Act as
including president of corporation). Crawford's principal
defense was that because he was not paid for any roles he was
serving at RCCHC, a nonprofit entity, he is immune from a
Wage Act violation by operation of the VPA and its State
counterpart, G. L. c. 231, § 85W.
noted, the judge denied Crawford's motion for summary
judgment on the ground that the plaintiffs had raised a
triable issue as to whether Crawford's conduct met the
exceptions set forth in the two immunity statutes. With
respect to the VPA, the judge concluded that "there is
at least some evidence in the record from which a jury could
conclude that Crawford engaged in 'willful'
misconduct," which falls outside the immunity provided
by the statute. With respect to G. L. c. 231, § 85W, the
judge ruled that there was some evidence upon which a jury
could conclude that Crawford's acts were
"intentionally designed to harm" the plaintiffs,
which would place them outside the scope of the immunity that
motion for reconsideration, Crawford argued that the only
real evidence that he might have engaged in disqualifying
conduct was the e-mails that could be taken to indicate his
preference to pay RCCHC's vendors over its employees.
According to him, these e-mails could not be considered
because of their timing, the e-mails having been sent only
after any Wage Act violations already had occurred. The judge
denied the motion for reconsideration, and Crawford
an interlocutory appeal is proper.
initial question we face is whether the current interlocutory
appeal is properly before us. The denial of a motion for
summary judgment is a classic interlocutory ruling that
typically cannot be appealed. See Elles v. Zoning Bd. of
Appeals of Quincy, 450 Mass. 671, 673-674 (2008). There
are, however, recognized exceptions to this rule, including
those that are denominated collectively as the doctrine of
present execution (a venerable, if confusing, label) .
Id. at 674. In short, under that doctrine, immediate
appeals are allowed "where the interlocutory ruling
'will interfere with rights in a way that cannot be
remedied on appeal' ...