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Friedman v. Wang

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, Business Litigation Session

February 28, 2019

Jonah FRIEDMAN
v.
Cynthia J. WANG et al.

          File Date: March 7, 2019

          OPINION

          Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice

          Jonah Friedman and Steven Savarese settled various claims against and counterclaims by Cynthia Wang and her company ICCC Investments, LLC, in 2016. These four parties entered into a written settlement agreement in which they released all claims against each other in exchange for promises (i) by Savarese’s insurer, The Hanover Insurance Company, to pay $ 50, 000 to ICCC on behalf of Savarese and Friedman within 30 days, and (ii) by Wang to pay $ 60, 000 to Friedman within 45 days. Hanover paid the $ 50, 000 to ICCC, in a check made out jointly to Wang on behalf of ICCC and to the law firm representing Wang and ICCC. But Wang never paid any part of the $ 60, 000 settlement amount to Friedman.

          Friedman seeks four kinds of relief in these consolidated actions. He seeks damages against Wang for breach of the settlement agreement in the amount of $ 60, 000. Friedman also claims unspecified additional damages on the grounds that Wang’s promise to pay the $ 60, 000 was fraudulent when made and that her alleged fraudulent promise and her failure to pay the settlement amount are unfair trade practices that violate G.L.c. 93A. In addition, Friedman seeks to rescind the settlement agreement and revive his underlying claims against Wang and ICCC for quantum meruit, fraud, and breach of contract. Finally, Friedman seeks to collect whatever Wang owes him from property in Revere, Massachusetts, that is held in trust by Gerald Shulman as trustee of the Franke Ave Realty Trust; Friedman claims that the transfer of the property from ICCC to the trust was a fraudulent conveyance that should be rescinded, and seeks to reach and apply Wang’s alleged equitable interest in the property against the sums that Wang owes to Friedman.

         Wang and ICCC have moved for summary judgment on all claims against them. Friedman has not moved for summary judgment, but seeks summary judgment in his favor pursuant to Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(c), which allows summary judgment to be granted to the non-moving party. Shulman did not move for summary judgment, nor did Friedman seek summary judgment on his claims against Shulman.

          The Court concludes that Friedman is entitled to summary judgment against Wang for breach of the settlement agreement, that Wang and ICCC are entitled to summary judgment in their favor on the other substantive claims, and that the fraudulent conveyance and reach and apply claims regarding the property held by Trustee Shulman cannot be resolved on the pending summary judgment motion.

          1. Wang’s Breach of the Settlement Agreement

          It is undisputed that Wang entered into a contractually binding settlement agreement with Friedman, that Wang promised in that contract to pay Friedman $ 60, 000 to settle his claims, and that Wang has never paid any part of that settlement amount.

          Friedman is therefore entitled to summary judgment in his favor on his breach of contract claims for damages in the amount of $ 60, 000.

         The summary judgment record also establishes that Wang first breached the settlement agreement on August 2, 2016, and that therefore pre-judgment interest should run from that date under G.L.c. 231, § 6C. Friedman signed the settlement agreement on June 8, 2016. Wang signed the contract on behalf of herself and ICCC on June 17, 2016. Wang promised to pay Friedman $ 60, 000 within 45 days thereafter.

          2. False Promise Claims

          2.1. Claim for Fraud

          Friedman asserts a claim for fraud on the theory that Wang never intended to pay the $ 60, 000 settlement amount and therefore made a false and fraudulent promise. Wang is entitled to summary judgment in her favor on this claim because Friedman has been unable to muster any evidence suggesting that Wang did not intend to perform when she entered into the settlement agreement. See generally Kourouvacilis v. General Motors Corp., 410 Mass. 706, 715 (1991) ("If the nonmoving party cannot muster sufficient evidence to make out its claim, a trial would be useless and the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catret, 477 U.S. 317, 328 (1986) (White, J., concurring)).

         A fraud claim may be based on an allegedly false promise if "the promisor had no intention to perform the promise at the time it was made," and the plaintiff relied to its detriment on the false promise. See Cumis Ins. Society ...


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