Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, Business Litigation Session
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice of the Superior Court
Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates, LLP (which calls itself
"RFA") is an architectural firm that specializes in
designing animal hospitals and similar facilities. It is
suing Todd Prince for not paying RFA in full for its work to
design renovations for an animal hospital owned by Prince in
Deerfield, Illinois. Prince asserts counterclaims for breach
of contract, intentional fraud, violation of G.L.c. 93A, and
malpractice (i.e., negligence). The parties have filed
motions for summary judgment on some but not all of the
Court will deny the cross motions for summary judgment as to
RFAâs claims for breach of contract or compensation under a
quantum meruit theory, but will allow RFAâs motion for
partial summary judgment on Princeâs counterclaims for
intentional fraud and violation of c. 93A.
Cross Motions for Summary Judgment on RFAâs Claims
Court cannot resolve RFAâs claims for breach of contract or
quantum meruit relief on summary judgment because neither
side is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.
not entitled to summary judgment on its claims because a
reasonable jury could find that RFA materially breached its
contract and Prince therefore had no further obligation to
perform. Cf. Lease-It, Inc. v. Massachusetts Port
Auth., 33 Mass.App.Ct. 391, 397 (1992). A jury could
find that RFA miscalculated the largest facility that could
be built without a variance because it failed to exclude the
portion of the property that is within the right-of-way of a
public street, as a result RFA misled Prince as to how large
a facility could be constructed as of right (without a
variance), and this was a material breach of RFAâs express
contractual obligation to perform its services in a manner
while exercising the degree of care that a reasonable
architect would exercise under similar conditions.
is not entitled to summary judgment on RFAâs claims either,
however, because a reasonable jury could rule in RFAâs favor.
could find that RFA never breached its contractual duty to do
its work in a manner consistent with the standard of care
expected of an architect in similar circumstances.
"Architects, like other professionals, do not have a
duty to be perfect in their work, but rather are expected to
exercise âthat skill and judgment which can be reasonably
expected from similarly situated professionals.â"
LeBlanc v. Logan Hilton Joint Venture, 463 Mass.
316, 329 (2012), quoting Klein v. Catalano, 386
Mass. 701, 718 (1982). "Expert testimony is generally
needed to establish this professional standard of care, ...
[except] where the malpractice âis so gross or obvious that
laymen can rely on their common knowledge to recognize or
infer negligence.â" Id., quoting Pongonis
v. Saab, 396 Mass. 1005, 1005 (1985); accord
Palandjian v. Foster, 446 Mass. 100, 1045-46 (2006)
(same as to standard of care applicable to physicians).
Architects at RFA may testify as to the applicable standard
of care, and a jury could credit their testimony if it
Alternatively, a jury could find that RFAâs alleged initial
miscalculation was a breach of contract but that this breach
was immaterial because Prince ultimately asked RFA to develop
plans for a larger facility after RFA told him that a
variance would probably be needed to construct such a
building. And though Prince insists that RFA also breached
the contract by billing for its additional work on a flat fee
basis when it was required to bill by the hour, a jury could
find that this alleged breach was immaterial because RFAâs
flat fee was lower than the amount it could have charged if
it billed by the hour. If a jury were to reach the quantum
meruit claim, it could find that RFA is entitled to fair
compensation for its work and reject Princeâs assertion that
the plans drawn by RFA were useless, since Prince has not
mustered any evidence that he could not have obtained a
zoning variance that would allow Prince to build the facility
designed by RFA.
judgment is inappropriate where, as here, a reasonable
factfinder would be free to render a verdict for either side
at trial, depending on whether it chooses to draw a
reasonable inference that favors RFA or whether it chooses to
draw an opposite but still reasonable inference that favors
Prince. See Flesner v. Technical Communications
Corp., 410 Mass. 805, 811-12 (1991) ("Where a jury
can draw opposite inferences from the evidence, summary
judgment is improper"); Dennis v. Kaskel, 79
Mass.App.Ct. 736, 741 (2011) (summary judgment may not be
granted where "a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party" (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
where all material facts are undisputed, it does not
automatically follow that a court can resolve a claim on a
motion for summary judgment. "Undisputed facts do not
always point unerringly to a single, inevitable conclusion.
And when facts, though undisputed, are capable of supporting
conflicting yet plausible inferences— inferences that
are capable of leading a rational fact finder to different
outcomes in a litigated matter depending on which of them the
fact finder draws— then the choice between those
inferences is not for the court on summary judgment."
In re Varrasso, 37 F.3d 760, 764 (1st Cir. 1994).
"Summary judgment can only be ordered when a party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Dolloff v.
Sch. Comm. of Methuen, 9 Mass.App.Ct. 502, 505 (1980).
RFAâs Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
entitled to summary judgment in its favor on Princeâs
counterclaims for intentional fraud and under c. 93A because
there is no evidence that RFA made any false statements upon
which Prince relied to his detriment, and therefore no
evidence that RFA engaged in any unfair or deceptive conduct.
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)).
recover on his intentional fraud claim, Prince will have to
prove that RFA "made a false representation of a
material fact with knowledge of its falsity for the purpose
of inducing the plaintiff to act thereon, and that the
plaintiff relied upon the representation as true and acted
upon it to [her] damage." Masingill v. EMC