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MGL 231, 6F and 6G (bad-faith, frivolous lawsuits)

 

Section 6F.

 Costs, expenses and interest for insubstantial, frivolous or bad faith claims or defenses

 

Upon motion of any party in any civil action in which a finding, verdict, decision, award, order or judgment has been made by a judge or justice or by a jury, auditor, master or other finder of fact, the court may determine, after a hearing, as a separate and distinct finding, that all or substantially all of the claims, defenses, setoffs or counterclaims, whether of a factual, legal or mixed nature, made by any party who was represented by counsel during most or all of the proceeding, were wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith. The court shall include in such finding the specific facts and reasons on which the finding is based.

If such a finding is made with respect to a party’s claims, the court shall award to each party against whom such claims were asserted an amount representing the reasonable counsel fees and other costs and expenses incurred in defending against such claims. If the party against whom such claims were asserted was not represented by counsel, the court shall award to such party an amount representing his reasonable costs, expenses and effort in defending against such claims. If such a finding is made with respect to a party’s defenses, setoffs or counterclaims, the court shall award to each party against whom such defenses, setoffs or counterclaims were asserted (1) interest on the unpaid portion of the monetary claim at issue in such defense, setoff or counterclaim at one hundred and fifty per cent of the rate set in section six C from the date when the claim was due to the claimant pursuant to the substantive rules of law pertaining thereto, which date shall be stated in the award, until the claim is paid in full; and (2) an amount representing the reasonable counsel fees, costs and expenses of the claimant in prosecuting his claims or in defending against those setoffs or counterclaims found to have been wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith.

Apart from any award made pursuant to the preceding paragraph, if the court finds that all or substantially all of the defenses, setoffs or counterclaims to any portion of a monetary claim made by any party who was represented by counsel during most or all of the proceeding were wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith, the court shall award interest to the claimant on that portion of the claim according to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.

In any award made pursuant to either of the preceding paragraphs, the court shall specify in reasonable detail the method by which the amount of the award was computed and the calculation thereof.

No finding shall be made that any claim, defense, setoff or counterclaim was wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith solely because a novel or unusual argument or principle of law was advanced in support thereof. No such finding shall be made in any action in which judgment was entered by default without an appearance having been entered by the defendant. The authority granted to a court by this section shall be in addition to, and not in limitation of, that already established by law.

If any parties to a civil action shall settle the dispute which was the subject thereof and shall file in the appropriate court documents setting forth such settlement, the court shall not make any finding or award pursuant to this section with respect to such parties. If an award had previously been made pursuant to this section, such award shall be vacated unless the parties shall agree otherwise.

In proceedings under this section in any action which has been heard by the medical malpractice tribunal established pursuant to section sixty B, the decision of the tribunal may be introduced as evidence relevant to whether a claim was wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith.

Upon receiving an inmate’s complaint and affidavit of indigency, the court may, at any time, upon motion or sua sponte: (1) dismiss a claim or any action without a hearing if satisfied that the claim or action is frivolous or in bad faith; or (2) conduct a hearing presided over by the court or an appointed master, which shall be held telephonically unless the court finds that a hearing in court is necessary, to determine whether the inmate’s action is frivolous and in bad faith.

If the court finds that the claim or action is frivolous or in bad faith, the court shall dismiss the claim or action but if, after hearing, the court finds that the claim is both frivolous and in bad faith in order to abuse the judicial process, the court shall, in addition to dismissing such claim or action, order that the inmate lose up to 60 days of good conduct credit earned or to be earned pursuant to section 129C or 129D of chapter 127.

If the court finds at any time that the inmate has repeatedly abused the integrity of the judicial system through frivolous filings, the court may order that the inmate be barred from filing future actions without leave of court. In determining whether a claim or action is frivolous or in bad faith, the court may consider several factors including, but not limited to, the following:- (a) whether the claim or action has no arguable basis in law or in fact; (b) the claim or action is substantially similar to a previous claim in that it is brought by and against the same parties and in that the claim arises from the same operative facts of the previous claim.

No finding shall be made that a claim or action is frivolous or in bad faith solely because a novel or unusual argument or principle of law was advanced in support thereof.

 

Section 6G

Appeals; motions for expenses for insubstantial, frivolous or bad faith claims or defenses

Any party aggrieved by a decision on a motion pursuant to section six F may appeal as hereinafter provided. If the matter arises in the superior, land, housing or probate court, the appeal shall be to the single justice of the appeals court at the next sitting thereof. If the matter arises in the appeals court or before a single justice of the supreme judicial court, the appeal shall be to the full bench of the supreme judicial court. The court deciding the appeal shall review the finding and award, if any, appealed from as if it were initially deciding the matter, and may withdraw or amend any finding or reduce or rescind any award when in its judgment the facts so warrant.

Any party may file a notice of appeal with the clerk or register of the court hearing the motion within ten days after receiving notice of the decision thereon. The clerk or register shall then forward the motion, the court’s findings and award, and any other documents relevant to the appeal to the clerk of the court deciding the appeal who, upon receipt thereof, shall refer the matter to the court for speedy decision and shall notify the parties of such decision, which shall be final. Any appeal to the supreme judicial court or the appeals court shall proceed according to the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure; any appeal to a single justice of the Appeals Court shall proceed under the rules for the regulation of practice before a single justice of that court. The payment of any award made pursuant to section six F shall be stayed until the completion of all appeals relating to the civil action in which the award was made.