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Vittands v. Sudduth

730 N.E.2d 325 (2000)

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Vittands v. Sudduth

Massachusetts Appeals Court

730 N.E.2d 325 (2000)

Facts

Judith E. Sudduth (defendant) bought land on Hesperus Avenue through the Hesperus Avenue Realty Trust, of which she was trustee. The land contained a six-lot subdivision that Sudduth planned to develop for residential use. A neighbor, Jekabs P. Vittands (plaintiff), as well as other neighbors (collectively, the neighbors) (plaintiffs), told Sudduth that they did not want one of the lots, lot 4A, to be developed, because they considered it to be a private park where their children played. Vittands told Sudduth that he would prevent construction on the lot at all costs. Indeed, the neighbors were involved in litigation against Sudduth over the nine years before Sudduth secured the permits to develop the subdivision. After learning that the city board of health had granted Sudduth a sewage-disposal permit, the neighbors’ attorney sent letters to the board alleging that because Sudduth’s proposed sewage-disposal system did not comply with regulations and therefore required a variance, the board’s agent did not have the authority to grant the permit. Sudduth entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement of lot 4A with Great Pond Builders. The neighbors trespassed on lot 4A to harass Great Pond Builders and other buyers. The neighbors then filed suit against Sudduth seeking a preliminary injunction against the sewage-system installation as well as a declaratory judgment that the system required variances. Vittands, an environmental engineer, submitted an affidavit to support the allegations. Sudduth filed a counterclaim for abuse of process, among other claims. Great Pond Builders backed out of the purchase because of the ongoing litigation, and Sudduth had to file for involuntary bankruptcy. The court granted summary judgment to Sudduth on the neighbors’ claims, and the court granted the neighbors’ motion to dismiss Sudduth’s counterclaims. Sudduth’s appeal was allowed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The trial court then denied the neighbors’ renewed motion to dismiss and granted the neighbors’ motion for summary judgment, and all parties appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lenk, J.)

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