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Meikle v. Nurse (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-057-16)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11859 GARTH MEIKLE  vs.  PATRICIA NURSE.       Suffolk.     November 5, 2015. – April 27, 2016.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ. Summary Process.  Practice, Civil, Summary process, Counterclaim and cross-claim.  Landlord and Tenant, Security deposit, Termination of tenancy, Eviction.       Summary process.  Complaint filed in the Boston Division of the Housing Court Department on June 11, 2014.   The case was heard by MaryLou Muirhead, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.     Louis Fisher (Patricia Whiting with him) for the defendant.   Garth Meikle, pro Se. Peter Vickery, for Worcester Property Owners Association, Inc., amicus curiae, submitted a brief. Maureen McDonagh & Julia Devanthéry, for City Life/Vida Urbana, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.      HINES, J.  In this appeal we decide whether a tenant may assert a violation of the security deposit statute, G. L. c. 186, § 15B, as a defense to a landlord’s claim for possession in a summary process action brought under G. L. c. 239, § 1A.  The issue arises from a Housing Court judge’s disposition of a summary process action brought by Garth Meikle, the landlord, against Patricia Nurse, the tenant.  After a trial, the judge ruled that the tenant properly could assert a violation of the security deposit statute as a counterclaim for damages, but that a counterclaim on this basis is not a defense to the landlord’s claim for possession.  The tenant appealed, arguing that the plain language of G. L. c. 239, § 8A, buttressed by its legislative history, establishes that a violation of the security deposit statute may be asserted as a defense to a landlord’s claim for possession and that the judge erred in rejecting this interpretation of the statute.  We transferred the appeal to this court on our own motion.[1] We conclude that a violation of the security deposit statute is encompassed within the definition of “counterclaim or defense” in G. L. c. 239, § 8A, and that a counterclaim or defense on that basis may be asserted as a defense to a landlord’s possession in a summary process action under G. L. c. 239, § 1A.  Therefore, we reverse the Housing Court judgment granting possession to the landlord and remand for a hearing in accordance with the provisions of G. L. c. 239, § 8A, fifth par.[2] Background.  We summarize the judge’s findings of fact, which we […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - April 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm

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