Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 2, 2017

Fed. Dist Court of MA Holds Prior Pending Action Doctrine Barred Property Owner’s Takings Suit

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Property owner, Samuel Bourne, brought an action against the Town of East Bridgewater and the Chairman of its Planning Board, Roy E. Gardner, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional right to due process and violated the Takings Clause through a letter sent by the Chairman to the owner. The letter was recorded at the registry of deeds, and allegedly clouded owner’s title to the property by stating owner’s acquisition of the property violated several local zoning ordinances. Bourne filed a complaint in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Plymouth County, asserting claims against Gardner and the Town for slander of title, negligence, quiet title and “injunction to restrain nuisance.” At the same time, Bourne filed this action, alleging three causes of action: “ultra vires,” due process violations, and unlawful taking.

At the outset, the court first noted that Plaintiff’s claims against defendants in this case and the state court case concerned the same letter, the same witnesses and documents at issue, and the same parties and the claimed damages. The court also noted that the result of the state court litigation would be binding on the court. Furthermore, the fact that plaintiff could have amended his complaint in state court to add the causes of action raised in this case, also supported dismissal. Accordingly, the “prior pending action” doctrine barred plaintiff’s claims against Gardner and the Town in this action.

Bourne v Gardner, 270 F. Supp. 3d 385 (D MA 9/7/2017)

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