Plaintiff lawyers often lament how the Supreme Judicial Court has authored opinions that restrict the rights of plaintiff litigants. But, in truth, there have been many instances where the court has been sensitive to the rights of victims. One such case is Rhodes v. AIG Domestic Claims Inc. 461 Mass. 486 (2012) which gave liberal meaning to Massachusetts General Law chapter 93A, the Consumer Protection Act. That act is applicable to insurers under Massachusetts General Law chapter 176D and requires them to act in a fair and reasonable way with first and third party claimants. Insurers are expected to settle claims promptly where liability has become reasonably clear. The calculation of damages was greatly enhanced by the Rhodes decision.
In my practice, I have found that chapter 93A and chapter 176D have been very effective tools in facilitating a faster resolution. That is logical because of the implications on a party who is in violation of those statutes. 93A is a tool used for everything from disputes on commercial transactions to disputes involving professionals. Retailers and professionals are held to the standard expected in the statute. We have had this law on the books since 1979 and it is one of the first consumer protection statutes that authorized significant penalties (double or treble damages and attorney’s fees). It is not a paper tiger.
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