Tuesday, November 25, 2008

High Steaks (Sorry . . .)

If you've ever driven past the Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus, this case, Giuffrida v. High Country Investor, Inc., Appeals Court No. 07-P-751, might interest you. Or make you hungry.

But if you have anything to do with business deals of any stripe, whether as a litigator, a transactional attorney, or as a businessperson, the case will definitely interest you.

The Appeals Court holds that liability is possible under the Commonwealth's unfair business practices statute, Chapter 93A, where a party fails to follow through on oral promises made in the context of a pretty sophisticated business deal that are either contrary to the deal documents or not incorporated in the deal documents. Some might quibble with this interpretation of the case and say that it's not controversial since people often get tagged for making (and breaking) promises they don't intend to keep.

Still, doesn't this add a thick layer of stickiness to virtually every deal? Doesn't this case mean that the black and white of the deal documents can be negated by the spoken words of one of the principals? Isn't it usually the other way around?

There will be a predictable rush to limit this case to its facts, on one side of the bar, and an equally predictable rush to expand the scope of its holding, on the other. If it stands, the Giuffrida case and its implications will be briefed if not to death, then very close to it. With triple damages and attorneys' fees in the balance, you can count on that.


adamg said...

So what you're saying is this is a rare decision? Hopefully, a judge can find a happy medium, since it sounds like both parties have a major beef with the other.

In any case, I appreciate you giving me something to chew on. Well done!

Terry Klein said...

Way to take the bull by the horns, Adam. When it comes to puns, you are one who will not be cowed.