Select Massachusetts and federal court cases for "law about" pages: A-B

Includes case law, selected and curated by the Trial Court law librarians, on popular legal topics.

Table of Contents


Danco Laboratories, LLC and Food and Drug Administration, et al., v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al., 598 US ____ (2023)
U.S. Supreme Court blocked the lower court decisions banning or limiting the FDA-approved use of the abortion pill mifepristone.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, et al., 597 U.S. 215 (2022)
"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives."

Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, 602 U.S. ___ (2024)
U.S. Supreme Court preserved full access to the abortion pill mifepristone by upholding the FDA's 2016 and 2021 regulatory changes, which made it easier for doctors to prescribe, and pregnant women to obtain, the medication.

Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, on Application for Stay, 592 U.S.___, 141 S.Ct. 578 (2021)
In a short unsigned opinion, the court reinstated a requirement for patients to pick up a medical abortion pill in person. The in-person requirement had previously been lifted by a District Court decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)
The Supreme Court upheld a federal law prohibiting so-called "partial birth" abortion.

June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, 591 U.S. ___ (2020)
A Louisiana law requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, was ruled unconstitutional. 

McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U.S. 464 (2014)
The earlier Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone, MGL c. 266, § 120E 1/2, held unconstitutional. "The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's asserted interests... Given the vital First Amendment interests at stake, it is not enough for Massachusetts simply to say that other approaches have not worked."

Moe v. Sec. of Admin. and Finance, 382 Mass. 629 (1981)
"A statutory restriction on the funding of abortions under the Massachusetts Medical Assistance Program ... impermissibly burdened a woman's right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy by abortion in violation of the right to due process of law as guaranteed by the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights."

NIFLA v. Becerra, 585 U.S. 755 (2018)
Under the First Amendment, religiously oriented "crisis pregnancy centers" which do not provide abortions, don't have to tell women about public programs providing access to free or low-cost abortion. It is also "likely" a violation of the First Amendment to require clinics that don't have a medical license to disclose that fact.

Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts v. Attorney General, 424 Mass. 586 (1997)
Court held that statutory requirement that pregnant unmarried minor obtain consent of both parents before obtaining abortion violated due process clause.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992) Overruled by Dobbs
Pennsylvania abortion statute held valid for 24 hour informed consent, parental consent for minors, and record keeping requirements, but not for spousal notice under due process clause of Federal Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) Overruled by Dobbs
The court held that a woman's constitutional right to privacy encompassed her decision to terminate a pregnancy. The right was not unrestricted as states have an interest in regulating abortions during the later stages of pregnancy.

Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000)
"Nebraska statute that criminalized performance of any 'partial birth abortion' that was not necessary to save life of mother held to violate Federal Constitution."

Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. On Application for Injunctive relief, 594 U.S. ___, 142 S.Ct. 522 (2021)
The Court denied an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of a new Texas law banning abortions after 6 weeks and allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits in state court against abortion providers or anyone involved in facilitating an abortion.


Adoption of Daphne, 484 Mass. 421 (2020)
Discusses the Massachusetts court's jurisdiction in an adoption by the biological father when the gestational carrier lived in Massachusetts, but the father lived in another country, and had taken the baby to live abroad with him. 

Adoption of Mariano, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 656 (2010)
It was not in the child's best interests to allow his divorcing father to surrender his parental rights, and his divorcing mother to adopt him. "This case illustrates a firm principle in Massachusetts family law. In the negotiation of their disengagement, divorcing parents may not bargain away the best interests of their children."

Adoption of Marlene, 443 Mass. 494 (2005) 
Supreme Judicial Court held: "We conclude that a parent's consent to adoption of his or her child under G.L. c. 210, § 2 , does not terminate the parental duty to support the child."

Adoption of Meaghan, 461 Mass. 1006 (2012)
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the probate court judge's order appointing counsel for an indigent father and child in a private party adoption. "Where the petitioner is a private party, the same fundamental, constitutionally protected interests are at stake, and the cost of erroneously terminating a parent's rights remains too high to require an indigent parent to risk without counsel."

Adoption of a Minor, 471 Mass. 373 (2015)
Lawful parentage, and its associated rights and responsibilities, are conferred by statute on the consenting spouse of a married couple whose child is conceived by one woman of the marriage, through the use of assisted reproductive technology consented to by both women. (MGL c.46, § 4B)

Adoption of Tammy, 416 Mass. 205 (1993)
Supreme Judicial Court stated that statute did not preclude same-sex cohabitants from jointly adopting child, and that adoption was in best interests of child.

Adoption of Thomas, 408 Mass. 446 (1990)
"A minor parent can consent to the adoption of his or her child; [and] the Probate Court is not prohibited by the filing of a consent in accordance with c. 210, Section 2, from taking evidence concerning the maturity and understanding of the minor parent at the time of the consent and the voluntariness of the consent, or from appointing a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of the minor parent."

Adoption of Varik, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 762 (2019) 
The Appeals Court found that the adoption plan proposed by the department of Children and Families was inadequate. The adoption plan did not convey enough information for the judge to assess the options that the department was considering. It failed to specify the type of adoptive parents and the characteristics of the home environment best suited to meet the specific needs of the child. The Court vacated the decree for Adoption insofar as it relates to the approval of the adoption plan.

Fineberg v. Suffolk Div. of Probate and Family Court Dept., 38 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1995)
An adopted child "does not have an automatic right to access" identifying information about their biological parent, and can only access that type of information "upon a showing of good cause."

Magazu v. Dept. of Children and Families, 473 Mass. 430 (2016)
The denial of a couple's application "to become foster and preadoptive parents because of their use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home" was OK, even though they held a sincere belief that "physical discipline is an integral aspect of their Christian faith."

Mohr v. Commonwealth, 421 Mass. 147 (1995)
Adoptive parents may recover in a "wrongful adoption" action based on adoption agency's material misrepresentations of fact regarding child's history prior to adoption.

White v. Laingoir, 434 Mass. 64 (2001)
Without the consent of the 12 year old child, under G.L. c.210 § 2, she could not be adopted.

Adverse possession


Balistreri v. Balistreri, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 515 (2018)
"Where there are one or more predivorce-judgment complaints (whether for support, modification, or divorce) that result in a judgment of spousal support, it lies within the judge's discretion -- taking into account the totality of the circumstances -- to determine which of these pleadings is to be used to calculate the length of a marriage for purposes of the alimony reform act."

Cavanagh v. Cavanagh, 490 Mass. 398 (2022)
Alimony Reform Act does not prohibit an award of alimony when child support has been ordered, interpreting G.L. c.208, § 53(c)(2).

Connor v. Benedict, 481 Mass. 567 (2019)
A former spouse's payment of alimony to the wife did not prevent the wife from forming an "economic marital partnership" with her husband in the years before their marriage.

Dolan v. Dolan, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 284 (2021)
Capital gains from an asset that was part of an equitable division of property can be considered in deciding whether there has been a material change in circumstances justifying a modification of alimony. 

Duff-Kareores v. Kareores, 474 Mass. 528 (2016)
In-depth discussion of "length of marriage" where a couple had married, divorced, remarried and were now divorcing again.

George v. George, 476 Mass. 65 (2016)
"Discussion of how a judge should apply the 'interests of justice' standard when determining whether to deviate from the presumptive termination dates for general term alimony obligations set forth in G. L. c. 208, § 49 (b)."

Holmes v. Holmes, 467 Mass. 653 (2014)
Generally, "the maximum presumptive duration of an award of general term alimony (based on the length of the marriage)" begins when the judgment of divorce is issued, and "does not include the time period during which temporary alimony was paid" while the divorce was pending.

L.J.S. v. J.E.S., 464 Mass. 346 (2013)
"[I]f presented with evidence of potential tax consequences, a judge should consider those consequences when creating or modifying alimony provisions in a divorce instrument.."

Snow v. Snow, 476 Mass. 425 (2017)
The SJC held that: “1) the durational limit of general term alimony starts to run on the date that the alimony was awarded, not on the date of the divorce judgment or on the date temporary alimony was awarded, 2) Income earned from overtime pay must be considered in making an initial alimony award determination, regardless of whether that determination is made before or after the divorce judgment, 3) when an award of alimony is made, the judge must specifically address the issue of health insurance coverage for the recipient spouse.”

Young v. Young, 478 Mass. 1 (2017)
"[W]here the supporting spouse (here, the husband) has the ability to pay, the need for support of the recipient spouse (here, the wife) under general term alimony is the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of the separation leading to the divorce, not the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she would have had in the future if the couple had not divorced."

American Indians


Commonwealth v. Epifania, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 71 (2011)
Covers the history of ownership of cats and other pets in Massachusetts.

Commonwealth v. Fettes, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 917 (2005)
A dog can be a dangerous weapon. "A dangerous weapon is 'any instrument or instrumentality so constructed or so used as to be likely to produce death or great bodily harm.' ...There can be little doubt that a dog . . . used for the purpose of intimidation or attack falls within this definition."

Comm. v. J.A., a juvenile, 478 Mass. 385 (2017)
A juvenile cannot be indicted as a youthful offender based on charges of cruelty to animals and bestiality, "given that the language in G. L. c. 119, § 54, the youthful offender statute, allowing a juvenile to be tried as a youthful offender for an offense involving the infliction of "serious bodily harm," does not apply to animal as well as human victims."

Commonwealth v. Santiago, 452 Mass. 573 (2008)
Presence of pitbull alone is insufficient for no-knock warrant. "[T]he mere assertion that commonly known to be aggressive, would, standing alone, be insufficient to meet the probable cause standard."

Commonwealth v. Trefry, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 568 (2016)
Keeping a dog in a filthy house and yard is a violation of  G. L. c. 140, § 174E. "Subjecting a dog to cruel conditions suffices to establish a violation" of G. L. c. 140, § 174E; outside confinement or confinement in general is not an element required to convict under the statute.

Creatini v. McHugh, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 126 (2021)
A landlord does not bear responsibility to a passerby in the street for injuries caused by a tenant's dog after the dog leaves the landlord's property. 

Irwin v. Degtiarov, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 234 (2014)
"Reasonable veterinary costs that are reasonably incurred can be recovered by the owner of an animal injured by a dog even if such costs exceed the market value or replacement cost of the animal."

Nutt v. Florio, 75 Mass. App. Ct. 482 (2009)
Landlord's liability for bite by tenant's dog. A dog bite victim sued the landlord of the owner of the dog, a pit bull. The court stated that the pit bull is a breed "commonly known to be aggressive." "While the defendants may not be held strictly liable by virtue of Tiny's breed, knowledge of that breed and its propensities may properly be a factor to be considered in determining whether the defendants were negligent under common-law principles."

More Massachusetts case law
Chart of more Massachusetts case law compiled by Michigan State University College.


477 Harrison Ave., LLC v. Jace Boston, LLC, 483 Mass. 514 (2019)
The steps in the framework used to decide if a case should be dismissed under the anti-SLAPP law must be applied sequentially.

Baker v. Parsons, 434 Mass. 543, 750 NE2d 959 (2001)
For the first time, the SJC decided that the non-moving party must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the moving party's petitioning activities are devoid of any factual support or any arguable basis in law.

Bristol Asphalt v. Rochester Bituminous Products, 493 Mass. 539 (2024)
Simplifies existing anti-SLAPP framework. At first stage of resolving anti-SLAPP motion, movant must show the challenged claim lacks substantial basis in conduct other than or in addition to movant's petitioning activity, abrogating Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc. (Blanchard I), 477 Mass. 141 (2017), Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc. (Blanchard II), 483 Mass. 200 (2019), and Reichenbach v. Haydock, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 567 (2017).

Commonwealth v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 489 Mass. 724 (2022) 
The anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to civil enforcement actions by the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156, 691 NE2d 935 (1998)
This was the first appellate level decision in Massachusetts to address the contents of the anti-SLAPP statute. The court confirmed that the anti-SLAPP statute could be used to protect petitioning activities that don't involve themselves in matters of public concern.

Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 42 Mass. App. Ct. 572, 678 NE2d 1196 (1997)
Stated that once a party brings a claim under the anti-SLAPP statute, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to show that the moving party's claim has no basis, either in fact or in law, and the moving party's claim has actually injured the nonmoving party.

Fabre v. Walton, 436 Mass. 517, 781 NE2d 780 (2002)
Walton had obtained and then extended a 209A restraining order against Fabre. Fabre sued, alleging that Walton had obtained the order to harass him, and hadn't been abused. Walton moved to dismiss the suit. Invoking the Anti-SLAPP statute (MGL c.231, § 59H), the SJC ruled that Fabre's lawsuit would not be allowed to go forward without a "substantial basis" that the domestic violence claim was "devoid of any reasonable factual support," and that since the order had been extended, the claim must have had some factual support. Clarifying a procedural issue, the court also decided that defendants in such suits have a right to bring an interlocutory appeal to the Appeals Court, "regardless of the court in which the SLAPP suit was brought."

Fustolo v. Hollander, 455 Mass. 861 (2010)
A newspaper reporter writing articles on an issue is not "a party [who] seeks some redress from the government," and thus is not exercising her "right of petition" within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute.

In the Matter of Hamm, 487 Mass. 394 (2021)
The "anti-SLAPP" statute, MGL c. 231, § 59H, does not apply to an objection to a conservator's final account, filed under MGL c. 190B, §§ 1-401 (e) and 5-418 (e), in the Probate and Family Court.

Kobrin v. Gastfriend, 443 Mass. 327 (2005)
Court held that Anti-SLAPP statute did not immunize a physician from liability for the statements he made about a psychiatrist in his affidavit as an expert witness on behalf of the Mass. Board of Registration in Medicine.

McLarnon v. Jokisch, 431 Mass. 343, 727 NE2d 813 (2000)
Anti-SLAPP statute was found to be applicable to a civil action alleging a violation of civil rights, malicious prosecution, alienation of affection, and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of protective orders against the plaintiff.

Office One, Inc. v. Lopez, 437 Mass. 113, 769 NE2d 749 (2002)
Court found that a condominium trustee's communication with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) constituted a petitioning activity that was protected under the Anti-SLAPP statute. As a result, the lower court's granting of defendants' special motion to dismiss and awarding of attorney's fees based on Anti-SLAPP provisions were affirmed.

Stuborn Limited Partnership, et al. v. Bernstein, 245 F.Supp.2d 312 (D. Mass., 2003)
Anti-SLAPP statute was held to be a state procedural rule that was inapplicable in federal court.

Vittands v. Sudduth, 49 Mass. App. Ct. 401, 730 NE2d 325 (2000)
"Strategic lawsuits against public participation" are defined as meritless suits that use litigation to intimidate opponents' exercise of rights of petition and speech.

Auto insurance

Backyard chickens


Beach rights

Arno v. Commonwealth, 457 Mass. 434 (2010)
After registration, the landowner had fee simple title to any portion of his property that once was submerged tidelands, subject to a condition subsequent that his parcel be used for a public purpose, and fee simple title in any historical tidal flats, subject to an easement of the public.

Boston Waterfront Dev. Corp. v. Commonwealth, 378 Mass. 629 (1979)
Provides "a comprehensive overview of the history of Massachusetts tideland law."

Commonwealth v. Alger, 61 Mass. 53 (1851)
Called by the Supreme Judicial Court "probably the leading case on the subject."

Commonwealth v. City of Roxbury, 75 Mass. 451 (1857)
Explains at great length and in great detail the origins of and changes to property rights along the shore.

Houghton v. Johnson, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 825 (2008)
Details the requirements for prescriptive easements over beachfront property.

Loiselle v. Hickey, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 644 (2018)
"The general rule is that any easement burdening registered land must be shown on the certificate of title.... Although title to the upland portion of shoreland property can be severed from the title to the flats, this generally must be done expressly, that is, through the use of "excluding words." ... Otherwise, the owners of shoreland property are presumed to own the fee in the adjacent flats."

Mazzola v. O’Brien, 100 Mass. App. Ct. 424 (2021)
Clarifies that an all-terrain vehicle owner who has an easement to get to the beach has the right to cross the adjoining landowner’s property via the easement.

Navy Yard Four Associates v. Department of Environmental Protection, 88 Mass. App. Ct. 213 (2015) 
Court upheld the validity of agency's definition of Commonwealth tidelands to include both submerged lands and tidal flats.

Opinion of the Justices to the House of Representatives, 365 Mass. 681 (1974)
In disapproving a proposed bill to allow walking along private beaches, court provides a clear summary of the law.

Richards, et al. v. Casassa, 2022 Mass. LCR LEXIS 93, 2022 WL 12298006, Land Court, (Docket No. 19 MISC 000013) (Oct. 21, 2022)
Plaintiffs, who all own inland lots of a subdivision known as Cobbs Village on the south shore of Barnstable Harbor on Cape Cod, have the right to use the entire "Bathing Beach" running the length of the subdivision for purposes of bathing and boating, as confirmed in their certificates of title.  The owner of a separate parcel abutting the beach may not maintain a lawn, flagpole, or build a dune on the beach, as it interferes with the subdivision residents' right of use. [See also related case: Tirrell v. 133 Sunset Ln Acquisition.]

Spillane v. Adams, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 378 (2010)
Standard for low-water mark. "No definitive standard for tidal marks has been adopted in our appellate case law, and we take this opportunity to do so. The appropriate standard for low water mark is the 'mean low water' as determined by the NGVD."

Storer v. Freeman, 6 Mass. 435 (1810)
Explains the change in the law from low-water mark to high-water mark in 1641-47.

Tirrell, et al. v. 133 Sunset Ln Acquisition Limited, et al., 2022 Mass. LCR LEXIS 94, 2022 WL 12294473, Land Court (Docket No. 20 MISC 000212) (Oct. 21, 2022)
Plaintiffs, who all own inland lots of a subdivision known as Cobbs Village on the south shore of Barnstable Harbor on Cape Cod, have the right to use the entire "Bathing Beach" running the length of the subdivision, as confirmed in their certificates of title. However, the owner of two lots that abut the "Bathing Beach" and the portion of the beach that abuts those lots may maintain a patio, firepit, and vinyl fence within the boundaries of the beach, because at this time the beach appears to be growing in extent between the high water mark and the vinyl fence. "The principal distinction between this case and Richards is in the amount of Bathing Beach available to the Plaintiffs' use at all tides." [See also related case: Richards, et al. v. Casassa.]

Bullying and cyberbullying

Burial, cremation, and funerals

Brown v. Bayview Crematory, LLC, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 337 (2011)
Jury could find that "plaintiffs suffered injury due to mental distress occasioned by the defendant's handling of the remains of the plaintiffs' mother...even where the jury found that the plaintiffs did not suffer sufficient physical manifestation or objective symptoms to recover for negligently inflicted emotional distress."

Burney v. Children's Hospital, 169 Mass. 57 (1897)
Discusses the right to possession of a body for the purpose of burial.

Church of the Holy Spirit of Wayland v. Heinrich, 491 Mass. 464 (2023)
SJC upholds church's right to disinter and move cremains. "The court is fully aware that a decent respect for the memory of those who have been buried requires that there be no disturbance of the remains of one deceased unless the law as applied to the particular circumstances compels such a conclusion. Here, with considerable reluctance, that conclusion seems necessary to the court."

LaCava v. Lucander, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 527 (2003)
The right to be buried in a cemetery of one's choosing is not a fundamental right for purposes of equal protection.

LeBlanc v. Commonwealth, 457 Mass. 94 (2010)
Where there was understandable confusion about whether a body released to parents was the correct body, but in fact there was no error, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had no obligation to tell the family that the autopsy report had been corrected and that the body was, in fact, that of their son.

Magrath v. Sheehan, 296 Mass. 263 (1936)
A husband made no arrangements to bury his wife, and, as a result, a third party made and paid for funeral arrangements. Since there was no money in the estate, the third party could demand the cost of the funeral from the husband. "The duty of a husband to provide a proper funeral for his dead wife and his legal liability to another for reasonable expenses justifiably incurred in providing such a funeral rest upon fundamental concepts of decency and humanity."

O'Dea v. Mitchell, 350 Mass. 163 (1966)
The plaintiffs' standing for unlawful burial rests on the statement that they are "next of kin" to the decedent, and therefore have the right to possession of the decedent's body. That right vests, however, in the next of kin only when there is no surviving spouse or no contrary provision by the decedent concerning the disposition of his remains.

Silva v. Attleboro, 454 Mass. 165 (2009)
A Superior Court judge did not err in holding that monetary charges imposed by certain municipalities for the issuance of burial permits were valid regulatory fees rather than improper taxes, where the charges were reasonably proportional to the amounts expended by the local boards of health in administering the permit process, and were charged in exchange for a particular governmental service benefiting the party paying the charge, that is, a well-regulated industry for the disposal of human remains.

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