SW Legal Educational Publishing

No Holds Barred in Champerty in Massachusetts
Description The Massachusetts high court struck down the old common law rule against champerty, the selling of an interest in a lawsuit. The court held that it is the duty of judges to watch over the fairness of payment arrangements in the financing of litigation.
Topic Contracts
Key Words Champerty, Barratry, Maintenance
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Saladini (S) and Righellis (R) entered into an agreement under which S advanced funds to R to pursue potential legal claims he had arising out of an interest in real estate. R agreed that if pursuit of his claims was successful, he would repay S and also give her half of any net recovery. R used S's funds to retain an attorney but, at some point, became unhappy with the attorney and hired another one. S agreed to pay half of the fees of the new attorney. Overall, S advanced over $19,000 to R, who won a settlement for $130,000, but did not pay S, who sued to enforce the agreement.
Trial Court Decision R moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the agreement was unenforceable as against public policy because it was champerty. The judge agreed and dismissed the suit. S appealed.
Supreme Judicial Court Decision Reversed. "We rule that the common law doctrines of champerty, barratry, and maintenance no longer shall be recognized in Massachusetts.... We also no longer are persuaded that the champerty doctrine is needed to protect against the evils once feared: speculation in lawsuits, the bringing of frivolous lawsuits, or financial overreaching by a party of superior bargaining position. There are now other devices that more effectively accomplish these ends."
Citation Saladini v. Righellis, ---N.E.2d--- (1997 WL 751609, Sup. Jud. Ct., Mass.)
or
687 N. E. 2d 1224 (Sup. Jud. Ct., Mass., 1997)

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