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Hobson v. McLean Hospital Corp.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex

February 3, 1988 ; May 16, 1988

No. 4561


 [*414]   [**976]  The plaintiff was employed at the defendant McLean Hospital Corporation (hospital) for approximately twenty years. Following her discharge the plaintiff filed a four-count complaint seeking damages against the hospital for breach of her employment contract (count one); against the hospital and the individual defendants for the "common law tort" of wrongfully terminating an employee in retaliation for her enforcement of State and municipal laws and regulations (count two); against the hospital and the individual [***4]  defendants for violation of civil rights (count three); and against the individual defendants alone for interference with contractual relations (count four). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the first three counts under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (6), 365 Mass. 754 (1974). This motion was granted. The individual defendants then moved under rule 12 (b) (6) to have the remaining count dismissed, arguing that dismissal of the contract claim prevented the plaintiff from stating a claim for interference with contractual relations. This motion was granted, and  [*415]  the judge dismissed the plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. We transferred the appeal here on our own motion.

At the outset we note that what we ] review is the grant of a dismissal motion under rule 12 (b) (6) and not a grant of summary judgment under Mass. R. Civ. P. 56, 365 Mass. 824 (1974). Thus we review the complaint to determine if, viewing its allegations and inferences broadly and in the plaintiff's favor, "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim" entitling her to  [**977]  relief. Nader v. Citron, 372 Mass. 96, 98, 360 N.E.2d 870 (1977). [***5]  

1. Breach of contract claim. In count one of her complaint the plaintiff alleges that the hospital's by-laws for the professional staff confer privileges on certain employees, that unspecified "employment policies and practices" have developed in conjunction with the by-laws, and that the plaintiff was appointed director of nursing administration in 1976 "pursuant to those By-laws." 2 The plaintiff also alleges in count one that "[t]he By-laws and the employment policies and practices which have developed in conjunction with them constitute a contract between [the hospital] and Mrs. Hobson"; that "[p]ursuant to that contract, [the hospital] was obliged to retain Mrs. Hobson as Director of Nursing unless and until there was just cause for her termination and it was obliged to give Mrs. Hobson adequate counseling, assistance and warning prior to any termination for cause"; and that "[the hospital] terminated Mrs. Hobson on April 21, 1983 without just cause and without the adequate counseling, assistance and warning required by contract."

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402 Mass. 413 *; 522 N.E.2d 975 **; 1988 Mass. LEXIS 143 ***; 3 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1217; 123 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P57,140


Prior History:  [***1]  CIVIL ACTION commenced in the Superior Court Department on April 18, 1986.

The case was heard by Herbert Abrams, J., on motions to dismiss.

The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Disposition: So ordered.


alleges, rights, by-laws, individual defendant, termination, contractual relationship, staff

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, General Overview, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Labor & Employment Law, Exceptions, Tort Exceptions, Public Policy Violations, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Jury Trials, Right to Jury Trial, Actions in Equity