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Simon v. Solomon - 385 Mass. 91, 431 N.E.2d 556 (1982)

Rule:

The common law background of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 14 suggests that malicious intent is not a condition of liability. The phrase quiet enjoyment is a familiar term in landlord-tenant law, signifying the tenant's right to freedom from serious interferences with his tenancy, acts or omissions that impair the character and value of the leased premises. Every tenancy is deemed to entail an implied covenant that the landlord will not disturb this right during the tenancy. Although early cases applying the covenant of quiet enjoyment required intent on the part of the landlord, more recent decisions have imposed liability whenever the natural and probable consequence of a landlord's action was interruption of the tenant's rights. When the legislature chose the words quiet enjoyment, words that have little inherent meaning but a rich background in decisional law, it must have intended to incorporate these cases into the statute.

Facts:

Defendant Celeste Solomon resided in a low income apartment owned by plaintiff Maurice Simon. Solomon refused to pay rent after the apartment flooded on numerous occasions. Simon initiated an eviction action against Solomon in Massachusetts municipal court. Solomon, citing floods, trash, rats, roaches, and more, denied that she owed rent. She also filed a counterclaim, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 14, in four counts, claiming that Simon had: (1) broken the implied warranty of habitability; (2) violated the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment; (3) caused Solomon emotional distress through negligent failure to maintain her apartment; and (4) intentionally inflicted emotional distress. The action was transferred to a housing court, which entered judgment for Solomon on her counterclaims that alleged breach of implied warranty of habitability, breach of implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The housing court entered summary judgment in favor of Simon on Solomon's claim for emotional distress caused by the Simon's negligent maintenance. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted Simon's request for direct appellate review.

Issue:

Did the evidence presented show that Simon's inaction caused emotional distress to Solomon?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts court affirmed the decision awarding Solomon judgment on her claims for breach of implied warranty of habitability and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The court vacated the judgment for Solomon on her quiet enjoyment claim because that damage award was redundant in that the jury improperly duplicated items of damage that were subsumed in Solomon's recoveries for breach of warranty and emotional injury. The court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Simon on the negligent maintenance claim. The court ruled, among other things, that the evidence warranted findings that Simon had recklessly failed to make repairs necessary to prevent repeated flooding of Solomon's apartment, that Simon's long and repetitious course of conduct toward Solomon was outrageous, and that Simon's conduct was the proximate cause of Solomon's severe emotional distress. The court held that a tenant could bring a civil action against a landlord to recover damages under G. L. c. 186, § 14, for interference with quiet enjoyment of residential premises without first seeking criminal charges against the landlord under that statute's criminal provisions. Malicious intent was not a condition of liability under G. L. c. 186, § 14, which prohibited a landlord's interference with a tenant's quiet enjoyment of residential premises, and a landlord's reckless conduct was within the scope of § 14.

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