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Massachusetts SJC Upholds Independent 3rd Party Appraisals

In September GBREB filed an Amicus Curiam , or “Friends the Court” brief in the case of Buffalo-Water, LLC V. Fidelity Real Estate Company LLC.  

In this case the two parties reached a contractual agreement on the purchase/sale of commercial property, with the price being established by a 3rd party appraiser. In this case, Buffalo Water did not like the number that the appraiser arrived at for the sale price and sought to extricate themselves from the transaction.

Under Massachusetts law, judicial review of an independent third party appraisal in a transaction like this was limited to cases of fraud, corruption, dishonesty or bad faith. This case is an attempt to create additional categories to discredit the third party appraisal and thwart a transaction.

The issue on appeal in this case  is whether we should modify this common-law rule and allow a judge to invalidate an appraisal intended by the parties to provide a final, binding valuation of a property where there is the appearance of bias, not on the part of the individual who conducted the appraisal, but on the part of the entity that employed the individual appraiser.

On November 26th,  the SJC concluded that the common-law rule established in Eliot v. Coulter, 322 Mass. 86, 91 (1947),  properly balances the need for fair valuations with the need for finality in the appraisal process, and that an appearance of bias alone is insufficient to invalidate an appraisal. Because the allegations in the complaint, if proved, do not warrant a finding of any violation of the agreements setting forth the terms of the appraisal, or a finding of fraud, corruption, dishonesty, or bad faith by the individual appraiser, or a finding of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by the defendant, the SJC affirmed the Superior Court judge's order allowing the defendant's motion to dismiss.

The Amicus Brief filed on behalf of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board states that the current law should be upheld and that no new categories or exceptions should be created judicially as that is best left to the Massachusetts Legislature.  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision upheld GBREB's position.

 


 

Court Upholds Independent Appraisals

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