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Paper, Plastic or Politics? Employers Back Market in Candidate Case

Posted by Andre Mayer on Mar 13, 2014 10:41:00 AM

Almost three quarters of Massachusetts employers believe that supermarkets have the right to prohibit political candidates from collecting signatures on store properties, according to a new Associated Industries of Massachusetts survey.

Supermaket Candidate CaseThe issue was raised last month in a case before the state Supreme Judicial Court. A candidate for governor’s council sued Roche Brothers supermarkets in 2012 claiming he was prohibited from gathering signatures near a Roche market in Westwood. AIM joined other business organizations in supporting the market chain before the SJC since the case could have significant implications for the many commercial property owners who belong to the association.

Seventy-one percent of employers who responded to the AIM survey believe that the market should control use of its private property. Twenty-nine percent said candidates have a right to collect signatures there.

Supporters of the market generally took the line that "property owners should have control over their own property." Opponents held that "democracies need diversity of ideas and candidates."

The majority offered many more comments than the minority, often pointing to customer annoyance or intimidation as a concern; one AIM member noted that "the person in front of the store is not usually the candidate."  Another noted the real-life complexity of the issue, supporting the rights of property owners in principle by adding that "they would be foolish" to ban all candidates, and "even more foolish to allow some and not others." 

The SJC ruled in 1983 that candidates may not be barred from gathering signatures at shopping malls, even if the owner does not want them there. The plaintiff in the current case is asking the court to extend the protection to include places such as supermarkets and some commercial buildings.

AIM and the New England Legal Foundation argued in a legal brief that expanding the right to collect signatures is not warranted and would take away the rights of property owners to decide who should solicit signatures on their property.

 “The Roche Brothers supermarket’s standing invitation to the public is to shop there, and the entrance area is to be used for the utilitarian purposes of entering and exiting the store when shopping, and not for non-commercial purposes. This area, in extent and configuration, is not comparable to the common areas found in many large shopping malls, notably those where the public is regularly encouraged to gather in large numbers, socialize, linger, etc.,” AIM noted in its brief.

The court's decision is pending.

Topics: Litigation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Groceries Please, Hold the Politics

Posted by Robert Rio on Jan 30, 2014 2:33:00 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other business groups have filed a legal brief supporting the right of supermarkets to prohibit political candidates from collecting signatures on store properties.

Court CaseThe filing comes in a case before the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in which a candidate for governor’s council sued Roche Brothers supermarkets after he says he was prohibited from gathering signatures near a Roche market in Westwood. The case could have significant implications for the many commercial property owners who belong to AIM.

Steven M. Glovsky, who brought the suit, alleges violation of his constitutional rights. The case was dismissed at the lower court but Glovsky appealed. The case will be argued in front of the court on February 3.

The SJC ruled in 1983 that candidates may not be barred from gathering signatures at shopping malls even if the owner does not want them there. Glovsky is asking the court to extend the protection to include places such as supermarkets and some commercial buildings. These properties, in Glovsky’s view, have taken the place of traditional downtowns and have become public spaces similar to malls.

AIM and the New England Legal Foundation argue in their brief that expanding the right to collect signatures is not warranted and would take away the rights of property owners to decide who should solicit signatures on their property.

“Glovsky even goes so far as to advocate that, for any piece of commercial property that is, allegedly, the best place for a candidate to gather signatures, the Court should apply a standard under which the property owner’s rights would necessarily be subordinated to the rights of the aspiring candidate, unless the owner can prove, in court, that he would suffer unavoidable economic harm,” says the brief, which is also supported by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Massachusetts Food Association, NAIOP Massachusetts and other organizations.

“The Roche Brothers supermarket’s standing invitation to the public is to shop there, and the entrance area is to be used for the utilitarian purposes of entering and exiting the store when shopping, and not for non-commercial purposes. This area, in extent and configuration, is not comparable to the common areas found in many large shopping malls, notably those where the public is regularly encouraged to gather in large numbers, socialize, linger, etc…”

AIM frequently intervenes in court cases with broad implications for Massachusetts employers. Those cases most commonly revolve around contractual interpretations, jurisdictional issues, energy, tax and healthcare disputes. 

 

Topics: Litigation, Elections, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

AIM Seeks Voice in Deal that Threatens Liability Insurance Coverage

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 9, 2013 3:56:00 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts has joined Procter & Gamble, 3M and other companies in challenging a proposed insurance-company acquisition that could leave scores of Bay State businesses exposed to so-called long-tail asbestos and environmental liabilities.

Liability InsuranceThe companies and AIM last week filed a petition to intervene in the Pennsylvania Insurance Department review of Trebuchet US Holdings Inc.'s proposed $2.2 billion purchase of OneBeacon Insurance Co. and Potomac Insurance Co.  Trebuchet, a subsidiary of the Bermuda-based Armour Group Holdings Ltd., filed its application to acquire the two companies in February.

AIM and the other petitioners fear the proposed transaction would impede the ability of thousands of companies to get claims paid under environmental insurance coverage purchased from a predecessor to One Beacon, the Commercial Union Insurance Companies.

“Under the proposed transaction, those legacy policies, and the claims-paying obligations that are part of their core promise, will be jettisoned by (One Beacon) and shunted over to a runoff operation with a suspect capital structure and limited resources for satisfying valid claims under hundreds, if not thousands, of legacy policies issued by predecessor entities…” the petition said.

The document indicates that AIM and the other petitioners “are concerned that the conversion of the Acquired Companies into a runoff vehicle, operating with a significantly reduced policyholder surplus and decoupled from (One Beacon’s) ongoing business operations and pooled reserve and reinsurance structure, may impair the financial viability of the Acquired Companies and compromise their ability to pay valid claims arising under the legacy Commercial Union policies.”

The policies that the companies bought were in effect from the 1930s until the 1980s and provided "broad protection" against claims and lawsuits brought by third parties seeking compensation for personal injuries or property damage that allegedly occurred during the relevant policy period. The policyholders were covered even if the lawsuits or claims filed against them occurred many years after the alleged acts were committed and even if the injuries or damage weren't apparent during the coverage periods.

The companies seeking to intervene with Pennsylvania authorities say they had received "substantial numbers" of asbestos, environmental, toxic tort and other claims seeking financial recovery for "latent bodily injury and property damage that allegedly developed over the course of many years." The list of petitioners includes the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, ITT Corporation, Pentair Ltd. of Mansfield, Invensys of Foxboro, Belden Inc. and The William Powell Company.

Robert Rio, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said the association cannot estimate the number of Massachusetts manufacturing companies with liability policies that could be affected by the OneBeacon acquisition. He noted, however, that Commercial Union was a large writer of property/casualty policies in Massachusetts for decades.

“The broad coverage provided by these legacy policies is both valuable and irreplaceable, as policies providing comparable protection are no longer available at any price in the current insurance markets,” Rio said.  

The petition to intervene in the case also raises concerns about the fact that most of the exhibits submitted by Trebuchet - including financial statements, business plans for the acquired runoff entities, and reinsurance arrangements – are classified as “confidential,” “proprietary” and “trade secret.”

The companies maintain that the “pervasive non-disclosure of these materials appears designed to render the Proposed Transaction as opaque as possible, and to deprive policyholders whose rights may be impaired by the Proposed Transaction of any meaningful opportunity to assess its financial impact on the security of their policies.”

Topics: Litigation, Issues, Environment

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