Monday, July 25, 2011

US District Court holds that due process claims regarding tax lien "arose from" prior litigation regarding the lien

In my last post I wrote about Saugus v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., __ F.2d __, 2011 WL 2311873 (D. Mass.),in which the town of Saugus sought insurance coverage for claims that it had wrongfully demolished a house after a fire and collected costs associated with the demolition.

In addition to the Zurich policy discussed in the last post, the town had also been issued a claims-based policy by Maryland Casualty. That policy contained an exclusion for claims "arising from all pending or prior litigation as of the policy effective date and all future claims arising from such litigation." Maryland asserted that the exclusion applied because the underlying plaintiffs had sought relief from the Board of Assessors, the Appellate Tax Board and the Massachusetts Appeals Court on matters relating to the costs of demolition.

The town argued that due process claims alleged by the underlying plaintiffs under §1983 were different from and unrelated to the prior litigation involving tax abatement. The underlying plaintiffs alleged that the town demolished the remains of the property without proper notice, imposed an illegal lien on the property, added non-existent debt to the real estate tax bill, forced them to pay an illegal special assessment, and refused to return the special assessment.

The United States District Court held that the § 1983 claims 'arose from" the prior litigation, so that the exclusion applied.

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