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General Laws

Section 9. (1) Any person, other than a person entitled to bring action under section eleven of this chapter, who has been injured by another person’s use or employment of any method, act or practice declared to be unlawful by section two or any rule or regulation issued thereunder or any person whose rights are affected by another person violating the provisions of clause (9) of section three of chapter one hundred and seventy-six D may bring an action in the superior court, or in the housing court as provided in section three of chapter one hundred and eighty-five C whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third party action, for damages and such equitable relief, including an injunction, as the court deems to be necessary and proper.

(2) Any persons entitled to bring such action may, if the use or employment of the unfair or deceptive act or practice has caused similar injury to numerous other persons similarly situated and if the court finds in a preliminary hearing that he adequately and fairly represents such other persons, bring the action on behalf of himself and such other similarly injured and situated persons; the court shall require that notice of such action be given to unnamed petitioners in the most effective practicable manner. Such action shall not be dismissed, settled or compromised without the approval of the court, and notice of any proposed dismissal, settlement or compromise shall be given to all members of the class of petitioners in such manner as the court directs.

(3) At least thirty days prior to the filing of any such action, a written demand for relief, identifying the claimant and reasonably describing the unfair or deceptive act or practice relied upon and the injury suffered, shall be mailed or delivered to any prospective respondent. Any person receiving such a demand for relief who, within thirty days of the mailing or delivery of the demand for relief, makes a written tender of settlement which is rejected by the claimant may, in any subsequent action, file the written tender and an affidavit concerning its rejection and thereby limit any recovery to the relief tendered if the court finds that the relief tendered was reasonable in relation to the injury actually suffered by the petitioner. In all other cases, if the court finds for the petitioner, recovery shall be in the amount of actual damages or twenty-five dollars, whichever is greater; or up to three but not less than two times such amount if the court finds that the use or employment of the act or practice was a willful or knowing violation of said section two or that the refusal to grant relief upon demand was made in bad faith with knowledge or reason to know that the act or practice complained of violated said section two. For the purposes of this chapter, the amount of actual damages to be multiplied by the court shall be the amount of the judgment on all claims arising out of the same and underlying transaction or occurrence, regardless of the existence or nonexistence of insurance coverage available in payment of the claim. In addition, the court shall award such other equitable relief, including an injunction, as it deems to be necessary and proper. The demand requirements of this paragraph shall not apply if the claim is asserted by way of counterclaim or cross-claim, or if the prospective respondent does not maintain a place of business or does not keep assets within the commonwealth, but such respondent may otherwise employ the provisions of this section by making a written offer of relief and paying the rejected tender into court as soon as practicable after receiving notice of an action commenced under this section. Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary, if the court finds any method, act or practice unlawful with regard to any security or any contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery as defined in section two, and if the court finds for the petitioner, recovery shall be in the amount of actual damages.

(3A) A person may assert a claim under this section in a district court, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action, for money damages only. Said damages may include double or treble damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, as herein provided. The demand requirements and provision for tender of offer of settlement provided in paragraph (3) shall also be applicable under this paragraph, except that no rights to equitable relief shall be created under this paragraph, nor shall a person asserting a claim hereunder be able to assert any claim on behalf of other similarly injured and situated persons as provided in paragraph (2).

(4) If the court finds in any action commenced hereunder that there has been a violation of section two, the petitioner shall, in addition to other relief provided for by this section and irrespective of the amount in controversy, be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with said action; provided, however, the court shall deny recovery of attorney’s fees and costs which are incurred after the rejection of a reasonable written offer of settlement made within thirty days of the mailing or delivery of the written demand for relief required by this section.

[There is no paragraph (5).]

(6) Any person entitled to bring an action under this section shall not be required to initiate, pursue or exhaust any remedy established by any regulation, administrative procedure, local, state or federal law or statute or the common law in order to bring an action under this section or to obtain injunctive relief or recover damages or attorney’s fees or costs or other relief as provided in this section. Failure to exhaust administrative remedies shall not be a defense to any proceeding under this section, except as provided in paragraph seven.

(7) The court may upon motion by the respondent before the time for answering and after a hearing suspend proceedings brought under this section to permit the respondent to initiate action in which the petitioner shall be named a party before any appropriate regulatory board or officer providing adjudicatory hearings to complainants if the respondent’s evidence indicates that:

(a) there is a substantial likelihood that final action by the court favorable to the petitioner would require of the respondent conduct or practices that would disrupt or be inconsistent with a regulatory scheme that regulates or covers the actions or transactions complained of by the petitioner established and administered under law by any state or federal regulatory board or officer acting under statutory authority of the commonwealth or of the United States; or

(b) that said regulatory board or officer has a substantial interest in reviewing said transactions or actions prior to judicial action under this chapter and that the said regulatory board or officer has the power to provide substantially the relief sought by the petitioner and the class, if any, which the petitioner represents, under this section.

Upon suspending proceedings under this section the court may enter any interlocutory or temporary orders it deems necessary and proper pending final action by the regulatory board or officer and trial, if any, in the court, including issuance of injunctions, certification of a class, and orders concerning the presentation of the matter to the regulatory board or officer. The court shall issue appropriate interlocutory orders, decrees and injunctions to preserve the status quo between the parties pending final action by the regulatory board or officer and trial and shall stay all proceedings in any court or before any regulatory board or officer in which petitioner and respondent are necessarily involved. The court may issue further orders, injunctions or other relief while the matter is before the regulatory board or officer and shall terminate the suspension and bring the matter forward for trial if it finds (a) that proceedings before the regulatory board or officer are unreasonably delayed or otherwise unreasonably prejudicial to the interests of a party before the court, or (b) that the regulatory board or officer has not taken final action within six months of the beginning of the order suspending proceedings under this chapter.

(8) Except as provided in section ten, recovering or failing to recover an award of damages or other relief in any administrative or judicial proceeding, except proceedings authorized by this section, by any person entitled to bring an action under this section, shall not constitute a bar to, or limitation upon relief authorized by this section.

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