Contract Law and Public Policy


Massachusetts courts can refuse to enforce contract terms that violate public policy.

According to the Supreme Judicial Court,

It is a principle universally accepted that the public interest in freedom of contract is sometimes outweighed by public policy, and in such cases the contract will not be enforced.  Beacon Hill Civic Association v. Ristorante Toscano, Inc., 422 Mass. 318, 321 (1996).

The Court goes on to say that

“Public policy” in this context refers to a court’s conviction, grounded in legislation and precedent, that denying enforcement of a contractual term is necessary to protect some aspect of the public welfare. Id.

In other words, parties to a contract cannot enforce terms that violate or disregard regulations enacted for the public welfare.

Examples of laws that were enacted expressly for the public’s welfare include the environmental protection rules and the consumer protection regulations.  See 310 CMR 15.301 and 940 CMR 3.16, respectively.

If you have questions about the law, please feel free to contact me via email at

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