Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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Annalia Montany, a student in the University of New England’s (UNE) occupational therapy master’s degree program, injured her back when Scott McNeil, an instructor playing the role of a mock patient, feigned a fall while Montany attempted to assist him in transferring from a wheelchair into a bed. Because of her back problem she failed a practical exam and did not receive a passing grade for the course. Montany was subsequently dismissed from the program. Montany filed suit against UNE and McNeil, alleging negligence and breach of contract. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Montany’s assertion, expert testimony was required in this case; and (2) Montany’s breach of contract claims failed. View "Montany v. University of New England" on Justia Law

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A plaintiff may not bring claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. 1981 against state actors, including defendants sued in their official capacities as government officials. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff's section 1981 claims against employees of the City of Boston. Plaintiff, who represented the estate of her late father, challenged her father’s termination from his employment with the Department of Public Works. The district court dismissed the section 1981 claims, concluding that section 1981 provides no implied private right of action for damages against state actors. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Jett v. Dallas Independent School District compelled the result reached by the district court. View "Buntin v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment to Defendant in this action for breach of contract. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that in causing a $200,000 loan to be taken out against a life insurance policy, Defendant had violated the non-contravention agreement inducing the lender to enter into the loan agreement. The district court concluded that Defendant breached the non-contravention agreement but that he was immune from liability under a non-recourse provision in the loan agreement. In reversing, the First Circuit held that the terms of the non-contravention agreement applied to the facts of this case without nullification by the loan agreement’s non-recourse clause. View "Dukes Bridge LLC v. Beinhocker" on Justia Law

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Gerardo Salvati died from injuries he sustained while doing maintenance work. Gerardo’s wife, Lucia (hereinafter referred to as Salvati) filed a lawsuit seeking damages for wrongful death and loss of consortium. The underlying defendants had a primary policy through Western World Insurance Company in the amount of $1 million and an excess policy through the American Insurance Company (AIC) in the amount of $9 million. AIC refused to provide coverage to the underlying defendants. Salvati and the underlying defendants eventually reached a $6 million settlement agreement. In exchange for tendering the full $1 million of the Western World primary insurance policy, the agreement released Western World and the underlying defendants from any further liability and assigned all rights held by the underlying defendants against AIC to Salvati. Thereafter, Salvati filed a complaint against AIC, alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and seeking a declaratory judgment that she was entitled to collect $5 million from AIC under the excess policy. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Salvati failed to show that the settlement agreement triggered AIC’s duty to indemnify; and (2) Salvati may not bring a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, and therefore, none of her causes of action survived. View "Salvati v. American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Debtor after Debtor defaulted on a loan. Plaintiff secured a default judgment in the amount of $137,030.78. Without making payment on the judgment, Debtor later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Plaintiff commenced an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court seeking an order declaring the debt non-dischargeable. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the debt was within the purview of 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(B), which exempts from discharge certain debts. Debtor answered the complaint and then moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff then moved to amend her complaint to include an alternative claim that the debt was non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A). The bankruptcy court granted Debtor’s motion to dismiss and denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the First Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint and refusal to allow Plaintiff to add a section 523(a)(2)(A) claim to her complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the section 523(a)(2)(B) claim was properly dismissed; and (2) an adequate basis existed for the bankruptcy court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion to amend. View "Privitera v. Curran" on Justia Law

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Arabian Support & Services Co. (ASASCO), a Saudi Arabian business, sought compensation for assisting Textron Systems Corporation in its pursuit of a weapons deal in Saudi Arabia. ASASCO claimed that Textron backed away from its promises to supplement the modest fees paid under the parties’ written consulting agreements through an “offset” arrangement linked to the weapons sale. ASASCO’s complaint alleged breach of contract, tortious interference with ASASCO’s business and contractual relationship, and violations of Chapter 93A, the Massachusetts Deceptive Trade Practices Act. After limited discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for Textron on all of ASASCO’s claims. The First Circuit vacated the summary judgment in part, holding that the district court erred in dismissing ASASCO’s Chapter 93A misrepresentation claim based solely on the failure of the contract claim. Remanded for further proceedings on ASASCO’s misrepresentation theory. View "Arabian Support & Services Co. v. Textron Systems Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against their insurance carrier (Defendant), claiming that Defendant had incorrectly denied coverage. The case proceeded to a jury trial. The jury’s unanimous verdict was for Defendant. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial after learning that the jury foreperson had a prior felony conviction, arguing that the juror was not qualified to serve on the jury under 28 U.S.C. 1865(b)(5). The district court denied the motion for a new trial, concluding that Plaintiffs had not shown that the juror’s service deprived them of a fundamentally fair trial. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the juror’s inclusion was not fatal to the jury’s verdict, and therefore, the district court properly denied Plaintiffs’ new-trial motion. View "Faria v. Harleysville Worcester Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2005, the Rhode Island Supreme Court found that title to the Regatta Club in Newport and the parcel of land on which it was constructed belonged to a group of condominium associations. Thereafter, the operator of the Regatta Club (Operator) voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Two of the title-holding associations (together, Associations) filed proofs of claim seeking relief for the Operator’s alleged trespass on their property between 1998 and 2005. The First Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s finding that the Associations had impliedly consented to the Operator’s use and occupancy of the Regatta Club and remanded on the issue of whether there was an implied obligation that the Operator pay the Associations for its use and occupancy of the Club. On remand, the bankruptcy court found (1) there was no such implied-in-fact contract between the parties, and (2) the Associations were not entitled to relief under a theory of unjust enrichment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) no implied-in-fact contract existed between the parties; and (2) the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that inequity would not result if the Operator did not pay the Associations for the use and occupancy of the Regatta Club during the claim period. View "Goat Island South Condominium Ass’n v. IDC Clambakes, Inc." on Justia Law

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After James Walsh’s (Plaintiff) employment with Zurich American Insurance Company (Defendant) was terminated, he filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging breach of contract, willful violation of New Hampshire’s wage and hour law, and other claims based on Defendant’s substantial reduction of his incentive pay for a lucrative deal and failure to pay incentive on another deal. A jury found that Defendant willfully and without good cause withheld the compensation owed to Plaintiff and awarded him double damages and attorney’s fees. The First Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment insofar as it incorporated the jury’s verdict on one deal (the Great American Insurance Company, or GAIC, deal) and affirmed the judgment with respect to the other deal (the Automobile Protection Corp., or APCO, deal), holding (1) Defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the breach of contract and wage claims; (2) the jury’s breach and willfulness findings stemming from Defendant’s withholding of incentive compensation for a deal made with GAIC were not in error; but (3) the district court erred in concluding that, if Plaintiff had an enforceable incentive plan when the deal was struck with APCO, Defendant lacked discretion as a matter of law to change Plaintiff’s incentive formula for that deal. Remanded. View "Walsh v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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This dispute arose out of contract for the shipment of used tires from Puerto Rico to Vietnam. Because it arrived late to Vietnam, the shipment accrued port storage charges, demurrage charges, and related administrative fees. The district court granted summary judgment to the carrier, Mediterranean Shipping Co., concluding that Best Tire Recycling, Inc. was the shipper, and therefore, pursuant to the bills of lading, was liable to Mediterranean for unpaid ocean freight charges, shipping container demurrage, port storage, and related administrative fees. Best Tire appealed, arguing that the parties’ course of conduct overcame the presumption that Best Tire, who was identified as “shipper” on all of the bills of lading, bore liability. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that because Best Tire was designated as the shipper on the bills of lading, there were no genuine issues of material fact as to whether Best Tire was the shipper. View "Mediterranean Shipping Co. v. Best Tire Recycling, Inc." on Justia Law