Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Insurance Brokers West, Inc.’s (IBW) complaint alleging breach of contract against Liquid Outcome, LLC, f/k/a Astonish Results, LLC (Astonish) for failure to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332. In its amended complaint, IBW estimated its damages as exceeding $140,000. The district court dismissed the complaint, finding that IBW’s claims did not exceed $75,000, and therefore, IBW failed to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that it was certain as a matter of law that IBW could not recover more than $75,000. View "Insurance Brokers West, Inc. v. Liquid Outcome, LLC" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to (1) dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims under Massachusetts law for libel and intentional interference with prospective contractual relations, (2) bar portions of Plaintiffs’ Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim from going forward, and (3) award attorney’s fees and costs to Defendant. These consolidated appeals concerned a lawsuit that involved a number of claims arising under federal copyright law, state tort law, and chapter 93A. Defendant operated a website called RipoffReport.com. Plaintiffs were a Massachusetts attorney, a corporate entity that the attorney created, and Christian DuPont. Plaintiffs’ claims pertained to a dispute arising from two reports that DuPont authored and posted on the Ripoff Report and that were highly critical of the attorney. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s partial grant of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, and the district court’s fees award order for the reasons stated above. View "Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed a judgment entered by the district court against Hylas Yachts, LLC and in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $663,774 plus interest and costs in this case alleging numerous defects in a brand-new yacht that Hylas custom built and sold to Plaintiffs. The court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Plaintiffs to offer their evidence of damages for the jury’s evaluation; (2) the district court was not required to dismiss the case or give an adverse-inference instruction concerning spoliation of evidence; (3) the district court did not err in dismissing Hylas’s indemnification claim against the boom supplier; (4) there was no error in the jury instructions; (5) the jury’s verdict was not inconsistent; and (6) Plaintiffs were not entitled as a matter of law to multiple damages and attorneys’ fees under Massachusetts state law. View "Sharp v. Hylas Yachts, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s determination that, under Puerto Rico law, Caribbean Seaside Heights Properties, Inc.’s suit for breach of contract against Erikon LLC, its former investment partner, was barred by a release that Seaside had executed earlier in Erikon’s favor. In 2006, the parties executed an agreement to sell their real estate project. As part of that agreement, Seaside and Erikon each agreed to execute releases in favor of the buyer and in favor of each other. When Erikon later refused to pay Seaside reimbursement for expenses Seaside had purportedly incurred in connection with the project, Seaside initiated this suit. The district court granted summary judgment for Erikon, finding the release both valid and applicable. The First Circuit summarily affirmed, holding that the release executed by Seaside provided Erikon with a defense against this action, substantially for the reasons articulated by the district court. View "Caribbean Seaside Heights Properties v. Erikon LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint against Nordstrom, Inc. alleging that Nordstrom had improperly obtained money from her and other Massachusetts consumers and requesting that a court order Nordstrom to restore this money and enjoin Nordstrom from continuing to violate Massachusetts law. Plaintiff’s claims were based on her purchase of a cardigan sweater for $49.97 at a Nordstrom Rack outlet store in Boston, Massachusetts. The sweater’s price tag listed both the purchase price and a higher “Compare At” price of $218. Plaintiff claimed that the sweater was never sold for $218 but, rather, that Nordstrom uses the “Compare At” price tags to mislead consumers about the quality of its items. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the dismissal of her Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim and her common law claims for fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) because Plaintiff did not adequately allege that she suffered a legally cognizable injury, her Chapter 93A claims for damages and injunctive relief were both properly dismissed; and (2) the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s remaining claims. View "Shaulis v. Nordstrom, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. alleging that the “comparison prices” on Kohl’s price tags were entirely fictional and selected to mislead consumers about the quality of the products sold by Kohl’s. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Kohl’s had improperly obtained money from her and other Massachusetts consumers in violation of Massachusetts statutory and common law. Plaintiff requested that a court order Kohl’s to restore this money and enjoin the store from continuing to violate Massachusetts law. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for damages and injunctive relief and her common law claims for fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment for the reasons stated in Shaulis v. Nordstrom, Inc., No. 15-2354, slip op. at 5-32 (1st Cir. July 26, 2017), also decided today; and (2) affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, holding that the district court did not err in denying the motion. View "Mulder v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim. Plaintiff, a South Carolina resident, brought this diversity suit against Defendant, a Puerto Rico company, alleging that Defendant breached his employment agreement by unilaterally terminating it early. Plaintiff sought damages for unpaid base salary and anticipated commissions on real estate sales. The district court found that Plaintiff’s employment was void because Plaintiff was effecting real estate broker duties without a license under Puerto Rico law. The First Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that summary judgment was inappropriate where it was disputed whether Defendant was aware that Plaintiff did not have a broker’s license at any relevant time and whether some of the work Plaintiff performed and intended to perform was permissible without a broker’s license. View "Farthing v. Coco Beach Resort Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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The arbitrator did not manifestly disregard the law and did not exceed his powers in concluding that the dispute in this case could not be arbitrated as a matter of law. Plaintiff Mountain Valley Property, Inc. (MVP) purchased a comprehensive insurance package (the program) from Applied Underwriters, Inc. (AU). As part of the program, MVP entered into a reinsurance participation agreement with Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co., Inc. (AUCRA) that contained a mandatory arbitration clause and a Nebraska choice-of-law clause. MVP later filed a complaint against AU, AUCRA, and Applied Risk Services, Inc. (collectively, Applied) alleging breach of contract and various tort claims arising from its participation in the program. The district court referred the claims against AUCRA to arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that the dispute could not be arbitrated as a matter of law due to the McCarran-Ferguson Act and the Nebraska Uniform Arbitration Act. AUCRA unsuccessfully moved to vacate the arbitration award under the FAA and to transfer the case to the District of Nebraska. Applied appealed from the denial of the motion to vacate. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitrator did not manifestly disregard the law and did not exceed his powers. View "Mountain Valley Property, Inc. v. Applied Risk Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this business dispute, Plaintiff K’s Merchandise Mart, Inc. challenged orders by the district judge granting summary judgment for Defendants William Weinstein and Frank Morton and requiring Plaintiff to pay Defendants $35,000 in sanctions. The First Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rulings but vacated the sanctions order and remanded for reconsideration of the sanctions matter, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted on Plaintiff’s claims for fraudulent inducement, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of contract; and (2) the judge erred when he ordered sanctions against Plaintiff rather than against its attorneys. View "Eldridge v. Gordon Brothers Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Disappointed by the limited fruits of its multimillion-dollar investment with Abbott Laboratories (Abbott), John Hancock Life Insurance Company (Hancock) sued, seeking to recover damages under its contract with Abbott or, alternatively, to rescind the contract. At issue in this appeal was a contract provision that the parties viewed disparately either as a liquidated damages provision - and thus enforceable - or a penalty - and thus unenforceable. The district court concluded that the provision at issue was unenforceable. The First Circuit reversed this holding and affirmed the district court’s judgment in other respects, holding (1) Abbott failed to carry its burden of proving that the key provision was a penalty rather than a valid and enforceable liquidated damages provision; and (2) the district court did not err in striking Hancock’s prayer for rescission where Hancock recovered damages under the contract for Abbott’s breach of the contract. View "John Hancock Life Insurance Co. v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law