Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of Uber Technologies, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action brought by users of Uber’s ride-sharing service in the Boston area, concluding that Uber’s mandatory arbitration clause found in an online contract was unenforceable. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Uber violated a Massachusetts consumer-protection statute by knowingly imposing fictitious or inflated fees. Uber moved to compel arbitration based on its terms and conditions (the agreement), which contained an arbitration clause and was available to Uber App users during the registration process. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were not reasonably notified of the terms of the agreement and consequently did not provide their unambiguous assent to those terms; and (2) therefore, Uber failed to carry its burden on its motion to compel arbitration. View "Cullinane v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on Plaintiffs’ claims seeking compensatory damages, declaratory relief, a permanent injunction, and expungement of disciplinary proceedings from a student’s university records. John Doe was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow Boston College student. In 2012, Boston College held disciplinary proceedings against Doe, and an Administrative Hearing Board found Doe responsible for the lesser offense of indecent assault and battery. In 2014, Boston College conducted an independent review of the disciplinary proceedings and determined that the Board’s finding was proper. Doe and his parents filed a lawsuit against Trustees of Boston College and several university officials. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2014 review and Title IX, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims; and (2) vacated the grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2012 disciplinary proceedings, where there were genuine issues of material fact on this claim, and basic fairness claim, where the grant of summary judgment on this claim rested on the court’s analysis as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim. View "Doe v. Trustees of Boston College" on Justia Law

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At issue here was cross-claims arising out of a bail bondsman’s attempt to seize a bailed man who had failed to appear for a court hearing. Rodriguez, the bailed man, left New Jersey to return to his home in Puerto Rico in violation of the bail agreement. When Rodriguez missed a court date in New Jersey, the bail bond was declared forfeited. Agents acting for Speedy Bail Bonds seized Rodriguez in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez filed suit against Speedy seeking damages for his seizure and detention. Rodriguez’s mother as co-plaintiff claimed mental anguish. Speedy counterclaimed for breach of the bail agreement. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Speedy. The First Circuit affirmed the damages award on the counterclaim but remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings on the question of whether the jury instructions as to the tort claims accurately reflected Puerto Rico law because the question of Puerto Rico law and out-of-state bounty hunters had not been briefed. View "Rodriguez-Tirado v. Speedy Bail Bonds" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing APB Realty, Inc.’s complaint against Georgia-Pacific alleging breach of contract stemming from the failure of a proposed deal concerning the purchase of rail freight cars. The district court dismssed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, finding that no contract had been formed between the parties. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the complaint alleged facts from which the Court could plausibly infer the making and breaking of a contract. The Court remanded the cause for further proceedings. View "APB Realty, Inc. v. Georgia-Pacific LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in this action filed by the Town of Westport against Monsanto Company, Solutia, Inc., and Pharmacia Corporation alleging that Phamacia was liable for “property damage” caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination at Westport Middle School (WMS). When WMS was built in 1969, the contractor used caulk that contained PCBs. Monsanto did not make the caulk but sold plasticizers, a component of caulk, to the third-party manufacturer who did. On appeal, Westport challenged the entry of judgment against its breach of warranty and negligent marketing claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Monsanto did not breach the implied warranty of merchantability because it was not reasonably foreseeable in 1969 that there was a risk PCBs would volatilize from caulk at levels requiring premeditation; and (2) as a matter of Massachusetts state law, a negligent marketing claim cannot be maintained independent of a design defect claim on these facts. View "Town of Westport v. Monsanto Co." on Justia Law

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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