Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting injunctive and declaratory relief to NACM-New England, Inc., which does business under the name Business Credit Intelligence (BCI) in this breach of contract action between National Association of Credit Management, Inc. (NACM), a national trade association of credit professionals, and BCI, one of its regional affiliates, holding that the district court violated NACM's Seventh Amendment rights. At issue was the termination date of a 2011 agreement between BCI and NACM. BCI sought an injunction to require NACM to continue to abide by the terms of the 2011 agreement, which it claimed NACM had breached. The district court granted an injunction and a declaratory judgment to BCI, ordering that the 2011 agreement remained in effect because NACM did not properly terminate the agreement. The First Circuit held that the district court (1) abused its discretion when it ordered as part of the injunctive relief that NACM shall continue to honor all its obligations under the 2011 agreement; and (2) erred in entering the declaratory judgment because it did so without submitting BCI's breach of contract claim to a jury. View "NACM-New England, Inc. v. National Ass'n of Credit Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting judgment to U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. in the amount of $226,458.28 on U.S. Bank's complaint against Julia Jones alleging breach of contract and breach of promissory note, holding that the district court did not err by admitting into evidence a computer printout, marked as Exhibit 8, that contained an account summary and a list of transactions related to the loan. On appeal, Jones argued that admitting Exhibit 8 violated the Federal Rules of Evidence. At issue was whether the records were "reliable enough to be admissible." The First Circuit answered in the affirmative, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Exhibit 8 reliable enough to admit under Fed. R. Evid. 803(6); (2) the district court's admission of Exhibit 8 did not violate Fed. R. Evid. 901, 1001, or 1002; and (3) the district court did not err by awarding U.S. Bank approximately $23,000 in charges for escrow, title fees, and inspections that were not recoverable under the terms of the promissory note. View "U.S. Bank Trust, N.A. v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to AXIS Reinsurance Company (AXIS) on Plaintiffs' complaint seeking to enforce a directors and officers insurance policy with AXIS, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of AXIS and in denying Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. Plaintiffs were BioChemics, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Massachusetts, and John Masiz, its president and chief executive officer. Plaintiffs sought damages for what they claimed was AXIS's breach, under the relevant policy, of its duty to defend them in connection with an investigation conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission against BioChemics and its officers. In its motion for summary judgment, AXIS argued that it did not breach its duty to defend under the policy because Plaintiffs were seeking to enforce that duty in relation to a claim that was first made before the policy took effect and thus was not covered by the policy. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to AXIS. View "Biochemics, Inc. v. Axis Reinsurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss this suit brought by the insurer (Insurer) of a chicken products manufacturer seeking damages from the manufacturer's chicken supplier (Supplier) for claims under Maine law of breach of warranty and strict product liability, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the claims. Insurer sought to recoup the money it paid to the manufacturer for the losses the manufacturer incurred when its products were recalled following a salmonella outbreak. Insurer's complaint against Supplier alleged that the manufacturer received raw chicken from Supplier that was contaminated with salmonella and was therefore defective under Maine law. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding that the allegations in the complaint did not plausibly allege that the raw chicken sent by Supplier to the manufacturer was defective and that the strict liability claim was independently barred by the economic loss doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) as to the breach of warranty claims, Insurer failed to plausibly allege that the raw chicken at issue was contaminated with a type of salmonella that would persist despite proper cooking; and (2) Insurer's strict liability claim was properly dismissed because the complaint failed to allege facts that could suffice to show that the chicken was defective. View "Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. Mountaire Farms Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss this putative class action in favor of arbitration of Plaintiff’s claim in his individual capacity after concluding that the parties had a valid and enforceable agreement to arbitrate, holding that the arbitration clause was enforceable because it was conscionable under Massachusetts law. Plaintiff drove for Lyft, Inc., the defendant. Plaintiff tapped “I accept” on his iPhone when presented with Lyft’s terms of service agreement, which contained a provision requiring that disputes between the parties be resolved by arbitration. In this putative class action Plaintiff alleged that Lyft misclassified its Massachusetts drivers as independent contractors under the Massachusetts Wage Act. Left removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss in favor of individual arbitration. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff waived his contract-formation argument; and (2) the arbitration clause was not substantively unconscionable and was thus enforceable. View "Bekele v. Lyft, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) after treating it, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d), as a motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court properly found that Plaintiff expressly consented by contract to assume the risk of injury caused by Defendant’s negligence. Plaintiff was injured after colliding with unmarked snowmaking equipment while skiing at a New Hampshire resort. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant, the resort’s owner. The district court ruled for Defendant on the basis of the liability release printed on Plaintiff’s lift ticket. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly rejected Plaintiff’s contention that the question of whether there was a “meeting of the minds” with respect to the release was for the jury to resolve; (2) the scope of the release was not so limited as to not bar Plaintiff’s suit; (3) the liability release was not unenforceable on public policy grounds; and (4) Plaintiff failed to provided a basis upon which a jury could supportably find Defendant to have been reckless. View "Miller v. Sunapee Difference, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a Church on its lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that its claim filed pursuant to its property insurance policy with an Insurance Company was improperly denied, holding that ambiguities in the policy resulted in coverage for the collapse of a ceiling in one section of the church. The Insurance Company denied the Church’s claim, citing the “faulty construction” exclusion in the policy. In its complaint, the church argued that the collapse was caused by hidden decay such that the “additional coverage - collapse” provision applied. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the meaning of “decay” was ambiguous and that ambiguity must be resolved in the Church’s favor. View "Easthampton Congregational Church v. Church Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual Insurance Corporation on Brendan Kelly’s claim that Liberty was bound to provide uninsured motorist coverage for his benefit, holding that no uninsured motorist coverage was provided under the policy. The insurance contract was an umbrella policy issued to Kelly’s employer and the named insured and was issued in New Hampshire. The named insured rejected uninsured motorist coverage in writing, but the writing was not incorporated into the policy. Kelly argued that that the lack of an explicit reference to the named insured’s written rejection rendered that rejection inoperative against an additional insured like himself, and that provision of uninsured motorist coverage was therefore required under state law. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that Kelly’s position was not implicit in the statute. View "Kelly v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of claims against Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH, a German company, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Schechtl comported with due process. Stephen Knox’s hand was injured at his work when he operated a machine manufactured by Schechtl. The machine had been sold to Knox’s employer by MetalForming, Inc., an American company located in Georgia and Schechtl’s U.S. distributor. Knox sued both Schechtl and MetalForming in Massachusetts state court. MetalForming removed the case to Massachusetts federal district court and filed crossclaims against Schechtl. The district court granted Schechtl’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Schechtl had not purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Massachusetts. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Knox and MetalForming met their burden of demonstrating that Schechtl purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conduct activities within Massachusetts. View "MetalForming, Inc. v. Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying SPAR Group, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in this case brought by Paradise Hogan against SPAR Business Services, Inc. (SBS) and SPAR, holding that SPAR could not compel Hogan to arbitrate because SPAR was not a party to the agreement containing the arbitration clause. SPAR, a retail services provider, obtained the majority of its personnel from SBS, a staffing company. After SBS engaged Hogan as an independent contractor and assigned him to perform services for SPAR, Hogan and SBS entered into an independent contractor master agreement that contained an arbitration clause. Hogan later sued SBS and SPAR, and both defendants sought to compel arbitration. The district court compelled arbitration as to Hogan’s claims against SBS but denied the motion to compel arbitration as to SPAR. SPAR appealed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no legal basis to compel Hogan to arbitration where the clear terms of the agreement showed that Hogan did not consent to arbitrate his claims against SPAR. View "Hogan v. SPAR Group, Inc." on Justia Law