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In this Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) suit, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment finding that Plaintiff’s appeal from the expiration of her long-term disability (LTD) benefits was untimely and granting a motion for judgment on the administrative record for the disability insurer and the plan under which Plaintiff received the benefits, holding that the district court did not err. After Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company (Hartford) gave notice to Plaintiff that the LTD benefits it had provided her under the Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinic Company Long Term Disability Plan (Plan) would expire, Plaintiff filed an untimely appeal. Plaintiff then brought this action arguing that even if the appeal was untimely, the untimeliness should be excused. The district court granted a motion for judgment on the administrative record for Hartford and the Plan. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the ERISA regulation defining an “adverse benefit determination” requires that the 180-day time limit start from the date of notice of termination of benefits; (2) Hartford properly followed the terms of the Plan, which met the ERISA requirements; (3) the ERISA substantial compliance doctrine did not excuse Plaintiff’s untimely ERISA administrative appeal; and (4) the New Hampshire notice-prejudice rule did not apply to Plaintiff’s situation. View "Fortier v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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In this diversity case, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Deutsche Bank National Trust Company’s mortgage interest in a property in New Hampshire was subject to a homestead right of Jennifer Pike, the property’s resident, and the district court’s denial of Pike’s request for attorney’s fees, holding that the district court did not err. After consolidating Pike’s appeal from the denial of her request for attorney’s fees with Deutsche Bank’s appeal, the First Circuit held (1) the district court correctly determined that Pike retained her homestead right under the plain language of a divorce decree; (2) the district court correctly declined to apply equitable subrogation to defeat Pike’s homestead right; and (3) the district court correctly concluded that Pike was not entitled to attorney’s fees under a New Hampshire state statute and the mortgage because she was not the “borrower” for purposes of the mortgage. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pike" on Justia Law

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In these appeals arising from a complaint filed by Ms. S. with the Maine Department of Education alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., the First Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss Ms. S.’s action with prejudice, holding that Ms. S.’s claims about her son’s education in school years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 were time barred. The state due process hearing officer dismissed as untimely Ms. S.’s claims about 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 and found no violations as to school years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. In the First Circuit’s second decision it held (1) the district court erred in ruling that an earlier decision by the First Circuit foreclosed the interpretation of Maine’s Unified Special Education Regulation (MUSER) that Maine has established a two-year statute of limitations for due process complaints and has done so to align its statute of limitations with the IDEA’s; and (2) Ms. S.’s proposed construction of MUSER, her waiver argument, and her argument that the Regional School Unit 72 misled her were all without merit. View "Ms. S. v. Regional School Unit 72" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The First Circuit held that members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (Board Members) created by the 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) are “Officers of the United States” subject to the U.S. Constitution’s Appointments Clause and directed the district court to enter a declaratory judgment to the effect that PROMESA’s protocol for the appointment of Board Members is unconstitutional and must be severed. This matter arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s public debt under PROMESA. May 2017, the Board exercised its authority under Title III of PROMESA to initiate debt adjustment proceedings on behalf of the Puerto Rico government. Appellants sought to dismiss the Title III proceedings, arguing that the Board lacked authority to initiate them because the Board Members were illegally appointed in contravention of the Appointments Clause. The district court rejected Appellants’ motions to dismiss. The First Circuit reversed in part, (1) the Territorial Clause does not displace the Appointments Clause in an unincorporated territory such as Puerto Rico; (2) Board Members are “Principal” “Officers of the United States” subject to the Appointments Clause; and (3) therefore, the process PROMESA provides for the appointment of Board Members is unconstitutional. View "Aurelius Investments, LLC v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Appellant was barred from relitigating his argument that Plaintiffs should be compelled to arbitrate various tort claims, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motion to compel arbitration. At issue in this procedurally complicated case was whether Appellant’s association with a certain law firm required that Plaintiffs’ various tort claims, including their claims of legal malpractice, be submitted to arbitration. After adopting a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation and applying principles of collateral estoppel derived from Rhode Island law, the district court denied Appellant’s motion to compel. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant waived any claim of error regarding the magistrate judge’s analysis under Rhode Island collateral estoppel law. View "Patton v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court entering judgment for Plaintiff on Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B and defamation claims against the City of Fitchburg and its mayor and the award of punitive damages, holding that the award of punitive damages was improper and that the district court erred in entering judgment for Plaintiff on the defamation claim. Plaintiff brought this action against the City and its mayor after the mayor decided not to nominate Plaintiff for the position of the City police chief. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated his rights under Chapter 151B by deciding not to hire him because of his failure to disclose a criminal case against him of which he was later acquitted and that the mayor defamed him through statements she made to the media. A jury found for Plaintiff on both claims and awarded punitive damages. The First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial on Plaintiff’s defamation claim because the statement at issue was not false; (2) the evidence was sufficient with respect to the Chapter 151B claim; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support the punitive damages award. View "Heagney v. Wong" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Bank’s motion to dismiss this case alleging that Bank failed to comply with the notice requirements in Plaintiffs’ mortgage before foreclosing on their property, holding that Bank’s failure to strictly comply with paragraph 22 of the mortgage invalidated the foreclosure. Paragraph 22 required that prior to accelerating payment by Plaintiffs, the mortgagee had to provide Plaintiffs with notice specifying certain elements. After Bank sent default and acceleration notices to Plaintiffs Plaintiff failed to cure the default, and Bank conducted a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint alleging that Bank failed to comply with the paragraph 22 notice requirements prior to foreclosing on their property. The district court granted Bank’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, concluding that Bank’s default and acceleration notice strictly complied with paragraph 22. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the mortgage terms for which Massachusetts courts demand strict compliance include the provisions in paragraph 22 requiring and prescribing the preforeclosure default notice; and (2) because the default letter omitted certain information that rendered the notice potentially deceptive the Bank violated the strict compliance requirement, thus invalidating the foreclosure. View "Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated Defendant’s sentence for violating the terms of his supervised release and remanded the matter for resentencing, holding that the judge erred in citing rehabilitation needs and unproven domestic-violence allegations, and the errors were presumptively prejudicial. Defendant was sentenced to 168 months in prison in connection with his conviction of conspiracy to distribute cocaine followed by five years of supervised release. After Defendant began supervised release, the government filed a motion to revoke Defendant’s supervised release. Defendant admitted that he violated the terms of his release, and the district court imposed an upward variance, sentencing Defendant to two years’ imprisonment plus two years of supervised release. The First Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded the matter for resentencing, holding (1) the district court likely did rely on rehabilitation in fixing the sentence in a way that is at odds with the Sentencing Reform Act; and (2) the unproven domestic-violence charges are not to be considered upon resentencing. View "United States v. Vazquez-Mendez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and various state laws, holding that the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff, a captain in the Chicopee Police Department, brought this action against the City, its police chief and mayor, a fellow police officer, and other defendants, alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated after Defendants improperly targeted him for “speaking out and participating in a government investigation.” The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claimed under Rule 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) properly dismissed Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim because al of Plaintiff’s speech was made within the scope of his official duties rather than as a citizen; and (2) did not err in dismissing the state law claims. View "Gilbert v. City of Chicopee" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the First Circuit affirmed the judgments of the district court finding that Thomas & Betts was “liable to” New Albertson’s and other parties were “liable to” Thomas & Betts for certain portions of “response costs” that had been incurred in the cleanup of Mother Brook, a canal in Boston, Massachusetts, following the canal’s contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls. The canal’s cleanup resulted in a lawsuit in which Thomas & Betts and New Albertson’s brought Massachusetts law claims against each other and various third parties. The claims were primarily brought under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 4 seeking reimbursement for the money each party had spent on the cleanup. The jury allocated the percentage of the response costs that each of the various parties were responsible for reimbursing to, respectively, New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts. The district court awarded prejudgment interest to New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts on the funds that had been awarded to each of them on their chapter 4 claims and then awarded New Albertson’s attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. View "Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Alfa Laval Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law