Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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Dragon Systems, Inc. (Dragon), a voice recognition software company that faced a deteriorating financial situation, hired Goldman Sachs (Goldman) to provide financial advice and assistance in connection with a possible merger. In 2000, Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products N.V. (Lernout & Hauspie) acquired Dragon. When it was discovered that Lernout & Hauspie had fraudulently overstated its earnings, the merged company filed for bankruptcy, and the Dragon name and technology were sold from the estate. Plaintiffs, two groups of Dragon shareholders, filed suit against Goldman, alleging negligent and intentional misrepresentation, negligence, gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. A jury found in favor of Goldman on Plaintiffs’ common law claims, and district court found that Goldman had not violated chapter 93A. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly articulated the legal standard applicable to Plaintiffs’ chapter 93A claims and correctly applied that standard to its factual findings; and (2) Plaintiffs’ arguments that they were entitled to a new trial on their common law claims because of evidentiary errors and erroneous jury instructions were without merit. View "Baker v. Goldman, Sachs & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff refinanced his residential home mortgage, taking out a loan secured by his home. The mortgage listed Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) as the mortgagee of record. MERS subsequently transferred the mortgage. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. as Trustee for RMAC Pass-Through Trust, eventually obtained the mortgage. After Wells Fargo sold Serra’s property at foreclosure, Serra brought suit in Massachusetts state court asserting, among other claims, claims for wrongful foreclosure and unfair or deceptive business practices based on his theory that MERS lacked the authority to transfer his mortgage. Serra’s suit was removed on the basis of diversity, and summary judgment as to all claims was entered against Serra. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under Massachusetts law, MERS may validly possess and transfer a legal interest in a mortgage; (2) subsequent mortgage assignees cannot incur liability for the allegedly predatory practices of their predecessor-in-interest; and (3) Plaintiff’s argument that his right to rescission was improperly cut short by the sale of his property was without merit. View "Serra v. Quantum Servicing Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against polystyrene food service packaging manufacturers and two trade associations, claiming that Defendants refused in concert to deal with Plaintiff in a recycling business method for polystyrene food service products. In its complaint, Plaintiff alleged violations of section 1 of the Sherman Act and the Massachusetts Fair Business Practices Act (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A). The district court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss and entered judgment in their favor, finding that, as in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, there were legitimate business reasons that could explain Defendants' refusal to deal with Plaintiff or to compete with each other for market share. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded, holding (1) Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to adequately plead its Sherman Act claim; and (2) because the district court summarily dismissed Plaintiff's chapter 93 claim because it failed for the same reasons that its Sherman Act claim failed, the issue needed to be reconsidered. View "Evergreen Partnering Group, Inc. v. Pactiv Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a company that sold aviation fuel at a Puerto Rico airport. Plaintiff filed this action Defendants, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA), Airport Aviation Services (AAS), and employees of those entities, claiming that Defendants wrongfully interfered with its business. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that a corrupt relationship existed between AAS and PRPA and that Defendants took improper actions in order to drive Plaintiff out of business. Before trial, the district court dismissed the claims against some defendants and, after a bench trial, granted judgment for the remaining defendants. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not indicate a sufficiently clear intent to appeal the judgments dismissing the PRPA defendants from the case; and (2) the district court did not err in finding no conspiracy on the part of AAS and its employees to restrain trade, and the court correctly concluded that Plaintiff failed to proffer evidence to prove Defendants' actions were unreasonable or anticompetitive. View "Diaz Aviation Corp. v. Airport Aviation Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the former proprietor of a now-defunct bar and restaurant in Wrentham, Massachusetts, sued the Town of Wrentham and several town officials, alleging that Defendants maliciously imposed excessive regulatory requirements on his restaurant in retaliation for his opposition to certain town policies. Defendant filed causes of action for federal civil rights violations and violations of the state unfair trade practices law. The district court dismissed Defendant's complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding (1) the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims were vague, failed to connect any of the alleged harms to any particular defendant, and did not establish a basis for municipal liability; and (2) the state law claim did not suggest any business contest or allege any unfair act or deceptive practice. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment. View "Gianfrancesco v. Town of Wrentham" on Justia Law

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Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (together, Kaiser), Aetna, Inc. and Guardian Life Insurance Company (Guardian) filed a coordinated complaint against Pfizer, Inc. and Warner-Lambert Company (together, Pfizer). The coordinated plaintiffs asserted violations of, inter alia, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Ultimately, Kaiser prevailed, and Aetna and Guardian's claims were dismissed on summary judgment. After a jury trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Kaiser on its RICO and state UCL claims. The court subsequently denied Pfizer's motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, to alter or amend judgment. The court awarded Kaiser damages and ordered Defendants to pay restitution. Finding no error, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the verdicts for Kaiser. View "Kaiser Found. Health Plan v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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A Massachusetts corporation and its principals sued their quondam accountant and his firm (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Defendants negligently advised them to file amended corporate and personal tax returns that had the effect of substantially increasing the principals' liability and destabilizing the company. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants but rejected their request for attorneys' fees. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) concluding that a three-year statute of limitations applied to bar the maintenance of Plaintiffs' tort and contract claims; (2) dismissing Plaintiffs' unfair trade practices claim; and (3) denying Defendants' request for attorneys' fees. View "RTR Techs., Inc. v. Helming" on Justia Law

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This dispute between The Saint Consulting Group (Saint) and its liability insurer, Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company (Endurance), stemmed from Endurance's refusal to defend Saint in a lawsuit against Saint in the Northern District of Illinois. The district court dismissed Saint's lawsuit against Endurance based on an exclusion in the policy that stated explicitly that the policy does not apply to any claim based upon or arising out of any actual or alleged violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act or any similar provision of any state law. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the second complaint alleged that Saint engaged in an anti-competitive scheme the exclusion was triggered; and (2) the policy did not cover the negligent spoliation claim in the first complaint. View "Saint Consulting Group, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two physicians who contracted with HMOs refused to accept capitation payments in place of fee-for-service payments, so the HMOs dropped the physicians' contracts. The physicians brought constitutional and antitrust claims against the companies, which the district court rejected on a motion to dismiss. The physicians appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the appellees were not governmental actors, Appellants' constitutional claims failed; and (2) because the appellees that Appellants contended violated the Sherman Act were not independent firms and were, rather, wholly owned subsidiaries of the same parent company, the appellees could not have violated the Act's conspiracy prohibition. View "Gonzalez-Maldonado v. MMM Health Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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in this trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract case, defendant Chance Mold Steel Co. (Chance) appealed from a permanent injunction and from a jury award of damages. The injunction, based on a finding of contract breach, prohibited Chance from selling, displaying, manufacturing, or assisting others in manufacturing a number of ergonomic computer mouse products. The injunction barred sale of specific products that were materially identical to products Chance had previously manufactured for Contour Design, Inc. (Contour) and a new product known as the ErgoRoller. Chance challenged the scope of the injunction and contended that the jury improperly awarded lost profits damages. The First Circuit Court of Appeals (1) reversed the injunction as applied to the ErgoRoller, holding that the record did not support the finding that Chance breached the contract in producing the ErgoRoller; (2) affirmed the scope of the injunction as applied to the other enjoined products; and (3) affirmed the damages award. View "Contour Design, Inc. v. Chance Mold Steel Co., Ltd." on Justia Law