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

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court vacating a portion of an arbitration award that voided the guaranty agreement at issue in this case, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, the arbitrator acted within the scope of his powers.Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) contracted with KCST USA, Inc. to operate and market a fiber optic network in western Massachusetts. MTC also secured a guaranty of KCST's obligations under the contract from KCST's parent company, Axia NetMedia Corporation. Axia later sued MTC over the guaranty agreement. MTC sought an order compelling arbitration, which the district court granted. The arbitrator found that MTC had materially breached the agreement with KCST, and, therefore, that the guaranty agreement was void for failure of consideration. The district court concluded that the arbitrator had exceeded the scope of his powers and vacated the award. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his powers under section 10(a)(4) of the Federal Arbitration Act. View "Axia NetMedia Corp. v. Massachusetts Technology Park Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellants' motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce.Plaintiff was a delivery driver for Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, Inc. (collectively, Amazon) who collected packages for delivery in Massachusetts and did not cross state lines during the course of his deliveries. Plaintiff filed this putative class action asserting misclassification of Amazon's drivers contracted with through its smartphone application as independent contractors and violations of Massachusetts labor laws. Amazon moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the mandatory arbitration provision of Plaintiff's employment agreement with Amazon. The district court denied the motion in part, concluding that Plaintiff's agreement was exempt from the FAA and that the provision was unenforceable based on Massachusetts public policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the dispute resolution section of the agreement; and (2) the district court rightly refused to compel arbitration pursuant to state law. View "Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court granting the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) motion to compel arbitration of Austin Trout's claim under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (MABRA), 15 U.S.C. 6309(d), and claims under Puerto Rico law for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence, holding that the arbitrator-selection provision set forth in the WBO Appeal Regulations is invalid.Trout, a professional boxer residing in New Mexico, sued the WBO, which is based in Puerto Rico, challenging the WBO's decision to remove him from its rankings for a certain weight class. The WBO moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a clause in the WBO Championship Regulations and the Federal Arbitration Act. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the claims without prejudice. The First Circuit vacated the district court's decision, holding (1) the arbitrator-selection provision that the Appeal Regulations sets forth, which grants the WBO exclusive control over the appointment of the arbitrators who will decide Trout's claims, is so unreasonable and unjust as to be unconscionable under Puerto Rico contract law; and (2) the case is remanded for the district court to determine whether the arbitrator-selection provision is severable from the remainder of the arbitration agreement. View "Trout v. Organizacion Mundial de Boxeo, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court denying arbitration in this negligence case, holding that an arbitration clause in a residency agreement between an assisted living facility and its resident remained in effect and bound Plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims.Plaintiffs, Joan McKenna and her daughter, Kara Biller, brought this lawsuit against Defendant, McKenna's former assisted live-in facility, alleging several claims for Defendant's alleged failure to administer thyroid medication to McKenna while she was a resident. Defendant sought to have the case sent to arbitration, relying on an arbitration clause in McKenna's residency agreement. The district court denied the motion to compel arbitration, concluding that the arbitration agreement had expired. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) to successfully argue that the arbitration agreement terminated and no longer governed their claims, Plaintiffs had to mount an independent challenge to the arbitration agreement itself, which they failed to do; (2) Plaintiffs' other arguments backing their reasons to affirm the denial of the motion to compel arbitration were unavailing; and (3) therefore, the Federal Arbitration Act required the district court to send this case to arbitration. View "Biller v. S-H OPCO Greenwich Bay Manor" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court compelling arbitration after first certifying two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), holding that the SJC's decision compelled the First Circuit to affirmed the judgment compelling arbitration.The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit certified questions of law to the SJC. After the SJC answered that claims of statutory beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death statute are derivative of the decedent's own cause of action, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SJC's decision required this Court to affirm the judgment compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitral award denying certain claims against Concorde Investment Services, LLC, holding that the arbitrator's conclusion was reasonable in light of the claims made and the evidence presented.Appellant's claims against Concorde were for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, violations of FINRA sustainability rules and regulations against deceptive securities practices, and failure to properly supervise. Appellant's claims against Concorde were denied. Appellant filed a motion to vacate in part and confirm in part the award, and Concorde filed a motion to confirm the award. The district court denied the motion to vacate and granted the motion to confirm. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitrators did not engage in a manifest disregard of the law and that none of the statutory bases for vacating the awards set forth in the Federal Arbitration Act were met. View "Ebbe v. Concorde Investment Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the handling of brokerage accounts the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint against the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failure to state a claim, holding that Plaintiffs' complaint failed to state a plausible claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied under Massachusetts law.Plaintiffs, a married couple, submitted their dispute with their quondam stockbroker over the handling of their brokerage accounts to FINRA for arbitration. A panel of arbitrators summarily dismissed Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs then brought this action claiming that the arbitrators' failure to state an explained decision breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court appropriately dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint because Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a breach of the implied covenant. View "Lanza v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellant's motion to vacate an arbitrator's award, holding that Appellant's attack on the merits of the arbitral award was unavailing.IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. purchased a Beralcast Corporation from Gerald Hoolahan and Gary Mattheson in exchange for cash and shares in the IBC. When Hoolahan decided to sell his shares in the company one year later, he was blocked. Hoolahan later discovered that Mattheson hadn't been similarly blocked when he placed his shares on the market. Hoolahan initiated an arbitration against IBC. During a subsequent hearing it was discovered that IBC had harbored ill-will against Hoolahan, causing it to block Hoolahan's attempt to sell. The arbitrator awarded Hoolahan damages in the amount he would have received if he had sold his shares at the same rate Mattheson received. After IBC unsuccessfully requested that the arbitrator modify the award IBC asked the district court to vacate the award. The district court denied relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that IBC did not make a showing that the arbitrator acted in manifest disregard of the law when deciding the award. View "Hoolahan v. IBC Advanced Alloys Corp." on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit alleging that Verizon Wireless violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Verizon's motion to compel arbitration but reversed the court's grant of summary judgment in Verizon's favor, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff's TCPA claims failed as a matter of law because her telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service.In her complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Verizon's unauthorized, automated calls to her cellular telephone violated the TCPA. The district court concluded that Plaintiff's telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service within the meaning of the relevant provision of the TCPA and granted summary judgment to Verizon. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court correctly denied Verizon's motion to compel arbitration; but (2) in concluding that Plaintiff's number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service the district court failed to consider the hybrid nature of Plaintiff's telephone service with Republic Wireless and erred in treating other facts as dispositive. View "Breda v. Cellco Partnership" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of the Steward Holy Family Hospital and vacating an award entered by an arbitrator regarding a dispute between the Hospital and the union of one of the Hospital's former nurses, Maureen Bean, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority under the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA).After Hospital terminated Bean her union (Union) initiated grievance procedures, arguing that there was not just cause for her termination under the CBA. The arbitrator established that Bean had engaged in misconduct providing just cause for discipline but nevertheless concluded that Bean's termination was unwarranted and ordered her reinstatement. The Hospital bought this action to vacate the award. The district court concluded that the arbitrator exceeded his authority under the CBA. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his authority in ordering a lesser form of discipline in accordance with the CBA and the Hospital's own disciplinary policies. View "Steward Holy Family Hospital, Inc. v. Massachusetts Nurses Ass'n" on Justia Law