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

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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Jennifer D. Aldea-Tirado, an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC), filed a lawsuit against her employer alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and Puerto Rico law. Aldea-Tirado claimed she was subjected to adverse employment action due to her gender and pregnancy and was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. PWC, however, argued that Aldea-Tirado's employment contract contained an arbitration clause and moved to compel arbitration.The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granted PWC's motion to compel arbitration. The court determined that PWC had established the existence of a valid agreement between PWC and Aldea-Tirado to arbitrate her claims. The court also found that Aldea-Tirado had tacitly consented to the Agreement by continuing to work for PWC after having received the Agreement through both regular mail and email. Aldea-Tirado appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court found no merit in Aldea-Tirado's arguments that she did not receive the Agreement or that it was unconscionable to hold her to it. The court also rejected Aldea-Tirado's contention that she was not given "some minimal level of notice" that her continued employment would effect a waiver of her right to pursue her claims in a judicial forum. The court concluded that Aldea-Tirado failed to show that there was any non-speculative basis in the record from which a reasonable factfinder could determine that she did not receive the email to which the Agreement was attached. View "Aldea-Tirado v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP" on Justia Law

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In this case, decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the dispute involved Aeroballoon USA, Inc., and its owner Douglas Hase (collectively, Aeroballoon/Hase), and Jiajing (Beijing) Tourism Co., Ltd. (Jiajing). In 2016, Jiajing contracted Aeroballoon for two tethered helium balloons at a total price of $1.8 million. Despite Jiajing making regular payments totaling $1,018,940, Aeroballoon failed to deliver the balloons. An arbitration panel awarded Jiajing $1,410,739.01 plus interest for Aeroballoon's breach of contract. Following the award, Hase dissolved Aeroballoon and Jiajing subsequently filed a complaint seeking enforcement of the arbitration award.The case focused on two counts: fraudulent transfers in violation of the Massachusetts Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) and unfair business practices under Chapter 93A of the Massachusetts General Laws. The jury awarded Jiajing $1.6 million for each count. The district court later reduced the damages to $1.113 million for each count, a decision unchallenged by either party.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that Aeroballoon had engaged in fraudulent transfers of at least $1.113 million. The court further held that even a single fraudulent transfer is sufficient to create liability under Chapter 93A, thereby affirming the verdict on the claim of unfair business practices. The court also awarded costs to Jiajing. View "Jiajing (Beijing) Tourism Co. Ltd. v. AeroBalloon USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting a motion to compel arbitration in this insurance dispute, holding that the district court correctly granted the motion to compel arbitration brought by the underwriters of Green Enterprises, LLC's insurance policy, all syndicates at Lloyd's of London (Underwriters).After a fire destroyed one of its plants, Green, a Puerto Rican recycling company, filed an insurance claim. Underwriters denied the claim, after which Green brought this lawsuit. Underwriters filed a motion to compel arbitration under an arbitration clause in the parties' contract. The district court granted the motion and dismissed Green's claims without prejudice. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted the motion to compel. View "Green Enterprises, LLC v. Hiscox Syndicates Limited at Lloyd's of London" on Justia Law

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In 2013, New Balance entered into a Distribution Agreement with PSG to distribute its products in Peru. The Agreement contained an arbitration clause, which New Balance invoked in 2018. Also joined as respondents in this arbitration were Ribadeneira, PSG’s controlling owner, and Superdeporte, another business entity owned by Ribadeneira in Peru. The arbitrator issued two awards, which imposed liability on PSG and Superdeporte for breach of the Distribution Agreement, and on PSG, Superdeporte, and Ribadeneira for tortious interference. The arbitrator rejected three counterclaims brought against New Balance. Finding that the arbitrator had improperly exercised jurisdiction over nonsignatories Ribadeneira and Superdeporte, the district court vacated the awards.The First Circuit reversed. Theories of assumption and equitable estoppel apply to support arbitral jurisdiction over Ribadeneira and Superdeporte. Superdeporte was PSG's successor-in-interest and assumed PSG's obligation to arbitrate under the Distribution Agreement. Ribadeneira is estopped from denying that the Agreement's arbitration clause is enforceable, just as he is estopped from asserting his nonsignatory status to avoid the obligation to arbitrate under that clause. The tortious interference claims were "related to or arising out of" the Agreement. View "Ribadeneira v. New Balance Athletics, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming certain damages awarded to The University of Notre Dame (USA) in England (Notre Dame) by a foreign arbitral tribunal in a contractual dispute relating to construction defects, holding that Notre Dame's petition for judicial confirmation of the awards was not time-barred.Notre Dame brought this action against TJAC Waterloo, LLC and ZVI Construction Co., who were, respectively, the seller and renovator of a dormitory that Notre Dame had agreed to purchase. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. After the arbitrator entered the awards, Notre Dame moved the district court to confirm the awards and entered summary judgment in its favor. The district court granted Notre Dame's request for judicial confirmation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Notre Dame's motion for judicial confirmation was not time-barred. View "University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this case against Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc. (AHS) on personal jurisdiction grounds but vacated the dismissal as to Allscripts Healthcare, LLC (Allscripts), holding that the district court improperly granted the motion to dismiss as to Allscripts.Dr. Juan M. Rodriguez-Rivera (Rodriguez) brought this action against AHS and Allscripts in Puerto Rico federal court after his electronic patient records from his medical practice were destroyed. AHS and Allscripts filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, finding that the disputes should be arbitrated, that it lacked jurisdiction over both AHS and Allscripts, and that Rodriguez's complaint failed to state a claim as a matter of law. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the district court improperly granted the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with respect to Allscripts; (2) whether a valid arbitration existed was a factual matter to be resolved by the district court; and (3) the district court erred in concluding that Rodriguez's complaint failed to state a claim against Allscripts. View "Rodriguez-Rivera v. Allscripts HC Sol., Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying arbitration requested by two unions - the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union and the United Steelworkers Local 12203 (collectively, Union) - on behalf of former two employees of the Boston Gas Company (Company) as to their claims for pension benefits, holding that this matter called for arbitration.The Union represented the two members in filing grievances regarding their underpaid pensions. The Union submitted the grievances to the Joint Pension Committee, which was unable to resolve the dispute. The Union subsequently sought arbitration over the grievances, but the Company refused to arbitrate. The First Circuit reversed, holding that it was up to an arbitrator, not a court, to determine the matters at issue in this case. View "United Steelworkers v. National Grid" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court in this dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103 (the Union) and Johnson Controls Security Solutions, LLC over Johnson Controls' compliance with the terms of the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA), holding that the district court erred by failing to order arbitration as called for by a clause in the CBA.Johnson Controls' Norwood, Massachusetts facility entered into a CBA with the Union, a labor organization that represented employees of the company, that contained an arbitration clause. The Union filed a grievance concerning Johnson Controls' reduction in its matching contribution to the company's 401(k) plan, which Johnson Controls denied. When the Union filed a demand for arbitration Johnson Controls brought this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the dispute was not arbitrable under the CBA. The district court concluded that the dispute was not arbitrable. The First Circuit reversed, holding that nothing in the record showed that the parties intended to exclude this type of dispute from the scope of the arbitration clause. View "Johnson Controls Security Solutions, LLC v. Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court requiring the parties to arbitrate their dispute in this case, holding that the district court erred in compelling arbitration.In 2000, Air-Con signed a written distribution agreement with Daikin Industries, LTD to be an authorized distributor in Puerto Rico of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. The agreement contained an arbitration provision requiring the parties to arbitrate any disputes in Japan. Also in 2000, Air-Con established a distribution relationship with Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC, Daikin Industries' subsidiary. In 2018, Air-Con filed suit against Daikin Applied seeking injunctive relief and damages under Puerto Rico's Dealer Protection Act. After the case was removed to federal court Daikin Applied filed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that the written agreement between Air-Con and Daikin Industries governed Daikin Applied's relationship with Air-Con. The district court agreed with Daikin Applied. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Air-Con agreed to arbitrate the claims at issue in this case. View "Air-Con, Inc. v. Daikin Applied Latin America, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the judgment of the district court granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by the personal representative of the estate of a famous American artist (Estate), dismissing an art publisher's (Publisher) motion for a preliminary injunction as moot, and eventually dismissing the case, holding that the district court erred.At issue was an agreement between the Estate and Publisher. Publisher asserted that the parties' original contract, which included an agreement to arbitration, was terminated and supplanted by a superseding contract that did not contain an arbitration provision. In question was whether the arbitrability of the parties' dispute about the newer contract's enforceability and impact on the earlier agreement to arbitrate should be decided by the court or by arbitrators. The district court concluded that the gateway question of arbitrability was for the arbitrators. The First Circuit reversed, holding that it is the court, and not the arbitrators, that must resolve the disagreement in this case. View "McKenzie v. Brannan" on Justia Law