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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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In this case where Plaintiff's negligence case collapsed halfway through trial due to the exclusion of his only expert witness pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 and Fed. R. Evid. 702 the First Circuit reversed the rulings of the district court under Rule 26 and Rule 702, vacated the entry of judgment against Plaintiff, and remanded this matter for further proceedings, holding that the district court erred. Plaintiff was hit by a car while walking in a construction-affected area near Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against several entities. Plaintiff then retained an expert witness to opine on the standard of care owed to pedestrians in construction-affected areas and to explain how Defendants' negligence caused his accident. After a twelve-day Daubert hearing, the trial court excluded Plaintiff's sole expert witness. The district court subsequently entered judgment as a matter of law for Defendants. The First Circuit vacated the lawsuit's dismissal, holding (1) under Rule 26, preclusion was an overly harsh sanction for Plaintiff's discovery violations; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in excluding the expert testimony under Rule 702. View "Lawes v. CSA Architects & Engineers LLP" on Justia Law

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In this qui tam action, the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying the request of Concilio De Salud Integral De Loiza, Inc. (CSILO), on the eve of trial, to amend the pretrial order to include a discussion of damages CSILO claimed it was due under the False Claims Act, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied CSILO's request to amend the pretrial order. CSILO, a non-profit organization in Puerto Rico, brought this action under the FCA against JC Remodeling, Inc. (JCR). Three years into litigation and after the close of discovery, CSILO moved the court for leave to amend the pretrial order to include a discussion of damages. The district court denied the request. After a trial, the jury found that JCR had violated the False Claims Act and entered judgment against JCR and imposed on it a $5,500 civil penalty. CSILO appealed, challenging the denial of its request to amend the pretrial order. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it decided that CSILO's request to amend the pretrial order would not have cause it "manifest injustice" and would have instead caused prejudice and hardship to JCR. View "Concilio De Salud Integral De Loiza, Inc. v. JC Remodeling, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing, for failure to state a claim, Plaintiff's complaint alleging that, by labeling Wesson brand vegetable oil (Wesson Oil) "100% Natural," Conagra Brands, Inc. violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, holding that Plaintiff's complaint clearly alleged a Chapter 93A injury for pleading purposes. After learning that Wesson Oil contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Plaintiff sued Conagra, the manufacturer and distributor, alleging that, by labeling the oil "100% Natural," Conagra violated Massachusetts's prohibition against unfair or deceptive trade practices. The federal district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding that Wesson Oil's label was neither unfair nor deceptive because it conformed to the Food and Drug Administration's labeling policy. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claim may proceed because Plaintiff plausibly alleged that a reasonable consumer might think that the phrase "100% Natural" means that a product contains no GMOs, and then base her purchasing decision on that belief. View "Lee v. Conagra Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this class action lawsuit stemming from the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) in Japan, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissing Plaintiffs' suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that an adequate alternative forum was available in Japan. Plaintiffs were individuals and business entities who suffered property damage and/or economic harm as a result of the FNPP disaster. Plaintiffs filed suit against General Electric Company (GE) alleging that GE negligently designed the FNPP's nuclear reactors and safety mechanisms, both of which were implicated in the explosions. Plaintiffs alleged that venue was proper in the District of Massachusetts because GE maintained its corporate headquarters and principal place of business in Boston, Massachusetts. The district court dismissed the suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, determining that an adequate alternative forum was available to Plaintiffs in Japan and that dismissal was in the private and public interest. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Japan satisfied the forum availability requirement despite the jurisdictional idiosyncrasies presented in this case. View "Imamura v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint in this case for want of jurisdiction, holding that personal jurisdiction could not constitutionally be exercised over Defendant in Massachusetts. Defendant was an education institution incorporated in Alabama having its principal place of business there. Plaintiff, who had enrolled in Defendant's doctoral program in sports management, sued Defendant in a Massachusetts state court alleging breach of contract, unfair and deceptive business practices, unjust enrichment, and fraudulent inducement. Defendant removed the case to the federal district court then moved to dismiss the complaint for want of personal jurisdiction. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the court lacked general and specific jurisdiction over Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court appropriately determined that neither general jurisdiction nor specific jurisdiction may constitutionally be exercised over Defendant in Massachusetts. View "Chen v. United States Sports Academy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this interlocutory appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction and remanded the matter to the district court, holding that Appellant's challenge to the district court's denial of summary judgment was not a final, appealable order. Plaintiff, an inmate at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC), brought this lawsuit alleging that Appellant, an SBCC prison official, and other SBCC officials failed to protect him from a substantial risk of serious harm in violation of his constitutional rights. Appellant and the remaining defendants filed for summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity. The district court granted summary judgment to all SBCC officials except Appellant. Appellant filed a timely interlocutory appeal, alleging that the district court erred because the undisputed material facts showed Appellant was not deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that Appellant's challenge rested on factual, rather than legal, grounds, and therefore, this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction. View "Norton v. Rodrigues" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that Plaintiffs, patients whose healthcare providers used eClinicalWorks, LLC (ECW) software to record and store their medical records, lacked standing to bring this case, holding that, without further injury, Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case. Plaintiffs were the estates of two deceased patients whose medical records were kept and stored by healthcare providers using ECW. Plaintiffs alleged that ECW's system was riddled with bugs that showed healthcare providers false and incomplete data about patients' medical problems and treatments and that ECW hid the glitches from government regulators. Plaintiffs brought several state common-law claims and sought to represent a class of millions of other similarly-situated patients. The district court dismissed the case under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arguments as presented sought redress based on a moot risk of misdiagnosis or mistreatment that no statute or common-law claim makes suable. Therefore, Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case. View "Amrhein v. eClinical Works, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a directive issued by the EPA that prohibits EPA grant recipients from sitting on the EPA's twenty-two scientific advisory committees the First Circuit reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint for a lack of justiciability and failure to state a claim, holding that EPA's challenged directive was judicially reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. In 2017, the EPA former director issued the directive. The complaint alleged that the new directive disqualified thousands of scientists affiliated with academic and not-for-profit institutions. Count I alleged that the directive violated the APA's reasoned decision-making standard. Count II alleged that the directive conflicted with directives issued by the General Services Administration and regulations of the Office of Governmental Ethics. Counts III and IV alleged violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act's requirements for advisory committees. The district court dismissed all counts, concluding that they raised questions unreviewable under the APA and, alternatively, that the first and second counts failed to state a claim on the merits. The First Circuit reversed the district court's decision on Counts III and IV, holding that the challenged directive was judicially reviewable under the APA. View "Union of Concerned Scientists v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning whether a settlement contract under Rhode Island law was formed after a personal injury lawsuit was filed the First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court the question of what is the definition of 'civil action' in R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.2. Horace Johnson was the driver and Carlton Johnson was the sole passenger in a car accident. The accident occurred in Rhode Island. Both men were seriously injured. Horace was insured by Arbella Mutual Insurance Company. Arbella accepted Carlton's demand to settle for the policy limit of $100,000. Thereafter, Carlton filed a lawsuit against Horace, Arbella, and other defendants. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The district court rejected Carlton's argument that Rhode Island's Rejected Settlement Offer Interest Statute, section 27-7-2.2, applied to the case. Carlton appealed, arguing that the statute rendered the settlement contract unenforceable because Arbella failed to accept his settlement offer within the timetable set forth by the statute. At issue was whether the court correctly determined that the statute's "[i]n any civil action" language requires that a legal proceeding in court needs to be underway to trigger the statute's application. The First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court a question concerning the definition of "civil action." View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting the Attorney General's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint alleging that the "Au Pair Program" at issue in this case impliedly preempts Massachusetts from requiring host families to comply with its wage and hour laws and ordering Plaintiff's case dismissed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. The United States Department of State (DOS) administers the Au Pair Program, through which foreign nationals may obtain a special visa then provide in-home childcare services to host families in the United States while the foreign nationals pursue post-secondary school studies. Plaintiffs, a DOS-approved private placement agency based on Massachusetts, and two individuals, brought this lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that state law measures are preempted insofar as they protect au pair participants by imposing obligations on their host families as their employer that may be enforced against the host families. The district court found that there was no preemption. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not meet their burden to establish field or conflict preemption. View "Capron v. Massachusetts Attorney General" on Justia Law