Articles Posted in Contracts

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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by the Narragansett Indian Tribe against federal and Rhode Island agencies concerning a highway bridge reconstruction over historic tribal land, holding that the Tribe’s claim was not the type of claim federal courts may adjudicate. The Tribe filed suit in federal district court alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The heart of the Tribe’s claim contended that the state of Rhode Island broke a promise made to the Tribe. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, concluding (1) as to the federal defendants, none of the three statutes identified in the complaint waived the federal government’s sovereign immunity as to the Tribe’s claims; and (2) as to the state defendants, the Tribe alleged no basis to support the court’s exercise of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the National Historic Preservation Act does not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity in connection with the bringing of this suit; and (2) as to the state agencies, the complaint lacked any basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment findings, evidentiary rulings, and denials of various motions on claims brought by a member of the rock band BOSTON against a former BOSTON guitarist alleging trademark infringement and breach of contract and on the guitarist’s counterclaims alleging breach of contract and abuse of process. Donald Thomas Scholz sued Barry Goudreau alleging claims related to impermissible inferences that Goudreau had allegedly made regarding his former association with BOSTON. Goudreau counterclaimed. After the district court granted in part the parties’ respective motions for summary judgment, the remaining claims proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the respective defendants on the remaining claims. The parties cross-appealed. The First Circuit affirmed the district court and denied the appeals, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion requiring reversal. View "Scholz v. Goudreau" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s summary judgment motion in this case alleging that Liberty breached Plaintiff’s contractual rights by wrongfully denying his request for coverage under an insurance policy, holding that the district court’s reasoning in granting Liberty’s motion for summary judgment was flawed. Plaintiff argued in his complaint that Liberty improperly denied his coverage request under the Directors and Officers insurance policy that Liberty had issued to a Puerto Rico hospital where Plaintiff served as the medical director. The district court concluded that, under the policy, the “Claim” that would give rise to the “Loss” for which Plaintiff sought coverage should be “deemed first made” before the policy took effect and, therefore, was not covered by the policy. The First Circuit vacated the district court’s order granting Liberty’s summary judgment motion, holding that the “Claim” for which Plaintiff sought coverage from Liberty was not “first made” prior to the beginning of the policy at issue, and the district court wrongly construed the policy in concluding otherwise. View "Jimenez-Castaner v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendant on several of her counterclaims against her business partner (Plaintiff) and awarding Defendant more than $400,000 in damages, ordering her to provide Plaintiff certificates of authenticity for two disputed pieces of artwork, and dismissing several of her remaining counterclaims, holding that there was no error in the district court’s rationale. Unsatisfied with the underlying judgment, Defendant raised a number of issues on appeal. The First Circuit addressed each issue and then affirmed, holding that the record reflected that the district court’s factual findings were supported by the evidence, that the court properly applied the law to the facts, and that it did not abuse its discretion. View "Rojas-Buscaglia v. Taburno-Vasarhelyi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of Uber Technologies, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action brought by users of Uber’s ride-sharing service in the Boston area, concluding that Uber’s mandatory arbitration clause found in an online contract was unenforceable. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Uber violated a Massachusetts consumer-protection statute by knowingly imposing fictitious or inflated fees. Uber moved to compel arbitration based on its terms and conditions (the agreement), which contained an arbitration clause and was available to Uber App users during the registration process. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were not reasonably notified of the terms of the agreement and consequently did not provide their unambiguous assent to those terms; and (2) therefore, Uber failed to carry its burden on its motion to compel arbitration. View "Cullinane v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated in part the district court’s grant of summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on Plaintiffs’ claims seeking compensatory damages, declaratory relief, a permanent injunction, and expungement of disciplinary proceedings from a student’s university records. John Doe was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow Boston College student. In 2012, Boston College held disciplinary proceedings against Doe, and an Administrative Hearing Board found Doe responsible for the lesser offense of indecent assault and battery. In 2014, Boston College conducted an independent review of the disciplinary proceedings and determined that the Board’s finding was proper. Doe and his parents filed a lawsuit against Trustees of Boston College and several university officials. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2014 review and Title IX, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims; and (2) vacated the grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim for the 2012 disciplinary proceedings, where there were genuine issues of material fact on this claim, and basic fairness claim, where the grant of summary judgment on this claim rested on the court’s analysis as to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim. View "Doe v. Trustees of Boston College" on Justia Law

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At issue here was cross-claims arising out of a bail bondsman’s attempt to seize a bailed man who had failed to appear for a court hearing. Rodriguez, the bailed man, left New Jersey to return to his home in Puerto Rico in violation of the bail agreement. When Rodriguez missed a court date in New Jersey, the bail bond was declared forfeited. Agents acting for Speedy Bail Bonds seized Rodriguez in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez filed suit against Speedy seeking damages for his seizure and detention. Rodriguez’s mother as co-plaintiff claimed mental anguish. Speedy counterclaimed for breach of the bail agreement. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Speedy. The First Circuit affirmed the damages award on the counterclaim but remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings on the question of whether the jury instructions as to the tort claims accurately reflected Puerto Rico law because the question of Puerto Rico law and out-of-state bounty hunters had not been briefed. View "Rodriguez-Tirado v. Speedy Bail Bonds" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing APB Realty, Inc.’s complaint against Georgia-Pacific alleging breach of contract stemming from the failure of a proposed deal concerning the purchase of rail freight cars. The district court dismssed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, finding that no contract had been formed between the parties. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the complaint alleged facts from which the Court could plausibly infer the making and breaking of a contract. The Court remanded the cause for further proceedings. View "APB Realty, Inc. v. Georgia-Pacific LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in this action filed by the Town of Westport against Monsanto Company, Solutia, Inc., and Pharmacia Corporation alleging that Phamacia was liable for “property damage” caused by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination at Westport Middle School (WMS). When WMS was built in 1969, the contractor used caulk that contained PCBs. Monsanto did not make the caulk but sold plasticizers, a component of caulk, to the third-party manufacturer who did. On appeal, Westport challenged the entry of judgment against its breach of warranty and negligent marketing claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Monsanto did not breach the implied warranty of merchantability because it was not reasonably foreseeable in 1969 that there was a risk PCBs would volatilize from caulk at levels requiring premeditation; and (2) as a matter of Massachusetts state law, a negligent marketing claim cannot be maintained independent of a design defect claim on these facts. View "Town of Westport v. Monsanto Co." on Justia Law