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

Articles Posted in Contracts

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In this personal injury action, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) after treating it, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d), as a motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court properly found that Plaintiff expressly consented by contract to assume the risk of injury caused by Defendant’s negligence. Plaintiff was injured after colliding with unmarked snowmaking equipment while skiing at a New Hampshire resort. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant, the resort’s owner. The district court ruled for Defendant on the basis of the liability release printed on Plaintiff’s lift ticket. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly rejected Plaintiff’s contention that the question of whether there was a “meeting of the minds” with respect to the release was for the jury to resolve; (2) the scope of the release was not so limited as to not bar Plaintiff’s suit; (3) the liability release was not unenforceable on public policy grounds; and (4) Plaintiff failed to provided a basis upon which a jury could supportably find Defendant to have been reckless. View "Miller v. Sunapee Difference, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a Church on its lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that its claim filed pursuant to its property insurance policy with an Insurance Company was improperly denied, holding that ambiguities in the policy resulted in coverage for the collapse of a ceiling in one section of the church. The Insurance Company denied the Church’s claim, citing the “faulty construction” exclusion in the policy. In its complaint, the church argued that the collapse was caused by hidden decay such that the “additional coverage - collapse” provision applied. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the meaning of “decay” was ambiguous and that ambiguity must be resolved in the Church’s favor. View "Easthampton Congregational Church v. Church Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual Insurance Corporation on Brendan Kelly’s claim that Liberty was bound to provide uninsured motorist coverage for his benefit, holding that no uninsured motorist coverage was provided under the policy. The insurance contract was an umbrella policy issued to Kelly’s employer and the named insured and was issued in New Hampshire. The named insured rejected uninsured motorist coverage in writing, but the writing was not incorporated into the policy. Kelly argued that that the lack of an explicit reference to the named insured’s written rejection rendered that rejection inoperative against an additional insured like himself, and that provision of uninsured motorist coverage was therefore required under state law. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that Kelly’s position was not implicit in the statute. View "Kelly v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of claims against Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH, a German company, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Schechtl comported with due process. Stephen Knox’s hand was injured at his work when he operated a machine manufactured by Schechtl. The machine had been sold to Knox’s employer by MetalForming, Inc., an American company located in Georgia and Schechtl’s U.S. distributor. Knox sued both Schechtl and MetalForming in Massachusetts state court. MetalForming removed the case to Massachusetts federal district court and filed crossclaims against Schechtl. The district court granted Schechtl’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Schechtl had not purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Massachusetts. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Knox and MetalForming met their burden of demonstrating that Schechtl purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conduct activities within Massachusetts. View "MetalForming, Inc. v. Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying SPAR Group, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in this case brought by Paradise Hogan against SPAR Business Services, Inc. (SBS) and SPAR, holding that SPAR could not compel Hogan to arbitrate because SPAR was not a party to the agreement containing the arbitration clause. SPAR, a retail services provider, obtained the majority of its personnel from SBS, a staffing company. After SBS engaged Hogan as an independent contractor and assigned him to perform services for SPAR, Hogan and SBS entered into an independent contractor master agreement that contained an arbitration clause. Hogan later sued SBS and SPAR, and both defendants sought to compel arbitration. The district court compelled arbitration as to Hogan’s claims against SBS but denied the motion to compel arbitration as to SPAR. SPAR appealed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no legal basis to compel Hogan to arbitration where the clear terms of the agreement showed that Hogan did not consent to arbitrate his claims against SPAR. View "Hogan v. SPAR Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court finding that an arbitration agreement between the parties in this case was enforceable, granting AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc.’s (AT&T) motion to compel arbitration and dismissing Nereida Rivera-Colon’s (Rivera) suit, holding that Rivera manifested her intent to accept the agreement to arbitrate legal grievances as per Puerto Rico law. Rivera filed suit against AT&T, her former employer, alleging age discrimination and wrongful termination. AT&T entered a special appearance and moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. In response, Rivera argued that there was no valid arbitration agreement. The district court held that the arbitration agreement was enforceable and granted the motion to compel arbitration. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that, under Puerto Rico law, Rivera was bound by the arbitration agreement because she failed to opt out of the agreement. View "Rivera-Colon v. AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s contract and tort claims for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the federal court in Puerto Rico lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Plaintiff, a Puerto Rico tour company, brought this diversity suit in the United States District of Puerto Rico, alleging that a California youth soccer organization and related defendants breached duties that the organization owed to Plaintiff under Puerto Rico contract and tort law. The allegations centered around Defendants’ acts of first requesting that Plaintiff make an offer for a potential soccer trip to Puerto Rico for some of the organization’s teams and their families and then declining after further communications to book the tour. The district court dismissed the claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the exercise of specific jurisdiction in the forum over the out-of-forum defendants did not conform to the federal constitutional test. View "PREP Tours, Inc. v. American Youth Soccer Organization" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district judge’s order sending Appellant’s case to arbitration, holding that the arbitration agreement between the parties was enforceable and did not fail for lack of consideration or unconscionability. Appellant and his employer entered into an agreement outlining the terms for Appellant’s continued at-will employment, which included an arbitration agreement. After Appellant was fired, Appellant filed this federal court lawsuit against Appellees alleging that his discharged violated several federal and state laws. Appellees moved to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. In response, Appellant argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable for lack of consideration and that the agreement was unconscionable and thus, unenforceable. The district court granted Appellees’ motion, concluding that a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement existed between the parties. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that both Appellant’s consideration and unconscionability arguments failed. View "Britto v. Prospect CharterCare SJHSRI, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint and compel arbitration based on the parties’ signed arbitration agreement, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, Defendants’ offer of continued at-will employment was valid consideration for the agreement. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that Defendants fired him in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act and the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case and compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the agreement failed for lack of consideration. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the agreement was supported by adequate consideration; and (2) Plaintiff’s motion to supplement the record is denied. The Court remanded the case with instructions to grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. View "Conduragis v. Prospect CharterCARE, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Stephen Elliott on his suit against American Capital Energy, Inc. (ACE) and its two principals (collectively, Appellants) claiming breach of contract and violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act, holding that Ellicott’s compensation constituted “wages” under the Wage Act and that the statute of limitations for his Wage Act claim was properly tolled. Elliott filed suit against Appellants seeking compensation for unpaid sales commissions. The jury found all three Appellants liable under the Wage Act and ACE liable for breach of contract. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the jury could reasonably conclude that Ellicott’s sales commissions constituted wages under the Wage Act; (2) tolling the statute of limitations so as to allow Ellicott’s Wage Act claims against one of the principals was justified; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Ellicott’s motions in limine excluding evidence about whether Elliott had agreed to split his sales commissions. View "Ellicott v. American Capital Energy, Inc." on Justia Law