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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) in this case regarding the allegedly invalidity of a foreclosure, holding that the Merrill doctrine, which requires a showing of actual authority as a basis for holding a federal instrumentality vicariously liable for the acts of its agents, applied to Fannie Mae. Appellant took out a loan secured by a mortgage on his residence. The lender assigned the mortgage loan to Fannie Mae, and the loan was serviced by Ditech Financial LLC. After the home was foreclosed on, Appellant filed suit. Appellant asserted common-law claims alleging that Fannie Mae was vicariously liable for deceit and negligent misrepresentation committed by Ditech employees. Fannie Mae moved for summary judgment claiming that its liability was pretermitted by the Merrill doctrine. See Federal Crop Insurance Co. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380 (1947). The district court agreed and granted summary judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Merrill doctrine barred Appellant's suit. View "Faiella v. Federal National Mortgage Association" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in this diversity tort claim, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Defendant could not be found liable because Plaintiff was hurt by the very hazard he was required to remedy. Plaintiff sustained a severe knee injury when he slipped on fluid at an auto dealership owned by Defendant that Plaintiff's company had been hired to clean. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, finding that Defendant neither had a duty to warn Plaintiff of the puddle nor acted negligently in failing to address it. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the facts of this case fell squarely within the carve-out in Massachusetts law for injury to an independent contractor resulting from a risk inherent in the job he was hired to perform. See Poirier v. Town of Plymouth, 372 N.E.2d at 227 (Mass. 1978). View "Lapointe v. Silko Motor Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Canada for lack of jurisdiction after concluding that Canada was immune from the suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602 et seq., holding that the FSIA did not prohibit Plaintiff's suit. Plaintiff, who was injured in the course of her employment at the Canadian consulate in Boston, Massachusetts, sued Canada for damages in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Act, Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 152. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claim was not barred by FSIA. View "Merlini v. Canada" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Appellants' motions for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, for a new trial after the district court entered judgment against Appellants on their claims that Defendant, a hotel, was negligent in relation to a slip and fall Appellant suffered on the hotel premises, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. In denying Appellants' motions, the district court found that the jury's verdict was reasonably supported by the evidence and that Appellants' motion did not provide basis for either a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the evidence presented at trial could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that Defendant's failure to meet its duty of care was not the proximate cause of Appellant's injuries; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the weight of the evidence supported the jury's verdict. View "Blomquist v. Horned Dorset Primavera, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this removed diversity suit, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for insufficient timely service of process, holding that Defendant did not evade service or conceal the defect in service and that the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Plaintiff had not shown good cause. Mass. R. Civ. P. 4(j) requires a plaintiff to effect service of process within ninety days of filing suit. Plaintiff failed to meet that deadline when bringing her claims for negligence and wrongful death. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss and denied Plaintiff's motion to extend time to perfect service of process under Mass. R. Civ. P. 6(b). The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted Defendant's motion to dismiss and Defendant's motion for an extension of time to perfect service of process. View "Crossetti v. Cargill, Inc." on Justia Law

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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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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit certified questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) under its Rule 1:03, holding that the dispute in this case turned on the characterization of wrongful death actions by the Commonwealth and presented an unresolved question of Massachusetts law whose answer was unclear. 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 and declined to issue a stay of the state wrongful death action. 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. In asserting that the arbitration agreement was binding, the nursing home argued that Massachusetts beneficiaries’ wrongful death claims are derivative of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit exercised its discretion in favor of certification, holding that Massachusetts law does not clearly decide the independent/derivative or other relevant questions about the status of wrongful death actions in relation to the decedent. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Defendants in this case, holding that an objectively reasonable police officer in May 2013 could have concluded that a single use of a Taser to quell a nonviolent, mentally ill person who was resisting arrest did not violate the Fourth amendment and that, in any case, the officer here was shielded by qualified immunity. Plaintiff, a mentally ill person who was tased after absconding from the hospital to which she had been involuntarily committed, sued the officer and the Town of Athol, Massachusetts asserting causes of action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131-65, along with supplemental state-law claims for, inter alia, assault and battery and malicious prosecution. The magistrate judge found no violation of the Fourth Amendment under section 1983 and no viable state-law claims, that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, and that there was no violation of the ADA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to make out a jury question as to whether the officer used excessive force, but the officer was entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on any of her remaining claims. View "Gray v. Cummings" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court entering judgment for Plaintiff on Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B and defamation claims against the City of Fitchburg and its mayor and the award of punitive damages, holding that the award of punitive damages was improper and that the district court erred in entering judgment for Plaintiff on the defamation claim. Plaintiff brought this action against the City and its mayor after the mayor decided not to nominate Plaintiff for the position of the City police chief. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated his rights under Chapter 151B by deciding not to hire him because of his failure to disclose a criminal case against him of which he was later acquitted and that the mayor defamed him through statements she made to the media. A jury found for Plaintiff on both claims and awarded punitive damages. The First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial on Plaintiff’s defamation claim because the statement at issue was not false; (2) the evidence was sufficient with respect to the Chapter 151B claim; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support the punitive damages award. View "Heagney v. Wong" 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