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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's tort action stemming from the death of Dr. George Holland while he was vacationing at a hotel located in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, holding that there was insufficient evidence to establish the causation element of Plaintiffs' tort claim. Plaintiffs, Dr. Holland's wife and their children, asserted a tort claim under Article 1802 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code against the hotel, its insurer and other entities stemming from Dr. Holland's death while he was snorkeling close to an island near the hotel. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellants did not point to evidence in the record from which a reasonable jury could rule in their favor as to the causation element of their tort claim, and therefore, summary judgment was appropriate. View "Baum-Holland v. Hilton El Con Management, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's federal and state civil rights claims and state wrongful death claims against the City of Lewiston, the Lewiston School Department (collectively, the City Defendants), and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. Appellant brought this suit after his seventh-grade son died while on a Lewiston school field trip to a state park. The complaint alleged due process violations and wrongful death claims. DACF filed a motion to dismiss. The district court granted the motion, holding that sovereign immunity insulated DACF from Appellant's claims in federal court. The court then granted the City Defendants' motion to dismiss after construing Appellant's due process violation claim as a substantive due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Maine Civil Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, 4682. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellant waived any challenge to the dismissal of his claims against DACF; and (2) Appellant's allegations were insufficient to state a constitutional tort claim against the City Defendants. View "Abdisamad v. City of Lewiston" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Appellant's complaint alleging that he received an injury that occurred in connection with his 2015 Delta Airlines flight to London, holding that Appellant's complaint fell within the scope of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for Intentional Carriage by Air (Montreal Convention) and was, as a result, time barred. When an airline passenger suffers bodily injury on board an aircraft or in the course of embarking or disembarking, his only legal recourse is to sue the airline for recovery under the Montreal Convention, which preempts any local law claims the passenger could bring. Appellant, who missed the Montreal Convention's two-year deadline to sue, argued that his injury occurred after his disembarkation and was therefore outside the scope of the Montreal Convention. The district court dismissed the case, concluding that the Montreal Convention preempted and time barred Appellant's claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's injury began inflight and therefore fell within the scope of the Convention; and (2) as a result, Appellant's claim was time barred. View "Dagi v. Delta Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court finding that Plaintiff was disabled as defined under 20 C.F.R. 404.1520 and awarding her benefits, holding that there was very strong evidence of Plaintiff's disability, without any contrary evidence, to justify an award of benefits. At age thirty-four, Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Commissioner of Social Security denied Plaintiff's applications. In an independent assessment of her claim, an ALJ agreed with the Commissioner's decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Social Security Act. A federal magistrate judge found that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's denial of benefits and recommended reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding the case for further development of the facts. The district court agreed with the magistrate judge's findings but bypassed the need for further fact-finding and awarded benefits. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there was overwhelming evidence to support a finding of disability and an award of benefits and that a remand for further proceedings was unnecessary. View "Sacilowski v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff's age discrimination and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) claims, holding that Plaintiff's OWBPA-compliant waiver and release were knowing and voluntary under federal common law. Plaintiff, a former Winchendon police officer, decided to resign with a pension after the Defendants determined that he had made several threats against his former girlfriend. Plaintiff resigned instead of facing termination and the possibility of losing his pension and being criminally charged. Plaintiff signed a separation agreement agreeing to waive and release any claims he had against Defendants up and through signing the agreement. Plaintiff later brought a complaint alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and defamation, alleging that the waiver and release in his separation agreement violated the OWBPA and were thus invalid. The district court granted summary judgment on the age discrimination and OWBPA claims for Defendants, and a jury found for Defendants on the retaliation and defamation claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding (1) the waiver and release did not violate the OWBPA and were knowing and voluntary; and (2) Defendant's argument that the district court abused its discretion in withdrawing an exhibit at trial was meritless. View "Geoffroy v. Town of Winchendon" 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 affirmed the judgment of the district court compelling arbitration after first certifying two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), holding that the SJC's decision compelled the First Circuit to affirmed the judgment compelling arbitration. 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. 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. The First Circuit certified questions of law to the SJC. After the SJC answered that claims of statutory beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death statute are derivative of the decedent's own cause of action, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SJC's decision required this Court to affirm the judgment compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" 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 in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's case against various defendants, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiff's federal law claims or state law negligent training/supervision claim but erred in dismissing Plaintiff's state law negligence claim. Kelsey Zell, a high school junior, was hit by a fellow student and sustained a concussion. Zell faced a one-day suspension for her role in the altercation. Zell and her parents (together, Plaintiffs) unsuccessfully challenged the suspension decision. Plaintiffs later filed a complaint against the school district's superintendent, the dean of students, and other school officials, alleging several claims. The district court dismissed the claims and denied Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint. The court then denied Defendants' motion for sanctions. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Zell's federal law claims or state law negligent training/supervision claim and Zell's motion to amend as it relates to these issues; (2) did not err in denying the denial of Defendant's motion for sanctions against Zell's counsel; but (3) erred in dismissing Plaintiff's state law negligence claim. View "Zell v. Ricci" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Saco, Maine Shaw's Supermarket on Plaintiff's claim that Shaw's owed a duty to protect its patrons from foreseeable harm and that an attack on his wife in the store was foreseeable, holding that, under Maine law of premises liability, the harm must have been foreseeable, and the attack in this case was not foreseeable. Connor MacCalister attacked and killed Wendy Boudreau with a knife in the Saco Shaw's Supermarket. Jeffrey Boudreau, Wendy's husband and the executor of her estate, brought this action against Shaw's asserting wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering under Maine law. The district court entered summary judgment for Shaw's, concluding that Shaw's did not owe a duty under Maine wrongful death law to protect Wendy from the attack because it was not foreseeable. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Shaw's did not owe a duty to protect Wendy from MacCalister; (2) the district court did not err in how it viewed the facts; and (3) there was no error in the district court's evidentiary rulings challenged on appeal. View "Boudreau v. Shaw's Supermarkets Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury