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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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In this case alleging negligent design, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care, a breach of duty, and that the accident giving rise to this action was foreseeable to Defendants, holding that judgment was properly granted for Defendants. When a vehicle was driven into another vehicle parked outside a building, the parked vehicle crashed into the building's open terrace, injuring several individuals sitting within the terrace, including Plaintiff, Plaintiff sued the owner of the building, his heirs, and his insurer, arguing that the terrace was negligently designed. The district court entered judgment for the defense. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to show damage through fault or negligence of Defendants. View "Aponte-Bermudez v. Colon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the magistrate judge concluding that Defendant, a state drug lab supervisor, was not entitled to qualified immunity from a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and vacated the denial of Defendant's motion to dismiss an intentional infliction of emotional distress state law claim, holding that Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity from the section 1983 claim. Plaintiff's conviction was vacated after the discovery of the drug abuse of Sonja Farak, a chemist at the Amherst Drug Lab on the campus of the University of Massachusetts. Plaintiff brought this complaint alleged that Defendant's inadequate supervision Farak constituted deliberate indifference to Defendant's constitutional rights. Defendant also claimed intentional infliction of emotional distress. The magistrate judge denied Defendant's motion to dismiss the section 1983 claim and held that Defendant's behavior showing a disregard for "repeated red flags" was enough to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law. The First Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity from the section 1983 claim; and (2) because the sole basis for federal jurisdiction was dismissed the judgment on the intentional infliction of emotional distress state law claim is remanded to state court. View "Penate v. Hanchett" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed in part the magistrate judge's grant of summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's civil rights action, holding that the magistrate judge erred by granted summary judgment on the claims that police officers unlawfully searched Defendant's property and falsely arrested Defendant and that a jury could find that one police officer and the chief of police violated Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Defendant was arrested for theft after police officers obtained a warrant to search Defendant's home for certain property. Defendant later brought this action alleging that there was no probable cause for his arrest. A magistrate judge dismissed all of Defendant's claims on summary judgment. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the magistrate judge erred by granting summary judgment on the claims under the federal and state civil rights acts that the officers unlawfully searched Defendant's property; (2) the magistrate judge erred in granting summary judgment on Defendant's federal and state civil rights claims for false arrest; and (3) Defendant alleged sufficient facts that a jury might reasonably find the chief of police and one police officer liable on the Fourth Amendment claims, and the Court declined to affirm the judgment on qualified immunity grounds. View "Jordan v. Town of Waldoboro" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Brown University on Jane Doe's claims alleging several contract and tort claims arising from the university's sanctions against her for her second violation of the university's Code of Academic Conduct, holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment with respect to Doe's claims alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Doe's request for additional discovery under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) on the grounds that Doe failed to show how the information to be obtained would have defeated summary judgment. View "Doe v. Brown University" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this defamation case, holding that no reasonable jury could find that Defendant, a psychiatrist, abused the conditional privilege under which Defendant disseminated an allegedly libelous report to an employer about an employee's fitness to return to work after medical leave. Plaintiff took medical leave from work due to stress purportedly caused by derogatory remarks about Plaintiff's age. The Human Resources department required Plaintiff to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his fitness to return to work. Defendant issued a written report concluding that Plaintiff would be unfit to return to work for at least three months. Plaintiff filed this complaint arguing that the report contained at least two libelous statements. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the challenged statements were conditionally privileged and that there was insufficient evidence to show that Defendant abused the conditional privilege. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly found Defendant's statements in the report conditionally privileged and that Plaintiff failed to establish sufficient evidence to show any abuse of that privilege. View "Zeigler v. Rater" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against three Maine prison officials and denying Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting as futile Plaintiff's motion for leave to file her amended complaint. Plaintiff's complaint alleged federal constitutional violations, a civil rights conspiracy, and supplementary state law claims. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the complaint did not state any plausible claims against the defendants. Plaintiff then moved for reconsideration and for leave to amend. The district court denied both motions and entered a final judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that allowing the motion to amend would be futile because the proposed amended complaint failed to state any plausible claims for relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the facts alleged in Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint were insufficient to make out plausible claims of either supervisory liability or civil rights conspiracy against Defendants. View "Parker v. Landry" on Justia Law

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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