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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
In this appeal concerning whether a settlement contract under Rhode Island law was formed after a personal injury lawsuit was filed the First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court the question of what is the definition of 'civil action' in R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.2. Horace Johnson was the driver and Carlton Johnson was the sole passenger in a car accident. The accident occurred in Rhode Island. Both men were seriously injured. Horace was insured by Arbella Mutual Insurance Company. Arbella accepted Carlton's demand to settle for the policy limit of $100,000. Thereafter, Carlton filed a lawsuit against Horace, Arbella, and other defendants. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The district court rejected Carlton's argument that Rhode Island's Rejected Settlement Offer Interest Statute, section 27-7-2.2, applied to the case. Carlton appealed, arguing that the statute rendered the settlement contract unenforceable because Arbella failed to accept his settlement offer within the timetable set forth by the statute. At issue was whether the court correctly determined that the statute's "[i]n any civil action" language requires that a legal proceeding in court needs to be underway to trigger the statute's application. The First Circuit certified to the Rhode Island Supreme Court a question concerning the definition of "civil action." View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit directed entry of summary judgment for Zurich American Insurance Company, holding that Zurich's decision to deny the insured's claim was supported by substantial evidence. Denise Arruda filed a claim for death benefits following the death of her husband, Joseph Arruda, in a car accident. Zurich denied the claim, concluding that Joseph's death was not within the coverage clause of the policy because the death was not independent of all other causes and that it was caused or contributed to by his pre-existing health conditions. Denise brought this action under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B) alleging that Zurich violated ERISA by denying the insurance benefits. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Denise, concluding that substantial evidence did not support Zurich's decision. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Zurich's conclusion that Joseph's death was caused or contributed to by pre-existing medical conditions was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Arruda v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Appellant's federal law claims under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, and on the state-law claims for discrimination, retaliation based on a complaint of age discrimination, and failure to investigate and vacated the summary judgment on the state law claims for retaliation based on a report of gender discrimination, breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, and defamation, holding that the court erred in granting summary judgment as to these claims. This lawsuit arose from events that led to Appellant's retirement from his position as Fire Chief for the Fire Department of the Town of Marshfield, Massachusetts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town on all of Appellant's federal and state law claims. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted as to some of Appellant's claims; but (2) as to the remaining state law claims, there was no analogue to the common law claims in the federal law claims that were addressed, and rather than attempt to resolve the state law issues that were in dispute as to these claims, their dismissal was directed without prejudice. View "Robinson v. Town of Marshfield" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court entered judgment for the pleadings on all of Plaintiff's claims, holding that Plaintiff's state certiorari claim did not fail to state a claim on the pleadings. Plaintiff, a former City of Haverhill police officer, brought this action against the city's chief of police and the city's mayor after Plaintiff was denied his request for an identification card to allow him to carry a concealed firearm across state lines under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. Defendants removed the case to federal district court, which entered judgment on the pleadings for Defendants on all four of Plaintiff's claims. The First Circuit directed the dismissal of Plaintiff's state certiorari claim without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) Massachusetts has, in its state certiorari procedure, provided a constitutionally adequate remedy precluding assertion of a federal procedural due process claim in this case; (2) Plaintiff failed to plead facts sufficient to support his federal substantive due process claim; (3) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 due process claim; and (4) Plaintiff's negligence claim and purported equity claim plainly failed to assert a claim under state law. View "Lambert v. Fiorentini" on Justia Law

by
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
by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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
by
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