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

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of an employee's widow in this insurance dispute, holding that the employee did not lose life insurance coverage under his employer's group policy after he developed a brain tumor that disrupted his usual work.Plaintiff, the employee's widow, submitted a statement to Insurer claiming approximately $1 under her late husband's life insurance policy. Insurer denied the claim. Plaintiff then sued, alleging wrongful denial of benefits under section 502(a) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), (a)(3). The insurance company denied life insurance coverage on the grounds that the employee's coverage under the policy had lapsed. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) because the policy language invoked by Insurer in this case was less than clear the rule that ambiguous terms in an insurance policy should be read in favor of coverage applied; and (2) the employee was covered at the time of his demise. View "Ministeri v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island granting summary judgment in favor of Chicago Title Insurance Company (CTIC) and dismissing this suit brought under Rhode Island law by IDC Properties Inc., holding that summary judgment in some respects was erroneously entered.In this real property dispute, Plaintiffs filed suit against IDC in Rhode Island state court, alleging violations of the Rhode Island Condominium Act. The state court granted partial summary judgment to Plaintiffs, which judgment extended to all counts relevant to this appeal. After the state Supreme Court affirmed, IDC submitted a claim to CTIC, its title insurer, seeking coverage under the relevant policy for the loss of IDC's title and interest in the real property as a result of the previous litigation. CTIC denied coverage. IDC then brought this action. The district court granted summary judgment for CTIC. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) erred in granting summary judgment with respect to two of the three units at issue; but (2) did not err in granting CTIC's motion in limine to exclude IDC's original expert report insofar as it succeeded in overturning the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "IDC Properties, Inc. v. Chicago Title Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the Title III court confirming a plan of adjustments for the debts of the Commonwealth and two of its instrumentalities in this action brought under the Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), holding that otherwise valid Fifth Amendment takings claims arising pre-petition cannot be discharged in Title III bankruptcy proceedings without payment of just compensation.After the court charged with overseeing Title III proceedings confirmed the plan of adjustment at issue several stakeholders brought appeals challenging aspects of the court's confirmation order. At issue was the appeal of the Financial Oversight and Management Board of Puerto Rico challenging the Title III court's conclusion that claimants owed just compensation for the taking of real property by debtors were entitled to receive satisfaction in full for on their claims. The First Circuit affirmed the Title III court's order confirming the plan, holding that discharging valid, pre-petition takings claims for less than just compensation would violate the Fifth Amendment and render a plan providing for such discharge unconfirmable under PROMESA. View "Financial Oversight & Management Board v. Cooperativa de Ahorro y Credito" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court resentencing Defendant while applying two sentencing enhancements under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, holding that both enhancements applied.Defendant, a former supervising pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), was convicted for his conduct in connection with a criminal investigation into a 2012 deadly nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that was traced to the NECC's shipments of contaminated drugs. The district court sentenced Defendant to a term of imprisonment of ninety-six months. On appeal, the First Circuit vacated and remanded Defendant's sentence. On remand, the district court held that two enhancements applied to Defendant and resentenced him to a 126-month term of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in applying the two enhancements. View "United States v. Chin" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Defendants liable for failing to pay all of the wages owed to Plaintiff, their former employee, holding that there was no error in the district court's evidentiary decisions.On appeal, Defendants argued that the district court erred in excluding evidence that Plaintiff was accused of rape just months before he began to pursue the wage claims at issue and that the district court erred in admitting testimony, along with documentary evidence, from one of Plaintiff's former colleagues. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the challenged evidentiary decisions at issue - one to exclude evidence and the other to admit evidence - were proper and did not require remand for a new trial. View "Gonpo v. Sonam's Stonewalls & Art, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's whistleblower retaliation claim brought under section 1514A of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, holding that Plaintiff could not satisfy his burden of bringing a claim for whistleblower retaliation under section 18 U.S.C. 1514A.Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant, sued Defendant for whistleblower retaliation under section 1514A, but his particular whistleblower claim was based on an alleged violation of 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(2), (5). Defendant moved for summary judgment following the completion of discovery, arguing that Plaintiff's action did not fall within any of the definitions of protected activity under section 1514A. The district court denied the motion as to the whistleblower retaliation claim. The First Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that Plaintiff's conduct was not "protected activity" under section 1514A. View "Baker v. Smith & Wesson, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon and for unlawfully possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion when it qualified Special Agent Israel Valle with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as an expert under Fed. R. Evid. 702 on whether the ammunition and firearms charged in the indictment had traveled in interstate commerce. The First Circuit disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Special Agent Valle was qualified to testify as an expert; and (2) Defendant's additional pro se arguments were without merit. View "United States v. Cortez-Oropeza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this dispute between the Maine lobster industry and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Agency) over a rule barring frequently employed methods of lobstering the First Circuit lifted its issuance of a preliminary injunction and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claim.Plaintiffs, a union of oyster fishers and fishing companies, challenged a regulation issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in August 2021 that prohibited lobster fishing with vertical buoy lines in certain areas during certain times of year. After the district court granted a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the seasonal disclosure, the government and conservation grounds sought a stay of the order. The First Circuit first stayed the preliminary injunction and then vacated the injunction, holding that Plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claim. View "District 4 Lodge of the International Ass'n v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgmentsentencing Defendant to a 188-month term of imprisonment for his conviction of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute on kilogram or more of heroin and 400 grams or more of fentanyl, holding that Defendant's claims did not survive scrutiny.In his complaint, Defendant argued that the district court mistakenly attributed to him the entirety of the drugs found in an apartment used by him and his coconspirators, and (2) the court erred applying the "stash house" enhancement. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to show that Defendant bore responsibility for the drugs in the apartment; and (2) the "stash house" enhancement was appropriately applied in this case. View "United States v. Soto-Villar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's habeas petition, holding that the Massachusetts state court reasonably applied federal law in deeming the Commonwealth's proof constitutionally adequate.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder on a theory of felony murder based on a predicate of armed robbery and sentenced him to a term of life imprisonment on the felony murder charge. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed the conviction. Petitioner sought federal habeas review in the federal district court. The district court denied the petition. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant's application for habeas relief. View "Webster v. Gray" on Justia Law