Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court dismissing for failure to state a claim this suit challenging the federal government's decision not to waive indefinitely the cabotage provision of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissal was required on jurisdictional grounds. In this suit, Plaintiffs challenged the provision of the Jones Act, which applies to Puerto Rico and prohibits foreign-flag vessels from transporting merchandise between United States coastwise points. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded for the claims to be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs, each of whom owned real estate and/or personal property in Puerto Rico, failed to set forth allegations in their complaint that were sufficient to establish standing. View "Perez-Kudzma v. United States" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the First Circuit remanded the case for additional factfinding, holding that where the record was conflicted as to whether there was complete diversity of citizenship when the action was commenced, remand was required. Appellants were two affiliated insureds who owned and operated a commercial bakery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Appellee, their insurer, had in effect a commercial business insurance policy covering the bakery. When a pipe erupted in the bakery, causing covered losses, the parties were unable to settle the ensuing insurance claims. Appellants commenced a civil action against Appellee in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, invoking federal diversity jurisdiction and alleging that complete diversity existed between the parties. The magistrate judge ultimately granted Appellee's motion for summary judgment. The First Circuit noted a jurisdictional hurdle and remanded the case, holding that remand was required for the district court to determine whether there was complete diversity between the parties at the time the action was commenced. View "Bearbones, Inc. v. Peerless Indemnity Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging medical malpractice and negligence against a hospital and several other healthcare providers, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding an expert witness as a sanction for Plaintiff's noncompliance with a scheduling order. After Defendants answered the complaint the district court entered a scheduling order setting a deadline for the disclosure of Plaintiff's expert reports. More than a year after the deadline the district court had set for the disclosure of Plaintiff's experts' reports, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's potential expert witness. The district court granted the motion to exclude. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff could not prevail without admissible expert testimony. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the court below did not abuse its discretion in excluding the potential expert witness as an expert witness. View "Gonzalez-Rivera v. Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment after treating the motion as a motion to dismiss pursuant too Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in adjudicating Defendants' summary judgment motion. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that his employer had discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin and subjected him to retaliation. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court considered the motion as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a plausible claim and granted the motion. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court's attempt to transform Defendants' fully developed motion for summary judgment into a motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion. View "Rios-Campbell v. U.S. Department of Commerce" on Justia Law

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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 dispute over who was the first-to-file relator in a case brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., the First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court ruling that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional, holding, for the first time in this circuit, that the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional and that the Court had jurisdiction over Mark McGuire's crossclaim. The FCA's first-to-file rule prohibits relators other than the first to file from bringing a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action. In this case, the government successfully intervened in several qui tam suits against Millennium Health. Millennium settled with the government, setting aside fifteen percent of the settlement proceeds as a relator's share. McGuire brought a crossclaim for declaratory judgment that he was the first to file and was thus entitled to the fifteen-percent share. The district court dismissed the crossclaim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, finding that the first-to-file rule was jurisdictional. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the first-to-file rule is not jurisdictional, and therefore, the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over McGuire's crossclaim; and (2) McGuire was the first-to-file relator and has stated a claim that he is entitled to the relator's share of the settlement. View "McGuire v. Estate of Robert Cunningham" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by Puerto Rico general obligation bondholders (Bondholders), the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Bondholders' complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief claiming that they possessed a priority and property interest over certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the Bondholders' complaint. This case arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico's public debt under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of 2016 (PROMESA). The Bondholders sought declarations to confirm their property rights to certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, determine that the diversion of the revenues constituted an unconstitutional taking, and specify appropriate uses for those revenues. The district court dismissed certain counts of the Bondholders' complaint as seeking improper advisory opinions, another count presenting a takings claim as unripe, and almost all the remaining counts as barred under section 305 of PROMESA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed all counts. View "Aurelius Capital Master, Ltd. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court ruling that the Town of Weymouth’s local ordinance, as applied to a project in which Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC sought to build a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, was preempted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) authorizing construction of the Weymouth Compressor Station. Algonquin received a CPCN from FERC authorizing the project, but that certificate was conditioned upon the receipt of a consistency determination from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). To complete its CZMA review the Commonwealth required Algonquin to furnish a permit from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which, in turn, refused to issue such a permit until the Town of Weymouth approved the project under its local ordinance. Wemouth denied Algonquin’s permit applications. Algonquin ultimately commenced this action against Weymouth arguing that the local ordinance, as it applied to the compressor station, was preempted under federal law. The district court granted summary judgment for Algonquin. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that application of Weymouth’s ordinance to the proposed compressor station was foreclosed by federal law under the theory of conflict preemption. View "Algonquin Gas Transmission v. Weymouth Conservation Commission" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Appellant was barred from relitigating his argument that Plaintiffs should be compelled to arbitrate various tort claims, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motion to compel arbitration. At issue in this procedurally complicated case was whether Appellant’s association with a certain law firm required that Plaintiffs’ various tort claims, including their claims of legal malpractice, be submitted to arbitration. After adopting a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation and applying principles of collateral estoppel derived from Rhode Island law, the district court denied Appellant’s motion to compel. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant waived any claim of error regarding the magistrate judge’s analysis under Rhode Island collateral estoppel law. View "Patton v. Johnson" 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