Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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Annalia Montany, a student in the University of New England’s (UNE) occupational therapy master’s degree program, injured her back when Scott McNeil, an instructor playing the role of a mock patient, feigned a fall while Montany attempted to assist him in transferring from a wheelchair into a bed. Because of her back problem she failed a practical exam and did not receive a passing grade for the course. Montany was subsequently dismissed from the program. Montany filed suit against UNE and McNeil, alleging negligence and breach of contract. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Montany’s assertion, expert testimony was required in this case; and (2) Montany’s breach of contract claims failed. View "Montany v. University of New England" on Justia Law

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Federal subject-matter jurisdiction over this dispute involving claims of defamation and other causes of action was premised on a diversity of citizenship. Hearts With Haiti Inc. and Michael Geilenfeld sued Paul Kendrick. Although a jury found for the plaintiffs, the First Circuit remanded the case to address the question of whether federal subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Geilenfeld was domiciled in Haiti and thus was not a citizen of a state for the purposes of diversity jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) as a stateless American citizen domiciled abroad, Geilenfeld did not satisfy the requirements of diversity jurisdiction; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to cure the jurisdictional defect by dismissing Geilenfeld from the action. View "Hearts With Haiti, Inc. v. Kendrick" on Justia Law

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Patrick Camerano died after suffering a fall while on a “respite/nursing stay” at a facility operated by East Boston Neighborhood Health center (EBNHC). Plaintiff, Patrick’s son, sent a letter styled as a “claim” to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging state common law and federal statutory violations and seeking $1,700,000 in damages for Patrick’s alleged wrongful death. The district court granted summary judgment to the government, concluding (1) Plaintiff’s tort claims against EBNHC are considered tort claims against the United States, which was subject to a two-year limitations period; and (2) Plaintiff did not file his administrative complaint with HHS until more than two years after learning that his father had suffered a fatal injury caused by a fall. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s arguments that his claim did not accrue until his newly retained counsel was able to ascertain the name of the respite/nursing home where his father’s accident happen failed; (2) Plaintiff’s argument that the two-year limitations period should be equitably tolled also failed; and (3) the district court did not commit procedural error in granting summary judgment to the government. View "Camerano v. United States" on Justia Law

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Lisa Tam Chung, a Texas high school senior, purchased a vacation package through StudentCity.com for a trip to Cancun, Mexico, adding an optional snorkeling excursion. The snorkeling trip ended with the vessel taking on water and Lisa being pulled under the water. Lisa died as a result of her injuries. Lisa, through her parents, brought a wrongful death claim against StudentCity. During discovery, the district court, with the acquiescence of the parties, limited pretrial discovery to specific issues. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of StudentCity. The First Circuit reversed, holding that because the district court entered summary judgment on an issue not briefed and on which discovery had not been allowed, the district court’s shift in focus exceeded its authority. Remanded. View "Chung v. StudentCity.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while receiving treatment at a federally funded healthcare facility. Plaintiff later filed an administrative claim with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) using a Standard Form 95 (SF 95). Plaintiff, however, failed to fill out the box for a sum certain. HHS denied Plaintiff’s claim. Thereafter, Plaintiff sued the United States seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The United States moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of Plaintiff’s failure to provide a timely sum-certain demand. The magistrate judge treated the motion as one for summary judgment and recommended that judgment enter for the United States, concluding that Plaintiff did not timely satisfy the FTCA’s requirements. The district judge adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation on de novo review. The First Circuit affirmed, arguing that, where Plaintiff’s SF 95 did not include a sum certain, none of Plaintiff’s arguments for reversal had merit. View "Holloway v. United States" on Justia Law

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Erasmo Rodriguez-Vazquez (Rodriguez) successfully worked to obtain the reversal of several wrongfully convicted individuals. Those individuals and/or their heirs or assigns brought two suits, consolidated into this case, against the police officers and prosecutors who were involved in their prosecutions. The parties reached a settlement. The district court issued a report that the parties and the district court have treated as a gag order barring the parties from disclosing the terms and conditions of the settlement. Rodriguez subsequently made statements about the settlement to the press. The district court held Rodriguez in contempt and referred him to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Supreme Judicial Court for disciplinary review. The First Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and vacated the contempt and sanctions order, holding that the district court’s contempt finding and sanction were based on clearly erroneous findings of fact because Rodriguez did not violate what the parties all treat as a confidentiality order issued by the district court. View "Rodriguez-Vazquez v. Solivan Solivan" on Justia Law

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While she was a student at Harvard Law School (HLS), Megon Walker was a member of the staff of the Journal of Law and Technology. During Walker’s final semester, concerns arose regarding a draft article (the Note) that Walker had written. After a hearing, the HLS Administrative Board (Board) found that the Note contained plagiarism. Walker received a formal reprimand, which ultimately appeared on her transcript. Walker graduated from HLS despite the reprimand, but the notation placed on transcript caused the loss of a lucrative employment offer. Walker filed suit against the President and Fellows of Harvard College, the then-Dean of Students at HLS, and the former Chair of the Board, seeking to have the notation removed from her transcript. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment against Walker on her claims of breach of contract and defamation. View "Walker v. Harvard University Fellows" on Justia Law

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Phillip McCue died after an encounter with five police officers with the City of Bangor. During the encounter, the officers sought to take McCue into protective custody due to his erratic behavior allegedly caused by ingestion of bath salts. In an attempt to restrain McCue, the officers placed him in a face-down position on the ground while two officers exerted significant weight on his neck and shoulders. McCue was declared dead after this intervention. Plaintiff, the father of Phillip, sued the City and the five officers in their individual and official capacities, asserting violations of Phillip’s constitutional rights and various state law tort claims. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, on the basis of qualified immunity, with two exceptions. Specifically, the denied Defendants’ claims of qualified immunity as to the alleged use of excessive force after Phillip ceased resisting and as to the assault and battery claim. Defendants appealed, contending that they were entitled to qualified immunity on these remaining claims. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that material disputed facts yet to be resolved precluded summary judgment, and therefore, the Court lacked appellate jurisdiction to entertain Defendants’ interlocutory appeal at this stage. View "McCue v. City of Bangor, Maine" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a negligence suit in the Puerto Rico federal district court, naming as defendants the Municipality of Caguas, Consolidated Waste Service Corporation (ConWaste), and ConWaste’s insurance provider, stating that because he was domiciled in Texas and each of the defendants was domiciled in Puerto Rico, the district court had diversity jurisdiction over his state-law tort claims. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff was domiciled in Puerto Rico on the date his case was filed. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Texas was Plaintiff’s domicile at the date his lawsuit was filed. View "Aponte-Davila v. Municipality of Caguas" on Justia Law

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The False Claims Act (FCA) forbids private parties from bringing qui tam actions on the government’s behalf alleging fraud on government programs if the complaint rests on allegations that were already publicly disclosed through certain enumerated sources. In this case, Relators brought a qui tam action under the FCA challenging certain billing practices of CVS Caremark Corp. and affiliated companies (collectively, CVS). The district court dismissed the action, concluding that previous disclosures and controversies triggered the FCA’s public disclosure bar. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the public disclosure bar forbade Relators’ suit. View "Winkelman v. CVS Caremark Corp." on Justia Law