Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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In this declaratory judgment action filed by a professional liability insurer seeking to establish that it had no duty to defend its insured in two state court proceedings, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the declaratory judgment for the insurer, holding that the district court correctly determined that the claims against the insured in both lawsuits fell outside the professional liability coverage provided by the insurance policy. The insured, a physician, was the defendant in two civil suits filed in state courts in Maine and Maryland. The insured’s ex-wife claimed that the insured used his status as a doctor to obtain her medical records during their deteriorating marriage so that he could harass and embarrass her. The district court concluded that the insurer had no duty to defend the insured in either lawsuit. The First Circuit affirmed after a close review of the policy at issue, holding that the insurer had no duty to defend the insured in either the Maryland or the Maine proceedings. View "Medical Mutual Insurance Co. of Maine v. Burka" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s summary judgment motion in this case alleging that Liberty breached Plaintiff’s contractual rights by wrongfully denying his request for coverage under an insurance policy, holding that the district court’s reasoning in granting Liberty’s motion for summary judgment was flawed. Plaintiff argued in his complaint that Liberty improperly denied his coverage request under the Directors and Officers insurance policy that Liberty had issued to a Puerto Rico hospital where Plaintiff served as the medical director. The district court concluded that, under the policy, the “Claim” that would give rise to the “Loss” for which Plaintiff sought coverage should be “deemed first made” before the policy took effect and, therefore, was not covered by the policy. The First Circuit vacated the district court’s order granting Liberty’s summary judgment motion, holding that the “Claim” for which Plaintiff sought coverage from Liberty was not “first made” prior to the beginning of the policy at issue, and the district court wrongly construed the policy in concluding otherwise. View "Jimenez-Castaner v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of the district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing all of their claims against various insurance companies and certain of those companies’ employees under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Puerto Rico law. The complaint alleged that Defendants unlawfully interfered with Plaintiffs’ right to “make or enforce” existing and prospective contracts with Defendants’ insureds or third-party claimants. The district court granted summary judgment on all claims against Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, largely on waiver grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs expressly waived certain issues on appeal by failing to raise them in their opening brief; and (2) Plaintiffs’ remaining claims on appeal were unavailing. View "Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group" on Justia Law

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This case was once again before the First Circuit after the court certified to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) some state-law questions arising from this diversity-based declaratory-judgment action governed by Massachusetts substantive law. The case was brought by Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company, the employment-practices liability insurer of VisionAid, Inc., seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to prosecute VisionAid’s embezzlement counterclaim in litigation brought against VisionAid alleging age discrimination. The federal district court ruled that Mount Vernon did not have to foot the bill for VisionAid’s affirmative counterclaim. On appeal, the First Circuit certified three questions to the SJC, two on the duty-to-defend issue and one on a conflict-of-interest issue, which was the only question left for the court to decide in the instant appeal. At issue was whether a conflict of interest existed between the parties that permitted VisionAid to choose the attorney to defend the suit brought against it by the ex-employee, with Mount Vernon paying for that defense. The First Circuit answered in the negative, holding that the presence of the embezzlement counterclaim did not generate a conflict of interest entitling VisionAid to separate counsel to defend against the ex-employee’s suit at Mount Vernon’s expense. View "Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Co v. VisionAid, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court order dismissing claims brought by Ironshore Specialty Insurance Company, the entity that paid the clean-up costs after a large military vessel spilled over 11,000 gallons of fuel next to Boston Harbor, against American Overseas Marine Company, LLC (AMSEA) and the United States. Ironshore sought cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a declaratory judgment finding AMSEA and the United States to be strictly liable under the OPA, and damages sounding in general admiralty and maritime law as a result of AMSEA’s and the United States’ alleged negligence. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of all of Ironshore’s claims against AMSEA; (2) affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s OPA claims against the United States; but (3) reversed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s general admiralty and maritime negligence claims brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act because these claims were not foreclosed by the OPA. View "Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case concerned defects in the execution of two life insurance annuity polices that the decedent purchased through National Western Life Insurance Co. Plaintiffs, the decedent’s wife and children, sued National Western seeking a declaration that the policies were void and a return of the premiums paid by the decedent. National Western filed a motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs failed to join a necessary party - the decedent’s brother, who was named under both policies as the sole beneficiary - even though National Western had already paid him. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the beneficiary at issue was not “required to be joined if feasible” under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a). The court then granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court, holding that the sole beneficiary of the annuities was required to be joined if feasible under rule 19(a). The court remanded the case to the district court to determine whether it was equitable for the case to proceed without him. View "Maldonado-Vinas v. National Western Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law