Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Imamura v. General Electric Co.
In this class action lawsuit stemming from the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) in Japan, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissing Plaintiffs' suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that an adequate alternative forum was available in Japan. Plaintiffs were individuals and business entities who suffered property damage and/or economic harm as a result of the FNPP disaster. Plaintiffs filed suit against General Electric Company (GE) alleging that GE negligently designed the FNPP's nuclear reactors and safety mechanisms, both of which were implicated in the explosions. Plaintiffs alleged that venue was proper in the District of Massachusetts because GE maintained its corporate headquarters and principal place of business in Boston, Massachusetts. The district court dismissed the suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, determining that an adequate alternative forum was available to Plaintiffs in Japan and that dismissal was in the private and public interest. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Japan satisfied the forum availability requirement despite the jurisdictional idiosyncrasies presented in this case. View "Imamura v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law
Hayden v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A.
The First Circuit summarily affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims that HSBC Bank USA, N.A. could not foreclose on their property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 244, 14 and that the mortgage encumbering their property was obsolete by operation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 33, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the claims. Plaintiffs borrowed money from a lender to purchase property. Plaintiffs executed a promissory note and mortgage identifying Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the mortgagee. MERS later assigned the mortgage to HSBC. After Plaintiffs defaulted on their loan HSBC provided notice of a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs sued HSBC and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., the mortgage servicer, to enjoin the sale. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's claim that HSBC cannot foreclose on the property on grounds that MERS's assignment of the mortgage to HSBC was invalid was foreclosed by precedent; and (2) the district court also properly dismissed Plaintiffs' obsolete mortgage claim, which had no basis in the plain text of Massachusetts's obsolete mortgage statute or in precedent. View "Hayden v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law
Dyer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
In this lawsuit arising out of a foreclosure sale the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Edythe Dyer's claims arguing that U.S. Bank was not a proper party to utilize the statutory power of sale, holding that U.S. Bank was authorized to exercise the statutory power of sale and that Dyer's Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. was properly dismissed. Edythe Dyer executed a promissory note to Dreamhouse Mortgage Corporation and granted a mortgage on her property to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). MERS assigned the mortgage to U.S. Bank. Wells Fargo was U.S. Bank’s servicer of the loan. U.S. Bank later notified Dyer that it intended to foreclose on the property by utilizing the statutory power of sale provided for in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183, 21. Dyer filed suit naming U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo as defendants. The magistrate judge granted Defendants’ motion for judgment of the pleadings and dismissed all of Dyer’s claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) none of Dyer's arguments as to why U.S. Bank was not authorized to exercise the statutory power of sale had merit; and (2) the magistrate judge correctly dismissed Dyer’s Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A claim against Wells Fargo. View "Dyer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
United States v. Silvia
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion for a new trial, in which Defendant sought to vacate seventeen convictions that he received and that resulted from two separate trials, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. Following the verdicts in his second trial, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at his first trial and that the district court erred in denying his motion in limine to preclude guilty verdicts in the first trial from being used to impeach him at his second trial. The district court treated the motion as challenging not only the nine counts for which Defendant had been found guilty in the second trial but also the eight counts for which he had been found guilty in the first trial but for which no judgment of conviction had yet been entered. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief as to any of his arguments. View "United States v. Silvia" on Justia Law
ML-CFC 2007-6 Puerto Rico v. BPP Retail Properties, LLC
The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court designating a magistrate judge to "hear and determine" under 28 U.S.C.(b)(1)(A) a motion to appoint a receiver over certain commercial properties that were the subject of a foreclosure action under Puerto Rico law, holding that the motion to appoint a receiver was "dispositive" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 72, despite the district court's apparent contrary determination. On appeal, Appellant argued that the motion to appoint a receiver could not be delegated to a magistrate judge under section 636(b)(1)(A) but, rather, must be made under 28 U.S.C. (b)(1)B). The First Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the motion to appoint a receiver was "dispositive" under Rule 72, and therefore, this Court does not reach the merits of whether the magistrate judge's decision was correct. Rather, the Court remanded the case for the district court to apply de novo review to the magistrate judge's unauthorized order, in accordance with Rule 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1). View "ML-CFC 2007-6 Puerto Rico v. BPP Retail Properties, LLC" on Justia Law
Littlefield v. Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the order of the district court finding that the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) incorrectly approved the taking of two areas of land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe, holding that the plain meaning of the text of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) precluded the BIA's interpretation of 25 U.S.C. 5129. The Tribe planned to use land taken into trust in Mashpee, Massachusetts primarily for housing and planning to use land in Taunton, Massachusetts for economic activities. In approving the taking of the two areas of land into trust for the Tribe the BIA construed 25 U.S.C. 5129 to permit it to accept lands for the Tribe. The district court remanded the matter to the BIA, finding that the BIA incorrectly read the statute as giving it authority to take land into trust for the Tribe. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the IRA unambiguously foreclosed the BIA's interpretation of 25 U.S.C. 5129; and (2) therefore, the BIA lacked authority to take land into trust for the benefit of the Tribe. View "Littlefield v. Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe" on Justia Law
O’Brien v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims alleging that Defendants violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, and the Massachusetts Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, 49, holding that both counts were time-barred. Plaintiff filed her complaint against the current holder of a mortgage on her property and the servicer of the mortgage loan, alleging that the loan was predatory because at its inception the lender knew or should have known that Plaintiff would not be able to repay it. Defendants removed the case to federal district court and then moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court dismissed the chapter 93A count as time-barred and the second count on the ground that chapter 93, 49 does not provide private right of action. The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of both counts, albeit on different grounds, holding that both the chapter 93A claim and the chapter 93, 49 claims were time-barred. View "O'Brien v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co." on Justia Law
Kupperstein v. Schall
The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing these appeals brought by Appellant seeking to keep money owed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, holding that the district court dismissed the appeal prematurely and that the early dismissal was an abuse of discretion. Thomas Sheedy bought Carol Thibodeau's house and gave it to Appellant Donald Kupperstein, an attorney licensed in Massachusetts. The state court reversed the sale, but Appellant kept collecting rent. Appellant fought to keep the money, and by the time these appeals reached the First Circuit Appellant had defied seven state court orders, four arrest warrants, and numerous contempt sanctions. Appellant filed for bankruptcy in hopes that the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay would stop the state court from enforcing its orders. The bankruptcy court subsequently lifted the stay, then Appellant "went AWOL." The district court dismissed Appellant's appeal based on the rule that a fugitive forfeits the right to appeal the judgment he's fleeing. The First Circuit held that reversal was required because the district court's inherent power to protect its own proceedings was not implicated in this case. The Court then remanded the case for the district court to decide the merits of Appellant's appeals. View "Kupperstein v. Schall" on Justia Law
Summers v. City of Fitchburg
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant's and dismissing Plaintiffs' claim that the City of Fitchburg's refusal to exempt four sober houses Plaintiffs operated for recovering addicts from a legal requirement to install sprinklers in the sober houses violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the requested accommodation was not reasonable. Plaintiffs brought this suit under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101-12213, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601-3631, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). The district court dismissed the suit on summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to show that an exemption from the sprinkler requirement was either reasonable or necessary to allow recovering addicts to live in and benefit from the sober houses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in entering summary judgment on Plaintiffs' ADA and FHAA reasonable accommodation claims. View "Summers v. City of Fitchburg" on Justia Law
Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
In this foreclosure case, a panel of the First Circuit withdrew its earlier opinion in this case, vacated the judgment below, and certified a question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), reasoning that if serious harm was threatened as a result of this litigation that might prompt the SJC to reexamine its precedents, the SJC can address it. In the First Circuit's previous decision, the panel concluded that JP Mortgage Chase, holder of a mortgage on Plaintiffs' home, could not properly foreclose the mortgage based on Plaintiffs' failure to pay their required months installments because the foreclosure notice was inaccurate. Citing wide support from the banking community, Chase filed a petition for rehearing, claiming that a state banking regulation required Chase to use the precise language it had used in its pre-foreclosure notice to Plaintiffs. The First Circuit ordered certification of a question to the SJC regarding the pre-foreclosure notice in this case and whether the notice was inaccurate or deceptive in a manner that rendered the subsequent foreclosure sale void under Massachusetts law. View "Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law