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Bar News - June 17, 2011


US District Court Decision Listing - May 2011

* Published

BENCH TRIAL VERDICT; COMMERCIAL LITIGATION
5/24/11
Lifespan Corporation v. New England Medical Center, Inc., et al.
Civil No. 06-cv-421-JNL (RI), Opinion No. 2011 DNH 083

After holding a three-week bench trial in a case arising from a dispute between a Rhode Island healthcare system and a Massachusetts hospital over their brief and unsuccessful affiliation, the court issued findings of fact and rulings of law. The court ruled that the hospital owed the healthcare system about $13.9 million for payments that it failed to make under their disaffiliation agreement. But the court ruled that the healthcare system owed the hospital about $14.2 million under that agreement’s indemnification provision, as a result of the system’s misconduct during the affiliation. The court further ruled that the system’s misconduct constituted a breach of fiduciary duty, for which the system was liable to the Massachusetts Attorney General in its capacity as representative of the public interest in the hospital, a public charity. 83 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


CONTRACTS; ERISA
5/13/11
Desautels v. Fidelity Investments Life Insurance Co.
Civil No. 10-cv-464-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH079

The defendant moved to dismiss its former employee’s claim for additional severance pay, arguing that it was pre-empted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") and, in any event, was contrary to the plain meaning of the employee’s severance agreement, which entitled her only to the five months of severance pay that she had already received. The court granted the motion, agreeing with the defendant on both points. 12 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


EVIDENCE; IMPEACHMENT WITH CRIMINAL CONVICTION, PRIOR SIMILAR OCCURRENCES, MEDICAL BILL DAMAGES
5/2/11
Herbst v. L.B.O. Holdings, Inc.
Civil No. 09-cv-233-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 072*

Both parties moved in limine to admit or exclude certain evidence from the jury trial in this products liability case arising from injuries suffered on the alpine slide at Attitash Bear Peak Resort. The court ruled that, under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(b), the defendant could present evidence that the plaintiff had been convicted of mail fraud, notwithstanding that the conviction was more than ten years old. The court also ruled that the plaintiff could present evidence of prior and subsequent accidents on the alpine slide, if they were shown to be substantially similar to his own accident. But the court ruled that the defendant could not present evidence that Medicaid paid less than the face amount of plaintiff’s medical bills. 19 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


EVIDENCE; EXPERT TESTIMONY, CONTRACTS, DAMAGES
5/12/11
Contour Design, Inc. v. Chance Mold Steel Co., Ltd. et al.
Civil No. 09-cv-451-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 078*

In an action alleging the defendants’ misappropriation of the plaintiff’s trade secrets and breach of a non-disclosure agreement, the parties moved to exclude evidence from the upcoming jury trial. The court ruled that the defendants could not present expert testimony on (1) the definition of a trade secret or the scope or alleged ambiguity of the agreement, because those were questions of law, (2) whether particular information was a trade secret, because that opinion was at odds with the court’s prior rulings, or (3) the relationship of the "product development process" to trade secret status, because the witness lacked any background in the field in question. The court also ruled that the defendants could not present evidence or argument that the agreement was ambiguous, or that they were third-party beneficiaries of an agreement between the plaintiff and another entity, because those were questions of law for the court as well. Finally, the court ruled that the plaintiff could present theories of misappropriation that, if not pled in the complaint, had been advanced since early in the litigation, including at the preliminary injunction hearing, as well as a theory of damages, because the defendants had no evidence for their theory that they were engaged in a partnership with the plaintiff such that an accounting would be the appropriate remedy. 30 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


MORTGAGES
5/11/11
Kimberly A. Ruff Bedard v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. et al.
Civil No. 11-cv-117-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 077

The plaintiff, a New Hampshire citizen, sued the defendants, out-of-state corporations, in state Superior Court, seeking an injunction against their announced foreclosure sale of her home, on which one of the defendants claimed to hold the mortgage. The defendants removed the action to federal court. The plaintiff moved to remand, arguing that the case failed to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction. The court denied the motion, ruling that the amount in controversy in an action to enjoin a foreclosure sale is the value of the property, and that the amount of the loan to the plaintiff, $100,000, sufficed to show that her property was worth at least $75,000. 8 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.


SOCIAL SECURITY
5/31/11
Lauchlin Mackinley v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Civil No. 10-cv-306-JL, Opinion No. 2011 DNH 086

In an appeal from the denial of Social Security disability benefits, both the claimant and the Social Security Administration moved for judgment in their favor. The court granted judgment to the claimant, reversing and remanding the administrative law judge’s decision in light of several factual errors relating to the claimant’s daily activities, his complaints of fatigue, and his efforts to find work. 13 pages. Judge Joseph N. Laplante.

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