Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 16, 2017

BEST AUTO REPAIR SHOP, INC.; ELVIS MARTÍNEZ-EVANGELISTA, Plaintiffs, Appellants, MARÍA BETANCOURT-BORIA, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSAL INSURANCE GROUP; UNIVERSAL INSURANCE COMPANY; CARIBBEAN ALLIANCE INSURANCE COMPANY; EASTERN AMERICA INSURANCE AGENCY; JUANITA ORTIZ; JOHN DOE; JANE DOE, Defendants, Appellees.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S. District Judge

          Carlos M. Sánchez La Costa, for appellants.

          Juan J. Casillas-Ayala, with whom Israel Fernández-Rodríguez, and Casillas Santiago Torres LLC were on brief, for appellees.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiffs-Appellants -- Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. ("Best Auto") and Elvis Martínez-Evagelista ("Martínez") -- appeal the District Court's denial of their motion for reconsideration of the District Court's grant of summary judgment dismissing all of their claims. We affirm, largely on waiver grounds.

         I.

         The plaintiffs[1] brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico against various insurance companies and certain of those companies' employees --including Juanita Ortiz ("Ortiz") -- pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Puerto Rico law. With respect to § 1981, the suit alleges that these defendants had unlawfully interfered with the plaintiffs' right to "make or enforce" existing and prospective contracts with the defendants' insureds or third-party claimants.[2]

         Specifically, the suit alleges that these defendants had discriminated against Martínez and his business, Best Auto, by excluding Best Auto as a repair shop for which the insurance companies would reimburse repairs by their insureds or third-party claimants, because Martínez is black and Dominican. Pursuant to the federal courts' supplemental jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the plaintiffs also brought related Puerto Rico law claims for negligence and tortious interference with contracts.

         On March 8, 2013, the defendants moved for summary judgment with respect to all of the plaintiffs' claims. The defendants included in their briefing an argument that the plaintiffs' negligence claims were more properly characterized as defamation claims and that, as defamation claims, they must be dismissed on summary judgment.

         The District Court referred the defendants' summary judgment motions to a magistrate judge. The Magistrate Judge that was assigned the case then issued a report and recommendation that Ortiz's motion be denied, but that the remaining defendants' motion be granted in part. In so deciding, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the plaintiffs' negligence claims were more appropriately characterized as defamation claims, which should be dismissed as time-barred, unsupported by the evidence, or for having failed to allege that the supposedly defamatory statements were not merely opinions for which there could be no liability.[3] All parties filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, and these objections included objections by the plaintiffs to the characterization of their negligence claims as claims for defamation.

         On March 27, 2014, the District Court issued an order denying Ortiz's motion for summary judgment and partially granting the remaining defendants' motion for summary judgment, but denying summary judgment as to: Martínez's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims for, prior to February 20, 2009, interference with contracts and interference with Martínez's ability to make contracts; Best Auto's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims for, after February 20, 2009, interference with contracts and interference with the making of contracts; and Martínez's and Best Auto's claims for tortious interference with contracts and negligence under Puerto Rico law. With regard to the negligence claims, in particular, the District Court explained that such claims were appropriately treated as defamation claims, as the plaintiffs did not dispute this characterization in their summary judgment briefing and the Magistrate Judge had, thus, deemed the issue uncontested.

         The plaintiffs and the defendants each moved for reconsideration, with Ortiz and the other defendants filing a joint motion for reconsideration. On March 31, 2016, the District Court granted the defendants' motion for reconsideration. In doing so, the District Court granted summary judgment on all the claims against the defendants that remained after the District Court's March 27, 2014 summary ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.