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Skrabec v. Town of North Attleboro

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 18, 2017

PATRICK SKRABEC; NEIL SKRABEC; AND MARY ANN SKRABEC, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
TOWN OF NORTH ATTLEBORO; DANIEL ARRIGHI; JOSHUA MCMAHON; KEVIN MCKEON; JOHN DOES 1 THROUGH 20, Defendants, Appellees.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Nathaniel M. Gorton, U.S. District Judge.

          Jeffrey B. Pine, Maria F. Deaton, and Lynch & Pine LLC on brief for appellants.

          Jason W. Crotty and Pierce Davis & Perritano LLP on brief for appellees.

          Before Lynch and Selya, Circuit Judges, and Levy, District Judge. [*]

          LEVY, District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This appeal arises from the grant of the Defendants' summary judgment motion following the Plaintiffs' failure to oppose the motion within the timeframe set by the district court. The Plaintiffs, citing excusable neglect, sought relief from the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1), which the court denied. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In December 2012, during the week following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Patrick Skrabec - then a student at North Attleboro High School - was arrested after telling high school classmates that "he would like to shoot up the school." Skrabec v. Town of North Attleboro, 321 F.R.D. 46, 47 (D. Mass. 2017). Patrick was charged with the misdemeanor offenses of threatening to commit a crime, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 2, and disturbing a school assembly, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 40. Id. Following a jury trial, Patrick was acquitted of both charges. Id.

         In the wake of his acquittal, Patrick and his parents, Neil and Mary Ann Skrabec, (collectively, the "Skrabecs"), filed suit, alleging that by arresting and prosecuting Patrick, the Town of North Attleboro, along with the Town's Detective Daniel Arrighi, and Police Officers Joshua McMahon and Kevin McKeon, (collectively, the "Town"), (1) conspired to violate and violated Patrick's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (2) acted negligently, (3) negligently inflicted emotional distress, (4) committed malicious prosecution, and (5) deprived Neil and Mary Ann Skrabec of consortium with their son, Patrick. Id. The Town answered and raised affirmative defenses. Following a scheduling conference, the district court ordered the parties to file dispositive motions by October 31, 2016, and their opposition to any motions by November 30, 2016. Thereafter, the Skrabecs sent the Town a settlement demand letter on October 3, 2016. Sadly, on October 20, Patrick passed away at the age of 21.

         The Town filed its motion for summary judgment on October 28. The motion asserted that probable cause did in fact exist to arrest Patrick; the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity; the defendants' conduct was not sufficiently outrageous to impose liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and the Skrabecs' parental loss of consortium claim was not recognized under Massachusetts law.

         On November 21, the Skrabecs' attorney e-mailed the following message to the Town's attorney:

Hi Jason-
If you have a few minutes either today or tomorrow I'd like to touch base with you on this. As you know Patrick passed away and just want ...

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