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Alejandro-Ortiz v. Puerto Rico Elec. Power Auth.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 20, 2014

ORLANDO ALEJANDRO-ORTIZ and SONIA RODRÍGUEZ-JIMÉ NEZ; J.A.A.R., minor represented by Orlando Alejandro-Ortiz and Sonia Rodríguez-Jimé nez, parents; B.A.R., minor represented by Orlando Alejandro-Ortiz and Sonia Rodríguez-Jimé nez, parents, Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
PUERTO RICO ELECTRIC POWER AUTHORITY (PREPA), Defendant, Appellant, AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF PUERTO RICO, Defendant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Silvia L. Carreño-Coll, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Adrian Moll-Lugo, on brief for appellant.

David Efron, Joanne V. Gonzá les-Varón, and Law Offices of David Efron, P.C., on brief for appellees.

Before Torruella, Baldock,[*] and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 24

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

We review the district court's denial of defendant-appellant Puerto Rico Power Authority's (" PREPA" ) Rule 50(a) motion

Page 25

for judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). Plaintiffs, a husband and wife suing in their own name and on behalf of their minor children, complained of injuries brought about by a power line, owned by PREPA, with which the husband came into contact. This appeal concerns only the claims of the wife, Sonia Rodríguez-Jimé nez (" Rodríguez" ).

Rodríguez's claims are time barred by the Puerto Rico one-year statute of limitations. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 5298. After thoughtful analysis of Puerto Rico Supreme Court case law, and of our own precedent, we find that the jury should have never been led down the path towards deliberation on Rodríguez's claims. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's denial of PREPA's Rule 50(a) motion, and we grant PREPA judgment as a matter law.

I. Background

Orlando Alejandro-Ortiz (" Alejandro" ) worked as a garbage collector, and on May 6, 2008, he was on the job in the town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. While on the road, he and his work companions came to a stop as they approached a downed power line blocking their path. Contrary to his own employer's protocol -- and perhaps to common sense -- Alejandro endeavored to resolve the matter himself. Alejandro tied a rope to the power line and looped the rope over another higher hanging wire, so as to create a pulley mechanism. He then proceeded to hoist the downed power line up to a suitable height for their truck to pass, but was unable to complete the task. Alejandro received a powerful electrical discharge and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

That same day, Rodríguez arrived at the hospital to tend to her husband. Upon arrival she learned that her husband had been injured by an electric shock while handling a live wire.

The next month, Rodríguez sought advice from her priest. The cleric told Rodríguez that he believed she had a cause of action against PREPA, and advised her to visit an attorney. Rodríguez did just that, seeking counsel from an attorney by the name of Pedro Cruz, also in June of 2008.

Exactly what was discussed at Rodríguez's consultation is unknown. Suffice it to say that, during trial, Rodríguez testified that she left with the impression, given by Counsel Cruz, that she in fact did not have a cause of ...


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