Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Tilden received an IRS notice of deficiency covering his tax years 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2012. The last day to seek review (26 U.S.C. 6213(a)) was April 21, 2015. The Tax Court received Tilden’s petition on April 29, 2015, and dismissed it as untimely. Although section 6213(a) requires petitions to be filed within 90 days, 26 U.S.C. 7502(a) makes the date of the postmark dispositive. Tilden’s lawyer’s staff did not put a stamp on the envelope, and the Postal Service did not apply a postmark. Staff purchased postage from Stamps.com, which supplies print‑at-home postage. The purchase was dated April 21, 2015, and a staff member states that she delivered the envelope to the Postal Service on that date. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the IRS properly conceded error. The parties cannot stipulate to jurisdiction, but can stipulate to facts underlying jurisdiction. The court expressed "astonishment" at the law firm's risk-taking. View "Tilden v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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David, an African-American woman over the age of 40, was an employee of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) from 1980-2012. She announced in 2011 that she planned to retire in 2012. She then requested a change in title and an increase in salary because she was performing additional responsibilities related to the implementation of a software system; she was not awarded either. CCC characterized her additional responsibilities as “lateral,” not requiring a change in title. Giving David a raise a raise over a certain amount would have resulted in a fine by the State University Retirement System. Following her retirement, her responsibilities were performed by an Asian man under the age of 40, who was paid substantially more than David. David sued, alleging that she was denied a pay increase on the basis of her race, sex, and age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e; and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d). The district court granted CCC summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the record, assessed in its entirety, does not contain sufficient evidence to permit a verdict for David on any of the counts. David’s “comparator” employees performed functions she could not perform and her announcement of her intent to retire left CCC with little motivation to respond. View "David v. Board of Trustees of Community College District 508" on Justia Law

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In her case, consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of multidistrict litigation, Dzik alleged that she suffered a venous thromboembolism because she used a prescription birth control pill, Yasmin. Dzik’s medical records disclosed that she last filled a Yasmin prescription 10 months before her injury. Dzik’s counsel “suggested” that her doctor had provided samples of Yasmin before Dzik suffered the VTE. In March 2014, defendants requested additional medical records or an affidavit from Dzik’s doctor substantiating her use of the drug near the time of her injury. Dzik’s counsel ignored the request for 15 months. Bayer settled other cases, prompting the court to enter a case‐management order in August 2015 that provided for automatic dismissal should any plaintiff fail to comply. Defendants notified Dzik’s counsel of their obligations under the order, but got no response. In December 2015, Bayer moved to dismiss several cases, including Dzik’s. Dzik failed to respond. In January 2016, the court dismissed her suit with prejudice. Her attorney, having taken no action for nearly two years, immediately moved (unsuccessfully) to set aside the dismissal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that affidavits submitted by Dzik’s attorneys contradicted the sworn account of defense counsel and concluding that those affidavits were “a red flag,” based on vagueness and a concession of “neglect” by the firm. The order was “crystal clear,” Dzik’s attorneys had ample time to respond to discovery, and their neglect was not excusable. View "Dzik v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

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King, an Illinois prisoner, suffers from a severe case of temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Since 2004 he has been confined at different correctional facilities. He receives some medical care from healthcare personnel employed directly by the state; the rest is overseen by employees of Wexford, a private correctional healthcare company under contract with Illinois. After years of failed treatment for his condition, a complex surgery, and an unsuccessful postsurgical recovery, King sued Wexford and medical professionals alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Following partial summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings, claims against two doctors remained. More than 30 days after the order granting judgment on the pleadings and more than a year after the partial summary judgment, King obtained a Rule 54(b) judgment on the claims for which summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings were granted, concluding that those claims were ripe for appeal. The Seventh Circuit dismissed that appeal. An untimely Rule 54(b) motion may be granted only if there is a showing of extreme hardship; there was no showing of hardship, let alone extreme hardship. View "King v. Newbold" on Justia Law
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Rivera, a 58‐year‐old citizen of El Salvador, has resided unlawfully in the U.S. for 35 years, having immigrated illegally. In 2014, having fought off a previous deportation effort, Rivera was convicted of possessing a “forged instrument” and the government reopened removal proceedings. An immigration judge denied Rivera’s requests for asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture, rejecting Rivera’s claim of fear that gangs in El Salvador would seek to kidnap or extort him because they would perceive him as wealthy, based on his long residence in the United States. Rivera conceded that nobody in El Salvador had ever threatened him or his family and expressed uncertainty about whether the Salvadoran government would be able to protect him from gangs. He denied any fear that he would be harmed by the government itself. The IJ noted that the State Department’s “country condition” reports on El Salvador “do not show that street gangs have specifically targeted El Salvadoran citizens returning from the United States because of their perceived wealth.” The Board of Immigration Appeals and Seventh Circuit affirmed. Rivera did not present convincing evidence that he was in any danger. View "Rivera v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Allin and Baskett lived together in Allin’s residence. Allin, in poor health, signed over the titles to several vehicles, including a 2001 FLSTS Harley Davidson motorcycle, to “make it easier for his survivors.” The Illinois Secretary of State issued a certificate of title in Baskett’s name. Months later, Baskett moved in with her sister, McClure. Allin refused Baskett’s request for financial help. He discovered that the Harley title was missing. He filed a theft report. McClure contacted her co-worker (Sergeant Barr’s wife) about Baskett’s fears about retrieving her belongings. Springfield officers, including Barr, were present when she went to collect her property. Allin and Baskett presented conflicting stories about the motorcycle. A title search showed that the motorcycle had been in Baskett’s name for six months. A computer search did not indicate that it was reported stolen. Barr stated that he would not prevent Baskett from taking the motorcycle. Hours later, with no officers present, Baskett removed the motorcycle. Later, police officers and Baskett met at a motorcycle dealership to have the security system modified so that the motorcycle was operational. Barr bought the motorcycle from Baskett for $7,000, Allin sued the city, Barr, and Baskett, raising 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law claims. The Seventh Circuit held that Barr was entitled to qualified immunity on unreasonable seizure of property and civil conspiracy claims. Barr did not act plainly incompetently nor knowingly violate the law. The parties presented their dispute; Baskett produced a certificate of title, which “provide[s] the public with a readily available means of identifying the owners.” View "Allin v. City of Springfield" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ Indianapolis home had a mortgage serviced by J.P. Morgan Chase. In 2011 plaintiffs accused Chase of paying the wrong homeowner’s insurer using $1,422 from their escrow account. They had switched insurers without telling Chase. When Chase learned of the change, it promptly paid the new insurer and informed plaintiffs that their old insurer would send a refund. Chase told them to forward the refund to replenish the depleted escrow. When the refund came, plaintiffs kept the money. Chase adjusted their mortgage payment to make up the shortfall. When plaintiffs refused to pay the higher amount, the mortgage went into default. Instead of curing, they requested information under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2601–2617, which requires the bank to correct account errors and disclose account information. They demanded that Chase reimburse their escrow. Chase sent a complete account history. Plaintiffs divorced, ending their 25-year marriage. They sued Chase, claiming that its response was inadequate under RESPA and caused more than $300,000 in damages—including the loss of their marriage— and claiming breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Chase. Chase’s response complied with its RESPA duties. To the extent that any requested information was missing, plaintiffs suffered no actual damages. Nor did Chase breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing, assuming that Indiana would recognize the implied covenant in this context. View "Perron v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Baugh fell off a five‐foot, A‐frame aluminum ladder while working on a gutter. Baugh sustained significant bleeding in his brain, which caused seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia. In a suit against Cuprum, which designed and manufactured the ladder, alleging a design defect under strict liability and negligence theories, Baugh argued that the ladder was not designed to accommodate 200-pound individuals and that a feasible alternate design would have prevented the accident. Cuprum argued that the accident occurred because Baugh climbed too high on the ladder, standing on its fourth step and pail shelf, neither of which were intended to be stood on. A jury found in Cuprum’s favor. On remand, Baugh elicited testimony from neighbors and a paramedic, all of whom arrived post‐accident, and from experts relating to the cause of the accident and the severity of his resulting injuries. There was testimony concerning how many pounds per square inch could be exerted on the ladder and how Baugh was standing on the ladder. Cuprum elicited contrary testimony. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $11 million. Baugh’s experts’ methodologies were adequate; Cuprum’s challenges concerned the weight of their testimony rather than its admissibility. A reasonable jury could find in Baugh’s favor. Baugh supplied sufficient evidence that a feasible alternative existed, and that the accident was more likely attributable to the ladder’s original defective design than to its improper use. View "Baugh v. Cuprum S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

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Robledo‐Soto, a Mexican citizen facing deportation, sought to postpone his removal proceeding so that he could expunge a drunk‐driving conviction and then try to persuade the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exercise prosecutorial discretion and not prosecute his removal for entering the United States without authorization to do so, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). Robledo‐Soto succeeded in getting his drunk‐driving conviction expunged and he is the father of American citizen children, aged 13, 9, and 7). A process, “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans” (DAPA), is intended to allow such a person to request DHS to “defer action” in his case, however USCIS, the component of DHS that deals with applications for immigration relief, is not implementing DAPA nor accepting DAPA applications because of a preliminary injunction against its implementing DAPA upheld by the Fifth Circuit in 2015. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in that case, but deadlocked so that the Fifth Circuit’s decision stands. The Seventh Circuit dismissed a petition for review of DHS’s “non-response” to Robledo-Soto’s request as moot for lack of authority to prevent his removal. View "Antonio Robledo-Soto v. Lynch" on Justia Law
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Thomas was charged with conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute, a mixture or substance containing heroin, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 846, and two counts of possessing, with intent to distribute, a mixture or substance containing heroin, section 841(a)(1). A jury later found Thomas guilty and the court concluded that, because of four prior felony controlled substance offenses, Thomas was a career offender, and sentenced him to 216 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conspiracy charge. The court noted that his co-conspirator, Andrews, drove Thomas to and from Chicago to buy heroin, rented vehicles for the trips, and, on at least one occasion, packaged heroin for Thomas. A jury could have concluded reasonably that Andrews was a coconspirator; any lack of profit motive on Andrews’s part does not alter that status. The court also did not err in imposing a two-level sentencing enhancement for maintaining a drug house; the record showed that Thomas lived in Andrews’s home and used that home as part of his distribution process. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law
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