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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Indianapolis Airport Authority sued Travelers Property Casualty over Travelers’ partial denial of a claim for coverage arising from an airport construction accident that occurred in 2007. On motions for summary judgment, the district court interpreted the insurance contract in favor of Travelers on several issues, narrowing the Authority’s case to a claim for unreimbursed inspection costs associated with the incident. Two weeks before trial was set to begin on that claim, the district court entered an evidentiary order that effectively precluded the Authority from proving that sole remaining claim by restricting the testimony of two “hybrid fact/expert” witnesses, leaving the Authority with no designated damages expert. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment order, and vacated the evidentiary order. The court upheld the district court’s construction of the General Coverage Provision and agreed that the Authority has no compensable soft cost claim because of the deductible, but stated that, if the Authority can demonstrate with competent evidence that it incurred expenses to reduce soft costs for which Travelers otherwise would have been liable, it may recover those expenses under the “expenses to reduce the amount of loss” provision, subject to policy limits. View "Indianapolis Airport Authority v. Travelers Property Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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Wright was arrested by Calumet City police, without a warrant, based on the murder of one individual and the shooting of others. Wright admitted to having a gun. At a minimum, he was to be charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, but the prosecutor instructed the officers to wait to charge Wright until lab results came back establishing whether his gun matched casings and bullets at the scene. After being in custody for 55 hours, Wright sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the city violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a judicial determination of probable cause within 48 hours of his arrest. The next day, a judge made a probable cause finding. In the section 1983 action, Wright sought class certification, asserting that the city had a policy or practice authorizing officers to detain persons arrested without a warrant for up to 72 hours before permitting the arrestee to appear before a judge. The city made an offer of judgment. Despite accepting that Rule 68 offer, granting him relief as to "all claims brought under this lawsuit,” Wright appealed the denial of certification of a proposed class of “[a]ll persons who will in the future be detained.” He did not appeal with respect to persons who had been detained. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, finding that Wright is not an aggrieved person with a personal stake in the case as required under Article III of the Constitution. View "Wright v. Calumet City" on Justia Law

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Cox, the trustee in the Central Illinois Energy Cooperative bankruptcy, appealed a bankruptcy court ruling after it was affirmed by the district court. In the meantime, the parties mediated a settlement and the bankruptcy court stated that it would approve that settlement, subject to the disposition of any objection filed by a creditor or Cox. Cox then moved for dismissal of the appeal. The Seventh Circuit denied the motion. When, as in this case, an appeal is from the district court’s affirmance of a bankruptcy court order, a remand to the bankruptcy court for approval of settlement requires coordination between three courts. Rules 12.1 and 57 both authorize relief only after the district court has said that it is inclined to grant a motion barred by the pending appeal. Although the parties obtained an indicative ruling from the bankruptcy court, there is no record that they sought or obtained an indicative ruling from the district court. The proper procedure is to obtain an indicative ruling from both courts that will need to act. View "Cox v. Nostaw, Inc." on Justia Law

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In the 1990s, the EPA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources investigated the Lower Fox River's contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls and developed a cleanup plan under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. The final plan proposed cleanup in stages, by dredging and capping at an estimated cost of $700 million. Under CERCLA, the parties (PRPs) responsible for the contamination are required to pay for remediation. Paper manufacturers NCR and Appvion have funded the cleanup. Other companies, including Glatfelter, also were named as PRPs and agreed to perform remedial work. In 2007, the EPA ordered the PRPs to begin remedial work in the final units. NCR and Appvion undertook remedial efforts, then sued other PRPs, including Glatfelter. In 2014, the Seventh Circuit remanded that cost recovery action, which remains pending. Glatfelter sought discovery relating to Appvion’s costs from Appvion and Windward (an English entity, conducting Appvion’s defense). Glatfelter issued a subpoena to Windward at its attorney’s address. Windward’s counsel claimed that Windward was not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal courts. Glatfelter then instituted an ancillary proceeding. The district court denied the motion to compel. The Seventh Circuit dismissed appeals for lack of jurisdiction; a discovery order in an ancillary proceeding is not subject to interlocutory appeal when entered by the same district court that is presiding over the main action. View "P.H. Glatfelter Co. v. Windward Prospects Ltd." on Justia Law

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JPMorgan offers to manage clients’ securities portfolios. Its affiliates sponsor mutual funds in which the funds can be placed. Plaintiffs in a putative class action under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), alleged that customers invested in these mutual funds believing that, when recommending them as suitable vehicles, JPMorgan acts in clients’ best interests (as its website proclaims), while JPMorgan actually gives employees incentives to place clients’ money in its own mutual funds, even when those funds have higher fees or lower returns than third-party funds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal under the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 78bb(f), which requires the district court to dismiss any “covered class action” in which the plaintiff alleges “a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” Under SLUSA, securities claims that depend on the nondisclosure of material facts must proceed under the federal securities laws exclusively. The claims were framed entirely under state contract and fiduciary principles, but necessarily rest on the “omission of a material fact,” the assertion that JPMorgan concealed the incentives it gave its employees. View "Holtz v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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If a LaSalle Bank custodial account had a cash balance at the end of a day, the cash would be invested in (swept into) a mutual fund chosen by the client. The Trust had a custodial account with a sweeps feature. After LaSalle was acquired by Bank of America, clients were notified that a particular fee was being eliminated. The trustee, who had not known about the fee, brought a putative class action in state court, claiming breach of the contract (which did not mention this fee) and violation of fiduciary duties. The bank removed the suit to federal court, relying on the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 78bb(f), which authorizes removal of any “covered class action” in which the plaintiff alleges “a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security.” The statute requires that such state‑law claims be dismissed. The district court held that the suit fit the standards for removal and dismissal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint alleged a material omission in connection with sweeps to mutual funds that are covered securities; no more is needed. The Trust may have had a good claim under federal securities law, but chose not to pursue it; the Act prohibits use of a state-law theory. View "Goldberg v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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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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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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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