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Arun Gopalratnam purchased an HP laptop computer that contained a DynaPack battery pack with Samsung lithium-ion battery cells. Months later, the Menomonee Falls Fire Department responded to a major fire in a basement bedroom of the Gopalratnam’s home. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters discovered Arun deceased on the floor of the room. Am autopsy classified smoke inhalation as the cause of death, with no evidence of pre-fire injury or disease, and no drugs or alcohol in Arun’s system. Special Agent Martinez concluded that the fire originated in the basement bedroom where Arun’s body was located. Martinez excluded multiple potential sources of the blaze (electrical and gas meters, electrical distribution panels, gas-fueled furnaces, electrical plugs, light switch, and ceiling light fixture) but could not ascertain the fire’s ultimate cause. He did not eliminate a possible mattress fire. The remains of Arun’s HP laptop, cell phone, and the laptop battery cells, were in the debris. In the Gopalratnams’ suit, alleging negligence, strict products liability, and breach of warranty, the plaintiffs claimed that a defective battery cell in Arun’s laptop caused the fire. The district court granted motions to exclude plaintiffs’ expert witnesses on causation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court applied the proper legal standard: The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert. The experts failed to account for other possible explanations. View "Gopalratnam v. ABC Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2007, Perry pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines, based on his prior convictions for attempted murder and attempted armed robbery. The career offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a), used a definition of a “crime of violence” that included a “residual clause” that mirrored the “violent felony” definition in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B). In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down the ACCA residual clause as unconstitutionally vague. Perry challenged his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255. In 2017, however, the Supreme Court rejected such challenges because the Guidelines are only advisory. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Perry’s argument that the law of the Seventh Circuit did not make the Guidelines sufficiently advisory in 2007. Courts are free to reject the Guidelines based on sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a). Once the Supreme Court declared the Guidelines advisory, they remained advisory notwithstanding some erroneous applications in the district and circuit courts. Appellate courts cannot change constitutional law established by the holdings of the Supreme Court. If Perry believed he was sentenced under a mandatory guidelines regime contrary to Supreme Court precedent, he could have appealed. View "Perry v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a collective lawsuit against Jimmy John’s on behalf of all assistant store managers nationwide for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Jimmy John’s owns just 2% of their stores; the rest are operated by franchisees. Jimmy John’s claimed that it did not maintain employment records for franchisee-employees and did not have contact information for the vast majority of putative collective members. The parties ultimately agreed that Jimmy John’s would send a letter to the non‐party franchisees asking for contact information for their assistant managers. Eventually, about 600 franchisee and 60 corporate employees joined the suit. The court bifurcated discovery, with the first phase to focus on the joint-employer issue. Two years into the litigation, plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits against their franchisee employers in district courts nationwide, asserting the same claims, arguing that the FLSA statute of limitations was running continuously on those claims. The district court subsequently enjoined plaintiffs from pursuing their lawsuits against the franchisee employers until their claims against Jimmy John’s were resolved. The Seventh Circuit reversed, rejecting arguments that the injunction was authorized under the court’s inherent equitable powers or the All Writs Act because it was necessary to prevent duplicative litigation, avoid inconsistent rulings, and protect the court’s pretrial orders regarding discovery and notice procedures. View "Lucas v. Jimmy John's Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Toulon applied for Continental’s long-term care insurance policy. Continental provided a Long-Term Care Insurance Personal Worksheet to help Toulon determine whether the policy would work for her, given her financial circumstances. The Worksheet discussed Continental’s right to increase premiums and how such increases had previously been applied. Toulon did not fill out the Worksheet but signed and submitted it with her application. Toulon’s Policy stated that although Continental could not cancel the Policy if each premium was paid on time, Continental could change the premium rates. There was a rider, stating that premiums would not be increased during the first 10 years after the coverage date. In September 2013, Continental raised Toulon’s premiums by 76.5%. Toulon sued, on behalf of herself and a purported class. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that Toulon failed to state claims for fraudulent misrepresentation because she did not identify a false statement or for fraudulent omission because Continental did not owe Toulon a duty to disclose. The court also properly dismissed Toulon’s claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act (ICFA) because she did not identify a deceptive practice, a material omission, or an unfair practice. The unjust enrichment claim failed because claims of fraud and statutory violation, upon which Toulon's unjust enrichment claim was based, were legally insufficient and an express contract governed the parties’ relationship. View "Toulon v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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SGA Pharm Lab supplied ADM Alliance Nutrition with a product used to make medicated animal feed. The parties ended their relationship by signing a termination agreement. ADM later came to believe that SGA had made false representations concerning the potency of the product while SGA was supplying it to ADM. ADM brought breach of contract and fraud claims against SGA and its president. The district court concluded that ADM had released the claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed The termination agreement stated ADM released SGA and its officers from any and all claims, whether known or unknown, so by its terms the release includes claims for breach of contract and fraud. The agreement also stated that it superseded all prior understandings and that no representations were made to induce the other party to enter into the agreement other than those it contained. The agreement was between sophisticated commercial parties View "ADM Alliance Nutrition, Inc. v. SGA Pharm Lab, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Following his convictions for drug and firearms crimes, Hill was sentenced to 276 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, (ACCA) 18 U.S.C. 924(e). Hill argued that his conviction for attempted murder under Illinois law did not qualify as an ACCA “violent felony,” which is defined as a crime that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence. When a substantive offense would be a violent felony under section 924(e) and similar statutes, an attempt to commit that offense also is a violent felony. The court rejected Hill’s argument that even the completed crime of murder in Illinois is not a violent felony under the federal elements clause because is possible to commit murder in Illinois by administering poison, or exposing a baby to freezing conditions, or placing a helpless person in danger. The Supreme Court has held that “physical force” means “force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person”: the wrongdoer applies energy to bring about an effect on the would-be victim. Both murder and attempted murder in Illinois are categorically violent felonies under section 924(e). View "Hill v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Each defendant was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), and is serving 180 months’ imprisonment, the statutory floor for someone convicted of that crime who has three or more earlier convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense. The Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) includes “burglary” in the list of violent felonies but does not define “burglary.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A conviction for residential burglary in Illinois under the 1982 revision of 720 ILCS 5/19-3 is “generic burglary” under Supreme Court precedent. In Illinois “[a] person commits residential burglary who knowingly and without authority enters the dwelling place of another with the intent to commit therein a felony or theft.” Rejecting an argument that “a tent, a vehicle, or other enclosed space” is not a “structure” under Supreme Court precedent, the court concluded that the crime of residential burglary in Illinois does not cover the entry of vehicles (including boats) and tents. People live in trailers, which are “structures” as a matter of ordinary usage. Trailers used as dwellings are covered by the Illinois residential-burglary statute. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2007, Fendon borrowed money from Bank of America, secured by a home mortgage. A borrower may rescind such a transaction for any reason within three days and for some reasons within three years, 15 U.S.C. 1635. Fendon alleges that he notified BOA on August 15, 2008; April 16, 2009; and June 17, 2010, that he was rescinding the loan, and that BOA ignored the first two notices and rejected the third. In 2011, BOA filed a foreclosure action. In 2016, a state court entered a final judgment confirming the foreclosure sale. Fendon filed suit under the Truth in Lending Act after the sale. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. Federal district courts lack authority to revise the judgments of state courts. Even damages relief, which would not disturb the state judgment, is untimely under the Act. If Fendon had filed suit before the foreclosure action, he might have had a strong argument that rescission could be enforced at any time but he did not. After BOA ignored his notices of rescission, he ignored BOA. By 2016, when he filed suit, the only possible relief was damages. BOA did not say or do anything after September 2008 that established either equitable tolling or estoppel. View "Fendon v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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Collins pled guilty to distributing cocaine and at least 28 grams of crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). He was sentenced to 120 months in prison—the statutory minimum in light of a prior felony drug conviction. The district court added two offense levels under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(c) for his supervisory role in the offenses. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded the sentence. While the guidelines have been advisory since 2005, the enhancement decision disqualified Collins from safety‐valve relief from the statutory minimum sentence, 18 U.S.C. 3553(f)(4). This is an atypical drug case in which the judge based the role enhancement for Collins on a legal error. Without any criminal organization or hierarchy, Collins’s isolated, one‐time request to another independent dealer to cover for him on a sale did not make him a supervisor or manager within the meaning of the guideline. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Morgan Stanely in a civil rights action. Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated on the basis of her sex and that Morgan Stanley allowed her coworkers to create a hostile work environment. The court held that plaintiff was not entitled to a trial on her discrimination claim because she presented no evidence that her sex influenced the decision to terminate her and she presented no evidence of discrimination based on the cat's paw theory. The court also held that plaintiff was not entitled to a trial on her hostile work environment claim because the statute of limitations restricted the allegations that the court could consider as part of her claim and the remaining conduct did not create a hostile work environment. View "Milligan-Grimstad v. Morgan Stanley" on Justia Law