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

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Taizhou, a Chinese manufacturer, entered into a Cooperation Agreement with Z Outdoor, a Wisconsin company owned by Casual Products: Taizhou would manufacture outdoor furniture and other related items for Z Outdoor to sell to customers. Z Outdoor eventually stopped paying Taizhou. The Cornings, on behalf of Z Outdoor, made false statements about future business, forthcoming payments, and causes for the delays. Taizhou continued to fill customer orders without receiving compensation. In 2018, AFG (a Wisconsin LLC also owned by Casual) started submitting purchase orders to Taizhou. AFG never signed the Cooperation Agreement. Taizhou filled the orders and sent AFG invoices. AFG eventually stopped paying Taizhou and made false statements regarding payment delays. The total due from Z Outdoor and AFG accrued to $14 million for purchase orders sent, 2017-2019.The district court entered a default judgment against the corporate defendants on Taizhou's contract claims but ruled against Taizhou on unjust enrichment, fraud, and conversion claims, finding the fraud and conversion claims barred by Wisconsin’s economic loss doctrine and q “mere repackaging of Taizhou’s ‘straightforward breach of contract claim.’” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Any fraud was interwoven with the Cooperation Agreement, so the economic loss doctrine applies. To the extent the damages amounted to lost profits or lost business, those are also economic losses under Wisconsin law. View "Taizhou Yuanda Investment Group Co., Ltd. v. Z Outdoor Living, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Levy, a 37-year-old single mother of two, purchased a 20-year term life insurance policy from West Coast, with a $3 million benefit payable upon her death to her sons. In January 2019, Benita—in deteriorating physical and mental health—missed a payment. Approximately five months later, she died, having never paid the missed premium. West Coast declared the policy forfeited.Levy's sons filed suit, alleging breach of contract and that a late-2018 missed-payment notice failed to comply with the Illinois Insurance Code, which forbids an insurer from canceling a policy within six months of a policyholder’s failure to pay a premium by its due date (calculated to include a 31-day grace period) unless the insurer provided notice stating “that unless such premium or other sums due shall be paid to the company or its agents the policy and all payments thereon will become forfeited and void, except as to the right to a surrender value or paid-up policy as provided for by the policy.” West Coast’s 2018 notice incorporated much of the statutory language. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The Notice adequately alerted policyholders to the consequences of nonpayment; there was no need for the Notice to mention the company’s agents as alternate payees. View "Levy v. West Coast Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the district court dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant at summary judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claims against correctional officer Brian Piasecki.Plaintiff, the special administrator of the estate of Michael Madden, brought this action alleging deliberate indifference, use of excessive force, Monell liability, and state law claims against the state actors involved in the care of Madden while he was jailed in Milwaukee County. Over the course of one month, Madden developed infective endocarditis, which medical staff failed to diagnose. Madden died at the end of the month. The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims at summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in awarding Piasecki summary judgment based on qualified immunity; and (2) the district court's judgment is otherwise affirmed. View "Stockton v. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence Defendant received for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that any error in the district court's methodology in arriving at the sentence was harmless.Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court imposed a sentence of eighty-seven months in prison, which was less than the statute maximum of 120 months requested by the government. On appeal, Defendant challenged the procedures used by the district court in arriving at his sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) any error in the district court's methodology was harmless; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "United States v. Settles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the judgment of the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirming an administrative law judge's (ALJ) determination that BNSF Railway Company had a valid same-action affirmative defense to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that substantial evidence supported the decision.Plaintiff, a train engineer, brought an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that BNSF, his employer, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against him for raising safety concerns and refusing to engage in unsafe practices. OSHA dismissed the complaint. A Department of Labor ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim based on the statutory same-action affirmative defense. The ARB affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied review, holding that substantial evidence supported the ARB's decision that the same-action defense applied to BNSF's discipline of Plaintiff. View "Brousil v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting the State's motion to dismiss this action brought by two Illinois counties challenging the 2021 passage of a law prohibiting State agencies and political subdivisions from contracting with the federal government to house immigration detainees, holding that the district court properly dismissed the action for failure to state a claim.In their complaint, Plaintiffs argued that the law at issue was invalid under principles of both both field and conflict preemption and that it violated the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. The district denied relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) because it was not preempted by federal immigration statutes the law was not invalid as a matter of field or conflict preemption; and (2) the law did not violate principles of intergovernmental immunity. View "McHenry County v. Raoul" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendant after finding that the injuries Plaintiff suffered while he was at Defendant's scrap facility were within the scope of a valid exculpatory clause that Plaintiff signed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below.Plaintiff, an independent contractor for another business, delivered scrap metal to Defendant's scrap metal yard in Illinois. Before Plaintiff could enter Defendant's facility for the first time each year, Plaintiff signed an agreement containing an exculpatory clause releasing Defendant of any liability for injuries sustained at the facility. When Plaintiff was injured at Defendant's facility he filed suit, alleging negligence and willful and wanton conduct. The district court ruled in favor of Defendant, concluding that the exculpatory clause in the agreement barred the claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, while Defendant's conduct may have been negligent, the conduct was not outside the scope of the exculpatory clause. View "Munoz v. Nucor Steel Kankakee, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of federal drug offenses in a two-count indictment and sentencing him to 180 months' imprisonment, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.While on federal supervised police, Defendant agreed to cooperate with local police, and his cooperation was allowed by a federal judge. The district court later issued a warrant for Defendant's arrest for violating the conditions of his supervised release. A federal grand jury subsequently indicted him on two counts of distributing a controlled substance. Defendant twice moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that he had received federal immunity from prosecution for the drug offenses through his cooperation agreement. The district court denied the motions to dismiss. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's first motion to dismiss based on federal immunity; and (2) did not err in denying Defendant's second motion to dismiss the indictment as a discovery sanction. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the University of Southern Indiana from imposing a three-semester suspension on the grounds that the university violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by discriminating against him on the basis of his sex, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to a preliminary injunction.The university's Title IX committee in this case found by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff, a student of the university, had sexually assaulted another student and imposed a three-semester suspension. Plaintiff subsequently brought a complaint alleging discrimination. The district court denied Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief because Plaintiff did not show a likelihood of success on the merits that would support a preliminary injunction. View "Doe v. University of Southern Indiana" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the retroactivity rule from two Seventh Circuit opinions - United States v. Leach, 639 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2011), and Vasqez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018) - controlled and that, therefore, a disputed ordinance applied prospectively, holding that the ordinance was retroactive.The ordinance at issue was passed by the Village of Hartland, Wisconsin and placed a moratorium against any new sex offenders residing there either temporarily or permanently. Plaintiff, a registered sex offender, brought this action against the Village, alleging that the ordinance violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of U.S. Const. art. I, 10. Under the Leach-Vasquez rule, a law is not retroactive and cannot violate the Ex Post Facto Clause if it applies "only to conduct occurring after its enactment." The district court only considered the retroactivity prong of the two-part analysis because, under Leach-Vasquez, the ordinance operated only prospectively. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) this Court overturns the Leach-Vasquez rule governing the retroactivity inquiry of the Ex Post Facto Clause, and instead, the critical question is whether the law attaches new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment; and (2) the subject ordinance applies retroactively. View "Koch v. Village of Hartland" on Justia Law