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

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Schillinger, a Wisconsin prisoner, was assaulted by another inmate as the prisoners were returning to their housing unit after recreation. He suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth, cuts, and other serious injuries. Schillinger sued three guards under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district judge screened the complaint and permitted Schillinger to proceed on a claim that the officers failed to take preventive action after learning of hostility between Schillinger and his attacker during the recreation period shortly before the attack. The judge later ruled that Schillinger had not exhausted his administrative remedies on that claim and entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Schillinger’s arguments that the judge should have gleaned from his complaint two additional factual grounds for a failure-to-protect claim: that the officers did not respond fast enough to an alarm about a medical emergency on his unit once the attack was underway and they stood by without intervening to stop the attack. Upholding the exhaustion ruling, the court reasoned that while Schillinger pursued a complaint through all levels of the prison’s inmate-complaint system, he never mentioned the claim he raised in litigation: that the officers were aware of threatening behavior by the attacker before the assault and failed to protect him. View "Schillinger v. Kiley" on Justia Law

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Gish pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide for the 2012 stabbing death of Litwicki, the mother of his children. He appealed, claiming that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate an involuntary intoxication defense. Police found Gish delirious on the night of the killing. He claimed that rare side effects from taking prescription Xanax affected his ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the claim. Gish initiated federal habeas proceedings. The district court held an evidentiary hearing but denied relief, finding that defense was so unlikely to succeed that Gish still would have pleaded guilty. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While trial counsel admitted that he never assessed a Xanax-based involuntary intoxication defense, that defense had no reasonable prospect of success. Gish told a nurse that he sold his pills and no longer had any and told a detective that he last took Xanax “[a] couple days” earlier. The police found no trace of Xanax in Gish’s home. Even if Gish had taken Xanax the day of the homicide, it was unlikely that he was the rare patient who would have experienced such extreme effects; his expert on that point lacked credibility. Gish confessed to how he went about killing and abusing Litwicki and had a motive--he suspected Litwicki was cheating on him and would take his kids away View "Gish v. Hepp" on Justia Law

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In October 2012, Jeske, working at a cemetery, was carrying a heavy casket when she stumbled, injuring her back. Four years later, she applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income based on disability; she claimed that back and spine problems, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies made her unable to work. At a hearing, Jeske told the ALJ that she was 44 years old and lived with her husband and three sons. She changed the date on which she allegedly became disabled to more than a year after her injury because she had substantial gainful activity in 2013. She explained that she received treatment through a workers’ compensation program and her employer allowed her to work from home many days. When the doctor released her from treatment, Jeske’s boss no longer permitted her to work from home and she quit. Since then she has worked as a part-time security guard. The ALJ found Jeske not disabled under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 423(d), 1382c(3). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ALJ applied the proper standards and sufficiently explained the decision. Although the evidence showed Jeske suffered from limiting back pain, abundant evidence supports the ALJ’s determination that her condition lacked the requirements of a presumptively disabling impairment. The use of daily-living activities, to assess credibility and symptoms, was not improper. The evidence supported a conclusion that Jeske could perform light work with specific restrictions. View "Jeske v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Two Hendricks County reserve deputies went to the King home after Bradley, age 29 and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, called 9-1-1 and requested help. Deputies Hays and Thomas testified that upon their arrival, Bradley came outside, walked toward them, and pulled a 10-inch knife out of his pocket. The deputies drew their service firearms and yelled at Bradley to stop and drop the knife. Bradley disregarded their commands and ran toward Hays with the knife in his left hand, his left arm raised. When Bradley was approximately eight feet away, Hays fired one shot. It was fatal. A knife, which Bradley’s father identified as from the Kings’ kitchen, was recovered from near Bradley’s left hand. An examination of the knife did not reveal any latent fingerprints. Bradley’s father filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that Bradley was never violent, even when suffering a psychotic episode, and arguing that the bullet trajectory, the lack of fingerprints, and the fact that Bradley was right-handed, undermined the deputies’ account. He also brought claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the claims on summary judgment. Substantial testimonial and physical evidence supported Hays’s version of events, with no concrete evidence rebutting it. If Bradley was denied access to medical services it was because of his behavior, not because he was mentally disabled. View "King v. Hendricks County Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Worman mailed his supervisor a pipe bomb, which the Postal Service intercepted. Worman was convicted of mailing an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 1716), possessing an unregistered destructive device (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5845(f)), transporting an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 844(d)), and possessing and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)). Worman’s mailing of a bomb constituted the predicate crime of violence for the section 924(c) charge, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment consecutive to any sentence imposed on another count. Worman was sentenced to 360 months for the 924(c) offense and one month for the other offenses. The judge explained that Worman would not be released until he was 84 and lacked any criminal history. The Eighth Circuit vacated; its precedent prohibited judges from considering a mandatory consecutive sentence when granting a downward variance. The court resentenced Worman to 168 months for the pipe‐bomb offenses and 360 mandatory, consecutive months for the 924(c) offense. In 2016, Worman filed an unsuccessful pro se motion for a new sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” decision. In 2017, the Supreme Court held, in “Dean,” that a sentencing court may use its discretion when calculating an appropriate sentence for a felony serving as the basis for a section 924(c) conviction. Worman sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, despite recognizing that Dean provided Worman a basis for a sentencing reduction. Worman does not meet either exception authorizing a second habeas motion. Dean was a decision of statutory law, not an interpretation of the Constitution, and does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. View "Worman v. Entzel" on Justia Law

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Turner suffered a broken nose during an altercation with another inmate while in pre-trial detention at the Cook County Jail. The injury left him with pain and shortness of breath. A doctor determined that he needed surgery to treat his problems. The surgery was repeatedly rescheduled and postponed. More than a year after the initial injury, he finally received the surgery following his release from custody. Claiming that his treatment was unconstitutionally deficient, Turner sued administrators and medical professionals and Cook County itself. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Turner presented no evidence that would allow the trier of fact to conclude that the allegedly unreasonable conduct of any named defendant caused his surgery to be delayed; none of them had the authority to schedule or to perform the relevant surgery. Each time any of the individual defendants encountered Turner, his surgery or another appointment was on the surgery schedule. No rule of law imposes a duty on the medical defendants to continue calling the clinic after they properly contacted the proper schedulers. View "Turner v. Paul" on Justia Law

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DISH sold its satellite TV service through its own staff plus third parties: “telemarketing vendors”; “full-service retailers” that sold, installed, and serviced satellite gear; and “order-entry retailers” that used phones to sell nationwide. The United States and four states sued DISH and four order-entry retailers. The district court found that the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, 16 C.F.R. 310, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and related state laws. A $280 million penalty was imposed. DISH appealed concerning the extent to which DISH had to coordinate do-not-call lists with and among these retailers or was otherwise responsible for their acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, except for a holding that DISH is liable for “substantially assisting” Star Satellite and its measure of damages; those violations were essentially counted twice. Regardless of the definition of “cause” under the rule, which makes it unlawful for a seller to “cause a telemarketer to engage in” violations, the retailers were DISH's agents, regardless of any contractual disclaimer. They acted directly for DISH, entering orders into DISH’s system; they did not have their own inventory and were not resellers of any kind. The retailers were authorized to sell DISH’s service by phone nationwide; the district court found that DISH knew about these retailers’ wrongful acts, so DISH is liable as the principal. View "United States v. DISH Network L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Rembrandt contracted to supply Rexing with 3,240,000 cage-free eggs every week for a year. Eight months later, Rexing claimed that Rembrandt failed to provide eggs that met the specified quality standards. Rexing sought a declaration that it was excused from accepting any more eggs, and incidental and consequential damages. Rembrandt counterclaimed, seeking damages. The trial court determined that Rexing had unilaterally terminated the contract and that the breach was not excused. Rembrandt was awarded $1,522,302.61 in damages. Rexing voluntarily dismissed its subsequent appeal and filed suit in state court, alleging conversion and deception. Rexing claimed that Rembrandt had refused to return reusable shipping materials, the “EggsCargoSystem,” Rexing had provided. In the first suit, Rexing had sought the value of the EggsCargoSystem as part of the start-up costs that it allegedly incurred in reliance on the agreement. Rembrandt removed the second suit to federal court and argued that the claims were barred by claim-preclusion in light of the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the first suit and that Rexing had improperly split its claims between the two cases. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the second suit. Rexing impermissibly split its claims. Both suits centered around the same controversy. Under Indiana’s doctrine prohibiting claim splitting, a plaintiff cannot bring a new lawsuit based upon the same transaction or occurrence that underlies claims brought in another lawsuit. View "Rexing Quality Eggs v. Rembrandt Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Richards defaulted on her car loan. Her lender hired PAR to repossess the vehicle. PAR hired Lawrence Towing to carry out the repossession. Richards protested when Lawrence employees arrived at her Indianapolis home to take the car. She ordered them off her property. They summoned the police. A responding officer handcuffed Richards and threatened her with arrest, removing the handcuffs after the car was towed away. Richards sued PAR and Lawrence under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for a debt collector to take “nonjudicial action” to repossess property if “there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest,” 15 U.S.C. 1692f(6)(A). Indiana law authorizes nonjudicial repossession only if the repossession “proceeds without breach of the peace.” IND. CODE 26-1-9.1-609. If a breach of the peace occurs, the repossessor must immediately stop and seek judicial remedies. The district judge granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Whether a repossessor had a “present right to possession” for purposes of section 1692f(6)(A) can be determined only by reference to state law. A reasonable jury could find that the Lawrence employees did not have a present right under Indiana law to possess Richards’s vehicle. View "Richards v. Par, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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Castetter underwent cancer treatment during his employment. After returning from medical leave, he became a District Manager, reporting to Dollar General's regional managers Chupp and Hubbs. Chupp identified deficiencies in Castetter’s stores and implemented a performance plan. Castetter wrote to Hubbs describing Chupp’s improper characterization of his performance and Chupp’s unprofessional conduct. The letter did not refer to cancer, medical leave, or discrimination. Hubbs claims he did not receive the letter. Castetter testified that Hubbs mocked him. Human resources issued a Final Counseling detailing Castetter’s unprofessional conduct and violations of Dollar General’s policies, including employees who had not completed the hiring process and were working without pay, insufficiently trained employees, understaffed stores, high turnover, and a cash discrepancy. Dollar General placed Castetter on another improvement plan. Human resources subsequently discovered numerous violations, including a non-employee attending an employee meeting and failure to process employment documents. Another unpaid non-employee whose paperwork was incomplete was given security access without passing background and drug tests and was stealing from the store. Dollar General terminated Castetter. The district court rejected his disability discrimination on summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Castetter failed to show discriminatory intent by establishing a causal nexus between unprofessional remarks and the decision to terminate him. Castetter’s termination was based on his failure to adhere to his responsibilities. View "Castetter v. Dolgencorp, LLC" on Justia Law