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Horshaw was beaten by other inmates at Menard Correctional Center. Horshaw still suffers from pain and brain trauma. Before the attack Horshaw received an anonymous letter stating that he would be “eradicated” for disrespecting the gang’s leader. In his 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, Horshaw claimed that he gave Casper, a guard, a letter describing the threat, that Casper promised to investigate yet did nothing, and that he sent a note to then-warden Atchison, asking for protection. Both Casper and Atchison deny receiving the documents or having any reason to think that Horshaw was in danger. The district court found Casper not liable because, whether or not he received the letter, it did not establish a specific or substantial threat and found Atchison not liable because he did not receive Horshaw’s note. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Casper does not contend that he deemed the threat false or that Horshaw had lost his credibility; Atchison testified that, if he had received the letter or Horshaw’s note, he would have put Horshaw in protective custody immediately. Horshaw testified that he wrote a note to Atchison, put Atchison’s name on the envelope, and saw a guard collect the note. Placing the note in the prison mail system supports an inference of receipt. The factual disputes may be hard to resolve given the lapse of time and Horshaw’s brain injury, but if his facts are accurate, neither Casper nor Atchison is entitled to immunity. View "Horshaw v. Casper" on Justia Law

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Sinn was incarcerated within the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), 2011-2015. In 2014, at Putnamville Correctional Facility, he suffered injuries from two separate assaults by other inmates. Sinn filed suit (42 U.S.C. 1983) against various prison officials, alleging deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Putnamville was designed for 1,650 inmates, but it had a recorded average daily population of 2,490 state prisoners in 2013; the facility was unable to fill vacancies in a timely manner. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings as to Putnamville Sergeant Rodgers and Correctional Officer Hoskins; summary judgment as to former Putnamville Unit Manager Brush, former Putnamville Superintendent Knight, and former IDOC Commissioner Lemmon. The Seventh Circuit affirmed except as to Brush. Sinn did not refute Rodgers’s and Hoskins’s entitlement to qualified immunity. While Knight and Lemmon may not have known about Sinn’s individual circumstances, Sinn alleged that Brush had knowledge, the basis of deliberate indifference. Brush had an in‐person conversation with Sinn about the first attack and, per Brush’s instructions,, Sinn wrote Brush a letter the next day to further de‐cribe his concerns and relocation request; it is reasonable to infer that Brush received the letter with enough time before the second attack to read and respond to it. View "Sinn v. Lemmon" on Justia Law

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A forklift backed over Hutchison’s foot while it was loading his tractor‐trailer. Hutchison’s employer, Borkholder, who owned the forklift, had contracted with Fitzgerald to provide maintenance on the forklift. Hutchison sued Fitzgerald, alleging that Fitzgerald was negligent in failing to warn Borkholder to install a backup alarm and was liable in concert with Borkholder for failing to install such an alarm. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Fitzgerald. OSHA regulations did not require backup alarms on forklifts at the time of the accident; Borkholder, as the owner, was responsible for deciding whether to install a backup alarm. The duty to warn does not encompass a duty to recommend optional safety features to an owner who already knows about them. Hutchison has no evidence of unequal knowledge between Fitzgerald and Borkholder giving rise to a duty to warn. Even if Hutchison had established a voluntary undertaking, he has not established a breach; the mere knowledge of a risk does not impose an affirmative duty. Hutchison has not shown Fitzgerald increased the risk by failing to recommend the installation of a device that was not required nor requested, that was already known to Borkholder. Hutchison has no evidence that he relied to his detriment on Fitzgerald to recommend that Borkholder install a backup alarm. There is no plausible inference that Fitzgerald substantially assisted Borkholder in breaching a duty to Hutchison View "Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equipment Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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After Kuczora lost his finance job in 2007, he styled himself as the managing director of KCS Financial, a phony finance firm he ran from his Elgin, Illinois basement. Kuczora falsely represented to unwary investors that he could help them secure millions of dollars in financing; they paid him large sums of money to cover fees, which Kuczora pocketed for personal use before disappearing. He ultimately pleaded guilty to wire fraud. His Guidelines range was 33-41 months in prison. The district judge, citing the seriousness and sophistication of the offense, the devastation to the victims, and the need to deter similar crime, imposed a sentence of 70 months. Kuczora argued that the judge did not adequately explain the upward variance and failed to give him advance notice of the grounds supporting it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district judge thoroughly explained his reasoning. The Seventh Circuit has never held that a judge must give advance warning of an upward variance. Every defendant is on notice that the court has the discretion to impose a sentence above, below, or within the Guidelines range based on the 18 U.S.C. 3553 factors. The 70-month sentence is not substantively unreasonable and the judge did not exceed his broad discretion in concluding that a heavier penalty was justified here. View "United States v. Kuczora" on Justia Law

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For 35 years, Terry worked as a teacher and an administrator for the District. After the 2013–2014 school year, the District closed the school where Terry served as the Principal because of declining enrollment and reassigned her as the Assistant Principal at another school. The District picked a male employee (Cain) over Terry for a separate promotion, although Terry had earned the highest ranking of the applicants from the interviewers. Terry filed suit, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1), and the Fourteenth Amendment (42 U.S.C. 1983); retaliation under Title VII; and unequal pay, 29 U.S.C. 206(d)(1). The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the District on Terry’s federal claims. Even assuming Terry’s change in position constituted a material adverse action, Terry did not marshal any evidence that the District had a discriminatory purpose. The chronology of events alone is not evidence that the District lied when it said it picked Cain for the promotion because of his experience working at the particular school. Timing, even combined with Terry’s positive employment history, is not enough to create a dispute of material fact as to whether the District retaliated against Terry. The difference in salary between Terry and Cain was based on the salary freeze (and not based on sex). View "Terry v. Gary Community School Corp." on Justia Law

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Betzner filed suit in Madison County, Illinois alleging that during Betzner’s employment, he was exposed to asbestos fibers, which caused his mesothelioma and that defendants, including Boeing, manufactured these products. Boeing filed a notice of removal, alleging that Betzner’s deposition and affidavit show the negligence claims arise from his work in Dallas, where Betzner was involved in the assembly of Boeing B-1 and B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft for the Air Force in 1982-1987. Boeing asserts that the government controlled the design and development of the aircraft and required adherence to its detailed specifications. Betzner did not move for remand or challenge the factual allegations in the notice of removal. The district court, sua sponte, remanded the case concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction due to Boeing’s failure to provide evidentiary support for its government contractor defense and explaining it was “not required to take Boeing’s allegations at face value.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. Boeing alleged sufficient facts to support federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a). Boeing’s plausible allegations include that when designing, manufacturing, supplying, testing, and repairing the aircraft it acted as a government contractor under the detailed and ongoing direction and control of the U.S. military, which required adherence to precise specifications. Boeing alleged the aircraft it manufactured conformed to those specifications and the government was independently aware of the potential health hazards related to asbestos exposure. View "Betzner v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs hold participating life-insurance policies from State Farm and Country Life that guarantee policyholders annual dividends from their insurers’ surpluses. The insurers decide the dividend amounts. Dissatisfied with their dividends, Plaintiffs filed nearly identical class-action complaints claiming that the dividend provisions in their policies violate the Illinois Insurance Code by failing to include a provision mandated by the Code. Plaintiffs concede that their annual dividends satisfied the terms of their respective policies. In consolidated appeals, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Illinois requires only that life-insurance policies of this type contain a provision for policyholders to participate in their insurers’ surpluses. The policies at issue here contain the required provision and are in compliance, despite allowing insurers discretion to set dividend amounts. View "Anderson v. Country Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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MCI held a business owners insurance policy with an “Employment-Related Practices Liability Endorsement” from Society Insurance. When DirecTV sued MCI under 47 U.S.C. 521 for publicly displaying its programming in MCI’s two restaurants without paying the commercial subscription rate, Society denied MCI’s claim. MCI sued Society; the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Society. The Endorsement requires Society to cover MCI for “damages resulting from a ‘wrongful act’ to which [the Policy] applies” and defines “wrongful act” to include, “[l]ibel, slander, invasion of privacy, defamation or humiliation.” There is no reasonable interpretation of the DirecTV complaint that could arguably fall within the category of libel, slander or defamation. That complaint alleged that MCI damaged DirecTV’s goodwill by showing its programming without paying the correct subscription fee; there are no allegations that MCI made any false, defamatory statement about DirecTV. DirecTV’s actions did not include allegations that MCI made any kind of statement at all. View "Martinsville Corral, Inc. v. Society Insurance" on Justia Law

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Adams was convicted of possessing, with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, money laundering, and escaping from federal custody. A 1997 California conviction elevated his statutory maximum term of imprisonment from 40 years to life; that prior conviction was also a predicate conviction under the career offender guideline. Adams faced a Guidelines range of 360 months to life. Defense counsel did not object to the use of the 1997 conviction. The court sentenced him to 420 months. On appeal, Adams’ counsel did not raise sentencing issues; the Seventh Circuit vacated the money laundering conviction and remanded for resentencing. On remand, Adams argued that his California conviction was not a controlled substance offense under the Guidelines. The court reasoned that the argument had been waived and that, on the merits, Adams’ California offense was a controlled substance offense. The court relied on a document in the California court’s record entitled “Complaint‐Felony,” indicating that Adams was convicted of selling cocaine. Adams was actually convicted, however under another filing, “Second Amended Information,” but the charge language was identical, The court imposed the same 420-month sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Adams filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, asserting ineffective assistance for failing to object to the use of the 1997 conviction. After the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion, Adams moved, under FRCP 60(b), for relief from judgment for exceptional reasons. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a second Rule 60(b) motions as merely an appeal of issues already addressed, amounting to an unauthorized, second motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255, over which the district court lacked jurisdiction. View "Adams v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants pleaded guilty for their roles as middlemen in a cocaine deal, 21 U.S.C. 846. The Seventh Circuit affirmed their 69-month sentences, rejecting arguments that the district court erred on the amount of cocaine the court attributed to them and their relative roles in the conspiracy and by allowing a witness to consult with his attorney during his testimony at a joint evidentiary hearing for their sentencing. The court properly determined the scope of the criminal activity the co-conspirators agreed to undertake, U.S.S.G. 1B1.3(a)(B)(i), which can include “the scope of the specific conduct and objectives embraced by the defendant’s agreement,” and “the court may consider any explicit agreement or implicit agreement fairly inferred from the conduct of the defendant and others.” The court properly considered whether the conduct of the co-conspirators was both in furtherance of the agreed criminal activity and was reasonably foreseeable to each particular defendant. The court declined to “second-guess” the district court’s evaluation of the witness’s testimony. The district court did not give great weight to that testimony in any event. View "United States v. Soria-Ocampo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law