by
In 2007, Chavez, then 21, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent five surgeries. Chavez experienced depression and anxiety. She struggled to maintain concentration to complete simple household tasks and suffered from migraine headaches, back pain (caused by degenerative disc disease), and numbness in her feet and hands. Chavez had no prior work experience. In 2010 Chavez applied for Social Security supplemental security income. Chavez could perform only simple, routine tasks with significant restrictions on how much she could lift. The vocational expert enlisted by the agency to estimate the number of jobs suitable for Chavez testified that for one particular job there were either 800 or 108,000 existing positions but preferred the larger estimate. The administrative law judge agreed and denied Chavez’s claim. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The decision was not supported by substantial evidence; the ALJ failed to ensure that the vocational expert’s job estimates were reliable. The vocational expert offered no explanation for why his estimates (or his method) were reliable, instead reaching a conclusion by determining that the estimates yielded by an alternative method seemed too low. By affording such broad deference to the vocational expert’s chosen estimates, the ALJ relieved the agency of its evidentiary burden at the final step of the analysis, impermissibly shifting the burden to Chavez. View "Chavez v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

by
Lowe’s expanded its retail home improvement stores into Mexico. Lowe’s Mexico contracted with Karum to provide private-label credit card services there. The program failed to meet expectations. Karum sued, claiming breach of contract. Early on, Karum disclosed its summary “damages model,” a 37-page estimate of damages with hundreds of figures contained in charts and graphs. Karum intended to have its Chairman and former CEO Johnson and/or its current CEO and CFO Ouchida present the damages model at trial as lay opinion testimony. Karum never retained a damages expert. Two months before trial, Lowe’s moved to preclude Johnson and Ouchida from testifying as to the damages model because any testimony regarding the model required the specialized knowledge of an expert. The district court granted the motion, finding that Karum had never properly disclosed an expert pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2). Since this was a case-dispositive sanction, the court granted judgment in favor of Lowe’s. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain meaning of Rule 26(a)(2) demands a formal designation for expert disclosures. Although Lowe’s deposed Johnson about the model and knew Karum intended to call him to testify about its content, Lowe’s should not have to assume a particular witness will testify as an expert. View "Karum Holdings LLC v. Lowe's Companies, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Dhakal, a member of the Nepali Congress political party, which is targeted by the Maoist party, worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development. In 2012, he received a letter from the Maoists, ordering him to cease his activities. Weeks later, four men stopped him, told him that the Maoist party had sent them, beat him and smashed his motorbike, saying “next time, he will be finished.” A ranger discovered Dhakal. A newspaper reported the attack. Dhakal continued his activities and received more threats In 2013, Dhakal arrived in the U.S. after the University of Rhode Island invited him to participate in a course in nonviolent conflict resolution. Maoists went to his home and threatened his wife, who fled with their children. Dhakal sought asylum. While Dhakal’s application remained pending, Nepal suffered an earthquake and was designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), so that its eligible nationals would not be removed and could receive employment authorization. Dhakal' TPS was twice extended. Dhakal is in lawful status and manages a Wisconsin gas station. In 2016, an asylum officer found Dhakal not credible and that Dhakal had not shown a reasonable possibility of future persecution. A final denial letter stated that, because of Dhakal’s TPS status, his asylum application would not be referred for adjudication in removal proceedings. Dhakal filed suit under the Administrative Procedures and Declaratory Judgment Acts, arguing that he has exhausted all administrative remedies presently available. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The challenged decision is not a final agency action so Dhakal is not entitled to relief under the APA. The statutory scheme for adjudication of asylum claims must be allowed to take its course. View "Dhakal v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

by
Kohl’s operates more than 1000 stores, 65 percent of which are leased. In 2011, Kohl’s announced that it was correcting several years of its financial filings because of multiple lease accounting errors. Plaintiffs, led by the Pension Fund, filed suit under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), SEC Rule 10b-5, and the “controlling person” provisions of 15 U.S.C. 78t(a), alleging that Kohl’s and two executives defrauded investors by publishing false and misleading information prior to the corrections. The Fund argued that one can infer that the defendants knew that these statements were false or recklessly disregarded that possibility because Kohl’s recently had made similar lease accounting errors. Despite those earlier errors, it was pursuing aggressive investments in leased properties, and at the same time, company insiders sold considerable amounts of stock. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to meet the enhanced pleading requirements for scienter imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the complaint fell short and the Fund did not suggest how an amendment might help. The Fund made a strong case that many of Kohl’s disclosures regarding its lease accounting practices were false but that is not enough. The Fund provided very few facts that would point either toward or away from scienter. View "Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers v. Kohl's Corp." on Justia Law

by
Cehovic’s employer offered its employees an insurance benefit plan through ReliaStar. Cehovic had two ReliaStar policies: a basic policy with a death benefit of $263,000, and a supplemental policy with a death benefit of $788,000. Both listed his sister, Cehovic‐Dixneuf, as the sole and primary beneficiary. After Cehovic died, his ex‐wife claimed that she and the child she had with Cehovic were entitled to the death benefits from the supplemental policy. The district court granted summary judgment for Cehovic‐Dixneuf. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires administrators of employee benefit plans to comply with the documents that control the plans, 29 U.S.C. 1104(a)(1)(D). For life insurance policies, that means death benefits are paid to the beneficiary designated in the policy, notwithstanding equitable arguments or claims that others might assert. The supplemental policy is governed by ERISA even though Cehovic paid all of its premiums without any direct subsidy from the employer. Cehovic’s employer performed all administrative functions associated with the maintenance of the policy. The plan description made clear that the supplemental life insurance policy would remain part of the employer’s group policy, but could be converted to an individual policy in certain situations. Nothing in the record shows that Cehovic executed a conversion. View "Cehovic-Dixneuf v. Wong" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Law

by
Knopick purchased a Jayco recreational vehicle from an independent Iowa dealer for $414,583, taking title through an LLC he alone controlled. Jayco’s two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty disclaims all implied warranties and “does not cover … any RV used for rental or other commercial purposes,” explains that an RV is “used for commercial and/or business purposes if the RV owner or user files a tax form claiming any business or commercial tax benefit related to the RV, or if the RV is purchased, registered or titled in a business name,” and states that performance of repairs excluded from coverage are "goodwill" repairs and do not alter the warranty. Almost immediately, Knopick claims, the RV leaked, smelled of sewage, had paint issues, and contained poorly installed features, including bedspreads screwed into furniture and staples protruding from the carpet. Knopick drove it to Jayco’s Indiana factory for repairs. He later picked up the RV to drive to his Texas home. Concerned about continuing problems, Knopick left it at a Missouri repair facility, from which a Jayco driver took it to Indiana for further repairs. Jayco later had a driver deliver the coach to Knopick in Arkansas. Knopick remained unsatisfied and sued for breach of warranty under state law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Jayco, finding that Knopick had no rights under the warranty because the RV was purchased by a business entity. View "Knopick v. Jayco, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Vasquez and Miguel, convicted child sex offenders, must register as sex offenders and comply with state restrictions on where they may live. A child sex offender may not knowingly live within 500 feet of a school, playground, or child-care center, 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3. A few years after their convictions, Illinois added child and group day-care homes to the 500-foot buffer zone. When the men updated their sex-offender registrations, the Chicago Police Department told them they had to move because child day-care homes had opened up within 500 feet of their residences and gave them 30 days to comply. The men sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the statutory amendment imposed retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause; that applying the amended statute to them constituted an unconstitutional taking of their property; and that the statute is enforced without a hearing for an individualized risk assessment and is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest, in violation of their due process rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings. The amended statute is neither impermissibly retroactive nor punitive. The Takings Clause claim was unexhausted and the amendment was adopted before they acquired their homes, so it did not alter their property-rights expectations. The procedural due process claim fails because there is no right to a hearing to establish a fact irrelevant to the statute. The law “easily satisfies rational-basis review.” View "Vasquez v. Foxx" on Justia Law

by
Flatoff took hostages at a Neenah, Wisconsin motorcycle shop. After Flatoff threatened to start shooting, police unsuccessfully attempted an entry. Hostage Funk escaped out the back door of the shop and was shot and killed in the alleyway by two police officers, who mistakenly believed Funk was Flatoff. Funk’s wife filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the officers and the city, alleging that both officers used unreasonable and excessive force against Funk. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that the officers’ conduct was not objectively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that even if their conduct was unreasonable, they were shielded from liability by qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the qualified immunity issue dispositive. The court noted that at least one officer believed that the situation was an ambush and that when Funk appeared in the officers’ line‐of‐sight holding a gun, the officers, in a matter of seconds, concluded that Funk was one of the people inside the shop who had shot at them only minutes ago. View "Mason-Funk v. City of Neenah" on Justia Law

by
Mitchell is a transgender person who has identified as a woman her entire life. In 2008, Mitchell received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. She was convicted of a crime and sent to Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution in 2011. Mitchell requested hormone treatment, triggering a multistep process that the Department of Corrections outlined in its then-new policy on Health Care Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder. It took DOC over a year to evaluate Mitchell’s candidacy for hormone therapy. DOC then refused to provide Mitchell with the treatment its own expert recommended, on the ground that Mitchell was within a month of release from the prison. Although DOC’s Mental Health Director encouraged Mitchell to find a community provider to prescribe her hormones, the terms of Mitchell’s parole actually prohibited her from taking hormones or dressing as a woman. Mitchell sued. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the district court prematurely rejected some of Mitchell’s claims. Persons in criminal custody are entirely dependent on the state for their medical care, so prison officials have a constitutional duty to provide inmates with the care they require for serious medical needs. Prison staff cannot wait for an inmate’s sentence to expire before providing necessary treatments; state officials may not block a parolee from independently obtaining health care. The condition must be serious enough to trigger constitutional protection; otherwise, the nature of the disorder is irrelevant. View "Mitchell v. Kallas" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, Norweathers was charged with transporting child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(1) and possessing a computer containing images of child pornography, section 2252A(a)(5)(b). The FBI had executed a search warrant at an Illinois business, where Norweathers worked and found approximately 50 images of child pornography on a desktop computer at Norweathers’ workstation. They obtained a warrant to search an email account with the username “tame181@yahoo.com,” which had sent two emails containing child pornography. Before trial, the government filed a notice of intent to offer evidence of other bad acts--an email exchange between tame181@yahoo.com and another individual in which they discussed drugging and having sex with young boys-- to prove identity, intent, and motive. Norweathers argued that the uncharged emails were impermissible propensity evidence, and that their probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The court held that they were admissible, to weaken Norweathers’ anticipated defense that a different person used his account to distribute pornographic material. FBI agents testified that Norweathers waived his Miranda rights; stated that he viewed and traded child pornography; and provided agents with his usernames and passwords. Norweathers’ counsel rejected a stipulation to redact and “sanitize” the uncharged emails before presenting them to the jury. The jury was instructed to consider the evidence only to decide the identity, motive, and knowledge of the person who sent the charged emails. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence to 250 months’ imprisonment. View "United States v. Norweathers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law