Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Krivak v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.
After plaintiff was injured from a slip and fall in a Home Depot parking lot, he filed suit against the store claiming that he sustained substantial injuries and alleging that his injuries required multiple surgeries, as well as physical and occupational therapy.The Seventh Circuit concluded that plaintiff's appeal is limited to the district court's denial of his second post-judgment motion filed under Rule 60(b). The court noted that, as a practical matter, that conclusion changes very little because plaintiff's appeal is all and only about whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing his case for lack of prosecution. The court explained that the district court's denial of the Rule 60(b) motion effectively amounted to reinforcing and standing by its original dismissal decision. In this case, the court concluded that the district court acted well within its discretion dismissing plaintiff's suit where plaintiff's counsel missed many conferences. Because plaintiff chose counsel as his agent, he bears the consequences of counsel's actions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's refusal to reopen the case. View "Krivak v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Deibel v. Hoeg
In 1986 Deibel, Hoeg, and Steffen founded Hy-Pro Corporation. Deibel, its president, received 2,500 shares, representing 12.5% of the authorized stock. Deibel guaranteed Hy-Pro’s payment of a $100,000 debt to a bank. Within a year Deibel demanded that Hoeg leave. When Hoeg refused, Deibel quit but held onto his stock even. A state court suit settled, but the settlement was not reduced to writing. Deibel insists that under the settlement Hy-Pro would pay $15,000 and arrange with the bank to release his guarantee. Hoeg and Steffen assert that Deibel was also to surrender his shares.Almost 30 years later, Deibel filed a federal suit. HyPro was sold in 2017 for about $20 million; a 12.5% share would exceed $2.5 million. Indiana has a two-year period of limitations for such claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely, rejecting Deibel’s claims that he was still an investor when the firm was sold, and, if not, that a firm’s refusal to recognize him as an investor was a “continuing wrong.” When Deibel did not return his shares, Hy-Pro canceled Deibel’s stock. Deibel has not been on the company’s books as a shareholder since 1992. Deibel received multiple letters from various parties, including the IRS, notifying him of that fact; his claim accrued no later than 1998. View "Deibel v. Hoeg" on Justia Law
Markakos v. Medicredit, Inc.
Medicredit sent Markakos a letter seeking to collect $1,830.56 on behalf of a creditor identified as “Northwest Community 2NDS” for medical services. Markakos’s lawyer sent Medicredit a letter disputing the debt (because the medical services were allegedly inadequate). Medicredit then sent a response that listed a different amount owed: $407.00. Markakos sued Medicredit for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(1)–(2), by sending letters to her that stated inconsistent debt amounts and that unclearly identified her creditor as “Northwest Community 2NDS”—which is not the name of any legal entity in Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case without prejudice. Markakos lacks standing to sue Medicredit under the Act because she did not allege that the deficient information harmed her in any way. She admits that she properly disputed her debt and never overpaid. Markakos’s only other alleged injury is that she was confused and aggravated by Medicredit’s letter. Winning or losing this suit would not change Markakos’s prospects; if Markakos lost, she would continue disputing her debt based on the inadequacy of the services and if she won, she would do the same. Not a penny would change hands, and no word or deed would be rescinded. View "Markakos v. Medicredit, Inc." on Justia Law
J.B. v. Woodard
After an allegation that Bush had choked his son, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began an investigation. Bush’s then-wife, Erika, obtained a court order suspending Bush’s parenting time. Bush filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of himself and his children, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and claiming that DCFS employees’ conduct set off events culminating in a state court order infringing on his and his kids’ right to familial association.The district court dismissed, finding that Bush and his children lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and that the Younger abstention doctrine barred the court from ruling on the remaining constitutional claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.. Bush failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing for his First Amendment claim. Adhering to principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the court concluded that the district court was right to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the remaining claims. View "J.B. v. Woodard" on Justia Law
Black v. Wrigley
In 2012, Bernard’s mother died, leaving a $3 million estate entirely to Bernard’s homeless, mentally ill sister, Joanne, who had lived in Denver. Bernard and his wife, Katherine are professors at Northwestern University School of Law. Bernard had himself appointed Joanne’s conservator and redirected the inheritance to himself. Bernard’s cousin, Wrigley, found Joanne in New York. Bernard and Wrigley each sought appointment as guardian of Joanne’s property in New York.Joanne’s guardian ad litem discovered that Bernard had diverted much of Joanne’s inheritance and hired Kerr, a forensic accountant, to investigate Bernard and Pinto, Joanne’s representative payee, who had withdrawn funds from her account. The Denver probate court suspended Bernard as Joanne’s conservator and ordered that Pinto provide a complete accounting, Wrigley allegedly made threats against Katherine. The Denver court entered a $4.5 million judgment against Bernard.Katherine wrote to the New York court on Northwestern University letterhead, alleging “misappropriation of Joanne’s assets by Pinto.” Wrigley then called the deans at Northwestern’ to complain about Katherine.Katherine sued Wrigley and Kerr, alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court rejected Katherine’s attempt to fire her attorney and present her own closing argument and accused Katherine of “gamesmanship,” stating that it could not “trust [her] to follow the rules” based on her performance as a witness. Her attorney claimed to be physically ill and the judge then granted a continuance. Ultimately, the jury rejected Katherine’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the court’s evidentiary decisions, including overruling Katherine’s objections to closing arguments, and to jury instructions. View "Black v. Wrigley" on Justia Law
MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.
MAO-MSO acquired rights to collect conditional payments that Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) made if a primary insurer (such as automobile insurance carriers) has not promptly paid medical expenses. MAO-MSO sued those primary payers. The district court proof of required actual injury. Specifically, MAO-MSO needed to identify an “illustrative beneficiary”— a concrete example of a conditional payment that State Farm, the relevant primary payer, failed to reimburse to the pertinent MAO. MAO-MSO alleged that “O.D.” suffered injuries in a car accident and that State Farm “failed to adequately pay or reimburse” the appropriate MAO. The district court determined that these allegations sufficed for pleading purposes to establish standing.As limited discovery progressed, MAO-MSO struggled to identify evidence supporting the complaint. One dispute centered on whether O.D.’s MAO made payments related to medical care stemming from a car accident before State Farm reached its limit under O.D.’s auto policy so that State Farm should have reimbursed the MAO. The payment in question was to a physical therapist. State Farm argued that the physical therapy services had no connection to O.D.’s car accident and related only to her prior knee surgery.The district court determined no reasonable jury could find that the payment related to O.D.’s car accident, meaning that MAO-MSO lacked standing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal. The Medicare Act may authorize the lawsuit but MAO-MSO fail to establish subject matter jurisdiction by establishing an injury in fact. View "MAO-MSO Recovery II, LLC v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.
The Regional Director of the NLRB sought a temporary injunction under 29 U.S.C. 160(j), pending the Board’s resolution of unfair labor practices charges against Sunbelt. The ALJ in the Board proceeding subsequently issued its recommendation, concluding that Sunbelt had violated sections 8(a)(1), (3), and (5) of the Act. Before the district court, the Director submitted that Sunbelt had violated, and continued to violate those sections by interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act; discriminatorily eliminating the bargaining unit and failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith. The district court granted an injunction, ordering Sunbelt to cease certain unfair labor practices.While Sunbelt’s appeal was pending, the Board issued its decision and order. The Director then moved to dismiss this appeal of the injunction as moot. Sunbelt submitted that the appeal was not moot because the Board had severed and retained one issue for further consideration. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and directed the district court to vacate its judgment. The Board’s resolution of the unfair labor practices charges moots the appeal, regardless of the fact that the Board severed one issue and retained it for further consideration. The severed issue was not one presented to the district court in the Director’s petition for an injunction. The temporary relief authorized by the statute is no longer available. View "Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law
Marcure v. Lynn
Marcure sued police officers and others. Before the officers moved to dismiss, Marcure filed notice of an address change from Arizona to Illinois. The court mailed notices, including notices of the motion to dismiss, to the Illinois address; these notices were returned as undeliverable. Based on the returned documents, the court ordered Marcure to show cause why his case should not be dismissed due to his failure to keep the court apprised of his address. Marcure provided notice of a post-office box days later and filed a response to the officers’ motion, nearly a month late and lacking a signature. The court excused the late filing but warned that it would strike the response under FRCP 11(a) if Marcure did not correct the signature deficiency within six days. Marcure filed timely, signed responses to the prosecutors' motions to dismiss but did not correct his unsigned response to the officers’ motion. One week after the deadline to correct that response, the court struck Marcure’s response, then dismissed the claims against the officers solely because their motion was unopposed.The Seventh Circuit reversed. While Rule 11(a) requires striking unsigned pleadings, Rule 12(b)(6) requires courts to address the merits of motions to dismiss and any local rule to the contrary is invalid under Rule 83(a)(1). The rule places the burden on the movant to show entitlement to dismissal; courts must address the merits of Rule 12(b)(6) motions even when they are unopposed. View "Marcure v. Lynn" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure
Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co.
Sterling purchased the Loader new in 2008 from a dealership; it was equipped with a 62-inch bucket and components that increased the Loader’s rated operating capacity (ROC—maximum load) to 1,420 lbs. Kirk regularly used the Loader to scoop up material and move it up a concrete ramp with an approximate 30-degree incline. Kirk claims that on May 12, 2015, while going up the ramp, the Loader began to wobble and tip forward as he raised its lift arms. In an effort to stabilize himself, Kirk braced his foot on the console. His foot slipped out of the cab and he brought the lift-arm down on it. Kirk suffered a permanent leg disability, loss of his job, and medical expenses totaling $433,000.In a strict liability claim against the Loader’s manufacturer, Clark, Kirk’s only expert witness, Pacheco, opined that the Loader was “unreasonably dangerous for its intended and foreseeable use” and that its “design providing for the use of the [62-inch] bucket … made it highly likely" that the bucket would be loaded in excess of"the ROC. The district court granted Clark summary judgment, concluding that Pacheco’s opinions did not meet the Rule 702 and “Daubert” standards. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A court’s determination that an expert possesses the requisite qualifications does not, alone, provide a sufficient basis for admissibility. The court acted within its discretion in finding Pacheco's evidence in support of his opinion unreliable. Pacheco's causation opinion rested on speculation that the weight of the load exceeded the ROC but Pacheco did not know the weight of the load at the time of the accident. View "Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co." on Justia Law
Pennell v. Global Trust Management, LLC
Pennell defaulted on a loan, then sent MobiLoans a letter refusing to pay her debt and requesting that all future debt communications cease. MobiLoans sold Pennell’s debt to Global, which had no knowledge that Pennell refused to pay and that she was represented by counsel. Pennell received a dunning letter from Global. Through counsel, Pennell notified Global that she refused to pay the debt and requested all debt communications stop. Global complied. Pennell sued under 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(2), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits a debt collector from directly communicating with a consumer who is represented by counsel with respect to the debt and proscribes a debt collector from directly communicating with a consumer who notifies a debt collector in writing that she refuses to pay or that she wishes the collector to stop communicating with her. Pennell claimed “stress and confusion” as her injuries. The district court granted Global summary judgment on the merits. The Seventh Circuit vacated and ordered dismissal for lack of Article III standing. A party invoking federal jurisdiction must demonstrate that he has suffered an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct and redressable by a favorable judicial decision. The state of confusion is not itself a “concrete and particularized” injury. Nor does stress, without physical manifestations or a medical diagnosis, amount to concrete harm. Pennell failed to show that receiving the dunning letter led her to change her course of action or put her in harm’s way. View "Pennell v. Global Trust Management, LLC" on Justia Law