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

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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In 2020 Krislov sought to run in the Democratic primary for a position on the Illinois Supreme Court. To get on the ballot he needed 5,050 valid signatures, 0.4% of the votes cast in the same district for the same party’s candidate in the most recent gubernatorial election. He submitted about 9,500 signatures, but many were ruled invalid and his total fell about 100 short. Instead of protesting that decision in state court, Krislov sued in federal court, arguing that falling 100 signatures short of 5,050 is within the margin of error for document examiners. The district court dismissed the case as a state-law challenge to a state-law requirement, which Krislov had forfeited by not using his state remedies and stating that “close enough for government work” is not an available doctrine in Illinois.The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of a justiciable controversy. The U.S. Constitution does not require states to ensure that their laws are accurately administered. Accurate adjudication always is in the public interest—as is accurate administration of state law—but federal courts cannot proceed if the plaintiff lacks standing or the proposed remedy would not redress the plaintiff’s injury. The election is over and Krislov cannot establish that the same problem is likely to recur for him, personally; if it does, Krislov is entitled to prompt review in state court. There is no “public interest” exception to the justiciability rules. View "Krislov v. Yarbrough" on Justia Law

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Gracia’s former employer, SigmaTron, fired her 13 years ago after she filed sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Gracia prevailed in a 2014 trial on a Title VII retaliation claim. She found new work at a different company. In 2015, SigmaTron described Gracia’s lawsuit in public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gracia filed another Title VII retaliation claim, plus claims for retaliation under the Illinois Human Rights Act, defamation, and invasion of privacy. The district court dismissed Gracia’s defamation and false light invasion of privacy claims and later granted SigmaTron summary judgment on the Title VII and Illinois Human Rights Act claims.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Gracia failed to present specific facts to show any injury in fact and expressly acknowledged that SigmaTron’s disclosures did not affect her current employment, with which she is content. That admission left the district court without subject matter jurisdiction to consider the Title VII claim on the merits. As for Gracia’s state law claims, the district court was right to conclude that the allegations failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. View "Gracia v. SigmaTron International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Weinert roofing employees could drive directly to job sites around Green Bay or could carpool from the shop using a company truck. For carpool employees, Weinert paid travel time at time-and-a-half the minimum wage and did not count travel time toward an employee’s 40-hour workweek. Weinert paid more than minimum wage for job-site work; job-site overtime pay was higher than travel time pay. Anderson, a Weinert seasonal employee, filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b), and Wisconsin law. Three other employees joined the action. Anderson converted the collective action into an individual FLSA action, which settled. Anderson then sought class certification (FRCP 23) for the state claims. Anderson identified 37 former or current Weinert employees to include in the class and requested the inclusion of employees Weinert expected to hire in 2019.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. Employees to be hired in a future period cannot be included in the class. Anderson failed to show that joinder of the 37 employees in a single lawsuit (with multiple named plaintiffs) would be impracticable, as required by Rule 23(a). Anderson did not identify any difficulty in locating or contacting potential class members; the class lacked the geographical spread that might render joinder impracticable. Prevailing under the Act allows a plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees and costs, offsetting some of the disincentive created by the small damages available. The numerosity requirement focuses on whether joinder would be impracticable, not whether each potential class member could bring a separate lawsuit. View "Anderson v. Weinert Enterprises Inc." on Justia Law

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Smith sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C.1692g(a)(3). GC’s debt-collection letter stated: If you dispute this balance or the validity of this debt, please let us know in writing. If you do not dispute this debt in writing within 30 days after you receive this letter, we will assume this debt is valid. The Act does not say how a consumer may dispute a debt’s validity. Smith argued that the consumer is entitled to choose how to dispute. In an earlier appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that GC had waived any entitlement to arbitrate the dispute. The district court then held that Smith had not established injury and dismissed the suit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, without addressing whether a debt collector violates section 1692g(a)(3) by telling consumers to put disputes in writing. Smith did not allege injury, because she did not try to show how a dispute would have benefitted her. Smith does not contend that the letter’s supposed lack of clarity led her to take any detrimental step, such as paying money she did not owe. She is no worse off than if the letter had told her that she could dispute the debt orally. The requirement of injury-in-fact is an essential element of standing, regardless of whether the asserted violation is substantive or procedural. View "Smith v. GC Services Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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Clearview's facial recognition tool takes advantage of public information on the Internet. Clearview uses a proprietary algorithm to “scrape” pictures from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Venmo. Clearview’s software harvests from each scraped photograph the biometric facial scan and associated metadata (time and place stamps); that information is put onto its database, which is stored on servers in New York and New Jersey. Clearview offers access to this database for users who wish to find out more about someone in a photograph. Many of its clients are law-enforcement agencies. The New York Times published an article about Clearview.This putative class action asserted violations of Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, 740 ILCS 14/15. After its removal to federal court, the district court remanded the case to state court, stating that the complaint alleged only a bare statutory violation, not the kind of concrete and particularized harm that would support Article III standing in federal court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In alleging a violation of a general rule that prohibits the operation of a market in biometric identifiers and information, the complaint described only a general, regulatory violation, not something that is particularized to the plaintiffs and concrete. It alleged no particularized injury resulting from the commercial transaction. View "Thornley v. Clearview AI, Inc." on Justia Law

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Prairie sued Coyle in Illinois state court concerning the replacement of valves purchased by Prairie. Coyle's insurer, Federated, sought a declaration that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Coyle in that suit. After Coyle answered Federated’s complaint, Federated moved for judgment on the pleadings. Coyle opposed the motion and later moved for leave to file supplemental briefs to show that the state-court action potentially fell within Federated’s coverage obligations. The district court denied Coyle’s motions to file supplemental briefs and granted Federated judgment on the pleadings. The court ruled that Prairie’s complaint did not allege “property damage” or an “occurrence” because Prairie only sought damages for the repair and replacement of defective products—purely economic losses. Prairie’s counsel had clarified at a discovery hearing that “Prairie was not making a claim for loss of use but rather for the costs of replacing the allegedly defective valves and the associate piping” and the defectiveness of the valves was foreseeable.The Seventh Circuit reversed. In granting Federated’s motion, the court relied on some of the new facts that Coyle had unsuccessfully moved to introduce through supplemental briefs while ignoring other facts. The court’s handling of the case ran afoul of local rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and deprived Coyle of its right to present material factual evidence bearing on the central issue in the case. View "Federated Mutual Insurance Co. v. Coyle Mechanical Supply Inc." on Justia Law

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Hill filed suit in state court, asking a judge to compel Young, his prison’s warden, to mail two complaints that Hill wanted to file in federal court. The defendants removed Hill’s suit to federal court. The district judge dismissed the complaint, observing that its records showed that the two complaints at issue had been filed.At Hill’s request, the Seventh Circuit vacated language from the judgment: “This dismissal shall count as one of [Hill’s] allotted ‘strikes’ under" 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). This statute provides: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal ... under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained ... brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed" as frivolous, malicious, or failing to state a claim unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.Section 1915(g) requires prepayment of the docket fees only if the plaintiff has thrice “brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States” decided on one of the listed grounds. Hill did not “bring” this suit in a court of the United States. Defendants brought it to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1441(a). This suit does not count as a “strike.” While the comment is dicta and is not binding in future litigation, it aggrieves Hill by drawing a future judge’s attention to this suit. View "Hill v. Madison County" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Laducer, a truck driver, rear-ended Spinnenweber’s minivan. Spinnenweber refused medical treatment at the scene. He later sought treatment for neck pain, tinnitus, and bouts of short-term memory loss. Spinnenweber sued Laducer and Laducer’s employer, seeking compensatory damages for his physical injuries. He did not seek punitive damages, medical costs, or lost wages, nor did he claim psychological or emotional injuries. Defendants conceded liability. The defendants’ medical expert, Dr. Carney, was the only expert that Spinnenweber relied on. He testified that Spinnenweber “clearly had a whiplash injury” from the crash. “He certainly could’ve had a very mild concussion.” Dr. Carney did not connect the alleged memory loss or the tinnitus to the accident. Spinnenweber’s counsel stated during closing arguments that the purpose of tort law "is to deter bad conduct so it doesn’t repeat.”The jury awarded Spinnenweber $1 million in compensatory damages. The court offered Spinnenweber the choice of accepting $250,000 or a new trial. Spinnenweber declined to accept the remittitur award. His attorney withdrew. After a one-day bench trial, Spinnenweber requested an award of $0 in damages, calling it a “verdict of silence.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court did not abuse its discretion by finding that Spinnenweber’s evidence showed that he potentially suffered just whiplash and a mild concussion or by finding that the $1 million verdict was so outrageous that it warranted remittitur or a new trial. “Spinnenweber was hoisted with his own petard.” View "Spinnenweber v. Laducer" on Justia Law

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The Spuhlers incurred medical debts that State Collection sought to collect on behalf of the medical‐care provider. The collector sent the Spuhlers dunning letters that provided the debts’ sums but lacked a statement that interest would accrue on the debts. The Spuhlers, who sought to represent a class of consumers, filed a complaint under the Fair Debt Collection Practices (FDCPA), arguing that the omission of a statement that the debt amounts would increase from the accrual of interest made the letters’ account of the debts was misleading, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(2), 1692f. A magistrate granted the Spuhlers summary judgment and certified a class.The Seventh Circuit vacated. At the summary judgment stage of litigation, to demonstrate Article III standing to sue for an alleged violation of the FDCPA, the plaintiffs must “‘set forth’ by affidavit or other evidence ‘specific facts’” demonstrating that they have suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is both fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and likely redressable by a judicial decision. The plaintiffs here did not carry that burden. View "Spuhler v. State Collection Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Finance sent Bazile a letter seeking to collect medical debts. The dunning letter stated the date (September 19, 2017) and the total balance of the debt ($92.23), without indicating whether that amount may increase with the accrual of interest. Bazile filed suit, alleging that the letter’s exclusion of information concerning the accrual of interest was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) because the letter was misleading and did not provide “the amount of the debt,” 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(1), 1692e. The district court concluded that Bazile had Article III standing.The Seventh Circuit remanded for findings of fact. The complaint may survive dismissal as a matter of pleading but that’s not enough for the district court to decide the merits of the action. While Bazile’s allegations support an inference that interest was accruing on the debt, the defendant asserted that interest was not accruing and questioned whether the letter’s omission of information about interest affected Bazile’s response to the correspondence or to the debt. Facts necessary for standing have been called into doubt, requiring further inquiry into whether the court has subject‐matter jurisdiction, requiring an evidentiary hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss. View "Bazile v. Finance System of Green Bay, Inc." on Justia Law