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

Articles Posted in Class Action
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In March 2020, Bradley University closed its campus and canceled in-person activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It canceled one week of classes as it migrated to remote learning. Bradley resumed classes virtually and offered remote activities and resources. The campus remained closed for the rest of the semester. Bradley never rescheduled the week of canceled classes; the Spring 2020 Semester was 14 weeks instead of the planned 15 weeks of classes listed in Bradley’s Catalog, which stated: “This catalog serves as a contract between a student and Bradley.” Full-time, on-campus students had paid $17,100 in tuition and an $85 activity fee. The University provided pro-rata refunds for room and board to students who were forced to leave on-campus housing but did not refund tuition or activity fees.Eddlemon filed a purported class action, alleging that Bradley breached an implied contract to provide 15 weeks of classes and on-campus activities, and, alternatively that the University’s retention of tuition and activity fees constituted unjust enrichment. The district court certified a “Tuition Class” and an “Activity Fee Class.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court did not conduct the rigorous analysis required by Rule 23 for class certification but repeatedly referred to Eddlemon’s allegations without addressing his proffered evidence or examining how he would prove his allegations with common evidence. View "Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx" on Justia Law

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HyreCar is an intermediary between people who own vehicles and people who would like to drive for services such as Uber and GrubHub. Before leasing a car, HyreCar sends an applicant’s information, including a photograph, to Mitek, which provides identity-verification services. Johnson, a HyreCar driver, brought a putative class action, alleging Mitek used that information without the consent required by the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act. Mitek asked the district court to send the case to arbitration, citing an Arbitration Agreement in Johnson’s contract with HyreCar, applicable to drivers, HyreCar, and “any subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, employees, predecessors in interest, successors, and assigns, as well as all authorized or unauthorized users or beneficiaries of services or goods provided under the Agreement.The district court concluded that suppliers such as Mitek were not covered. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Mitek’s claim that it is a “beneficiary of services or goods provided under the Agreement.” The “services or goods provided under the Agreement” are vehicles. Mitek cannot be classified as a “user” of HyreCar’s services or goods. Mitek has its own contract with HyreCar, but does not have a contract with any HyreCar driver. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2 does not change the result. The court noted that claims under the Illinois Act cannot be litigated in federal court unless the plaintiff can show concrete harm. Johnson seeks only statutory damages. Johnson’s claim must be remanded to state court. View "Johnson v. Mitek Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bennett contends that Division 10 of Cook County Jail does not satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act because it lacks grab bars and other fixtures that disabled inmates need in order to use showers and toilets safely. Bennett cited a regulation providing that as of 1988, "construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), 28 C.F.R. 42.522(b)(1). UFAS requires accessible toilets with grab bars nearby and accessible showers with mounted seats, Division 10 was constructed in 1992.In 2020, the Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of class certification, stating that Bennett “proposes a class that will win if the Standards apply (and were violated, to detainees’ detriment).” On remand, the district court certified a class. More than two years later, the judge decertified the class, reasoning that some class members, although using aids such as wheelchairs, may not be disabled under the statutes.The Seventh Circuit again reversed. The 2020 decision identified an issue relevant to every Division 10 detainee. Class certification under Rule 23(c)(4) resolves the issue, not the whole case. Class members could receive the benefit of a declaratory judgment on the issue but would need to proceed in individual suits to seek damages; if the class loses, every detainee would be bound by issue preclusion. The application of UFAS can be determined class-wide while leaving to the future any particular inmate’s claim to relief. View "Bennett v. Dart" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin inmates undergo regular strip searches. One guard performs the search; another observes. West is a Muslim. Strip searches by guards of the opposite sex violate the tenets of his faith. He was required to submit to a strip search by a guard who is a transgender man—a woman who identifies as a man. West objected but was refused an accommodation. West unsuccessfully requested an exemption from future cross-sex strip searches. The warden stated that he would be disciplined if he objects again. West sought an injunction under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc, and alleged Fourth Amendment violations. The district court dismissed the constitutional claim; circuit precedent held that a prisoner has no Fourth Amendment interest against visual inspections of his body. Rejecting the RLUIPA claim, the judge concluded that West had not shown a substantial burden on his religious exercise and that cross-sex strip searches are permissible as the prison’s only means to avoid unlawfully discriminating against transgender employees.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Intervening precedent revives the Fourth Amendment claim. West is entitled to judgment on the RLUIPA claim. His objection to cross-sex strip searches is religious in nature and sincere. The prison has substantially burdened his religious exercise by requiring him to either submit, in violation of his faith, or face discipline. The burden is unjustified under RLUIPA’s strict-scrutiny standard: providing an exemption will not violate the rights of transgender prison employees under Title VII or the Equal Protection Clause. View "West v. Radtke" on Justia Law

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Innovel hired Diakon to take furniture from warehouses to customers’ homes. Plaintiffs, two of Diakon's drivers, were citizens of Illinois who drove out of Innovel’s Illinois warehouses and made deliveries to customers in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. They signed “Service Agreements” that classify the drivers as independent contractors yet include detailed expectations for the drivers, covering uniforms, business cards, truck decals, and how to perform deliveries and installations. The Agreements select Virginia law to govern the parties’ relations and authorize Diakon to deduct fees and penalties from the drivers’ pay for truck rental fees, insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, damaged merchandise, and customers’ refused deliveries.Plaintiffs sued, alleging that Diakon misclassified them as independent contractors when they were employees under Illinois law. Illinois courts apply a three-part test to determine employee status, which is more likely to classify workers as employees than is Virginia law, which would treat the plaintiffs as contractors. The Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act allows deductions from pay only if the employee consents in writing at the time of the deduction.The district judge certified a class but ruled in favor of Diakon. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs’ claims arise from their work in Illinois, not from their contracts. The Illinois Act governs payment for work in Illinois regardless of what state’s law governs other aspects of the parties' relations. View "Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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A 2015 Wired magazine article described a controlled hack of a Jeep Cherokee driven by one of the magazine’s journalists. Cybersecurity researchers exploited a vulnerability in the Jeep’s “uConnect” infotainment system, designed by Harman, for installation in vehicles manufactured by FCA (formerly Chrysler). FCA immediately issued a recall and provided a free software update to patch the vulnerability. Federal regulators supervising the recall determined that the patch eliminated the vulnerability. Other than the Jeep in the Wired test, no other vehicle was successfully hacked.Four plaintiffs sued FCA and Harman on behalf of every consumer who had purchased or leased a 2013–2015 Chrysler vehicle equipped with the uConnect infotainment system, asserting federal and state warranty and consumer-fraud claims. The plaintiffs argued that although the alleged defect never manifested again after the Wired hack, they paid more for their vehicles than they would have if they had known about the cybersecurity vulnerability. After discovery closed, faced with a factual challenge to standing, the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence in support of their claimed overpayment injury.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. When litigation moves beyond the pleading stage and Article III standing is challenged as a factual matter, plaintiffs cannot rely on mere allegations of injury; they must provide evidence of a legally cognizable injury in fact. These plaintiffs continued to rely on allegations and legal arguments. View "Flynn v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law

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In a nationwide class action on behalf of all customers of GLV, which operates in several states as Sports Performance Volleyball Club, the district court certified a class limited to customers of GLV’s Illinois locations. Later, the judge concluded that Mullen, who asserts that GLV committed fraud by failing to disclose allegations of sexual abuse by a coach, was an unsuitable class representative because Mullen had not been injured and invited her to find a substitute. She did not. The class was never decertified.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on summary judgment after noting that abstention might have been appropriate. All of the litigants are citizens of Illinois, the claim rests on state law, and the remaining stakes are modest. The sole asserted basis of federal jurisdiction is the Class Action Fairness Act, which applies to class actions with more than 100 class members, stakes exceeding $5 million, and minimal diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). Illinois law requires the plaintiff to show that she was “in some manner, deceived” by misrepresentation or material omission. Mullen was aware of the allegations against the coach. The court noted that the outcome does not bind any other person whose children attended the Club. View "Mullen v. GLV, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following a False Claims Act lawsuit against Stericycle, customers were leaving and the price of Stericycle’s common stock dropped. On behalf of the company’s investors, Florida pension funds filed a securities fraud class action against Stericycle, its executives, board members, and the underwriters of its public offering, alleging that the defendants had inflated the stock price by making materially misleading statements about Stericycle’s fraudulent billing practices. The parties agreed to settle for $45 million. Lead counsel moved for a fee award of 25 percent of the settlement, plus costs. Petri, a class member, objected to the fee award, arguing that the amount was unreasonably high given the low risk of the litigation and the early stage at which the case settled. Petri moved to lift the stay the court had entered while the settlement agreement was pending so that he could seek discovery regarding class counsel’s billing methods, the fee allocation among firms, and counsel’s political and financial relationship with a lead plaintiff, a public pension fund.The district court approved the settlement and the proposed attorney fee and denied Petri’s discovery motion. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court did not give sufficient weight to evidence of ex-ante fee agreements, all the work that class counsel inherited from earlier litigation against Stericycle, and the early stage at which the settlement was reached. The court upheld the denial of the objector’s request for discovery into possible pay-to-play arrangements. View "Petri v. Stericycle, Inc." on Justia Law

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In January 2019, Ali brought this civil rights action against Chicago and several police officers, alleging that the officers followed a city policy “of refusing to release on bond an arrestee taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by an Illinois state court outside of Cook County.” Days before the deadline for completing fact discovery, Ali moved to certify a class. The district court granted the city’s motion to strike, noting that Ali had not added class allegations to his complaint. Ali sought leave to amend his complaint to include class allegations, arguing that he did not have evidentiary support for the existence of the city policy until a November 2019 deposition. The city replied that it had acknowledged the policy months earlier. The district court denied Ali's motion. Weeks later, Ali settled his case.On January 25, the district court dismissed the case without prejudice. Also on January 25, Miller moved to intervene under Rule 24, asserting that he was a member of Ali’s proposed class. With his motion to intervene pending, Miller filed a notice of appeal from the January 25 order. On March 24, with that appeal pending, the district court denied Miller’s motion to intervene as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no operative class action complaint. Miller’s motion to intervene was untimely; he is not a party to the lawsuit and cannot pursue other challenges. View "Miller v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Inmates who were housed by three Illinois Department of Corrections centers between April-July 2014, alleged that the prison-wide shakedowns conducted violated their constitutional and statutory rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The shakedowns involved uniformed tactical teams called “Orange Crush” that operated according to a uniform plan, which involved a loud entry, strip searches, handcuffing, and other procedures involving allegedly humiliating physical contact. The inmates allege that the planning and execution of the shakedowns violated the Eighth Amendment because it was designed to inflict pain and humiliation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed class certification. The plaintiffs satisfied the “commonality” requirement because they alleged that the defendants acted pursuant to a common policy and implemented the same or similar procedures at each institution and that the challenge was to the constitutionality of that common plan as enacted. The claims require resolution of key common factual and legal questions, specifically: “whether Defendants developed and carried out a uniform policy and practice that had the effect of depriving the putative class members of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; whether the shakedowns were executed in the manner Defendants contend or as Plaintiffs claim; whether Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive the putative class members of their constitutional rights through the shakedowns; and whether the Defendants knew of, approved, facilitated and/or turned a blind eye to the alleged unconstitutional shakedowns.” Those questions do not require individualized consideration. View "Ross v. Gossett" on Justia Law