Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Communications Law
Craftwood II, Inc. v. Generac Power Systems, Inc.
Plaintiffs operate California hardware businesses. They sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, claiming that defendants sent them unsolicited fax advertisements. The district judge dismissed, believing that defendants had substantially met the requirements of a section 227(b)(1)(C) defense and had not established injury. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that the district court treated a defense as if it were an element of subject-matter jurisdiction. A plaintiff’s failure on the merits does not divest a federal court of jurisdiction. When subject-matter jurisdiction is at stake, a district judge may resolve factual disputes and make any findings necessary to determine the court’s adjudicatory competence. If the court has jurisdiction, it must take all plausible allegations in favor of the complainant when handling a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs alleged that they received unsolicited fax ads, causing injury: printing the faxes used costly paper and toner and the need to read the incoming faxes diverted employees' time. These are concrete, not abstract losses. The injuries may have been slight, but an “identifiable trifle” suffices. .Plaintiffs’ injuries may be redressed by an award of damages. Whether it is good public policy to use cumbersome and costly litigation to resolve disputes about annoying fax ads is for Congress to decide. A complaint need not anticipate defenses. View "Craftwood II, Inc. v. Generac Power Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Construction and General Laborers’ Union Number 330 v. Town of Grand Chute
Scabby the Rat is a giant, inflatable balloon that is associated with labor disputes. After the Union learned that a masonry company working at Kolosso Toyota in Grand Chute, was not paying area standard wages, it engaged in informational picketing and to set up a 12-foot Scabby in the median across from the dealer, along the frontage road for a major local thoroughfare. The Code Enforcement Officer required that the Union remove Scabby as violating the Sign Ordinance. The Union filed suit, arguing that the ordinance distinguished among signs based on content. The district court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The Town amended its Code. On remand, the district court held that the case was not moot because the Union was seeking damages for having to use greater resources to maintain the protest. The court noted that the likelihood of recurrence theory was not available because of the Code amendment and rejected the claims on the merits. The Seventh Circuit agreed that claims based on the former ordinance were not moot, despite the fact that construction was complete and that ordinance did not discriminate on the basis of content. It was narrowly tailored to meet its stated purpose—banning anything on the public right-of-way that might obstruct vision or distract passing drivers. Whatever dispute may exist over the new law is not ripe. View "Construction and General Laborers' Union Number 330 v. Town of Grand Chute" on Justia Law
Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC
The lead plaintiffs in consolidated purported class actions received faxed advertisements that allegedly did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227 and the Federal Communication Commission’s Solicited Fax Rule. Each district court refused to certify the proposed class, largely on the authority of the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, regarding the validity of the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. At a minimum, it is necessary to distinguish between faxes sent with permission of the recipient and those that are truly unsolicited. The question of what suffices for consent is central, and it is likely to vary from recipient to recipient. The district courts were within their rights to conclude that there are enough other problems with class treatment here that a class action is not a superior mechanism for adjudicating these cases. View "Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC" on Justia Law
Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc.
Defendants conduct online fantasy‐sports games. Participants pay an entry fee and select a roster, subject to a budget cap that prevents every entrant from picking only the best players. Results from real sports contests determine how each squad earns points to win cash. Former college football players whose names, pictures, and statistics have been used without their permission sued, claiming that Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, Code 32‐36‐1‐8, gives them control over the commercial use of their names and data. The district court dismissed the complaint, relying on exemptions for the use of a personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures, or mannerisms "in" material “that has political or newsworthy value” or “in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or a topic of general or public interest." The Seventh Circuit affirmed after the Supreme Court of Indiana responded to a certified question that: Indiana’ right of publicity statute contains an exception for material with newsworthy value that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ names, pictures, and statistics for online fantasy contests. View "Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law
Lyons v. Dart
In 2013, while Koger was serving a 300-day sentence in the Cook County Jail, Lyons sent him at least 10 books, plus magazines and newspapers. More than 30 books were seized from Koger’s cell for violation of Jail policy. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, Lyons and Koger claimed that limiting inmates to three pieces of reading material violated the First Amendment. The district court rejected the suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to Lyons, who lacked standing because Koger received everything she sent, but vacated as to Koger. The court noted that Koger challenged the policy, rather than the particular seizure, and that the policy provides for no pre-deprivation process. View "Lyons v. Dart" on Justia Law
Helping Hand Caregivers, Ltd. v. Darden Restaurants, Inc.
Helping Hand filed suit against Darden Restaurants, Mid Wilshire Consulting, Kang, and Jones, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, asserting that Mid Wilshire, through Kang and Jones, sent an unsolicited fax advertisement to Helping Hand on behalf of Darden. The district court granted Darden summary judgment and dismissed the claims against the remaining defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that would hold Darden strictly liable because its goods or services were advertised in a fax regardless of its authorization of such advertisement. Nothing in the statute allows the imposition of liability on an entity wholly unaware of the use of its logo in a fax. The court noted the lack of any evidence connecting Darden to the fax and Helping Hand’s lack of diligence in conducting discovery. View "Helping Hand Caregivers, Ltd. v. Darden Restaurants, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law
McCabe v. Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc.
In 2011-2012 a million people received phone calls asking them to take political surveys in exchange for a chance to go on a free cruise. Some recipients filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, seeking damages from defendants who had not placed the calls but had directed them. The district court certified a class and later granted plaintiffs partial summary judgment. The parties settled. Plaintiffs agreed to release their claims against all defendants and their agents. Defendants agreed to pay into a fund between $56 million and $76 million, depending on the number of approved claims submitted. Out of the fund will come payments to the class, incentive awards to the named representatives, about $2 million in administrative expenses, and attorneys’ fees. The class will receive payments in two rounds. If some claimants do not cash the checks during the second round, remaining funds will go to “an appropriate cy pres recipient.” Over the objections of a class member, the court approved the settlement, estimating that each claimant will receive $400. Class counsel will receive 36% of the first $10 million, 30% of the next $10 million, 24% of the next $36 million, and 18% of any additional recovery. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the award of fees overcompensates class counsel and that the settlement’s approval was improper. View "McCabe v. Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc." on Justia Law
Eli Lilly and Co. v. Arla Foods USA, Inc.
Arla, a Denmark-based global dairy conglomerate, launched a $30 million advertising campaign aimed at expanding its U.S. cheese sales, branded “Live Unprocessed.” The ads assure consumers that Arla cheese contains no “weird stuff” or “ingredients that you can’t pronounce,” particularly, no milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (“rbST”), an artificial growth hormone. The flagship ad implies that milk from rbST-treated cows is unwholesome. Narrated by a seven-year-old girl, the ad depicts rbST as a cartoon monster with razor-sharp horns. Elanco makes the only FDA-approved rbST supplement. Elanco sued, alleging that the ads contain false and misleading statements in violation of the Lanham Act. Elanco provided scientific literature documenting rbST’s safety, and evidence that a major cheese producer had decreased its demand for rbST in response to the ads. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the issuance of a preliminary injunction, rejecting arguments that Elanco failed to produce consumer surveys or other reliable evidence of actual consumer confusion and did not submit adequate evidence linking the ad campaign to decreased demand for its rbST. Consumer surveys or other “hard” evidence of actual consumer confusion are unnecessary at the preliminary-injunction stage. The evidence of causation is sufficient at this stage: the harm is easily traced because Elanco manufactures the only FDA-approved rbST. The injunction is sufficiently definite and adequately supported by the record and the judge’s findings. View "Eli Lilly and Co. v. Arla Foods USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Davis v. City of Chicago
Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) investigated complaints against police, including domestic violence, excessive force, and death in custody, and made disciplinary recommendations: allegations were “sustained,” “not sustained,” “exonerated,” or “unfounded.” Investigators interviewed witnesses and procured evidence to draft reports. IPRA’s Administrator retained final responsibility for making recommendations and establishing “rules, regulations and procedures for the conduct of investigations.” Davis became an IPRA investigator in 2008. Davis alleges that in 2014-2015, his supervisors ordered Davis to change “sustained” findings and make his reports more favorable to the accused officers. Davis refused and was allegedly threatened to with termination. Davis alleges that they requested Word versions of Davis’s reports to alter them to look like Davis had made the changes. The administrator then implemented a policy requiring his approval for all “sustained” findings: if an investigator refused to make a recommended change, he would be disciplined for insubordination. Davis again refused to change “sustained” findings and was fired. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his First Amendment claims. That an employee may have good reasons to refuse an order, does “not necessarily mean the employee has a cause of action under the First Amendment when he contravenes that order.” Because IPRA required Davis to draft and revise reports, his refusal to revise those reports was speech “pursuant to [his] official duties.” He spoke as a public employee, not a private citizen. The First Amendment does not protect this speech. View "Davis v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
A.D. v. Credit One Bank, N.A.
Credit One repeatedly called A.D.’s (a minor) cell phone about payments owed on her mother’s account. A.D., by and through her mother, Serrano, brought a putative class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A), seeking compensation for telephone calls placed by Credit One to her telephone number in an effort to collect a debt that she did not owe. During discovery, Credit One realized that its caller ID capture system had added A.D.’s phone number to its database when Serrano used A.D.’s phone to access her account. A.D. had apparently used the card, once, at her mother’s request, when she was 14 years old, in 2014. Credit One moved to compel arbitration and to defeat A.D.’s motion for class certification based on a cardholder agreement between Credit One and Serrano. The district court granted the motion to compel arbitration but certified for interlocutory appeal the question whether A.D. is bound by the cardholder agreement. The Seventh Circuit reversed the order compelling arbitration. A.D. is not bound by the terms of the cardholder agreement to arbitrate and has not directly benefited from the cardholder agreement such that equitable principles require the application of the arbitration clause against her. View "A.D. v. Credit One Bank, N.A." on Justia Law