Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
National Police Association, Inc. v. Gannett Co., Inc.
The National Police Association (NPA), a non-profit organization, describes its purpose as “educat[ing] supporters of law enforcement in how to help police departments accomplish their goals.” In 2018-2019, some police departments around the country took issue with fundraising mailers the NPA sent residents, characterizing the solicitations as deceptive. The Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press reported on the alerts issued by these police departments in articles that questioned whether the money NPA raised went to police departments. Counsel for the NPA sent a letter to the publisher and AP’s general counsel, providing notice under Indiana Code 34-15-4-2 that the NPA considered the articles defamatory and intended to sue. The letter sought a retraction and removal of public access to online copies of the stories. NPA subsequently sued the publishers, alleging libel. The district court dismissed its case, reasoning that NPA never alleged “actual malice”—that the publishers were aware of an inaccuracy or had serious doubts about the accuracy of the material—when the stories were first published.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting “a novel interpretation of the Restatement (Second) Torts 577(2)” that would create a requirement that internet publishers remove previously published libelous information. The court declined to certify questions to the Indiana Supreme Court to confirm that such a duty exists in Indiana. The alleged duty lacks doctrinal support. View "National Police Association, Inc. v. Gannett Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Brown v. Fofana
Brown injured his knee when he fell at his former prison. He received medical care and was placed on “special needs,” which included being assigned a lower bunk, a wheelchair, and crutches. Weeks later, Brown was transferred. Over the first few months, he spent time in segregation. Brown repeatedly asked several times for medical care but received none. He was later moved to a shared cell where his cellmate, who was disabled, slept in the lower bunk. While climbing to his top bunk, Brown fell. Afterward, Brown saw a doctor who said that Brown needed surgery but that the prison would not provide it. Brown then asked the prison’s “special needs committee” to provide him “accommodations,” and he “filed an ADA reasonable accommodation request.” He also alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed.The Seventh Circuit reversed, in part. Brown alleged a viable failure-to-accommodate claim, 42 U.S.C. 12132. Brown’s complaint did not need to identify any particular legal theory, nor did it need to allege all legal elements of a particular claim. Brown’s alleged knee injury renders him disabled under the ADA and he alleged failure to accommodate his disability. No rule of law required Brown to identify a particular accommodation in his complaint. The ADA “does not create a remedy for medical malpractice” but Brown’s claim is not about allegedly substandard medical care. View "Brown v. Fofana" on Justia Law
Baysal v. Midvale Indemnity Co.
Midvale created an “instant quote” feature on their websites. Anyone who supplied basic identifying information could receive a quote for auto insurance. Each site would auto-fill some information, including the number of the applicant’s driver’s license. Anyone could enter a stranger’s name and home address, which caused the form to disclose the number of the stranger’s driver’s license. Midvale discontinued the autofill feature after observing unusual activity suggesting misuse, and notified people whose information had been disclosed improperly. Three people who received Midvale’s notice filed a purported class action under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721–25.The district court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing, having failed to show a concrete injury traceable to the disclosure. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that whether the Act applies at all is questionable. Its principal rule is directed to state officials rather than private actors. A driver’s-license number is not potentially embarrassing or an intrusion on seclusion. It is a neutral fact derived from public records, a fact legitimately known to many private actors and freely revealed to banks, insurers, hotels, and others. Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Midvale’s disclosure of their numbers caused them any injury, and the disclosure of a number in common use by both public and private actors does not correspond to any tort. View "Baysal v. Midvale Indemnity Co." on Justia Law
Hakim v. Safariland, LLC
Hakim, a DuPage County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) SWAT officer, was accidentally shot by a colleague during a training exercise, using a Safariland “breaching” shotgun round. Breaching rounds assist in breaking down doors by disabling hinges and other attachments on doorframes. When used as intended, they disintegrate harmlessly on impact with a metal attachment mechanism. Hakim’s fellow officer missed the door hinge he was shooting at. The round struck wood, remained live, and hit Hakim in the spine. Hakim’s 13-month recovery required multiple surgeries. He still experiences severe pain. Hakim sued Safariland under Illinois’s strict product liability law. Hakim claimed that the Safariland round was defective in its manufacture and design and that Safariland failed to provide adequate warning that its rounds do not disintegrate if they strike wood instead of metal.A jury found for Safariland on the manufacturing- and design-defect claims, but awarded Hakim $7.5 million on his failure-to-warn claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The fact that the rounds might be complex in some respects does not mean that expert testimony is required for every product liability claim involving them. The jury reasonably could have found Safariland’s warnings inadequate. Even assuming that DCSO was negligent, Safariland’s own failure to warn could constitute an additional proximate cause of Hakim’s injuries. The jury’s award of $7.5 million, “while perhaps on the high side,” was not unreasonable. View "Hakim v. Safariland, LLC" on Justia Law
Burns v. Sherwin-Williams Co.
Burns, working as a truck driver for a transportation company, made a delivery to the Bolingbrook, Illinois Sherwin-Williams store. Burns and a store employee used the company’s walkie—a hand-operated electric forklift—to move pallets holding the products from Burns’s truck, up a small ramp, and into the store’s warehouse. When they finished unloading, Burns backed the walkie down the ramp in reverse to return the empty pallets to his truck. He moved in the direction of a dumpster and other pallets that were on the ground beside it. Burns miscalculated how long it would take to stop the walkie as he approached the pallets, trapped his foot, and broke his ankle.Burns sued Sherwin-Williams, alleging that the company failed to exercise ordinary care by leaving the empty pallets in the work area and providing an unsafe walkie. The district court granted Sherwin-Williams summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under Illinois law, Sherwin-Williams owed no duty to Burns. The discarded pallets were an open and obvious condition. The court declined to apply the doctrine’s deliberate encounter exception: “Where the possessor of land has reason to expect that the invitee will proceed to encounter the known or obvious danger because, to a reasonable man in his position, the advantages of doing so would outweigh the apparent risk.” The court upheld the exclusion of expert testimony that the walkie was unsafe as unreliable under Rule 702. View "Burns v. Sherwin-Williams Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Personal Injury
Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc.
Hoping to minimize her risk of suffering serious complications from future blood clots, Johnson underwent surgery to implant a retrievable intravascular filter–a medical device that is placed in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots that develop in the lower body from flowing into the heart and lungs. Johnson’s doctor selected the Meridian filter, which was supposed to be temporary and easily removable. Johnson’s filter migrated and fractured, leaving shards embedded in the wall of her heart and elsewhere. Her surgeon was unable to remove the device safely and fully. As a result, Johnson faces an ongoing risk of infection, pain, and other complications.Johnson sued the manufacturers of the Meridian filter (Bard), claiming that they defectively designed the Meridian filter and failed to warn medical providers about the device’s risks, in violation of Wisconsin law. A jury rejected most of Johnson’s theories but returned a $3.3 million verdict in her favor on her strict liability failure-to-warn count. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that its decision “should not be misinterpreted as our endorsement of some of Johnson’s counsel’s trial tactics.” There was no reversible error in instructing the jury or in permitting certain testimony, in alleged violation of expert witness disclosure requirements. View "Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law
Lisby v. Henderson
On the night of May 6, 2020, Lisby, eight months pregnant, and Lewis walked along the shoulder of State Road 37 in Indianapolis to get back to their motel. Indianapolis Officer Henderson was driving to work in his police vehicle on the same road, at 78 miles per hour, 33 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. He illegally changed lanes over a solid white line and his vehicle partially crossed the fog line onto the shoulder of the road. Henderson struck Lisby without seeing her while still traveling at 55 miles per hour. Lisby was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Lisby and Lewis’s child was born at the hospital by emergency Cesarian section but died shortly after delivery. Henderson was acting within the course and scope of his employment as a police officer when he killed Lisby.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Henderson. The complaint failed to plead sufficient facts plausibly suggesting that Henderson acted with the criminal recklessness necessary to establish a due process violation. View "Lisby v. Henderson" on Justia Law
Ye v. GlobalTranz Enterprises, Inc.
Ye sought to recover against GlobalTranz, a freight broker, following the death of her husband in a highway accident. Ye claimed, under Illinois law, that GlobalTranz negligently hired the motor carrier (Sunrise) that employed the driver of the truck that caused the accident. Ye obtained a $10 million default judgment against Sunrise.The district court concluded that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act’s express preemption provision in 49 U.S.C. 14501(c)(1) bars Ye’s claim against GlobalTranz and that the Act’s safety exception in 14501(c)(2)(A) does not save the claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the significant economic effects that would result from imposing state negligence standards on brokers. Congress broadly disallowed state laws that impede its deregulatory goals, with a specific carveout for laws within a state’s “safety regulatory authority." Ye’s negligent hiring claim against GlobalTranz falls within 14501(c)(1)’s express prohibition on the enforcement of state laws “related to a ... service of any ... broker ... with respect to the transportation of property.” Rejecting the "safety exception" claim, the court reasoned that a common law negligence claim enforced against a broker is not a law that is “with respect to motor vehicles." View "Ye v. GlobalTranz Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Baptist v. Kijakazi
Following a 2013 car accident, Michelle Baptist, then 50 years old, began experiencing significant neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches. She had one, possibly two, aneurysms. She applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income the following year. After reviewing her medical records and conducting a hearing, an administrative law judge concluded that Baptist retained the capacity to perform light work and, therefore, was not disabled.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence. Despite initial complications from an aneurysm clipping procedure, Baptist’s medical records indicate that she made a full recovery and experienced no ongoing aneurysm-related symptoms. Two doctors reviewed Baptist’s 2018 MRI. Neither recorded any concerns nor did they observe any impact the MRI results would have on Baptist’s functional capacity. They noted that Baptist presented with full upper and lower extremity strength, normal reflexes, a normal gait, and “no overt weakness.” View "Baptist v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law
Smith v. Crounse Corp.
Crounse delivered barges to Mulzer, which cleaned the barges, loaded them with Mulzer’s crushed stone, delivered the stone, cleaned the barges again, and released the barges to Crounse. Crounse’s barges were used by other companies to haul other materials. Barges carrying coal sometimes returned with as much as a foot of coal remaining in the hopper. Mulzer would clear the coal and sell it for a profit. Mulzer's employee, Smith, was operating a skid steer with a “blade” positioned at its lowest height to push coal to the front of the hopper for removal with a broom. The blade hit a "scab." Smith was propelled forward. Smith’s seatbelt failed; he was injured when he hit a safety bar. The hopper floor scab resulted from a split seam, 12-14 inches long, and a few inches tall. The barge was 24 years old. Crounse had procedures for regularly inspecting and repairing its barge, including the hopper. Crounse had received no reports of damage to the barge; 23 days before Smith’s accident, the barge had been cleaned by a blade without incident.Smith sued Crounse under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901, and general maritime law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Crounse. Smith lacked evidence that Crounse’s inspection and repair procedures were inadequate; that Crounse had actual knowledge or should have known of the defect in the exercise of ordinary care; and did not demonstrate that Crounse failed to comply with its turnover duties. View "Smith v. Crounse Corp." on Justia Law