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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
by
Olson and Zdroik sustained injuries while volunteering at municipal fireworks displays in 2018. Fireworks distributed by Spielbauer Fireworks exploded prematurely at both events, severely burning the two. Both towns used teams of volunteers to operate their Fourth of July displays. Olson opened and closed a bin from which other volunteers retrieved fireworks during the Rib Lake show. Zdroik worked at the Land O’Lakes event as a “shooter,” manually lighting the fuses on mortar shells.Spielbauer’s insurer, T.H.E. Insurance, contested coverage under Spielbauer’s general and excess liability policies, which stated: This policy shall NOT provide coverage of any kind ... for any claims arising out of injuries or death to shooters or their assistants hired to perform fireworks displays or any other persons assisting or aiding in the display of fireworks whether or not any of the foregoing are employed by the Named Insured, any shooter or any assistant. The issue was whether the exclusion extends to all volunteers or only to those assisting hired shooters or hired assistants.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of T.H.E. Insurance. The Shooters Endorsement plainly and unambiguously excludes from coverage hired shooters and their hired assistants and “any other persons” who assist the fireworks display, regardless of whether they assist hired persons. View "T.H.E. Insurance Co. v. Olson" on Justia Law

by
A Wisconsin newspaper owned by Gannett published an article about Batterman and his business, Financial Fiduciaries, describing a judicial proceeding in which several trust beneficiaries successfully removed Batterman as de facto trustee of a $3 million fund. The court concluded that Batterman violated his fiduciary duties. Although the court did not rule on whether Batterman committed criminal acts, it ordered him to pay the beneficiaries’ litigation expenses because his conduct “amounted to something of bad faith, fraud or deliberate dishonesty.” Batterman sent a retraction letter to the newspaper. Weeks later, the newspaper revised the article but did not remove it. Batterman then sued Gannett for defamation. The district court entered judgment for Gannett, finding that the allegedly defamatory statements were substantially true and protected by Wisconsin’s judicial-proceedings privilege, which protects publishers that report court activity.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court correctly ruled that the only plausible defamation claim in Batterman’s complaint pertained to the implication that he committed elder abuse. The other defamatory statements were substantially true and privileged. Mishandling a deceased person’s estate may not always constitute elder abuse, but a reasonable jury could not conclude that observing the relationship between Batterman’s conduct and elder abuse constituted a false statement. View "Financial Fiduciaries, LLC v. Gannett Co., Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendant after finding that the injuries Plaintiff suffered while he was at Defendant's scrap facility were within the scope of a valid exculpatory clause that Plaintiff signed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below.Plaintiff, an independent contractor for another business, delivered scrap metal to Defendant's scrap metal yard in Illinois. Before Plaintiff could enter Defendant's facility for the first time each year, Plaintiff signed an agreement containing an exculpatory clause releasing Defendant of any liability for injuries sustained at the facility. When Plaintiff was injured at Defendant's facility he filed suit, alleging negligence and willful and wanton conduct. The district court ruled in favor of Defendant, concluding that the exculpatory clause in the agreement barred the claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that, while Defendant's conduct may have been negligent, the conduct was not outside the scope of the exculpatory clause. View "Munoz v. Nucor Steel Kankakee, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the City of Milwaukee and various police officers (collectively, Defendants), holding that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.Plaintiff was convicted of burglary and sexual assault and served twenty-four years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence and his convictions were vacated. Plaintiff subsequently brought this lawsuit alleging that the police and City violated his due process rights in several ways. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the officers' conduct was not "clearly established" as unlawful at the time of Plaintiff's arrest, and therefore, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Holloway v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing North American Elite Insurance Company's (North American) claims against Menard, holding that there was no error.After a Menard employee hit a customer with a forklift the customer brought a negligence suit against Menard and its employee in state court. Menard carried two levels of personal injury liability insurance at the time. Liability exceeding $3 million fell under an umbrella policy with North American. The jury returned a $13 million verdict, which was reduced to a $6 million settlement. North American indemnified Menard for liability in excess of $3 million then brought this action against Menard in federal court, arguing that Menard violated its duties under Illinois law by rejecting a settlement offer and proceeding to trial. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that North American was not entitled to relief on its claims of error. View "North American Elite Insurance v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this action brought the estate of Jonah Marciniak and Marciniak's son pursuing both federal and state claims stemming from Marciniak's arrest and ensuing suicide, the Seventh District held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Village of Shorewood and three of its officers who arrested Marciniak after his roommate fell from a fourth story window, holding that there was no error.After arresting Marciniak and placing him in a booking cell, Marciniak used his t-shirt to hang himself. Marciniak died six days later. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the three officers falsely arrested Marciniak without probable cause and failed to provide medical care and attention and to protect from self-harm. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants had an absolute defense of probable cause to Plaintiffs' claims; and (2) even if the officers did not have probable cause to arrest for battery, they were still entitled to qualified immunity. View "Jump v. Village of Shorewood" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit held that district courts may make the decision whether to recruit counsel for an otherwise pro se litigant under 28 U.S. 1915(e)(1) based, in part, on considerations of the strength or weakness of the underlying claims, in keeping with the practical approach of Pruitt and mindful that pro bono lawyers are not a limitless resource.Plaintiff, a federal inmate, sued Defendants after he developed glaucoma. On four occasions, Plaintiff invoked section 1915(e)(1), asking the district to recruit pro bono counsel to represent him. The district court eventually entered summary judgment for Defendants and refused to recruit counsel under the statute. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court's conclusion that Plaintiff's likelihood of success on his negligence claims was too remote to warrant marshaling legal and expert resources toward his case was wholly consistent with the Pruitt framework; and (2) none of Plaintiff's other arguments on appeal lacked merit. View "Watts v. Kidman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the United States Army and dismissing Gerald Swain's claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq., alleging disability discrimination, holding that there was no error.As a civilian employee at an Army installation in Illinois, Swain asked for and received several accommodations for his physical limitations. Swain later brought this lawsuit against the Army, alleging failure to accommodate, disparate treatment, and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the Army. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Army met its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act. View "Swain v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

by
During a decade as a member of USA Gymnastics, J.J. was one of the hundreds of gymnasts sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the organization’s physician. In response to the claims based on Nassar’s conduct, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court set a deadline for filing proofs of claim. USA Gymnastics mailed notices to all known survivors who had filed or threatened to file lawsuits, had reported abuse, had entered into a settlement agreement, or had received payment as a result of an allegation of abuse--more than 1,300 individuals. USA Gymnastics also emailed copies of the notice to more than 360,000 current and former USA Gymnastics members, and placed information about the bar date on its website, social media pages, in USA Today, and in gymnastics journals, podcasts, and websites J.J. did not receive actual notice and filed her proof of claim five months late.The bankruptcy court treated her claim as untimely. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed. J.J. argued that she was entitled to actual notice; she claimed USA Gymnastics should have known that she was a potential claimant because it needed to retain medical records under Michigan law and should have known that she had seen Nassar for medical care. The court found no evidence that USA Gymnastics had these records; J.J.’s argument that Michigan law required retention of any relevant documents “is dubious.” View "Jane Doe JJ v. USA Gymnastics" on Justia Law

by
To treat her endometriosis, Paulsen received Lupron injections in 2004 from her physician in Georgia. Shortly afterward she began experiencing health problems, including severe bone and joint pain, memory loss, and fevers. In April 2010, Paulsen filed a personal injury suit. Paulsen voluntarily dismissed her claims in 2014. In 2015, Paulsen filed a second lawsuit asserting product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. After several amended complaints and the addition of a defendant, two claims remained: a strict liability failure-to-warn claim against AbbVie and Abbott; and a negligent misrepresentation claim against Abbott. Limited discovery was permitted.The district court subsequently applied Illinois procedural law and Georgia substantive law, reasoning that Paulsen’s injury occurred in Georgia, and Illinois lacked a stronger relationship to the action, then granted the defendants summary judgment. The court ruled that Paulsen’s strict liability failure-to-warn claim was time-barred by Georgia’s 10-year statute of repose. Georgia does not recognize a stand-alone misrepresentation claim in product liability cases. Even if this cause of action did exist, the court reasoned, Paulsen’s misrepresentation claim would fail because “the undisputed evidence show[ed] that Abbott did not make any representations regarding Lupron.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court noted extensive evidence that Paulsen’s claims accrued before April 2008 and are barred by the Illinois two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries. View "Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law