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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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On July 4, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in Highland Park, Illinois, where Robert Eugene Crimo III used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle to kill seven people and wound 48 others. Victims of the shooting and their estates filed multiple consolidated suits against Crimo, his father, the gun shops where Crimo acquired the rifle, and the rifle's manufacturer, Smith & Wesson. The plaintiffs argued that Smith & Wesson should not have offered the M&P15 to civilians, as it is a machine gun reserved for police and military use. They also claimed that the manufacturer is liable because the weapon was advertised in a way that attracted irresponsible individuals.The defendants, including Smith & Wesson, filed notices of removal to federal court, asserting that the victims' claims arise under federal law. However, the two Crimos, who are the principal asserted wrongdoers, neither filed their own notices of removal nor consented to Smith & Wesson’s. This led the plaintiffs to move for remand, arguing that all defendants must consent to removal under federal law. Smith & Wesson countered that removal was authorized by a statute that allows removal whether or not other defendants elect to be in federal court.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois was not persuaded by Smith & Wesson's arguments and remanded the cases to state court. Smith & Wesson appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand the cases to state court. The court rejected Smith & Wesson's argument that the state suits presented multiple "claims" against them, stating that the company's belief that each legal theory is a separate "claim" is incorrect. The court clarified that the core claim in these suits is that Crimo killed and injured multiple persons, and Smith & Wesson may bear secondary liability for their role in facilitating his acts. The court also suggested that the district judge should consider whether Smith & Wesson must reimburse the plaintiffs' costs and fees occasioned by the unjustified removal and appeal. View "Roberts v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between Zhen Feng Lin, a food delivery driver who was severely injured in a car accident, and his employer's insurance company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. After the accident, Lin received a settlement from the at-fault driver's insurance company, and workers' compensation benefits from his employer's insurance carrier, Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Lin later sought additional recovery under his employer's underinsured motorist policy with Hartford Accident.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that Lin and Hartford Accident had not entered into a "settlement agreement" as defined by the insurance policy. As a result, the court ruled that the policy limits should be reduced by the amount Lin received in workers' compensation benefits. The court also agreed with the district court that Lin should be credited for the amount he paid to settle the workers' compensation lien.Additionally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Lin's counterclaims for bad faith and breach of contract. The court found no plausible claim supporting the argument that Hartford Accident unreasonably delayed settling Lin's claim. Lin's request for statutory penalties for Hartford Accident's purported delay in handling his claim was also denied.Finally, the court denied both parties' motions for sanctions. Lin's appeal was deemed frivolous in part, but the court exercised its discretion not to impose sanctions. View "Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company v. Lin" on Justia Law

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In this case heard by the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, plaintiffs Terri and Louis LoBianco appealed a district court's summary judgment in favor of Bonefish Grill, LLC. Terri LoBianco had slipped and fallen at a Bonefish Grill restaurant in Skokie, Illinois, dislocating her hip and requiring four surgeries. She claimed she slipped on a pool of liquid that the restaurant had negligently failed to clean. Louis LoBianco claimed loss of consortium due to his wife's injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Bonefish Grill, concluding that Terri LoBianco failed to identify the proximate cause of her fall and injury.The appellate court, however, held a different view. After a careful review of the facts and applying Illinois tort law, the court concluded that Terri LoBianco had consistently identified a liquid as the cause of her fall and had done so with certainty. This, coupled with supporting testimony from third parties, was enough to create a disputed issue of fact. The court found that this was not mere speculation but was based on Terri's sensory perception and consistent testimony.As a result, the appellate court reversed the district court's summary judgment on Terri's negligence claim and Louis's loss of consortium claim. The case was remanded for trial, as the court held that there was sufficient evidence to create a jury issue about whether liquid on Bonefish Grill’s floor caused Terri to slip and injure herself. View "LoBianco v. Bonefish Grill, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a case involving a series of toxic tort claims brought by individuals allegedly harmed by lead paint pigment, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The case involved approximately 170 plaintiffs, all alleging injuries stemming from their exposure to white lead carbonate, a lead paint pigment, when they were children. The district court had granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims, based largely on the legal doctrine of "issue preclusion" and "law of the case." The appellate court agreed with much of the district court's reasoning. However, it held that a small group of plaintiffs who had filed their own separate cases had a due process right to try their cases separately. The appellate court also disagreed with the district court's application of issue preclusion to another group of plaintiffs who had filed separate cases and hadn't participated in the earlier proceedings. The appellate court concluded that these plaintiffs had not had a "full and fair opportunity to litigate" the issue of the defendants' duty to warn under a lead dust-based theory of liability. The court therefore sent the cases back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Thompson v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal of multiple toxic tort cases, approximately 170 plaintiffs alleged harm from exposure to white lead carbonate (WLC), a lead paint pigment, during their childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s. They sued several manufacturers of WLC for negligence and strict liability. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision in part and reversed in part. The court upheld the district court’s application of the law of the case doctrine to dismiss many of the plaintiffs' claims, finding that the plaintiffs had chosen to bring their claims under a single complaint and were therefore bound by the court's earlier rulings. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment against a small group of plaintiffs who had filed their own cases, ruling that due process protected their right to try their claims. View "Gibson v. Armstrong Containers, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this toxic tort case, a group of plaintiffs alleged that they were harmed by exposure to white lead carbonate (WLC), a lead paint pigment, while growing up in Milwaukee homes in the 1990s and early 2000s. They sought to hold several manufacturers of WLC liable under state-law negligence and strict liability theories. The case was managed such that groups of plaintiffs would try their claims in a series of waves. The initial waves of plaintiffs met defeat in both the district court and the Court of Appeals, resulting in summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. The district court then extended these rulings to the remaining plaintiffs based on the law of the case and issue preclusion.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit determined that most of the plaintiffs indeed were bound by the district court's rulings due to their decision to proceed under a single complaint. However, a small group of plaintiffs who filed their own cases were found to be entitled to try their claims, as due process protected their rights. The court affirmed the district court's decision in large part, but reversed it in small part, sending the case back to the district court for further proceedings with respect to this small group of plaintiffs. View "Cannon v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law

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In this toxic tort case, about 170 individuals allege that they were harmed by lead paint pigment. The plaintiffs, who were joined together in a single complaint, brought claims against several manufacturers of the pigment. After a series of trials, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. The court then extended these rulings to the remaining plaintiffs on law of the case and issue preclusion grounds. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in large part but reversed in small part. The appellate court held that the law of the case doctrine properly applied to a group of plaintiffs who had opted to proceed under a single complaint and whose claims were sunk after summary judgment. However, the court reversed the district court's decision as to a small group of plaintiffs who filed their own cases, noting that due process protects their right to try their claims. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' request to revisit or certify certain questions addressed in a prior ruling, and affirmed that ruling based on the principle of stare decisis. View "Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law

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The case arises from severe burns suffered by a minor, B.D., when a Samsung SDI battery exploded in his pocket in Indiana. B.D. sued Samsung SDI, a corporation organized under the laws of the Republic of Korea with no physical presence in Indiana, in Indiana state court for product liability. Samsung SDI moved the case to federal court and sought to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court denied Samsung SDI's motion to dismiss, finding that specific personal jurisdiction existed over Samsung SDI in Indiana. Samsung SDI subsequently appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court's record did not contain sufficient facts to assess whether the requirements of the stream-of-commerce theory, which may establish a defendant's minimum contacts with a forum state, were met in this case. The court also found that the district court's reliance on the Supreme Court case of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eight Judicial District Court was distinguishable as Samsung SDI did not advertise, sell, or service the specific batteries in question in Indiana. The court noted that the extent of Samsung SDI's knowledge and expectations about the 18650 batteries entering Indiana was unclear.The court also found that the record did not clearly show whether Samsung SDI's contacts with Indiana were related to the alleged injury. Lastly, the court determined that more facts were needed to assess whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be fair.Given these uncertainties, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for further jurisdictional discovery to gather more information about Samsung SDI's contacts with Indiana concerning B.D.'s claimed injuries. The court clarified that this remand was limited to the question of personal jurisdiction and did not obligate the district court to consider or reconsider any non-jurisdictional issues. View "B. D. v. Samsung SDI Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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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

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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