Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Thompson v. Armstrong Containers Inc.
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
Gibson v. Armstrong Containers, Inc.
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
Cannon v. Armstrong Containers Inc.
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
Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc.
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
B. D. v. Samsung SDI Co., Ltd.
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
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