Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
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Lightspeed operates online pornography sites and sued a defendant, identified only Internet Protocol address, which was allegedly associated with unlawful viewing of Lightspeed’s content, using a “hacked” password. Lightspeed identified 6,600 others (by IP addresses only) as “co‐conspirators” in a scheme to steal passwords and content. Lightspeed, acting ex parte, served subpoenas on the ISPs (then non‐parties) for the personally identifiable information of each alleged coconspirator, none of whom had been joined as parties. The ISPs moved to quash and for a protective order. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the ISPs. Lightspeed amended its complaint to name as co‐conspirator parties the ISPs and unidentified “corporate representatives,” alleging negligence, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030 and 1030(g), and deceptive practices. Lightspeed issued new subpoenas seeking the personally identifiable information. The ISPs removed the case to federal court. The district judge denied an emergency motion to obtain the identification information. After several “changes” with respect to Lightspeed’s lawyers, the court stated that they “demonstrated willingness to deceive … about their operations, relationships, and financial interests have varied from feigned ignorance to misstatements to outright lies … calculated so that the Court would grant early‐discovery requests, thereby allowing [them] to identify defendants and exact settlement proceeds.” After granting Lightspeed’s motion for voluntary dismissal, the court granted attorney’s fees under 28 U.S.C. 1927, stating that the litigation “smacked of bullying pretense.” Failing to pay, the lawyers were found to be in civil contempt and ordered to pay 10% of the original sanctions award to cover costs for the contempt litigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Duffy v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Employers that withdraw from underfunded multiemployer pension plans must pay their share of the shortfall. They can seek recalculation of the plans' assessment within 90 days, 29 U.S.C. 1399(b)(2)(A), and within another 60 days, may invoke a process that the Act calls arbitration, though it is neither contractual nor consensual. Central States Pension Fund concluded that US Foods has withdrawn in part and assessed liability in 2008 and in 2009. US Foods timely requested arbitration of the 2009 assessment, but did not timely seek arbitration of the 2008 assessment. In the Fund’s suit to collect the 2008 assessment, US Foods asked the court to order the arbitrator to calculate the amount due for 2008 and 2009 jointly. The court ruled that US Foods had missed the deadline for arbitral resolution of the 2008 assessment. US Foods appealed, relying on 9 U.S.C.16(a)(1)(B), which authorizes an interlocutory appeal from an order “denying a petition under section 4 of this title to order arbitration to proceed”. The Seventh Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. An order declining to interfere in the conduct of an arbitration is not an order “denying a petition under section 4 of this title to order arbitration to proceed” under section 16(a)(1)(B). View "Cent. States SE & SW Areas Pension Fund v. US Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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The government sued to enforce tax assessments against the Zabkas and tax liens against their property and against property of partnerships to which they had transferred assets. The district court ruled that the assessments (several million dollars) were valid and that, when the IRS made the assessments, the liens had attached to all the Zabkas’ personal property and to all their rights to property, including their ownership interests in the partnerships. The government sought appointment of a receiver. The court denied motions to reconsider calculation of the unpaid assessments, and directed the clerk to enter judgment. The order is captioned “Judgment in a civil case” and states: “Judgment is entered in favor of the Plaintiff.” The docket entry adds: “CASE TERMINATED.” The Zabkas appealed. The Zabkas filed another appeal from a subsequent order, which directed the government to propose a receiver. The judge ordered appointment of the receiver proposed by the government. The defendants appealed that order. They later appealed approval of property sales by the receiver and an order awarding interim compensation to the receiver. The Seventh Circuit concluded that it had jurisdiction only over the appeal from the appointment of the receiver and affirmed that order, which was the last order in the first proceeding and so completed that proceeding. View "United States v. Zabka" on Justia Law

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Gamesa contracted with Minnesota-based Outland Renewable Energy to provide maintenance for Gamesa wind turbines. Iberdrola operated Gamesa-made turbines at the Cayuga Wind Farm in Illinois. While servicing a Cayuga urbine, Outland employee McCoy was electrocuted when the turbine unexpectedly reenergized. McCoy filed a personal injury case in state court against Iberdro and Gamesa. The case was removed to federal court on diversity of citizenship grounds. Iberdro impleaded Outland to seek indemnification based on contract and the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act. Outland raised 22 counterclaims: including indemnification; federal and state antitrust claims (Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas law); and other state law claims. Outland unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction against Gamesa’s allegedly unfair competitive practices. The district court dismissed all but one of Outland’s counterclaims. Only the indemnification claim survived. McCoy, Gamesa, and Outland settled. The district court accepted the settlement, protecting Outland and Gamesa from further contribution claims under the Illinois JTCA; all claims arising from the accident among those parties were dismissed. Only the original personal injury dispute between McCoy and Iberdrola remained, but the court had not issued a final judgment. About six months after the dismissal, Outland sought leave to amend, arguing for the first time that the substantive law of Minnesota should apply. The district court determined that Outland had waived that issue and denied leave to amend based on futility and undue delay. The proposed amended counterclaims arose from Gamesa’s 2011 attempt to acquire Outland. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Outland’s third-party counterclaims are not part of the original case, so Outland needed an independent basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction to assert them in this lawsuit. The court characterized Outland’s arguments as “desperate.” View "McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fellowes filed a breach-of-contract suit against Changzou Fellowes, a business established in China, under the international diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). Without discussing subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court entered a preliminary injunction in favor of Fellowes, despite the court’s assumption that Changzhou Fellowes had not been served with process. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that diversity jurisdiction is proper only if Changzhou Fellowes has its own citizenship, independent of its investors or members. Deciding whether a business enterprise based in a foreign nation should be treated as a corporation for the purpose of section 1332 can be difficult. Given the parties’ agreement that Changzhou Fellowes is closer to a limited liability company than to any other business structure in the U.S., it does not have its own citizenship and it does have the Illinois citizenship of its member Hong Kong Fellowes, which prevents litigation under the diversity jurisdiction. View "Fellowes Inc. v. Changzhou Xinrui Fellowes Office Equip. Co." on Justia Law

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Idento makes robotic milking machines in the Netherlands. BouMatic, LLC, based in Wisconsin, entered into an agreement for purchasing and reselling those machines in Belgium. BouMatic claims that Idento breached the agreement by selling direct to at least one of BouMatic’s Belgian customers and by failing to provide parts and warranty service. The district court dismissed, ruling that commercial transactions in the European Union do not expose Idento to litigation in Wisconsin even though BouMatic has its headquarters there, the parties exchanged drafts between Wisconsin and the Netherlands, and Idento shipped one machine to Wisconsin. After exploring the nature of the business entities, the Seventh Circuit vacated for consideration of personal jurisdiction in light of the contract language. Litigants cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction by agreement or omission, but personal jurisdiction is a personal right that a litigant may waive or forfeit. View "BouMatic LLC v. Idento Operations BV" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Sheth, a cardiologist, pled guilty to a single count of healthcare fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347. As agreed by Sheth, the district court entered an order of criminal forfeiture for cash and investment accounts then valued at $13 million plus real estate and a vehicle. The government represented that the forfeited assets represented the proceeds of Sheth’s fraud, calculated to be about $13 million. Sheth’s plea agreement specifies that forfeited assets would be credited against the amount of restitution, which the district court had determined to be $12,376,310. In 2012, before the government had liquidated all of the forfeited assets or disbursed any of the proceeds, it sought more of Sheth’s assets to apply to restitution. Sheth objected. Without resolving the factual dispute, the district court ordered turnover of the assets, which were held by third parties. The Seventh Circuit vacated, holding that the court erred by ordering turnover of the assets without first allowing for discovery and holding an evidentiary hearing. View "United States v. Sheth" on Justia Law

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King was in police custody awaiting a probable cause determination in 2007. After being rapidly tapered off his psychotropic medication by jail medical staff, complaining of seizure-like symptoms, and being placed in an isolated cell for seven hours, he was found dead. His estate sued La Crosse County and individual employees. After a remand, six weeks before the trial date, after unsuccessful settlement discussions, King’s counsel asserted in a letter to the defendants that the correct standard for jury instructions in the upcoming trial was one of objective reasonableness, not the deliberate indifference standard that had been used by both parties in the pleadings, the summary judgment briefing, the subsequent appeal, and remand pretrial preparations. The assertion was correct as a matter of law, but shortly after receiving the letter, defendants moved that King be precluded from arguing the applicability of the objective reasonableness standard because of her tardiness in asserting the argument. The district court agreed and ordered that the case be tried as scheduled under the deliberate indifference standard. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, acknowledging that King’s long, unexplained delay in asserting the correct standard was puzzling and problematic, but stating that the district court failed to provide a sufficient explanation of how the defendants would suffer prejudice as a result of the delay. View "King v. Kramer" on Justia Law

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E.Y., a child, was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy. His mother alleges that E.Y.’s illness resulted from medical malpractice by the federally-funded Friend Family Health Center, where she received her prenatal care, and the private University of Chicago Hospital, where she gave birth. Federal law makes a suit against the Center a suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) that had to be filed within the FTCA’s two-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 2401(b). The district court granted summary judgment for the government, finding that the suit was filed about two weeks too late. The mother argued that although she was aware she might have a claim against the University Hospital more than two years before filing this suit, she remained unaware that the Friend Center might be involved until she received a partial set of medical records on December 14, 2006, making her suit timely. The Seventh Circuit reversed. A reasonable trier of fact could find that Ms. Wallace the mother was unaware and had no reason to be aware of the Friend Center’s potential involvement in her son’s injuries until less than two years before she filed suit. View "E. Y., v. United States" on Justia Law

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Shuffle makes consumer grade automatic card-shuffling equipment. Wolff distributes casino grade gaming equipment. In 2010 the two signed a letter of intent that Shuffle, with financial assistance from Wolff, would develop casino-grade shuffling equipment, and Wolff would become its exclusive distributor. Before development of the new equipment was completed, Shuffle ended the relationship and sought a declaratory judgment that the agreement was not an enforceable contract. Wolff counterclaimed, claiming breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment. The district judge granted summary judgment in favor of Shuffle with respect both to its claim for declaratory relief and to Wolff’s counterclaims, essentially rescinding the agreement. In its complaint, Shuffle acknowledged that it would have to return $124,940 earnest money to Wolff, but the order failed to mention the earnest money. Shuffle ignored Wolff’s request for a refund. Wolff moved, under FRCP 60, that the court order Shuffle to refund the money. The judge entered a post-judgment order requiring the refund, without mentioning Rule 60 or any other ground for amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that “if the flaw lies in the translation of the original meaning to the judgment, then Rule 60(a) allows a correction.” The correction just made explicit what the parties must have assumed; that with the draft agreement rescinded the earnest money had to be returned. View "Shuffle Tech Int'l, LLC v. Wolff Gaming, Inc." on Justia Law