Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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An aircraft engine caught fire during testing in South Carolina. Rolls-Royce had manufactured and sold the engine to Boeing for incorporation into a 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Boeing demanded compensation from Rolls-Royce. In 2017, the companies settled for $12 million. Rolls-Royce then sought indemnification from Servotronics, the manufacturer of a valve. Under a long-term agreement between Rolls-Royce and Servotronics, any dispute not resolved through negotiation or mediation must be submitted to binding arbitration in England, under the rules of the Chartered Institute of Arbiters (CIArb). Rolls-Royce initiated arbitration with the CIArb. Servotronics filed an ex parte application in the Northern District of Illinois, seeking a subpoena compelling Boeing to produce documents for use in the London arbitration. The subpoena was issued, then quashed.The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Rolls-Royce. A district court may order a person within the district to give testimony or produce documents “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal,” 28 U.S.C. 1782(a). Section 1782(a) does not authorize the district court to compel discovery for use in a private foreign arbitration. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of a taxpayers' suit, challenging Cook County’s pre-2008 property tax assessments. The district court had determined that it lacked jurisdiction under the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, because Illinois offered the taxpayers a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy.” The Seventh Circuit held that Illinois’s procedures left these taxpayers no remedy. Mandate issued in April 2020, The case returned to the district court. In June, the defendants sought a stay pending the resolution of a petition for a writ of certiorari that they planned to submit in September. The Seventh Circuit denied their request but the district court granted relief.The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court order. Declining to consider the taxpayers’ argument under 28 U.S.C. 2101(f), which governs cases in which a “final judgment” is subject to Supreme Court review, the court stated that the district court’s stay was in direct opposition to the mandate. When a court of appeals has reversed a final judgment and remanded the case, the district court is required to comply. The Seventh CIrcuit noted that it had already denied the defendants’ request for the same relief. The spirit of the mandate entailed more than changing the status of the case from “closed” to “reopen”; it presupposed that further proceeding would be at an ordinary pace. View "A.F. Moore & Associates, Inc. v. Kocoras" on Justia Law

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Without permission from Epic, TCS downloaded thousands of documents containing Epic’s confidential information and trade secrets. TCS used some of the information to create a “comparative analysis”—a spreadsheet comparing TCS’s health-record software (Med Mantra) to Epic’s software. TCS’s internal communications show that TCS used this spreadsheet in an attempt to enter the U.S. health-record-software market, steal Epic’s client, and address key gaps in TCS’s own Med Mantra software.Epic sued. A jury ruled in Epic’s favor on all claims, including multiple Wisconsin tort claims. The jury then awarded Epic $140 million in compensatory damages, for the benefit TCS received from using the comparative-analysis spreadsheet; $100 million for the benefit TCS received from using Epic’s other confidential information; and $700 million in punitive damages for TCS’s conduct. The district court upheld the $140 million compensatory award and vacated the $100 million award. It reduced the punitive damages award to $280 million, reflecting Wisconsin’s statutory punitive-damages cap. The Seventh Circuit remanded. There is sufficient evidence for the jury’s $140 million verdict based on TCS’s use of the comparative analysis, but not for the $100 million verdict for uses of “other information.” The jury could punish TCS by imposing punitive damages, but the $280 million punitive damages award is constitutionally excessive. View "Epic Systems Corp. v. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd." on Justia Law

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Semmerling worked as a contractor for the U.S. Military Commissions Defense Organization as part of the legal team for a person charged as an al-Qaeda enemy combatant. Semmerling, who is gay, disclosed his sexuality to the lead attorney of that team. Semmerling alleges that, despite promising secrecy, that attorney disclosed his sexuality to the client and told the client that Semmerling was infatuated with the client and was pursuing that interest. Semmerling sued the lead attorney for state-law torts of defamation, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and he sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court dismissed the suit.The Seventh Circuit denied the government’s motion for summary affirmance while acknowledging that Semmerling’s brief is substantively deficient in multiple ways. The court noted that the other defendant filed a brief. Sparse briefing alone is not a reason to enter a merits judgment, and this case does not rise to the level of “incomprehensible or completely insubstantial.” Semmerling may, within seven days, seek leave to strike his opening brief and to file a brief that complies with Rule 28. View "Semmerling v. Bormann" on Justia Law

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The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, authorizes relators to file qui tam suits on behalf of the U.S. government. If such an action is successful, the relator receives part of the recovery. The Act prohibits presenting to a federal healthcare program a claim for payment that violates the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b), Venari formed 11 daughter companies, each for the purpose of prosecuting a separate qui tam action, alleging essentially identical violations of the False Claims Act by pharmaceutical companies. CIMZNHCA, a Venari company, filed suit alleging illegal kickbacks to physicians for prescribing Cimzia to treat Crohn’s disease in patients who received federal healthcare benefits. The government did not exercise its right “to intervene and proceed” as the plaintiff but moved to dismiss the action, representing that it had investigated the Venari claims and found them to lack merit. The court denied that motion, finding the government’s general evaluation of the Venari claims insufficient as to CIMZNHCA and that the decision to dismiss was “arbitrary and capricious.”The Seventh Circuit reversed with instructions to dismiss, construing the government’s motion as a motion to both intervene and dismiss. By treating the government as seeking to intervene, a court can apply Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41, which provides: “The Government may dismiss the action” without the relator’s consent if the relator receives notice and opportunity to be heard. View "United States v. UCB, Inc." on Justia Law

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Many years ago, a class of plaintiffs sued, alleging that the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County was engaging in unlawful political patronage in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In 1972, the Clerk and the plaintiffs entered into a consent decree that prohibited the Clerk from discriminating against the office’s employees for political reasons; in 1983, a separate judgment extended that prohibition to hiring practices. Litigation has continued. In 2018, a magistrate judge appointed a special master to monitor the Clerk’s compliance. The special master sought to observe the conduct of the Clerk’s office managers at employee grievance meetings. The employees’ union sent the special master a cease-and-desist letter purporting to bar her from the room.The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment clarifying that the 2018 supplemental relief order authorized the special master to observe the grievance meetings. The union—which was not a party to the suit and did not seek to become one—filed a memorandum opposing the motion, arguing that the 1972 consent decree did not provide a basis for the supplemental relief order and that the special master’s presence violated Illinois labor law and the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The magistrate agreed with the plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed without addressing the merits of the union’s argument. Party status is a jurisdictional requirement. View "Shakman v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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The Wisconsin Public Service Commission issued a permit authorizing the construction of a $500 million electricity transmission line in southwestern Wisconsin. Two environmental groups sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking to invalidate the permit. The permit holders moved to intervene. The district court denied the motion. The permit holders appealed and moved for expedited review because the case continues without them in the district court.The Seventh Circuit granted the motion, reversing the district court. The permit holders are entitled to intervene under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; “this is a paradigmatic case for intervention as of right.” The three basic criteria for intervention are satisfied: the intervention motion was timely; the transmission companies hold a valuable property interest in the permit that is under attack; and their interest will be extinguished if the plaintiffs prevail. The only disputed question was whether the existing defendants adequately represent their interests. The Commission regulates the transmission companies, it does not advocate for them or represent their interests. The transmission companies cannot be forced to rely entirely on their regulators to protect their investment in this enormous project, which they stand to lose if the plaintiffs are successful. View "Driftless Area Land Conservancy v. Huebsch" on Justia Law

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Named plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Illinois, alleging that defendants made false claims about dietary supplements. The parties negotiated a settlement. Over the objection of class member Frank, the district court approved it. The Seventh Circuit reversed. In 2015, the parties submitted “the Pearson II settlement.” Three class members objected to the Pearson II settlement.Nunez had filed his own putative class action against the defendants in California. After the Seventh Circuit vacated the first Pearson settlement, Nunez wanted to represent a Pearson subclass. The Pearson parties refused to include Nunez’s counsel in their negotiations. Nunez objected to the Pearson II settlement. The district court approved it. All three objectors appealed, then dismissed their appeals. Frank moved for disgorgement of any payments made to objectors in exchange for those dismissals. Discovery showed that the objectors had received side payments in exchange for dismissing their appeals. The district court denied disgorgement.The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court had the equitable power to order the settling objectors to disgorge for the benefit of the class the proceeds of their private settlements. “Falsely flying the class’s colors, these three objectors extracted $130,000 in what economists would call rents from the litigation process simply by showing up and objecting" to the settlement.” Settling an objection that asserts the class’s rights in return for a private payment to the objector is inequitable and disgorgement is the most appropriate remedy. Those objectors are, in essence, “not paid for anything they owned.” View "Frank v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

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Gunn brought a putative class action against Continental, which had issued a group long-term care insurance policy to Gunn’s employer, the federal judiciary, in Washington D.C. Gunn alleged that Continental breached its contract, committed torts, and violated consumer protection laws by raising his premiums dramatically. The district court dismissed the case on the pleadings based on Continental’s assertion of a filed-rate defense, relying on the Washington state Insurance Commissioner’s approval of the new, higher premiums for individual insureds in Washington.The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that choice of law is critical in this case, which involves employees in every state. It is unclear which state’s or states’ law creates Gunn’s causes of action, whether that jurisdiction recognizes an applicable filed-rate defense and within what contours, and which state or states have authority to approve premium rates under the group policy. The court remanded to allow the district court to address those questions. View "Gunn v. Continental Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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RYZE, an Indiana business, employs remote workers across the U.S., including Billings, who signed an employment agreement with a forum‐selection clause providing for litigation in an Indiana state court or in the Southern District of Indiana. Billings filed suit in California state court. alleging state law claims and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, on behalf of himself and other current and former RYZE employees nationwide.RYZE removed the action to the Eastern District of California, which concluded that Billings had failed to show why the forum‐selection clause should not control and transferred venue under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to the Southern District of Indiana. That court granted RYZE summary judgment on Billings’s federal claims. The district court then, sua sponte, returned the case to the Eastern District of California, explaining that its docket was congested and that the California court was familiar with California labor law. When the case was docketed again in the Eastern District of California, RYZE petitioned the Seventh Circuit for a writ of mandamus directing the Southern District of Indiana to request that the Eastern District of California return the action to the Southern District of Indiana. The Seventh Circuit granted that petition, noting that forum‐selection clauses should be given “‘controlling weight in all but the most exceptional cases.’” No exceptional circumstances exist here. View "Ryze Claims Solutions, LLC v. Magnus-Stinson" on Justia Law