Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Walker, classified as a sexually violent person, has lived in the Rushville Treatment & Detention Center since 2007 when he finished serving a sentence in an Illinois prison. Walker's treatment team assigned him a “decision-making model,” which is an exercise or treatment tool in which the detainee examines his thought processes associated with a particular decision; Walker believed the assignment was retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. He brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. At trial, Walker represented himself, but he received help from standby counsel recruited by the court. Walker took an active role in managing his case; he testified, questioned witnesses, introduced exhibits into evidence, and objected to defense counsel’s questions at several points. The jury found for the defendants on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the district court’s jury instructions on the First Amendment retaliation claim were erroneous. Walker failed to object to the instructions, and he cannot clear the high bar for showing a plain error. Walker also waived an argument that the court erred in admitting privileged and prejudicial treatment records into evidence. View "Walker v. Groot" on Justia Law

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From 1978-1997, Mathias worked for Caterpillar in York, Pennsylvania. In 1997 he experienced serious health issues; the Social Security Administration declared him disabled. Caterpillar covered his health insurance as an employee on long-term disability, billing him for his portion of the premium. In 2012 Mathias retired retroactively, effective October 2009. Caterpillar failed to change Mathias’s status and did not realize its mistake until 2013 when it notified Mathias that he owed $9,500 in past-due premiums, the difference between the rate for a long-term disabled employee and the rate for a retired employee. When Mathias did not pay, Caterpillar terminated his benefits. Mathias sued in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plan documents require suit in the Central District of Illinois, so Caterpillar moved to transfer the case under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). Mathias argued that the forum-selection clause was invalid in light of ERISA’s venue provision, 29 U.S.C. 1132(e)(2). The district court rejected that argument, relying primarily on Sixth Circuit precedent, holding that forum-selection clauses in ERISA plans are enforceable and not inconsistent with the text of ERISA’s venue provision. The case was transferred. Mathias petitioned for mandamus relief in the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed, holding that ERISA’s venue provision does not invalidate a forum-selection clause contained in plan documents. View "Mathias v. Mihm" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Koehn filed a pro se complaint against his former employers. A magistrate held a settlement conference and appointed counsel for Koehn. The parties did not settle. Koehn obtained new counsel. The court held a telephonic status hearing and inquired about settlement negotiations. Defense counsel explained that he was new to the case and that, based on conversations with Defendants’ prior counsel, he believed that Defendants’ insurer had proposed a settlement of about $150,000. Koehn’s counsel stated that she had never heard that figure and that, given that information, a settlement conference might be productive. Defense counsel agreed and the court scheduled a conference. At that conference, Defendants offered less than $75,000, which Koehn had rejected in 2015. Koehn rejected the offer again. When the conference ended, the court stated: “At the conclusion of the jury trial, counsel for the Plaintiff may submit a request for attorney’s fees and costs associated with the unnecessary settlement conference held based upon defense counsel’s representations.” Koehn lost at trial but requested $3,744 in fees and $552.85 in costs associated with the 2016 conference. The district court granted Koehn’s motion; FRCP 16 allows the imposition of sanctions where a party’s failure to timely and candidly communicate a change in settlement posture results in an unnecessary settlement conference. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Defendants did not participate in the settlement conference in good faith. View "Koehn v. Tobias" on Justia Law

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South Bend’s Police Department records some of the desk phones supplied to officers. Bishop’s phone was added to those being recorded, at his request. In 2010, Richmond took Bishop’s former office. Richmond kept his phone number, so the Line was switched to a vacant office. Young then moved to that office, not knowing that the phone was recorded. In 2011 the recording system crashed. While listening to recordings to make sure that restoration had been done correctly, DaPaepe heard Young say things that she thought inappropriate. DaPaepe gave Chief Boykins tapes of calls. Boykins used the information to make threats. Federal and state investigations ended without charges. Boykins was demoted. The City’s Common Council demanded the tapes, issued a subpoena to the city’s executives, and sought state court enforcement. The city, believing that releasing the tapes would violate wiretap statutes, 18 U.S.C. 2510–22, sought a declaratory judgment. The district court ruled that it had subject-matter jurisdiction although the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201, normally cannot be used to present a federal defense to state litigation. Before the Common Council moved to dismiss, five individual defendants in the city’s suit had become plaintiffs, seeking damages based on federal statutes. The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court's holding without addressing the merits, noting that the suit began as a claim by the city's executive branch against the legislative branch, that the damages issues have settled, and that the issue of the Council’s access to the tapes is in state court. View "City of South Bend v. South Bend Common Council" on Justia Law

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Over about 18 months, Groshek submitted 562 job applications to employers. The job application, which the employers provided, included a disclosure and authorization form stating that a consumer report might be procured in making the employment decision; the form also contained other information, including a liability release. After Groshek submitted the application, with the signed disclosure and authorization, the employers obtained a consumer report on him from a third party. Groshek filed a class-action suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, which prohibits a prospective employer from procuring a consumer report for employment purposes unless a clear and conspicuous disclosure has been made in writing to the job applicant before the report is procured, in a document that consists solely of the disclosure. A consumer report may be obtained for employment purposes only if the applicant has authorized its procurement in writing. Groshek alleged that the violation of the "stand-alone document requirement" was willful and that, as a result, the employers failed to obtain a valid authorization before procuring a consumer report. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Groshek has not alleged facts demonstrating a real, concrete appreciable risk of harm and lacks Article III standing. View "Groshek v. Great Lakes Higher Education Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2006 Berry signed a $270,000 mortgage to fund improvements to his Chicago home. He denies missing any payments but the mortgage was foreclosed later that year. Years of protracted litigation ensued, with Berry arguing that HSBC did not have the right to foreclose, that he didn’t know how much he owed and to whom, and that he should have received a loan modification. A 2010 judicial sale of his home was vacated as premature. He contended that HSBC discriminated against him based on race (African‐American), violating the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601. The final judicial sale occurred in 2015. Before the sale, Berry filed a federal suit under the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. 1691, and the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1639. By the time Berry amended his federal complaint, the state court had confirmed the sale. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The first suit resulted in a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; the suits present the same causes of action and have the same parties or privies. Berry’s federal complaint and his state‐court filings describe the same operative facts. If he was dissatisfied with the state court’s decision or justifications, his remedy was to appeal, not to file a new suit. View "Berry v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her former employer, claiming that discharging her had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The parties agreed in writing to settle the litigation but their agreement provided that there would be “[n]o binding agreement until the typed settlement agreement is signed”—which it never was. Plaintiff’s lawyer negotiated a proposed settlement agreement with Defendant’s lawyer, but the written terms made clear that this was not the “binding agreement” to which the parties had referred. Nevertheless, the district judge treated it as such, ruling that the litigation had been ended by a settlement, precipitating an appeal by Plaintiff. The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court’s decision on the ground that there was no settlement terminating the litigation and remanded for further proceedings in that court. View "Brownlee v. Hospira, Inc." on Justia Law

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CE, an Illinois corporation that litigates claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, filed a class action in Illinois state court accusing Homegrown, a Canadian marketing firm, of sending CE junk faxes. The parties settled in 2007 for $5 million plus interest and costs. Homegrown failed to notify its insurer, SMI, about the litigation and used its own counsel; the settlement was structured to be enforceable only against Homegrown’s SMI liability policy. CE, as assignee of Homegrown's rights under the policy, filed a citation to discover assets in an effort to recover on the judgment. Rath, SMI’s Canadian attorney, wrote a letter to the Illinois court advising that SMI was denying coverage. SMI took no other steps to fight the citation. The court entered judgment for CE. CE unsuccessfully attempted to enforce that judgment in Saskatchewan, where SMI is based. The Saskatchewan court awarded SMI costs. Seven years later, SMI moved to enforce the Saskatchewan judgment in federal district court. The Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court that there was no basis for federal jurisdiction, “an outcome that is especially appropriate given the comity concerns that pervade this litigation.” The Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), is inapplicable because the defendant is the class and diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2), is inapplicable because no individual class member could satisfy the $75,000 amount‐in‐controversy requirement. No exception to the general prohibition on aggregating claims applies. View "Saskatchewan Mutual Insurance Co. v. CE Design, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were cited for violating Carmel City Ordinance 8-2, which incorporated Indiana’s traffic regulations. Some paid a fine. Some had a default judgment entered against them. Some were convicted; others entered into deferral agreements. None appealed or otherwise challenged the outcome in Indiana’s courts. In a separate case, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the ordinance violated Indiana’s Home Rule laws. Plaintiffs then filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights through misuses of the traffic justice system. The district court dismissed, finding that certain plaintiffs lacked standing; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprived the court of jurisdiction to hear most of the claims; plaintiffs had abandoned various other claims; and the other claims failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine with respect to plaintiffs who admitted guilt, were convicted, or had default judgments. Federal district courts are not authorized to review state-court decisions unless Congress has passed appropriate legislation. The “deferral agreement” plaintiffs had no constitutional claims. Those alleging injuries arising from traffic stops that preceded and were unrelated to the traffic judgments described damages too speculative or that cannot be separated from the state-court traffic judgment. View "Lennon v. City of Carmel" on Justia Law

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Lewis, a Wisconsin prisoner, claimed in his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, that staff at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility violated the Eighth Amendment by delaying medical attention for a painful back condition and then using excessive force when eventually taking him to the hospital. Lewis also claimed that a nurse and a physician committed malpractice under state law. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit vacated, noting a failure to preserve videotaped evidence showing Lewis in his cell; rejecting a claim of qualified immunity; and stating that a jury reasonably could find that two of the defendants, a nurse and the security supervisor were deliberately indifferent to Lewis’s serious medical need and unnecessarily prolonged his pain. View "Lewis v. McLean" on Justia Law