Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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At its LASI site, Varlen plated locomotive engine parts in chrome. At its Silvis site, Varlen’s operations included refueling diesel engines. Varlen discovered groundwater contamination at both sites, spent millions of dollars in damages and remediation expenses, and sought indemnification from its insurer. Liberty Mutual denied coverage based on a policy exclusion for property damage arising out of chemical leaks or discharges. Varlen cited a policy provision stating that, despite the exclusion, Liberty would cover chemical leaks or discharges that were “sudden and accidental.” Varlen proffered the expert testimony of a geologist (Rogers) that the LASI contaminants were released because the concrete sump leaked and that the releases were “sudden and accidental” because they were not intended and occurred in sudden spurts when the sump failed. Rogers explained that he had experience working with sumps and had personal knowledge of these sumps in particular. Rogers testified that the Silvis releases were likely “sudden and accidental” because the contamination around the refueling area was too large to have occurred by minor leakage and was “consistent with overfills of diesel locomotives.” Rogers claimed that contamination at the chlorinated solvent storing area was “indicative of a drum overturning and suddenly leaking out.” The district court struck Rogers’s opinions as unreliable and speculative under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. To satisfy Daubert, Rogers needed to explain how the evidence led to his conclusions; Rogers failed to demonstrate that his conclusions were anything more than guesses. View "Varlen Corp. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Lopez-Aguilar went to the Indianapolis Marion County Courthouse for a hearing on a misdemeanor complaint charging him with driving without a license. Officers of the Sheriff’s Department informed him that an ICE officer had come to the courthouse earlier that day looking for him. He alleges that Sergeant Davis took him into custody. Later that day, Lopez-Aguilar appeared in traffic court and resolved his misdemeanor charge with no sentence of incarceration. Sergeant Davis nevertheless took Lopez-Aguilar into custody. He was transferred to ICE the next day. Neither federal nor state authorities charged Lopez-Aguilar with a crime; he did not appear before a judicial officer. ICE subsequently released him on his own recognizance. An unspecified “immigration case” against Lopez-Aguilar was pending when he sued county officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Following discovery, the parties settled the case. The district court approved the Stipulated Judgment over the objection of the federal government and denied Indiana’s motion to intervene to appeal. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The state’s motion to intervene was timely and fulfilled the necessary conditions for intervention of right. The district court was without jurisdiction to enter prospective injunctive relief. The Stipulated Judgment interferes directly and substantially with the use of state police power to cooperate with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws. View "Lopez-Aguilar v. Indiana" on Justia Law

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After the defendants filed an answer, Carter moved to voluntarily dismiss the complaint that she had filed against Morelli, Henderson, and the City of Alton. Her motion did not explicitly say that she sought a dismissal without prejudice, but stated that “neither party will be prejudiced by the granting of this Motion.” The defendants argued that the court should grant Carter’s motion with prejudice. Carter amended her motion to specify that she sought a dismissal without prejudice. The district court dismissed Carter’s complaint with prejudice and denied Carter’s motion for reconsideration. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Under FED.R. CIV. P. 41(a)(2), the court had the discretion to dismiss the case either with or without prejudice but before entering the dismissal order, it should have given Carter an opportunity to withdraw her voluntary dismissal motion. Carter requested just such an opportunity, and the court erroneously refused to give it to her. View "Carter v. Alton" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701–21, allows some gambling on land held in trust for tribes, in every state, without prior approval. Class III gambling, which includes slot machines and table games such as blackjack, may be offered only in certain states if the tribe and state enter into a contract. Since 199,2 Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a federally-recognized tribe, has conducted gaming in Shawano County, Wisconsin. In 2008 Ho-Chunk, another federally-recognized tribe, opened a casino in Shawano County. Both feature class III gaming, authorized by contracts. In 2016 Ho-Chunk announced plans to add more slot machines and gaming tables, plus a restaurant, a bar, and a hotel. The Community sought an injunction, arguing that the Ho-Chunk land was not held in trust for the tribe on October 17, 1988. The parcel was conveyed to the tribe in 1969, but with a condition that was not lifted until 1989; in 1986, the Department of the Interior declared the parcel to be Ho-Chunk’s trust land. The Community argued that Ho-Chunk’s state contract treats its casino as an “ancillary” gaming facility and that the state has not enforced that limitation. The court dismissed the suit as untimely, reasoning that the Community knew or could have learned of both issues by 2008. The Act does not contain a statute of limitations, so the court looked to the Wisconsin limitations period for breach of contract or the Administrative Procedure Act's limitations period—each set a six-year limit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, applying Wisconsin law. View "Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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After a 2015 examination, the FDIC assigned Builders Bank a CAMELS (capital adequacy, asset quality, management, earnings, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk) rating of 4, which exposed the bank to extra oversight. After the Seventh Circuit concluded that some components of a CAMELS rating are open to judicial review, Builders merged into a non-bank enterprise and left the banking business. The district court dismissed the remanded suit as moot. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim for damages based on paying too much for deposit insurance. The Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 702, waives the government’s sovereign immunity but establishes a right of review only when “there is no other adequate remedy in a court.” There is a potential remedy under 12 U.S.C. 1817(e)(1), which says: In the case of any payment of an assessment by an insured depository institution in excess of the amount due, the Corporation may refund the amount of the excess payment to the insured institution or credit such excess amount toward the payment of subsequent assessments. The Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491, waives immunity for such a suit but limits venue to the Claims Court. Builders did not cite the FDIC’s sue-and-be-sued clause, 12 U.S.C. 1819(a), as an alternative waiver. Apart from those that affect subject-matter jurisdiction, legal contentions must be presented in the district court. This suit was litigated on remand under the APA, so it fails. View "Builders Bank, LLC v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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Illinois residents Matlin and Waring (Plaintiffs) co-founded Gray Matter and developed products. In 1999, with the company facing failure, Plaintiffs executed a Withdrawal Agreement, assigning Plaintiffs' intellectual property and patent rights to Gray Matter, but entitling them to royalties on sales. In the following years, Plaintiffs frequently brought Gray Matter to arbitration to enforce their royalty rights. In 2002, Gray Matter filed an assignment of the intellectual property rights with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, allegedly without Plaintiff's knowledge, by forging Waring's signature. Gray Matter then sold assets to Swimways, including patent rights. A 2014 binding arbitration determined that Gray Matter did not assign the Withdrawal Agreement to Swimways and that Plaintiffs were owed no further royalties. In 2016, Spin Master acquired Swimways and its intellectual property rights. Plaintiffs sued. Swimways is a Virginia corporation with its principal place of business in Virginia Beach. The Spin Master defendants are Canadian companies with their principal places of business in Toronto. None of the defendants are registered to conduct business in, have employees in, or have registered agents for service of process in Illinois. In response to defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, Plaintiffs' counsel submitted an online purchase receipt from Swimways’ website and a declaration that he purchased and received a patented product in Illinois. The court dismissed, reasoning that Illinois law governed whether it had personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the defendants had insufficient contacts with Illinois to establish either general or specific personal jurisdiction in that state. View "Matlin v. Spin Master Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Joliet proposed to condemn and raze New West's apartments as a public nuisance. By 2017 the district court held that Joliet is entitled to condemn the buildings, set just compensation at $15 million, and held that New West cannot obtain relief against the city under federal housing discrimination statutes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The parties then disputed the status of a reserve fund, about $2.8 million, that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) held for the federally-subsidized apartment complex. New West argued that the money came from rents to which it was entitled by contract with HUD and that, once it no longer had responsibility for the buildings, HUD must write it a check. The district court recognized that the fund was not part of the condemnation or housing-discrimination suits, but nonetheless rejected New West’s claim and concluded that the fund should accompany the buildings. The Seventh Circuit vacated. HUD controls the reserve fund and is the only entity that can use or disburse it; HUD was dismissed as a party in 2013. The court lacked authority to order HUD to do anything. New West needs to file a new action, seeking an order that the federal government pay it a sum of money, in the Court of Federal Claims, under the Tucker Act or in the district court. “In either forum, the judge should start from scratch, disregarding the missteps in the condemnation suit.” View "Joliet v. New West, L.P." on Justia Law

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West claimed that the addition of a fiber optic communications wire to a utilities transmission tower on his property exceeded the scope of the easement that authorized the tower. West sued both Charter Communications, whose subsidiary installed the wire, and Louisville Gas and Electric Company, which owns the tower and is a party to the easement. The district court dismissed the claims against Charter, concluding that the addition of Charter’s communications wire to the tower is compatible with the scope and purpose of the easement and consequently does not violate the terms of the easement agreement nor does it amount to an unconstitutional taking of West’s property. Wishing to appeal that ruling, West entered into an agreement providing that he would voluntarily dismiss his claims against Louisville while reserving the right to revive them if the Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claims against Charter. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The conditional dismissal of West’s claims against Louisville rendered the judgment non-final. West could have asked the court to enter a final judgment as to the claims against Charter under Rule 54(b) or could have sought permission to pursue an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). View "West v. Charter Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs operate California hardware businesses. They sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, claiming that defendants sent them unsolicited fax advertisements. The district judge dismissed, believing that defendants had substantially met the requirements of a section 227(b)(1)(C) defense and had not established injury. The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that the district court treated a defense as if it were an element of subject-matter jurisdiction. A plaintiff’s failure on the merits does not divest a federal court of jurisdiction. When subject-matter jurisdiction is at stake, a district judge may resolve factual disputes and make any findings necessary to determine the court’s adjudicatory competence. If the court has jurisdiction, it must take all plausible allegations in favor of the complainant when handling a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs alleged that they received unsolicited fax ads, causing injury: printing the faxes used costly paper and toner and the need to read the incoming faxes diverted employees' time. These are concrete, not abstract losses. The injuries may have been slight, but an “identifiable trifle” suffices. .Plaintiffs’ injuries may be redressed by an award of damages. Whether it is good public policy to use cumbersome and costly litigation to resolve disputes about annoying fax ads is for Congress to decide. A complaint need not anticipate defenses. View "Craftwood II, Inc. v. Generac Power Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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A district court ordered Jackson National Life to pay about $191,000 on a policy of life insurance. The court added that the insurer had litigated unreasonably and ordered it to reimburse Cooke’s legal fees under 215 ILCS 5/155. The insurer paid the death benefit and appealed the attorneys’ fees. Because the district court had not specified the amount, the Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal as premature. The district court then awarded $42,835 plus interest. The district judge concluded that there had been a good faith coverage dispute, so the insurer could not be penalized for insisting that a judge resolve the parties’ dispute, but added, “Jackson’s behavior in this litigation has been much less reasonable.” The Seventh Circuit reversed, first rejecting Cooke’s appeal on the merits award. Cooke did not appeal within 30 days of the order specifying the amount payable on the policy, and a later award of fees did not reopen that subject. The court erred in applying Illinois state law to the conduct of litigation in federal court and Jackson’s litigation conduct did not violate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. View "Cooke v. Jackson National Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law