Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.
The Regional Director of the NLRB sought a temporary injunction under 29 U.S.C. 160(j), pending the Board’s resolution of unfair labor practices charges against Sunbelt. The ALJ in the Board proceeding subsequently issued its recommendation, concluding that Sunbelt had violated sections 8(a)(1), (3), and (5) of the Act. Before the district court, the Director submitted that Sunbelt had violated, and continued to violate those sections by interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act; discriminatorily eliminating the bargaining unit and failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith. The district court granted an injunction, ordering Sunbelt to cease certain unfair labor practices.While Sunbelt’s appeal was pending, the Board issued its decision and order. The Director then moved to dismiss this appeal of the injunction as moot. Sunbelt submitted that the appeal was not moot because the Board had severed and retained one issue for further consideration. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and directed the district court to vacate its judgment. The Board’s resolution of the unfair labor practices charges moots the appeal, regardless of the fact that the Board severed one issue and retained it for further consideration. The severed issue was not one presented to the district court in the Director’s petition for an injunction. The temporary relief authorized by the statute is no longer available. View "Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law
Marcure v. Lynn
Marcure sued police officers and others. Before the officers moved to dismiss, Marcure filed notice of an address change from Arizona to Illinois. The court mailed notices, including notices of the motion to dismiss, to the Illinois address; these notices were returned as undeliverable. Based on the returned documents, the court ordered Marcure to show cause why his case should not be dismissed due to his failure to keep the court apprised of his address. Marcure provided notice of a post-office box days later and filed a response to the officers’ motion, nearly a month late and lacking a signature. The court excused the late filing but warned that it would strike the response under FRCP 11(a) if Marcure did not correct the signature deficiency within six days. Marcure filed timely, signed responses to the prosecutors' motions to dismiss but did not correct his unsigned response to the officers’ motion. One week after the deadline to correct that response, the court struck Marcure’s response, then dismissed the claims against the officers solely because their motion was unopposed.The Seventh Circuit reversed. While Rule 11(a) requires striking unsigned pleadings, Rule 12(b)(6) requires courts to address the merits of motions to dismiss and any local rule to the contrary is invalid under Rule 83(a)(1). The rule places the burden on the movant to show entitlement to dismissal; courts must address the merits of Rule 12(b)(6) motions even when they are unopposed. View "Marcure v. Lynn" on Justia Law
Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co.
Sterling purchased the Loader new in 2008 from a dealership; it was equipped with a 62-inch bucket and components that increased the Loader’s rated operating capacity (ROC—maximum load) to 1,420 lbs. Kirk regularly used the Loader to scoop up material and move it up a concrete ramp with an approximate 30-degree incline. Kirk claims that on May 12, 2015, while going up the ramp, the Loader began to wobble and tip forward as he raised its lift arms. In an effort to stabilize himself, Kirk braced his foot on the console. His foot slipped out of the cab and he brought the lift-arm down on it. Kirk suffered a permanent leg disability, loss of his job, and medical expenses totaling $433,000.In a strict liability claim against the Loader’s manufacturer, Clark, Kirk’s only expert witness, Pacheco, opined that the Loader was “unreasonably dangerous for its intended and foreseeable use” and that its “design providing for the use of the [62-inch] bucket … made it highly likely" that the bucket would be loaded in excess of"the ROC. The district court granted Clark summary judgment, concluding that Pacheco’s opinions did not meet the Rule 702 and “Daubert” standards. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A court’s determination that an expert possesses the requisite qualifications does not, alone, provide a sufficient basis for admissibility. The court acted within its discretion in finding Pacheco's evidence in support of his opinion unreliable. Pacheco's causation opinion rested on speculation that the weight of the load exceeded the ROC but Pacheco did not know the weight of the load at the time of the accident. View "Kirk v. Clark Equipment Co." on Justia Law
Pennell v. Global Trust Management, LLC
Pennell defaulted on a loan, then sent MobiLoans a letter refusing to pay her debt and requesting that all future debt communications cease. MobiLoans sold Pennell’s debt to Global, which had no knowledge that Pennell refused to pay and that she was represented by counsel. Pennell received a dunning letter from Global. Through counsel, Pennell notified Global that she refused to pay the debt and requested all debt communications stop. Global complied. Pennell sued under 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(2), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits a debt collector from directly communicating with a consumer who is represented by counsel with respect to the debt and proscribes a debt collector from directly communicating with a consumer who notifies a debt collector in writing that she refuses to pay or that she wishes the collector to stop communicating with her. Pennell claimed “stress and confusion” as her injuries. The district court granted Global summary judgment on the merits. The Seventh Circuit vacated and ordered dismissal for lack of Article III standing. A party invoking federal jurisdiction must demonstrate that he has suffered an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct and redressable by a favorable judicial decision. The state of confusion is not itself a “concrete and particularized” injury. Nor does stress, without physical manifestations or a medical diagnosis, amount to concrete harm. Pennell failed to show that receiving the dunning letter led her to change her course of action or put her in harm’s way. View "Pennell v. Global Trust Management, LLC" on Justia Law
DRASC, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc.
A class of owners accused Navistar of selling trucks with defective engines. The suit was settled for $135 million. The district court gave its preliminary approval. A court-approved Rule 23(e) notice was sent by first-class mail to all class members describing the settlement terms and the option to litigate independently. The notice's opt-out instructions included a link to a website with the full details and a phone number. The court held a fairness hearing then entered a final judgment implementing the settlement. Class member Drasc had sued Navistar in Ohio concerning the truck engines. The federal court declined to enjoin parallel state court suits, so the Ohio case proceeded while the federal action was pending. After the court approved the settlement, Navistar notified Drasc that its suit is barred by the release in the settlement. Drasc argued that it never received notice of the settlement and that its effort to continue litigating in Ohio should be deemed a “reasonable indication” of a desire to opt-out. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Drasc’s arguments, noting findings that two first-class letters were sent to Drasc at its business addresses; Drasc had not provided an email address for notice; Drasc’s Ohio lawyers had actual notice of the settlement and must have known about the need to opt-out. Drasc had actual knowledge of the need to opt-out and could not show excusable neglect that would justify an extension of the opt-out deadline. View "DRASC, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law
Cassell v. Snyders
The church holds weekly in-person worship services attended by approximately 80 people. Its pastor suspended these services after he received a March 31, 2020 “Cease and Desist Notice” from the county health department that threatened penalties under Illinois Executive Order 2020-10, issued March 20, 2020, if the church continued to host in-person gatherings of ten or more people. The Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction, citing the First Amendment and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act and alleging violations of their due process rights and that the Order exceeded the governor’s powers.On May 29, months before plaintiffs filed their appellate brief, the governor issued Executive Order 2020-38, which removed the mandate. All subsequent pandemic-related executive orders have expressly exempted religious gatherings from mandatory restrictions.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. While intervening Supreme Court decisions offer a greater prospect for success on the merits of the First Amendment claim than previously expected, they have also indicated that equitable considerations weigh against granting a preliminary injunction at this time. The prospect of irreparable injury to the plaintiffs is very low; the public interest weighs substantially against injunctive relief. The federal procedural due process claim was not presented to the district court. The Eleventh Amendment bars relief against the governor; it may also bar relief against the local defendants. All of the state-law claims are poor candidates for a federal court’s exercise of supplemental jurisdiction. View "Cassell v. Snyders" on Justia Law
Nicole K. v. Stigdon
When Indiana officials determine that a child is suffering abuse or neglect, they initiate the Child in Need of Services (CHIN) process. Lawyers are automatically appointed for parents but not for children in the CHINS process. The plaintiffs, children in the CHINS process, claimed that they are entitled to counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, citing “Younger” abstention. While declining to decide that Younger would mandate abstention in all CHINS cases, the court reasoned that principles of comity entitle states to make their own decisions. Because children are not automatically entitled to lawyers, as opposed to the sort of adult assistance that Indiana routinely provides, it would be inappropriate for a federal court to resolve the appointment-of-counsel question in any of the 10 plaintiffs’ state proceedings. A state judge may decide to appoint counsel or may explain why counsel is unnecessary. View "Nicole K. v. Stigdon" on Justia Law
Howard v. Cook County Sheriff’s Office
Women who work at the Cook County Jail or the adjoining courthouse filed a class-action suit against their employers for failing to prevent male inmates from sexually harassing them. The district court certified a class comprising all non‐supervisory female employees who work with male inmates at the jail or courthouse, of whom there are about 2,000.On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class under Rule 23. The court’s primary error was using the peripheral and overbroad concept of “ambient harassment” (i.e., indirect or secondhand harassment) to certify a class of employees who have endured a wide range of direct and indirect harassment. Even without this error, the class cannot stand because it comprises class members with materially different working environments whose claims require separate, individualized analyses. Hostile work environment claims are fact-intensive. They turn on the frequency, severity, character, and effect of the harassment. Here, these are “worker‐specific” inquiries because they depend on a class member’s unique experience—which correlates to where she works. Some class members will have had comparable experiences but the plaintiffs have not proven that for the entire class. View "Howard v. Cook County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law
Platinum Supplemental Insurance, Inc. v. Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Co.
In 2002, GTL, a mutual reserve company that underwrites insurance policies, engaged Platinum to market its insurance products. After a customer sued both parties, GTL terminated the marketing agreement. In 2015, the lawsuit settled. GTL sued Platinum for breaching the marketing agreement. In 2017, in arbitration, GTL and Platinum entered a settlement agreement, resolving all the claims that had and could have been brought in that litigation and providing for “reasonably proportionate” attorneys fees to the prevailing party in any future litigation. Weeks before the parties executed the 2017 settlement, another customer sued GTL in Missouri. After the 2017 settlement agreement took effect, GTL filed a third-party complaint against Platinum in that Missouri lawsuit, claiming that Platinum breached the marketing agreement by failing to ensure its contractors’ compliance with regulations, GTL's guidelines, and requirements for advertising its insurance products, and GTL's Code of Ethical Market Conduct.Platinum sued GTL in federal court, arguing that the Missouri third-party complaint mirrored claims resolved by the 2017 settlement agreement and was therefore barred. The district court granted Platinum summary judgment and awarded $108,445.10 in attorneys fees (150% of the underlying damages award). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The 2017 agreement bars the third-party complaint and the award of attorneys fees is “reasonably proportionate” to the underlying damages. View "Platinum Supplemental Insurance, Inc. v. Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Smith v. RecordQuest LLC
Smith suffered an injury from a car accident, retained an attorney for a personal injury lawsuit, and authorized her attorney to obtain her healthcare information. The attorney requested Smith’s medical records from MHS, on three occasions. RecordQuest, not MHS, answered those requests and charged Smith’s attorney (who paid on her behalf) a $20.96 handling fee and an $8.26 certification fee each time.Smith brought a class action, alleging these charged fees contravened the permissible fee schedule set out in Wis. Stat. 146.83(3f)(b) for healthcare records requests and resulted in the unjust enrichment of RecordQuest. The district court dismissed both claims, reasoning that the statute imposes a duty upon only healthcare providers.” RecordQuest is not a healthcare provider but is the agent of MHS; “no principle of agency law holds that a principal’s liability is imputed to the agent when the agent performs the act that results in the principal’s liability.” Smith’s unjust enrichment claim failed because any unjust benefit that Smith allegedly conferred to RecordQuest belonged to MHS.The Wisconsin Court of Appeals subsequently expressly disagreed with the district court’s analysis of Smith’s statutory claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the statutory claim but affirmed as to Smith’s unjust enrichment claim. Under section 146.83(3f)(b), Smith has a remedy at law for any “injustice” that allegedly resulted from excessive payments; the equitable remedy of unjust enrichment is derivative of and predicated upon the statutory claim. View "Smith v. RecordQuest LLC" on Justia Law