Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.
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
Brandner v. Am. Acad.of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Brandner, an orthopedic surgeon, belongs to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is no longer able to perform surgery, but does consultations and other medical endeavors that do not require fine motor control. He devotes most of his time to providing expert advice and testimony in litigation. The Academy concluded that Brandner violated its ethical standards by professing greater confidence in one case than the evidence warranted. The Academy decided to suspend him for one year. Brandner filed suit, contending that the Academy violated Illinois law and its own governing documents. The Academy deferred the suspension pending resolution of the litigation. The Academy is a private group, and Illinois law does not allow judicial review of a private group’s membership decisions unless membership is an “economic necessity” or affects “important economic interests.” The district court concluded that the suspension would devastate Brandner’s income, but that the Academy had followed its own rules. The court granted summary judgment for the Academy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed “Brandner has offered only hot air. … he has expressed his opinion with greater confidence than the evidence warrants. He has not established that a one-year suspension from the Academy would end his professional career.” View "Brandner v. Am. Acad.of Orthopaedic Surgeons" on Justia Law
Gibson v. Am. Cyanamid Co.
Gibson, sued former manufacturers of white lead carbonate pigments, which were used, before the federal government banned them in the 1970s, in paints, including paints applied to residences. Gibson claimed negligence and strict liability, but cannot identify which manufacturer made the white lead carbonate pigment that injured him. He relied on the “risk contribution” theory of tort liability fashioned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Thomas v. Mallet in 2005, under which plaintiffs are relieved of the traditional requirement to prove that a specific manufacturer caused the plaintiff’s injury. The district court held that risk-contribution theory violates the substantive component of the Due Process Clause and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting the broad deference that the Constitution grants to the development of state common law. The risk-contribution theory survives substantive due process scrutiny and the manufacturers’ other constitutional challenges. View "Gibson v. Am. Cyanamid Co." on Justia Law
Murphy v. Colvin
Murphy had a stroke in April 2007. Before leaving the hospital, Murphy was examined by Dr. Mayer, who noted a past history of headaches and diminished fluency in speech. Murphy started seeing a physical therapist but did not complete the program. A year later, Dr. Mayer noted that Murphy still had difficulty speaking and “some significant loss of sensation.” In September 2008, Murphy applied for social security disability benefits. Her application was denied. At a hearing, a vocational expert testified that there were no sedentary jobs in the regional economy for a person who could neither work with the general public nor use her hands more than occasionally for fine manipulation, but that there were a significant number of jobs for a person who had the capacity to do light, unskilled work, but who could only occasionally perform fine hand manipulation. The ALJ ruled that Murphy was not disabled. The Appeals Council adopted that decision. The district court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, finding that the ALJ erroneously excluded information about Murphy’s potential inability to perform light work and by not questioning Murphy further about her failure to comply with her home exercise program and the activities she participated in while on vacation. View "Murphy v. Colvin" on Justia Law
Wilson v. City of Chicago
On February 28, 2007, Barriera barricaded himself in his bedroom. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia years earlier, but had not been taking his medicine regularly. His mother (Wilson) feared he might harm himself. When the family’s efforts to convince him to leave his room were unsuccessful, Wilson called 911. She explained that Barriera might be suicidal. A firefighter was able to open the bedroom door enough to observe Barriera holding a hunting knife and moving around the room and called for police assistance. Officers arrived and worked for several minutes to persuade Barriera to leave his room. Later, an officer deployed his taser through the partially open door, hitting Barriera, who removed the prongs from his chest. Seconds later, he lunged at the officers with the knife. One officer deployed the taser and another fired his weapon. Barriera was struck by the taser prongs and two bullets.. Barriera later died from his injuries. A jury rejected Wilson’s claims against the officers (under 42 U.S.C. 1983) for excessive force; for wrongful death against the officers under Illinois law; under the Illinois Survival Statute against the officers; and that the city was liable for the torts of the officers under the theory of respondeat superior. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to evidentiary rulings and to the manner in which the court instructed the jury. View "Wilson v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
King v. Kramer
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
E. Y., v. United States
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
Hartman v. Ebsco Indus., Inc.
In 1994 Hartman’s father gave him a muzzle-loading rifle that was designed to use black powder as a propellant. The gun ignited newer, pelletized propellants erratically. In 2008, Hartman installed a kit on his gun. The kit was sold by KR Warranty, the maker of the rifle; it modified the muzzleloader and enabled it to ignite new propellants more reliably. The next day, Hartman was sighting in his “upgraded” muzzleloader when the gun unexpectedly discharged as he was trying to load it. The ramrod and a patched round ball passed through Hartman’s hands and arm, inflicting serious injury. Hartman sued KR for negligence and strict liability. The district court dismissed. Indiana has a 10-year statute of repose for products-liability actions and the gun was 14 years old. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There are exceptions to the statute, for “any reconstruction or reconditioning … which has the effect of lengthening the useful life of a product beyond what was contemplated when the product was first sold” and for situations where a manufacturer “merely … incorporat[es] a defective component into an old product.” Hartman cannot satisfy either exception. View "Hartman v. Ebsco Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
Salata v. Weyerhaeuser Co.
On March 28, 2008, while Salata was cleaning property owned by Weyerhaeuser, she slipped and fell, claiming loose floor tiles were the cause. On March 8, 2010, Salata filed suit. The parties attempted voluntary mediation, but when they could not reach a settlement, Salata’s then-attorneys, were allowed to withdraw, and Salata’s current counsel, Elrabadi, took over on March 14, 2012. On February 26, 2013, Weyerhaeuser moved to dismiss for failure to comply with the court’s discovery order under FRCP 37, and for a want of prosecution under Rule 41(b); Weyerhaeuser also requested attorney’s fees. The court held a hearing on the motion. Elrabadi failed to appear. The court declined to impose sanctions, but dismissed the case with prejudice for want of prosecution. On May 9, 2013, Elrabadi filed a Motion to Reinstate. Ultimately, the court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Salata v. Weyerhaeuser Co." on Justia Law
Koonce v. Gambino
Gambino filed a state lawsuit to clear his title to three properties, claiming that defendants (including Koonce) used forged deeds and other fraudulent documents to improperly gain title. An Illinois state court found that Koonce acted with fraud and malice and ordered him to pay compensatory and punitive damages. After the state appellate court affirmed, but before Koonce satisfied the judgment, Koonce filed for bankruptcy. Gambino filed an adversary action against Koonce in bankruptcy, seeking to have the state judgment declared non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A) and (a)(6). The bankruptcy court found that Gambino had conclusively established that Koonce’s debt was non-dischargeable and that Koonce was collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of his intent. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the issue of fraudulent intent was not actually litigated in state court. The state court could not have decided that Koonce slandered Gambino’s title or assessed punitive damages without first deciding whether he did so with fraudulent intent. View "Koonce v. Gambino" on Justia Law