Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Anderson v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago
Anderson alleges that he was sexually abused by priests and other employees of the Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s and that, as a result of the abuse, he requires continuous psychological counseling and spent most of his adult life in penal institutions. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint explicitly acknowledged that the claims were barred by the Illinois statute of limitations or statute of repose. A 1991 statute of repose for actions based on childhood sexual abuse requires that all such claims be brought within two years of the date that the victim discovers, or by reasonable diligence should have discovered, that the abuse occurred, “but in no event … more than 12 years after the date on which the person abused attains the age of 18 years,” 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2(b). Although the statute was repealed effective January 1, 1994, the repeal does not avoid the impact as to Anderson because his claims were extinguished prior to the repeal. The court rejected claims of estoppel and waiver. View "Anderson v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago" on Justia Law
Bondi v. Grant Thornton Int’l
Parmalat, a large Italian food and dairy company, entered bankruptcy in Italy and Bondi was appointed “extraordinary commissioner,” the equivalent of a bankruptcy trustee. In 2004 Bondi instituted, in New York, a proceeding under the since-repealed section 304 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to enjoin any action against Parmalat with respect to property involved in the Italian bankruptcy, to consolidate claims against the company. Months later, Bondi filed suit in Illinois, against Thornton, an accounting company, claiming that Thornton contributed to the collapse of Parmalat by conducting fraudulent audits of in violation of Illinois tort law. The case was removed to federal court. The New York district court declined to abstain in light of the Illinois suit and granted Thornton summary judgment, on the ground that the doctrine of in pari delicto barred Parmalat’s claim against the accounting company. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to remand to Illinois state court. The Illinois district court declined to remand to state court and upheld the in pari delicto ruling. The Seventh Circuit held that the district court was required to remand to the state court, but noted that the New York litigation remained unresolved. View "Bondi v. Grant Thornton Int'l" on Justia Law
Gates v. AT&T Corp.
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) allows civil claims against foreign governments for acts of state-sponsored terrorism, 28 U.S.C. 1605A. A 1985 EgyptAir hijacking by Abu Nidal terrorists, supported by the Syrian government, resulted in the shootings of Baker and Pflug, who survived with permanent disabilities. Rogenkamp was also shot and died. Ultimately, 58 of the 95 passengers and crew were killed. Several civilian contractors working with the U.S. military in Iraq were kidnapped in 2004 by al-Qaeda in Iraq, also sponsored by the Syrian government; some were killed. Under the FSIA, both sets of plaintiffs secured judgments against Syria, designated by the U.S. government as a state sponsor of terrorism. Both groups’ judgments remain unsatisfied, and both have sought to satisfy them in part by attaching Syrian assets. The district court held that the Gates plaintiffs’ liens on Illinois assets are entitled to priority over those of the Baker plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Gates plaintiffs have complied with the requirements of the FSIA and have established a priority lien on the Syrian funds at issue, under the “winner-take-all system” established by the legislation. View "Gates v. AT&T Corp." on Justia Law
Plyler v. Whirlpool Corp.
Seven years after Plyler installed a Whirlpool microwave oven and eight hours after using that oven, a houseguest woke him because of a fire in the microwave. Firefighters extinguished the fire. Plyler claims that he injured his elbow and knee while he ran into and out of his house and that he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. At trial on negligent recall and strict liability claims, a fire department investigator could not identify a specific cause of the fire. Plyler blamed the fire on a product defect that had led Whirlpool to recall microwaves in 2001. Whirlpool’s Director of Global Product Safety testified that the ovens posed a fire hazard only if they contained splattered food. uncleaned for an extended time, and were running at the time of the fire. After Whirlpool discovered that 1.8 million microwaves contained the defect, it issued a recall through the Consumer Product Safety Commission, mailed notices to owners who had submitted a product registration card, and released news announcements. Although the average recall leads to repair or replacement of 10 to 15 percent of affected units, Whirlpool repaired 75 percent of the recalled microwave. Plyler stated that he kept his microwave clean; that he never received notice; that he paid for it with a credit card; and that Whirlpool should have been able to contact him. The jury found in favor of Whirlpool. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to rulings that limited Plyler’s testimony to his observations and that allowed questions about the relationship between the fire and his divorce.View "Plyler v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law
TABFG, LLC v. Pfeil
In 2003, a joint venture formed between llcs, TABFG and NT Prop, to trade securities. TABFG was responsible for trading and was comprised of three individual traders. NT Prop was to fund the venture, and included two limited liability corporations: NT Financial and Pfeil Commodities. The sole member of Pfeil Commodities was Richard Pfeil, the “money man.” NT Prop was managed by Pfeil’s attorney, and another. NT Prop provided $2 million start-up money and the traders earned profits of $3.4 million. Before forming TABFG, the traders were employees of SIG and were subject to restrictive covenants. The Agreement provided for payment of attorneys’ fees and costs necessary to escape the restriction. The traders sought a declaratory judgment. SIG responded by adding TABFG and NT Prop to the lawsuit, seeking disgorgement of profits. SIG obtained an injunction covering nine months after their departure from SIG, ending the joint venture. The parties failed to agree to a final accounting, but TABFG needed funds for a defense in the SIG lawsuit. Pfeil caused NT Prop to distribute $360,000 to TABFG, $533,023.69 to NT Financial, and $2,742,182.02 to Pfeil Commodities. TABFG sued, alleging that Pfeil, who was not an officer, director or manager of NT Prop, engineered a distribution of the bulk of the joint venture funds to himself and tortiously caused NT Prop to breach its obligations to TABFG under the Agreement. The district court judge agreed and awarded $957,659.68. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "TABFG, LLC v. Pfeil" on Justia Law
Krien v. Harsco Corp.
The general contractor of a Wisconsin construction project, hired Harsco to supply scaffolding. Krien, injured in a fall when a plank on a scaffold on which he was standing, broke, sued Harsco. The parties settled his claim for $900,000. Harsco filed a third‐party complaint against the contractor, seeking indemnification plus interest and attorneys’ fees. The district judge granted the contractor summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded after examining the complex provisions of the contract between the two. The plank may or may have been supplied by Harsco and may or may not have been defective, as claimed by Krien, who could not sue Riley in tort, because against his employer his only remedy for a work‐related accident was a claim for workers’ compensation, but there has never been judicial resolution of these questions, because Krien’s suit was settled before there was any judgment. Indemnification, however, is a form of insurance, and could apply even if the party seeking indemnification was negligent. Riley’s duty to indemnify Harsco extends to legal expenses incurred by Harsco in defending against Krien’s suit and in litigating this suit. View "Krien v. Harsco Corp." on Justia Law
Shields v. IL Dep’t of Corrs.
In 2008, Shields, an Illinois prisoner was lifting weights and ruptured the pectoralis tendon in his left shoulder. Although he received some medical attention, he did not receive the prompt surgery needed for effective treatment. Due to oversights and delays by those responsible for his medical care, too much time passed for surgery to do any good. He has serious and permanent impairment that could have been avoided. After his release from prison, Shields filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that several defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Shields was the victim not of any one person’s deliberate indifference, but of a system of medical care that diffused responsibility for his care to the point that no single individual was responsible for seeing that he timely received the care he needed. As a result, no one person can be held liable for any constitutional violation. Shields’ efforts to rely on state medical malpractice law against certain private defendants also failed. View "Shields v. IL Dep't of Corrs." on Justia Law
Crompton v. BNSF Ry. Co.
Crompton began working as a railroad conductor for BNSF in 2001. In 2011, he was working on BNSF 5695, travelling from Paducah, Kentucky, to Centralia, Illinois. Before the train departed on the day at issue, a BNSF engineer performed the required daily inspection and found no defects with the locomotive, including its doors and latches. During the trip, Crompton exited the front cab door several times, and found nothing wrong with the door or its latch. As the train approached Neilson Junction, traveling downhill, Crompton exited the front cab door to throw a switch. He claims that he closed and latched the front cab door before he stepped out onto the platform. The door remained closed for 51 seconds, and then suddenly flew open, knocking Crompton off the train. He suffered injuries to his head, neck, and back. He sued under the Federal Employment Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51-60 and the Locomotive Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. 20701, claiming that BNSF failed to keep the locomotive and its parts in good working order, and that he was injured due to BNSF’s negligence. A jury awarded damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the evidence sufficient to establish negligence.View "Crompton v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law
Cent. States, SE & SW Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. Lewis
Lewis was injured in an automobile accident and her health plan paid $180,000 for her medical treatment Lewis filed a tort suit against the driver (her son-in-law), represented by Georgia lawyer Lashgari, and obtained a $500,000 settlement. Lashgari knew the plan had a subrogation lien, but split the proceeds between himself and Lewis. He claimed that the plan was owed nothing. The plan filed suit under ERISA to enforce the lien, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3). The defendants argued that because the settlement funds have been dissipated, the suit was actually for damages, not authorized by ERISA. The district judge ordered the defendants to place $180,000 in Lashgari’s trust account pending judgment. The defendants did not comply. A year later, the defendants having neither placed any money in a trust account nor produced any evidence of their inability to pay, the judge held them in civil contempt, ordered them to produce records that would establish their financial situations, and ordered Lashgari to documents relating to the contempt to the General Counsel of the State Bar for possible disciplinary proceedings against him. The defendants appealed the contempt order. The Seventh Circuit dismissed, characterizing the appeal as frivolous and the defendants’ conduct as outrageous. View "Cent. States, SE & SW Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. Lewis" on Justia Law
Golden v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.
Golden purchased automobile insurance from State Farm. The mandatory liability portion of her policy provided that State Farm would defend the insured against a third-party lawsuit using attorneys chosen by State Farm. Following a collision, Golden was represented by in-house counsel. She later filed a purported class action, claiming that “historically and traditionally” State Farm and other insurers defended third-party claims against insureds by hiring private, independent attorneys. State Farm now routinely uses in-house staff attorneys to represent insureds against such claims. Golden filed a purported class action, alleging that State Farm owes its insureds a duty to explain in its policies that house counsel may be used. The district court dismissed, holding that Indiana law creates no obligation to provide advance notification to an insured that an insurer uses house counsel to defend insureds. The court denied Golden’s request to certify the question to the Indiana Supreme Court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Golden did not allege that she received deficient representation or that she ever objected to the use of house counsel in her suit. All of her claims depended on the existence of a duty to disclose; State Farm had no duty to disclose.View "Golden v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law