Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Wesbrook v. Ulrich
Dr. Wesbrook, a former employee of the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, sued Dr. Belongia, a former colleague, and Dr. Ulrich, the chief executive officer of the Marshfield Clinic. Wesbrook claimed that Belongia and Ulrich tortiously interfered with his at-will employment, engineering his termination by publishing defamatory statements about him to the Marshfield Clinic board of directors. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants’ statements about the plaintiff were true or substantially true and therefore privileged. Wesbrook’s time with the Clinid was marked by conflict and complaints about his “management style.” The statements concerned those conflicts and complaints. Under Wisconsin law, an at-will employee cannot recover from former co-workers and supervisors for tortious interference on the basis of their substantially truthful statements made within the enterprise, no matter the motives underlying those statements. View "Wesbrook v. Ulrich" on Justia Law
Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc. v. Administrative Employer Services, Inc.
In 2014, Lend Lease, the construction manager of the Chicago River Point Tower Project, hired Cives as a subcontractor. Cives hired Midwest Steel. Midwest had, years before, hired AES to supply Midwest with additional workers, who were co‐employed by Midwest and AES. Lend Lease entered into a “contractor-controlled insurance program” with Starr Liability with a $500,000 deductible. All subcontractors were to join in the policy. AES had, several years earlier, obtained workers’ compensation for its workers from TIC, so that injured AES‐Midwest workers could obtain workers’ compensation from either Starr (or Lend Lease under the deductible) or TIC. Four ironworkers, jointly employed by Midwest and AES and performing work for Midwest were injured on the job and sought workers’ compensation. The claims exceeded $500,000, so Lend Lease had to pay its full deductible. Starr paid the remaining claims. Lend Lease filed suit against TIC, AES’s insurer, and AES, seeking reimbursement of the $500,000. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Lend Lease made a deal with Starr and is bound by it. The court rejected an argument that AES has been unjustly enriched; AES was not obligated to purchase an insurance policy that would cover Lend Lease's deductible. View "Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc. v. Administrative Employer Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Wagner v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
Wagner, a licensed attorney proceeding pro se, took both brand‐name and generic hormone therapy drugs as prescribed by her gynecologist to treat her post‐menopausal endometrial hyperplasia. After taking the drugs, Wagner developed breast cancer. Wagner sued multiple pharmaceutical companies that designed, manufactured, promoted and distributed the drugs she took, asserting Wisconsin state law tort claims, all based upon allegations that the defendants sold dangerous products and failed to adequately warn of their risks. Defendants moved for Rule 12(c) judgment on the pleadings, arguing that federal law preempted Wagner’s claims. In response, Wagner asserted, for the first time, that the defendants delayed updating their generic brand labels to match the updated, stricter labels on the brand‐name drug. The district judge granted the motion, finding that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, preempted the state law claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: Wagner’s complaint lacked the requisite factual allegations to support a failure to update theory and federal law preempts her Wisconsin state‐law claims. View "Wagner v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Blasius v. Angel Auto. Inc.
In 2009, Blasius purchased a used 2005 Ford Excursion for use in towing his motorcycle racing trailer. Over the next three years, he invested about $70,000 in parts, modifications, and accessories In 2012, Blasius took the vehicle to AAI, an Elkhart automotive repair shop, and gave AAI an “open checkbook” for work on the vehicle’s engine, suspension, turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds, exhaust, transmission, brakes, spark plugs, and oil pump. One day and about 200 miles after Blasius retrieved the vehicle, it caught fire and was destroyed. The district court rejected Blasius’s suit on summary judgment, concluding that: Blasius failed to present evidence that AAI’s work proximately caused the fire and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur did not apply. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding a genuine issue of material fact exists as to the proximate cause of the fire. vehicle fires of this kind do not occur as a matter of course; the parts were new, and the record contained no evidence of road hazards or inclement weather. View "Blasius v. Angel Auto. Inc." on Justia Law
Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding & Equip., LLC
Schaefer’s employer, Brand Energy, was erecting scaffolding at a Dynegy power plant. Brand had complete control over the scaffold construction. Brand acquired the scaffold components from Universal, but Dynegy paid for the scaffolding and owned it. Brand workers had difficulties with the Universal components because faulty components would not readily lock. A bar popped loose and struck Schaefer on the head. Schaefer suffered serious injuries. In addition to bringing a workers’ compensation claim against Brand, Schaefer sued Universal. Because the piece of scaffolding that hit him was lost, he added claims for negligent spoliation of evidence against Brand and Dynegy. Schaefer also alleged construction negligence and failure to warn against Dynegy. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, holding that without the missing piece, Schaefer could not prove his product liability claims; that Dynegy was not liable for any defects or negligence; and that Schaefer could not prove the spoliation claims because, without proof that the missing piece was defective, it was not possible to prove that its loss caused any damage. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, but reversed as to spoliation. Illinois law does not require a plaintiff to prove that he would have won his case but for the spoliation, it requires only that the plaintiff show a “reasonable probability” of success. Schaefer adduced evidence from which a jury could make this finding: the batch of scaffolding had a large number of defective pieces. View "Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding & Equip., LLC" on Justia Law
Moore v. Liszewski
An Illinois inmate sued a corrections officer, Liszewski, with whom he had had an altercation almost a decade ago, alleging excessive force. On remand after an initial dismissal, a jury determined that Liszewski had used excessive force, but awarded Moore only one dollar on the ground (one of the options given in jury instructions) that the excessive force had not caused injury, so there was nothing to compensate. After exploring the justifications for awarding nominal damages as opposed to simply rejecting the suit, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. “By making the deprivation of such rights . . . actionable for nominal damages without proof of actual injury, the law recognizes the importance to organized society that those rights be scrupulously observed; but at the same time, it remains true to the principle that substantial damages should be awarded only to compensate actual injury or, in the case of exemplary or punitive damages, to deter or punish malicious deprivations of rights.” The court noted evidence that Moore’s the injury was attributable to having fallen and hit his head on a table, an accident not caused by Liszewski. View "Moore v. Liszewski" on Justia Law
Great West Cas. Co. v. Robbins
In 2011, Linda Phillips, an employee of Hoker Trucking, driving a semi‐truck in Indiana, struck a vehicle driven by Robbins, who died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. The truck driven by Phillips was pulling a trailer Hoker borrowed from Lakeville. Lakeville had a Great West Casualty insurance policy covering the trailer. There was a separate suit concerning the liability of Phillips and Hoker. To preempt a possible claim against Lakeville’s policy, Great West sought a declaratory judgment against Hoker, Phillips, and Robbins’s estate, that it did not have to indemnify Hoker and Phillips for any liability in connection with the accident. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Great West. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that Great West’s policy was ambiguous as to whether Hoker and Phillips were excluded from coverage and should be construed against Great West; that even if the exclusions are not ambiguous, they do not exclude Hoker and Phillips from coverage; and regardless of whether the exclusions apply to Hoker and Phillips or not, such exclusions are invalid under Wisconsin law, the state where the trailer is registered. The court found the policy unambiguous. View "Great West Cas. Co. v. Robbins" on Justia Law
Am. Family Mut. Ins. v. Williams
In 2012, Williams visited the Van de Venters in Monroe County, Indiana. They told Williams that their labrador retriever, Emma, would ring a bell by the door if she needed to go out and he should let her out. Williams chose to walk Emma on a leash. When a neighborhood dog barked, Emma lurched toward the sound, pulling Williams to the ground and seriously injuring his shoulder. Williams sued the Van de Venters. Their AmFam home-insurance policy included personal liability coverage indemnifying them for damages for bodily injury and guaranteeing a defense against such suits. The policy contained a provision stating: “Intra-Insured Suits. We will not cover bodily injury to any ‘insured’,” defined as “any person ... legally responsible for a[n] ... animal owned by [a named insured or resident relative of a named insured] to which [the policy’s personal-liability coverages] apply.” The district court rejected AmFam’s position that these provisions relieved it of the duty to defend or indemnify. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It would make no sense to treat Williams as if he were “legally responsible” for his own injuries resulting from the dog’s actions; he was not an insured for purposes of this incident. View "Am. Family Mut. Ins. v. Williams" on Justia Law
Zoretic v. Darge
In 2006, the Zoretics rented a Castilian Court condominium. Their landlord stopped paying condominium assessments and lost possession to Castilian in 2008. Castilian obtained an eviction order. The Cook County Sheriff evicted the family in January 2009. Later that day, Castilian’s agent allowed them to reenter the unit, agreeing they would sign a new lease. Zoretic never signed the lease or paid rent. After receiving no response to two letters, Castilian’s lawyers obtained a new date stamp (April 2009) from the Clerk on the September 2008 order and placed the order with the Sheriff. On June 5, deputies knocked, announced their presence, got no answer, opened the door, and entered the unit with guns drawn. They found Zoretic, put down their weapons, conducted a protective sweep, and escorted Zoretic out of the unit. Days later, Zoretic sued and was awarded possession until Castilian obtained a lawful eviction order. The family returned, continued not paying rent, and were evicted in March 2012. Zoretic sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to Fourth Amendment claims against the deputies, but affirmed as to claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the owners. Zoretic failed to create a material factual dispute about whether the owners were extreme and outrageous in pursuing eviction. View "Zoretic v. Darge" on Justia Law
Stevens v. Interactive Fin. Advisors, Inc.
Stevens, an insurance salesman, wanted to sell investment products. Because he was not registered with the SEC, Stevens needed to associate himself with a registered investment advisor, 15 U.S.C. 80b-3(a). In 2003, he associated with IFA, a loosely confederated investment advisory firm. In exchange for sharing clientele and fees with IFA, Stevens had access to IFA’s market resources and proprietary information, including access to a cloud-based data system. Stevens uploaded sensitive nonpublic information, concerning both investment clients and insurance clients (who were not IFA clients). IFA did not know that Stevens had entered the non-IFA client information into the database. IFA learned that Stevens was involved in a Ponzi scheme, severed its association with Stevens, and blocked Stevens from accessing the database. Stevens sued, alleging conversion, violation of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act, and tortious interference with business expectancy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for IFA on claims relating to securities clients. Federal law prevents a financial institution from disclosing nonpublic information of its clients to a nonaffiliated third party like Stevens. The court also affirmed a verdict in favor of IFA concerning insurance clients, upholding the trial court’s response to a question sent by the jury during deliberations, “Can we consider [filing] the lawsuit a demand for property?” The court stated that filing did not constitute a demand for the purposes of an Illinois law conversion claim. View "Stevens v. Interactive Fin. Advisors, Inc." on Justia Law