Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The case involves Continental Indemnity Company (Continental) and its attempt to collect a default judgment against BII, Inc. (BII) from Starr Indemnity & Liability Company (Starr), BII's insurer. Continental had paid a workers' compensation claim for an employee injured at a construction site where BII was a subcontractor. Continental then sought reimbursement from BII, which had failed to maintain its own workers' compensation insurance. When BII did not pay, Continental secured a default judgment against BII and sought to collect from Starr under Illinois garnishment procedures.The district court in the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the garnishment proceeding against Starr, finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court reasoned that the dispute over the scope of coverage under the Starr-BII insurance policy was too distinct from the underlying suit between Continental and BII. Continental appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the garnishment proceeding introduced new factual and legal issues, making it essentially a new lawsuit. The court explained that while federal courts have ancillary enforcement jurisdiction to consider proceedings related to an underlying suit, the subject of those proceedings must still be sufficiently related to the facts and legal issues of the original action. In this case, the court found that the garnishment proceeding fell outside the scope of ancillary enforcement jurisdiction. The court suggested that Continental could file a new civil action against Starr to litigate the dispute over the insurance policy's coverage. View "Continental Indemnity Company v. BII, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Denis Navratil, his wife Dimple Navratil, and their business, Dimple’s LLC, who filed a lawsuit against the City of Racine and Mayor Cory Mason. The lawsuit was based on several constitutional claims and a defamation claim against Mason. The core of the claims was the city's decision not to grant an emergency grant to Dimple’s LLC because Denis had attended a rally protesting the statewide “Safer at Home Order” that limited public gatherings, travel, and business operations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The rally was a violation of the Safer at Home Order and a permit required for holding rallies at the State Capitol had been denied due to the pandemic.The case was initially heard by a magistrate judge who granted summary judgment for both defendants on all claims. The plaintiffs appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Denis's attendance at the rally was not protected First Amendment activity because the rally was prohibited by two valid time, place, and manner restrictions—the Safer at Home Order and the state permit requirement. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' equal protection claims, finding no evidence of political animus or similarly situated comparators. The court further dismissed the plaintiffs' due process claims, finding no deprivation of any constitutionally protected property or liberty interest. Lastly, the court found that Mayor Mason's statements were substantially true or pure opinion and thus not actionable under defamation law. View "Denis Navratil v. City of Racine" on Justia Law

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The case involves three plaintiffs, Xingjian Sun, Xing Zhao, and Ao Wang, who sued their professor, Gary Gang Xu, for various allegations. Sun and Zhao, former students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, accused Xu of sexual and emotional abuse. Wang, a professor at Wesleyan University, posted online that Xu had a history of sexually assaulting students. In response, Xu allegedly posted negative comments about Wang and sent a letter to his employer. Xu counterclaimed, asserting a defamation claim against Sun and claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress against all three plaintiffs.The case was tried in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, where a jury found in favor of Xu on all issues and awarded him damages against Sun and Wang. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law regarding Xu’s intentional infliction of emotional distress counterclaims. They also contended that the district court erred in denying their motion for a new trial, based on the court’s decision to admit evidence that Sun had a relationship with another professor.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment in favor of Xu on his counterclaim against Wang, finding that no reasonable jury could find Wang's conduct extreme and outrageous under Illinois law. However, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of Xu on his counterclaim against Sun, concluding that a reasonable jury could find that Sun's conduct met the requirements for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of the plaintiffs' motion for a new trial. View "Sun v. Xu" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a patient, Tommy Harris, who contracted bacterial sepsis due to repeated infections from his dialysis treatment at a clinic in Belleville, Illinois. Harris filed a malpractice lawsuit against the operators of the clinic and later included a claim against Durham Enterprises, Inc., the janitorial company responsible for cleaning the facility. The case primarily concerns Durham’s insurance coverage. Durham submitted the lawsuit to Ohio Security Insurance Company, its insurer, which denied coverage based on the insurance policy’s exclusion for injuries caused by fungi or bacteria. Harris and Durham then negotiated an agreement in which Durham promised not to mount a defense and Harris promised to seek recovery only from the insurer. The state trial judge granted a motion to sever Harris's claim against Durham and set it for a bench trial. The judge held a short, uncontested bench trial and entered judgment against Durham for more than $2 million.Ohio Security was not a party to the state court proceedings and the insurance policy was not in the record. However, the consent judgment includes findings on insurance issues, notably, that the insurer breached its duty to defend and is estopped from asserting any policy defenses. After the judgment became final, Harris filed an amended complaint purporting to add Ohio Security as a defendant. Ohio Security removed the action to federal court and sought a declaration of its coverage obligations. The district court held that the bacteria exclusion precludes coverage.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Harris and Durham jointly appealed, challenging the no-coverage ruling but also raising a belated challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine. The court found the jurisdictional argument meritless, as the Rooker–Feldman doctrine does not block federal jurisdiction over claims by nonparties to state-court judgments. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the policy’s bacteria exclusion precludes coverage for this loss. View "Mitchell v. Durham Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Richard Rodgers, a prisoner with a history of scoliosis and back pain, had steel rods implanted in his back prior to his incarceration. During his time in prison, the rods broke, but this went undetected for over a year due to two radiologists misreading his x-rays. The prison's primary care physician, Dr. William Rankin, discovered the broken rods and arranged for corrective surgery. Rodgers sued the radiologists and Dr. Rankin, alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.The district court dismissed Rodgers' claims against the radiologists, finding that he did not state a viable constitutional claim against them. The court allowed Rodgers to proceed against Dr. Rankin but eventually granted summary judgment in his favor. The court found that Rodgers had not provided evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that Dr. Rankin had violated the Eighth Amendment by acting with deliberate indifference toward Rodgers' serious medical condition.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. The court agreed that Rodgers' allegations against the radiologists amounted to no more than negligence, which is insufficient to state a viable Eighth Amendment claim. Regarding Dr. Rankin, the court found that the evidence would not support a reasonable finding that he acted with deliberate indifference to Rodgers' serious medical condition. The court noted that Dr. Rankin was the one who discovered the radiologists' errors and arranged for Rodgers' corrective surgery. View "Rodgers v. Rankin" on Justia Law

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On July 4, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in Highland Park, Illinois, where Robert Eugene Crimo III used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle to kill seven people and wound 48 others. Victims of the shooting and their estates filed multiple consolidated suits against Crimo, his father, the gun shops where Crimo acquired the rifle, and the rifle's manufacturer, Smith & Wesson. The plaintiffs argued that Smith & Wesson should not have offered the M&P15 to civilians, as it is a machine gun reserved for police and military use. They also claimed that the manufacturer is liable because the weapon was advertised in a way that attracted irresponsible individuals.The defendants, including Smith & Wesson, filed notices of removal to federal court, asserting that the victims' claims arise under federal law. However, the two Crimos, who are the principal asserted wrongdoers, neither filed their own notices of removal nor consented to Smith & Wesson’s. This led the plaintiffs to move for remand, arguing that all defendants must consent to removal under federal law. Smith & Wesson countered that removal was authorized by a statute that allows removal whether or not other defendants elect to be in federal court.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois was not persuaded by Smith & Wesson's arguments and remanded the cases to state court. Smith & Wesson appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand the cases to state court. The court rejected Smith & Wesson's argument that the state suits presented multiple "claims" against them, stating that the company's belief that each legal theory is a separate "claim" is incorrect. The court clarified that the core claim in these suits is that Crimo killed and injured multiple persons, and Smith & Wesson may bear secondary liability for their role in facilitating his acts. The court also suggested that the district judge should consider whether Smith & Wesson must reimburse the plaintiffs' costs and fees occasioned by the unjustified removal and appeal. View "Roberts v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between Zhen Feng Lin, a food delivery driver who was severely injured in a car accident, and his employer's insurance company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. After the accident, Lin received a settlement from the at-fault driver's insurance company, and workers' compensation benefits from his employer's insurance carrier, Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Lin later sought additional recovery under his employer's underinsured motorist policy with Hartford Accident.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that Lin and Hartford Accident had not entered into a "settlement agreement" as defined by the insurance policy. As a result, the court ruled that the policy limits should be reduced by the amount Lin received in workers' compensation benefits. The court also agreed with the district court that Lin should be credited for the amount he paid to settle the workers' compensation lien.Additionally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Lin's counterclaims for bad faith and breach of contract. The court found no plausible claim supporting the argument that Hartford Accident unreasonably delayed settling Lin's claim. Lin's request for statutory penalties for Hartford Accident's purported delay in handling his claim was also denied.Finally, the court denied both parties' motions for sanctions. Lin's appeal was deemed frivolous in part, but the court exercised its discretion not to impose sanctions. View "Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company v. Lin" on Justia Law

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In this case heard by the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, plaintiffs Terri and Louis LoBianco appealed a district court's summary judgment in favor of Bonefish Grill, LLC. Terri LoBianco had slipped and fallen at a Bonefish Grill restaurant in Skokie, Illinois, dislocating her hip and requiring four surgeries. She claimed she slipped on a pool of liquid that the restaurant had negligently failed to clean. Louis LoBianco claimed loss of consortium due to his wife's injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Bonefish Grill, concluding that Terri LoBianco failed to identify the proximate cause of her fall and injury.The appellate court, however, held a different view. After a careful review of the facts and applying Illinois tort law, the court concluded that Terri LoBianco had consistently identified a liquid as the cause of her fall and had done so with certainty. This, coupled with supporting testimony from third parties, was enough to create a disputed issue of fact. The court found that this was not mere speculation but was based on Terri's sensory perception and consistent testimony.As a result, the appellate court reversed the district court's summary judgment on Terri's negligence claim and Louis's loss of consortium claim. The case was remanded for trial, as the court held that there was sufficient evidence to create a jury issue about whether liquid on Bonefish Grill’s floor caused Terri to slip and injure herself. View "LoBianco v. Bonefish Grill, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a case involving a series of toxic tort claims brought by individuals allegedly harmed by lead paint pigment, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The case involved approximately 170 plaintiffs, all alleging injuries stemming from their exposure to white lead carbonate, a lead paint pigment, when they were children. The district court had granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims, based largely on the legal doctrine of "issue preclusion" and "law of the case." The appellate court agreed with much of the district court's reasoning. However, it held that a small group of plaintiffs who had filed their own separate cases had a due process right to try their cases separately. The appellate court also disagreed with the district court's application of issue preclusion to another group of plaintiffs who had filed separate cases and hadn't participated in the earlier proceedings. The appellate court concluded that these plaintiffs had not had a "full and fair opportunity to litigate" the issue of the defendants' duty to warn under a lead dust-based theory of liability. The court therefore sent the cases back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Thompson v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal of multiple toxic tort cases, approximately 170 plaintiffs alleged harm from exposure to white lead carbonate (WLC), a lead paint pigment, during their childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s. They sued several manufacturers of WLC for negligence and strict liability. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision in part and reversed in part. The court upheld the district court’s application of the law of the case doctrine to dismiss many of the plaintiffs' claims, finding that the plaintiffs had chosen to bring their claims under a single complaint and were therefore bound by the court's earlier rulings. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment against a small group of plaintiffs who had filed their own cases, ruling that due process protected their right to try their claims. View "Gibson v. Armstrong Containers, Inc." on Justia Law