Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the City of Milwaukee and various police officers (collectively, Defendants), holding that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.Plaintiff was convicted of burglary and sexual assault and served twenty-four years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence and his convictions were vacated. Plaintiff subsequently brought this lawsuit alleging that the police and City violated his due process rights in several ways. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the officers' conduct was not "clearly established" as unlawful at the time of Plaintiff's arrest, and therefore, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Holloway v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing North American Elite Insurance Company's (North American) claims against Menard, holding that there was no error.After a Menard employee hit a customer with a forklift the customer brought a negligence suit against Menard and its employee in state court. Menard carried two levels of personal injury liability insurance at the time. Liability exceeding $3 million fell under an umbrella policy with North American. The jury returned a $13 million verdict, which was reduced to a $6 million settlement. North American indemnified Menard for liability in excess of $3 million then brought this action against Menard in federal court, arguing that Menard violated its duties under Illinois law by rejecting a settlement offer and proceeding to trial. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that North American was not entitled to relief on its claims of error. View "North American Elite Insurance v. Menard, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this action brought the estate of Jonah Marciniak and Marciniak's son pursuing both federal and state claims stemming from Marciniak's arrest and ensuing suicide, the Seventh District held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Village of Shorewood and three of its officers who arrested Marciniak after his roommate fell from a fourth story window, holding that there was no error.After arresting Marciniak and placing him in a booking cell, Marciniak used his t-shirt to hang himself. Marciniak died six days later. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the three officers falsely arrested Marciniak without probable cause and failed to provide medical care and attention and to protect from self-harm. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendants had an absolute defense of probable cause to Plaintiffs' claims; and (2) even if the officers did not have probable cause to arrest for battery, they were still entitled to qualified immunity. View "Jump v. Village of Shorewood" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit held that district courts may make the decision whether to recruit counsel for an otherwise pro se litigant under 28 U.S. 1915(e)(1) based, in part, on considerations of the strength or weakness of the underlying claims, in keeping with the practical approach of Pruitt and mindful that pro bono lawyers are not a limitless resource.Plaintiff, a federal inmate, sued Defendants after he developed glaucoma. On four occasions, Plaintiff invoked section 1915(e)(1), asking the district to recruit pro bono counsel to represent him. The district court eventually entered summary judgment for Defendants and refused to recruit counsel under the statute. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court's conclusion that Plaintiff's likelihood of success on his negligence claims was too remote to warrant marshaling legal and expert resources toward his case was wholly consistent with the Pruitt framework; and (2) none of Plaintiff's other arguments on appeal lacked merit. View "Watts v. Kidman" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the United States Army and dismissing Gerald Swain's claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq., alleging disability discrimination, holding that there was no error.As a civilian employee at an Army installation in Illinois, Swain asked for and received several accommodations for his physical limitations. Swain later brought this lawsuit against the Army, alleging failure to accommodate, disparate treatment, and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the Army. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Army met its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act. View "Swain v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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During a decade as a member of USA Gymnastics, J.J. was one of the hundreds of gymnasts sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the organization’s physician. In response to the claims based on Nassar’s conduct, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court set a deadline for filing proofs of claim. USA Gymnastics mailed notices to all known survivors who had filed or threatened to file lawsuits, had reported abuse, had entered into a settlement agreement, or had received payment as a result of an allegation of abuse--more than 1,300 individuals. USA Gymnastics also emailed copies of the notice to more than 360,000 current and former USA Gymnastics members, and placed information about the bar date on its website, social media pages, in USA Today, and in gymnastics journals, podcasts, and websites J.J. did not receive actual notice and filed her proof of claim five months late.The bankruptcy court treated her claim as untimely. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed. J.J. argued that she was entitled to actual notice; she claimed USA Gymnastics should have known that she was a potential claimant because it needed to retain medical records under Michigan law and should have known that she had seen Nassar for medical care. The court found no evidence that USA Gymnastics had these records; J.J.’s argument that Michigan law required retention of any relevant documents “is dubious.” View "Jane Doe JJ v. USA Gymnastics" on Justia Law

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To treat her endometriosis, Paulsen received Lupron injections in 2004 from her physician in Georgia. Shortly afterward she began experiencing health problems, including severe bone and joint pain, memory loss, and fevers. In April 2010, Paulsen filed a personal injury suit. Paulsen voluntarily dismissed her claims in 2014. In 2015, Paulsen filed a second lawsuit asserting product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. After several amended complaints and the addition of a defendant, two claims remained: a strict liability failure-to-warn claim against AbbVie and Abbott; and a negligent misrepresentation claim against Abbott. Limited discovery was permitted.The district court subsequently applied Illinois procedural law and Georgia substantive law, reasoning that Paulsen’s injury occurred in Georgia, and Illinois lacked a stronger relationship to the action, then granted the defendants summary judgment. The court ruled that Paulsen’s strict liability failure-to-warn claim was time-barred by Georgia’s 10-year statute of repose. Georgia does not recognize a stand-alone misrepresentation claim in product liability cases. Even if this cause of action did exist, the court reasoned, Paulsen’s misrepresentation claim would fail because “the undisputed evidence show[ed] that Abbott did not make any representations regarding Lupron.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court noted extensive evidence that Paulsen’s claims accrued before April 2008 and are barred by the Illinois two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries. View "Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law

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Stevenson was injured in the course of his employment while moving a portable ladder in order to clean a component of a Windmoeller printing press. The ladder was supplied with the machine and was necessary to reach an interior printing plate. The ladder caught on the cable attached to the machine, which caused Stevenson to twist and injure his shoulder and back; he required surgery.Stevenson’s product-liability suit argued that the design of the machine, including the placement of the cable near the access door used to service the machine’s interior components, was defective and foreseeably gave rise to his injury. Stevenson asked the court to appoint an engineering expert. Fed. R. Evid. 706 codifies the power of a trial judge to appoint an expert to function as a neutral expert serving the court rather than any party. The district court denied this motion, reasoning Stevenson was really asking for the appointment of an expert to support his case, rather than a neutral expert. Stevenson contends that the month that the court allowed him to respond to a subsequent summary judgment motion was insufficient to hire his own expert, allow related discovery, and file his response.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Windmoeller. Only an advocate expert could have filled the gap in Stevenson’s case. Stevenson could have asked for pre-authorization of the payment for such an expert from a court fund under Local Rule 83.40. View "Stevenson v. Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp." on Justia Law

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Jody arrived at the Indiana University Health emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Doctors determined she needed emergency surgery to remove a dying portion of her intestine. Because they believed (incorrectly) that the problem stemmed from earlier gastric bypass surgery, they transferred her to another facility to be operated on by the bariatric surgeon who had performed the bypass. Jody died two days later. Her husband sued, alleging that IU’s failure to operate on Jody violated its obligation under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to “stabilize” Jody when it decided to transfer her without first performing the laparotomy and removing the ischemic portions of her intestine, 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(b)(1)(A).The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit. The Act authorizes pre-stabilization transfer where one of two triggering conditions is satisfied and the transfer is “appropriate.” No reasonable jury could conclude that IU did not satisfy both requirements. A physician certified that “[b]ased upon the information available to [him] at the time of transfer, … the medical benefits reasonably expected from the provision of appropriate medical treatment at another facility outweigh the increased risks to [Jody] … from undertaking the transfer.” The court cited the “Treatment Act’s narrow purpose as an anti-dumping law rather than a federal cause of action for medical malpractice.” View "Martindale v. Indiana University Health Bloomington, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lash, a 60-year-old, obese man with a remote history of smoking and high blood pressure, was traveling when he experienced shortness of breath and chest discomfort. He went to Sparta hospital. An EKG, blood work, and a chest x-ray revealed no signs of a previous heart attack, but his white blood cells and blood sugar were slightly elevated, suggesting a cardiac event. Dr. Panico identified mild congestive failure and an enlarged right hilum, a part of the lung. He recommended a CT scan to rule out a mass. Dr. Motwani, the main physician responsible for treating Lash, diagnosed an “anxiety reaction” and prescribed medications. Lash was not informed of his congestive heart failure nor that an enlarged right hilum could mean heart failure or cancer. One nurse mentioned only that Lash was seen for an “anxiety reaction.” The next evening, Lash went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to the emergency room, where he was pronounced dead.In a malpractice suit by Lash’s estate, the district court granted Sparta hospital summary judgment. Motwani settled the case and was dismissed from the lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. . The Illinois Tort Immunity Act provides that “a local public entity,” such as Sparta, is not liable for an employee’s negligent “diagnosis.” Lash never received any treatment, so no doctor could have failed to disclose information that might have changed his decisions. View "Lash v. Sparta Community Hospital" on Justia Law