Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

by
In 2005, a Union Pacific train derailed in Oklahoma causing extensive damage to both the railroad and the train’s cargo. Kawasaki, K-Line, and Union Pacific sought damages, alleging that Plano’s steel injection molds were improperly packed, broke through their crate, and fell onto the track. The district court granted Plano summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Negligence claims were properly rejected, Plano had no indication that the parties with which it dealt would be unable to properly package and transport its steel molds from China to the United States, nor did Plano have any special knowledge of any unique danger the molds would pose during transit. Plano owed no special duty of care to the carriers. There were, however, unresolved questions of fact material to the determination of one contract claim, based on a bill of lading. It was unclear whether Plano or another arranged the molds’ shipment. View "Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. v. Plano Molding Co." on Justia Law

by
Howard and Brown ended their romantic relationship. Howard alternated between attempts to reconcile and attempts to harm Brown. Howard sent letters begging see their son, but hired someone to throw acid in her face and paid a man to shoot at the train on which she works as an engineer. He was convicted of: interfering with a passenger train engineer, with intent to endanger safety and with reckless disregard for the safety of human life, 18 U.S.C. 1992(a)(6) and (10), 1992(b)(1); committing and attempting to commit use of a firearm, with intent to cause serious bodily injury to a train company employee while such person was inside of a passenger train located on tracks used in operation of a mass transportation vehicle, 18 U.S.C. 1992(a)(7) and (10), 1992(b)(1)’ and knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a “prior bad acts” challenge to admission of evidence to prove that Howard took repeated actions that were consistent with motive and intent to harm Brown and upholding denial of a motion to empanel a new jury after jurors sent notes to the judge concerning Howard’s behavior during voir dire. View "United States v. Howard" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff found a $20 parking citation on his windshield and initiated a class action, claiming that the inclusion of personal information, such as his driver's license number, address, and weight, violated the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721, which generally makes it unlawful to disclose personal information contained in a motor vehicle record. The district court dismissed and the Seventh Circuit initially affirmed. On rehearing, en banc, the court reversed, holding that the DPPA’s general rule of non-disclosure of personal information held in motor vehicle records and its overarching purpose of privacy protection must inform a proper understanding of the other provisions of the statute. Any disclosure must comply with those legitimate uses of information identified in the statutory exceptions. The Village’s placement of protected personal information in view of the public constituted a disclosure regulated by the statute, regardless of whether plaintiff can establish that anyone actually viewed it. View "Senne v. Vill. of Palatine" on Justia Law

by
While working as a flight attendant, LeGrande was injured when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence. She sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, alleging that air traffic controllers employed by the FAA negligently had failed to warn the flight’s captain that turbulence had been forecast along the flight path. The district court concluded that FAA employees did not breach any duty owed LeGrande and granted summary judgment for the government. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. LeGrande argued, for the first time, that her injuries resulted from the negligence of a National Weather Service meteorologist. The court concluded that the FAA breached no duty owed to LeGrande and that LeGrande failed to give the NWS the notice that the FTCA requires. View "LeGrande v. United States" on Justia Law

by
TAMS, a medical device manufacturer, hired Comtrans to coordinate shipment of equipment to a trade show in Chicago. Comtrans is not a carrier. It used its affiliate, ACS, which retained Atlas to perform the actual shipment. The Atlas truck was involved in a serious accident, leaving TAMS with more than $1 million in losses. TAMS’s insurance company sued on behalf of TAMS. Atlas is an interstate motor carrier authorized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to transport goods in interstate commerce. Claims are subject to the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706, which provides that a carrier of property in interstate commerce is liable for the actual loss or injury to the property caused b” the carrier, which may be limited “to a value established by written or electronic declaration of the shipper or by written agreement between the carrier and shipper if that value would be reasonable under the circumstances.” Atlas relied on the contract it had in place with ACS and the bill of lading delivered signed by a Comtrans warehouse manager when Atlas picked up TAMS’s shipment, as limiting liability to $0.60 per pound. The district court entered summary judgment for Atlas. The Seventh Circuit remanded for further development of the facts. View "Nipponkoa Ins. Co., L v. Atlas Van Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2011 the court vacated a rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about the use of electronic monitoring devices in commercial trucks. Petitioners, commercial truck drivers, sought attorneys’ fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act 28 U.S.C. 2412. The other party, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, was not included in the petition, but was the only party responsible for paying the fees. The EAJA defines a party eligible for an award as “an individual whose net worth did not exceed $2,000,000” or an “organization, the net worth of which did not exceed $7,000,000.” The Seventh Circuit denied fees. The absence of OOIDA from the petition indicates that it is not eligible for fees. Even if the petitioners did not have an explicit fee arrangement among themselves, their fee arrangements with the same law firm, which had represented OOIDA for over 20 years, resulted in an implicit arrangement whereby the organization paid all fees and costs and the individual drivers were not responsible for any payment. The purpose of the EAJA would not be served by awarding fees to the individuals. Financial considerations would not have deterred them from pursuing this action. . View "Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Assoc., Inc. v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin." on Justia Law

by
The village, on the Mississippi River, experienced a 500-year rain in 2007. Debris carried by the water clogged the trestle beneath the railroad bridge, causing runoff to back up and inundate the village. Residents sued the railroad, alleging faulty design and maintenance of the trestle. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim, holding that Wis. Stat. 88.87 provided the exclusive remedy and that relief was foreclosed under that statute because plaintiffs had not filed a timely notice of claim. The statute imposes a duty on railroad companies that construct and maintain railroad grades in or across drainage courses not to impede the flow of surface water in an unreasonable manner and grants injured landowners the right to sue for equitable relief and inverse condemnation but not damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff forfeited claims that section 88.87 did not apply, so the court declined to address preemption by the Federal Railway Safety Act. View "Irish v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law

by
Defendant performed occasional maintenance and repairs for a fleet of plaintiff's delivery trucks. Defendant usually provided service onsite at plaintiff's plant, but sometimes would take trucks to its shop. In 2007, defendant's employee caused a fatal traffic accident while driving plaintiff's tractor-trailer to defendant's shop for service. The district court concluded that under Illinois law only plaintiff's insurance policy provided coverage for the accident. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Both insurers provide coverage: defendant's policy by its plain language and plaintiff's policy operation of Illinois public policy. Plaintiff and its insurer are, however, ultimately responsible for the settlement amount. Under Illinois law the vehicle owner's policy is primary over the operator's policy unless a statute provides otherwise. The Illinois tow-truck insurance statute does not apply to provide an exception. View "Coca Cola Ente., Inc. v. ATS Enter., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff insured defendants. Defendant Schilli is a freight broker that arranges freight and provides risk management services for claims against other defendants, trucking companies, but does not own tractor-trailers or employ drivers. Plaintiff advanced funds to defend or settle claims against defendants for accidents that occurred during the duration of the policy. The policy had a coverage limit of $1,000,000 for each accident and a $100,000 basket deductible per occurrence and provides that "[y]ou agree to repay us up to this deductible amount for all damages caused by any one accident, as soon as we notify you of the judgment or settlement." Schilli's name and address are included in the definition of "you;" the other companies are named as insureds. Plaintiff sought reimbursement for amounts, up to the $100,000 deductible, that it advanced in defending and settling each case. Schilli refused to pay. In granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, the district court stated that the policy unambiguously defines "you" as all of the corporations. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding the policy ambiguous as to the nature of defendants' liability for the deductible. View "St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Schilli Transp. Serv., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Hernandez caused a severe auto accident that closed northbound I-57 for several hours. With traffic not moving, four hours later, a truck rear-ended plaintiff's vehicle, more than four miles away, killing one occupant and seriously injuring his brother. Among others, plaintiff brought a personal-injury suit against Hernandez and related entities on the theory that Hernandez proximately caused the second accident. The district court entered summary judgment for Hernandez and the other defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was a four-hour, four-mile gap and the truck driver's behavior was remarkably different than that of other drivers who approached stopped traffic. View "Blood v. VH-1 Music First" on Justia Law