U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Decisions in Civil Rights, Labor Law, Corporations, Bankruptcy & Education Law Matters

Spoerle v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., 09-2691, concerned an employees' action against Kraft Foods, challenging a tradeoff agreement struck in collective bargaining agreement between union and management that the time spent donning and doffing safety gear is not compensable.  In affirming district court's rejection of defendant's argument that section 203(o) preempts Wisconsin's law and entry of judgment in plaintiffs' favor as a matter of Wisconsin law rather than federal law, the court held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiffs are entitled to be paid for all time required by Wisconsin law.

Purvis v. Oest, 09-1098, concerned a challenge to the district court's denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment in a former high school teacher's suit against a school district's superintendent and others claiming deprivation of due process and false arrest, arising from a prosecution for allegedly having a sexual relationship with with a 15-year-old student, of which she was acquitted.  In reversing the judgment, the court held that, although a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the school's investigation was biased and deprived plaintiff of due process, the superintendent, dean and the principal are entitled to qualified immunity, and that the police chief had probable cause to arrest plaintiff.

Moss v. Martin, 09-1567, concerned plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against several state officials, claiming that he was fired as the Chief of the Highway Sign Shop of the Illinois Department of Transportation in order to make room for an employee chosen by the administration of then-Governor Rod Blagojevich.  In affirming district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court held that, although the decision to fire plaintiff probably fell afoul of the Rutan principal (rule banning politically-based firings)l, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.

Marshall Joint Sch. Dist. No. 2 v. C.D., 09-1319, concerned a challenge to the district court's affirmance of the ALJ's conclusion that a school district erred in finding that plaintiff, a fifth grader diagnosed with a rare genetic disease, was no longer eligible for special education.  In reversing, the court remanded the matter as the ALJ's finding that plaintiff's educational performance was adversely affected by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) was undermined by a misapplication of the governing standard and was not supported by substantial evidence in the record.  Also, the ALJ impermissibly discounted the testimony of a witness, and there is no substantial evidence in the record to support the finding that plaintiff needed special education because of his health condition.

In Re: Meyers, 09-3478, concerned a challenge to the district court's affirmance of a bankruptcy court's use of a mechanical system known as the "pro rata by days" method to calculate the proportion of debtor's tax refunds that belonged to the pre-petition asset pool, in Chapter 7 proceedings.  In affirming, the court held that, although the pro rata by days method may not be appropriate for all cases, the court properly applied the method as the trustee has met her burden in this case.

Fusion Capital Find II, LLC. v. Ham, 09-3723,  concerned a challenge to the district court's judgment awarding defendant about $1.2 million in legal fees after ruling in favor of defendant and holding an insolvent corporation's board of directors personally liable, in the insolvent corporation's suit against defendant-corporation for tortious interference with its merger agreement.  In reversing, the court held that, under Nev. Rev. Stat. section 78.747, there isn't any fraud as plaintiff's thin capitalization was both the reason why the deal had been proposed and the dominant feature in the deal's structure.  Furthermore, when plaintiff signed a contract promising to reimburse defendant's legal expenses if litigation ensued, defendant knew beyond doubt that plaintiff would be unable to keep that promise unless the merger closed.  Thus, the court is not aware of any statute or decision holding that investors in a thinly capitalized corporation are personally liable for its debts to a contracting partner when that partner, with knowledge of the corporation's insolvency, signs without getting a guaranty from the investors.

Alliance 3PL Corp. v. New Prime, Inc., 09-3489, concerned a plaintiff's breach of contract suit against a shipping carrier, for allegedly violating a back-solicitation clause by carrying bulk goods for one of plaintiff's former customers after plaintiff's contract with the customer ended.  In reversing the district court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff and denial of defendant's motions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 and 59, the court held that the district court should have granted defendant's motion under Rule 50 for judgment as a matter of law as the fact remains that defendant's knowledge of the customer's business was acquired independent of plaintiff.  Further, under plaintiff's reading of "traffic," plaintiff loses because the back-solicitation clause covers only traffic that defendant "first knew" about as a result of doing business with plaintiff.

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