7th Circuit Property Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
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Recent Property Law Decisions

In 1997, Hamas orchestrated a triple suicide bombing in Jerusalem that wounded 200 and killed five people. U.S. citizens who were wounded, suffered emotional distress, or lack of consortium sued Iran in federal court arguing that Iran was responsible for the bombings because Iran provided support and training to Hamas.

The plaintiffs were successful and won a $71.5 million judgment against Iran -- though in hindsight, that may have been the easiest part of this litigation.

Motorola has been involved in antitrust litigation for the past five years with AU Optronics, and other defendants, who are part of an alleged foreign price fixing cartel. In one fell swoop, Judge Posner eliminated 99% of Motorola's claim -- what will happen next remains to be seen.

The Sherman Act Claims

Motorola claims that it purchased over $5 billion worth of LCD panels to incorporate them into cell phone manufactured either by Motorola, or its subsidiaries. The breakdown of the claim is as follows: 1 % were bought by and delivered to Motorola in the U.S.; 42% were bought by Motorola foreign subsidiaries and incorporated into products that were shipped to Motorola for resale in the U.S.; and the remaining 57% were bought by foreign subsidiaries and never even entered the U.S. The only sales at issue are the 42%, and Motorola received a little benchslap from Posner when he noted that the inclusion of the 57% was "a frivolous element of Motorola's claim."

Chicago, though not the largest city in the U.S., leads the country in gun violence, according to Reuters. And, while Illinois and Chicago have taken big steps to limit gun rights, many of the laws on the state and city level have been struck down on Second Amendment grounds.

The series of setbacks began in 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled that Heller applied to state and local laws, and overturned Chicago laws that prohibited individuals from owning guns. Later, the Seventh Circuit ruled that a Chicago law banning firing ranges and an Illinois law banning gun owners from carrying a weapon in public were unconstitutional, and the Illinois Supreme Court followed suit.

This week, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois may have handed down the last blow, though how the City of Chicago will proceed remains to be seen.

All states have different ways of handling abandoned, or unclaimed, property. Last week, the Seventh Circuit had to examine Indiana law, and reached a conclusion contrary to the district courts. In doing so, Judge Posner also pointed out an area of the law that may need additional legislation.

Lacey Phillips and Erin Hall are an unmarried couple who decided to purchase a home together in 2006. Their first application for a mortgage was rejected by Associated Bank. They next applied to Fremont Investment & Loan ("Fremont"), through a referral, Brian Bowling, one of Hall's clients. Unbeknownst to Phillips and Hall, Bowling was a "crook" (Judge Posner's words), "who brokered fraudulent loans."

Fremont accepted loan applications based on "stated income," that is, they didn't verify applicants' income. And you've probably heard the rest before: Hall and Phillips couldn't make loan payments, they defaulted and lost their home. What you've probably not heard before is this little twist: Bowling's testimony helped convict Hall and Phillips for mortgage fraud, in return for a smaller sentence.

Do bears poop in the woods?

The Seventh Circuit must assume so, because the court agreed with the Environmental Protection Agency that campsites with water sources should test their water for contaminants.

The EPA can regulate “public water systems,” and it turns out that putting “non-potable” on your spigots isn’t enough.

Dismissed: A Blunderbluss of Federal and State Claims

Everyone gets excited about clean energy sources these days. Who wants to be stuck in the coal age when there's wind power to be harnessed?

Several years ago, Winnebago County, Illinois answered the wind power siren song by making wind farms a permitted use within the zoning ordinance without the need for a special use permit.

Since no good deed goes unpunished, Patricia Muscarello sued the Winnebago County Board, the County Zoning Board of Appeals, and some County officials, (along with several affiliated companies that operate wind farms), to challenge the ordinance as a taking.

The courts and the defendants were left scratching their heads with the same question: What's her damage?

Estate of Davis v. Wells Fargo Bank, 10-1549

Action for violations of the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act and race discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Estate of Davis v. Wells Fargo Bank, 10-1549, concerned a plaintiff's suit against Wells Fargo Bank, which later bought her mortgage loan from the original lender whom plaintiff won a judgment against in her suit for predatory lending, and against Litton Loan Servicing, which later took over the servicing of her loan, asserting various claims including unconscionability and fraud claims under state law, as well as federal claims for violations of the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) and race discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

Heyde v. Pittenger, 09-1388

Action challenging property assessments

Heyde v. Pittenger, 09-1388, concerned a plaintiff's suit against members of a county Board of Review (BOR) and town's assessors, claiming that by setting his property's assessment at levels grossly disproportionate to its fair market value, the BOR and the assessors deprived him of his equal protection rights, and retaliated against him for previously exercising his right to challenge assessments.

Catalan v. GMAC Mortgage Corp., 09-2182

Plaintiffs' suit against lenders under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act

Catalan v. GMAC Mortgage Corp., 09-2182, concerned plaintiffs' suit against defendant mortgage companies under the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and under Illinois law for gross negligence, breach of contract, and willful and wanton negligence.