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Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Contract, Criminal and Employment Matters

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By FindLaw Staff on April 08, 2010 3:25 PM

American Honda Motor Co. v. Allen, No. 09-8051, involved a class action alleging that a Honda motorcycle had a design defect that prevented the adequate dampening of "wobble."  The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification on the grounds that 1) the district court must perform a full Daubert analysis before certifying a class if the situation warrants; and 2) the district court never actually reached a conclusion about whether plaintiffs' expert report was reliable enough to support plaintiffs' class certification request.

Gratzl v. Office of the Chief Judges, No. 08-3134, concerned an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) action claiming that defendants failed to accommodate plaintiff's disability.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendant on the ground that, even if plaintiff had a disability under the ADA, plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the ADA for other reasons: i.e. she was not a qualified individual and she rejected the reasonable accommodation that defendant offered.

In US v. Milbourn, No. 08-2525, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for intimidation based on race, arising out of his burning of a cross in the victims' yard, on the grounds that 1) the evidence that defendant acted with a racial motive was more than sufficient to support the jury's verdict; 2) burning a cross on the front yard of a biracial family was both threatening and an act of intimidation; and 3) the district court could not go below the mandated minimum sentence even if he were inclined to do so.

In US v. Jones, No. 09-1740, the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part defendant's drug conspiracy convictions, holding that 1) it was not error for the district court to utilize a jury form asking the jury to find that each defendant was responsible for more than a specific amount of drugs; 2) life sentences for participation in a drug conspiracy did not violate the Eighth Amendment; 3) a clerical error in the warrant affidavit for the wiretaps that formed the basis of this prosecution did not prejudice the defendants; 4) defendant's confession, which he gave after asking to speak to a detective and without being subjected to an interrogation, was voluntary and admissible; 5) the district court was within its discretion to exclude the testimony of an officer whom defendants wanted to question regarding statements that a co-defendant made during his guilty plea colloquy, because it was hearsay; 6) the district court correctly refused to grant defendant's request for a jury instruction on a lesser included charge because the proposed lesser charge contained elements distinct from the drug conspiracy charge, and so it did not meet the legal definition for "lesser included charge"; and 7) the government's comment, made during closing arguments, on the defendants' failure to offer testimony to contradict the government's evidence did not violate their Fifth Amendment rights because it was not a direct comment on their failure to testify.  However, the court vacated one defendant's conviction because the district court erred by admitting a detective's testimony concerning a wiretapped conversation between defendant and his counsel.

Fox v. Hayes, No. 08-3736, involved a 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action claiming that defendants arrested and prosecuted plaintiff without probable cause and in violation of his due process rights.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment for plaintiffs in part on the grounds that 1) a reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff was arrested early on during what was to be a very long night of interrogation; 2) the police lacked probable cause to arrest plaintiff because it was unreasonable for defendants to rule out a sexual predator as the victim's attacker; 3) defendant's abuse of his authority, involving an obviously vulnerable mother and wife, boosted what otherwise might be characterized as a particularly ugly insult across the threshold into a valid intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim; and 4) there was a plausible basis to find the jury's verdicts consistent.  However, the court vacated in part on the grounds that 1) plaintiffs could not now defend the due process verdict based on a theory that was never put before the jury; and 2) the evidence did not come close to supporting the $1 million compensatory award for the IIED claim.

Advertising Specialty Inst. v. Hall-Erickson, Inc., No. 08-1097, involved an action for breach of contract based on defendant's co-locating a trade show in Chicago with a competitor of plaintiff, in violation of a right of first refusal provision of the parties' agreement.  The court of appeals affirmed judgment for defendant, holding that plaintiff failed to prove damages with sufficient certainty.

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