Weekly Case Digests September 9, 2019 September 13, 2019.

 
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7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Tapanga Hardeman, et al. v. Sheriff Mark Curran, et al.

Case No.: 18-2672

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and FLAUM and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Due Process Violation

Water is vital for both health and sanitation. Dehydration affects practically every life function, including temperature regulation, digestion, brain function, toxin elimination, and oxygen distribution. See Jon Johnson, "Effects of having no water," MEDICAL NEWS TODAY, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325174.php (last visited July 19, 2019). After a few days, total deprivation of water can be fatal. Id. Basic sanitation is also essential.

The plaintiffs in this case, all pretrial detainees at the Lake County Adult Correctional Facility, allege that they were forced to learn this lesson the hard way. For approximately three days in 2017, the jail officials shut off all water in their jail without any warning. With no running water, the plaintiffs had only limited water that the defendants provided for their personal and sanitation uses. As a result, they became ill and feces built up and festered in the jails' toilets, attracting insects. When plaintiffs asked for more water, they were locked down in their cells as punishment. The pretrial detainees responded with this putative class action, in which they alleged that the defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Defendants moved to dismiss on the ground of qualified immunity. The district court denied their motion, and this interlocutory appeal followed. We agree with the district court's decision and affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Landmark American Insurance Company v. Deerfield Construction, Inc., et al.

Case No.: 18-2205

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Insurance Claim Coverage

The question in this case is a simple one: who must cover certain costs arising from an automobile accident involving an employee of Deerfield Construction, Inc.: Deerfield, or its excess insurer, Landmark American Insurance Company? Deerfield's primary insurer was on the hook for the first $1 million, and in principle, Landmark would cover any costs above that, up to $10 million. But Landmark's policy unsurprisingly made coverage contingent on proper notice of the accident. Deerfield did not tell Landmark anything about either the accident or the resulting lawsuit until seven years later, on the eve of trial. When the jury returned a $2 million verdict in favor of the accident victim, Landmark refused to cover the excess amount because it received such late notice. Deerfield now asserts that its notice, despite the timing, satisfied the policy. The district court found that the undisputed facts entitled Landmark to summary judgment; it dismissed all other parties. We affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Sherard Martin v. Davis Marinez, et al.

Case No.: 17-2667

Officials: RIPPLE, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Damages

Sherard Martin appeals the district court's grant of partial summary judgment, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, on his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the City of Chicago and several of its police officers for false arrest and unlawful search. Martin's suit proceeded to trial, where a jury awarded him $1.00 in damages after finding that two of the defendants lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain him. The jury found against Martin and in favor of the officers on the remainder of his claims. Martin appeals, challenging only the district court's pretrial grant of partial summary judgment to the defendants, which limited the damages Martin could seek at trial. We affirm.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Ivan Brazier; et al.

Case No.: 16-4258; 17-1060; 17-1412; 17-2268; 17-2269

Officials: KANNE, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Abuse of Discretion Sentencing

In the early hours of September 8, 2015, in South Bend, Indiana, appellants Ivan Brazier, Derek Fields, and Lindani Mzembe kidnapped, shot, and ruthlessly beat Adrian Harris as he left his home. Charged with federal kidnapping and firearms crimes, the three defendants were tried and sentenced separately, but their appeals have been consolidated. The defendants do not challenge their convictions for the underlying crimes of kidnapping or holding Harris for ransom, and the two defendants convicted of being felons in possession of firearms do not challenge those convictions. Defendants Fields and Mzembe were also convicted and sentenced under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) for using and discharging firearms during a crime of violence. The district court complied with circuit law applicable at the time of its decisions. Later decisions by the Supreme Court and this court, however, require us to reverse Fields' and Mzembe's convictions and sentences under 924(c). We also conclude both of their cases should be remanded for resentencing. Those defendants have raised other challenges to their sentences that either are moot in light of our decision on the 924(c) charges or fail to show any error or abuse of discretion by the district court. We also affirm Brazier's sentence.

Affirmed

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Sheilar Smith, et al. v. OSF HealthCare System, et al.

Case No.: 18-3325

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Court Error Abuse of Discretion

The decisive issue in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion in granting summary judgment for defendants despite plaintiff's motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) to postpone a summary judgment decision so that she could complete further discovery. District courts have considerable discretion in such case-management decisions, but that discretion is not unlimited. The record here shows, unfortunately, that the court's denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion was an abuse of that discretion. The summary judgment motion was filed long before discovery was to close; plaintiff was pursuing discovery in a diligent, sensible, and sequenced manner; and the pending discovery was material to the summary judgment issues. The district court's explanation for denying a postponement overlooked the court's earlier case-management and scheduling decisions and took an unduly narrow view of facts relevant to the case.

We therefore vacate the grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We explain in Part I the role and definition of the ERISA exemption for "church plans." In Part II, we summarize the limited facts available to us about these parties and the merits of their dispute. In Part III, we address the standards for Rule 56(d) motions and potential reasons for denying them. We do not decide the merits of the parties' dispute, though we must discuss the merits along the way to provide context for the Rule 56(d) issue.

Vacated and remanded

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Kenneth J. Bauwens, et al. v. Revcon Technology Group, Inc., et al.

Case No.: 18-3306

Officials: MANION, SYKES, and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

Focus: ERISA Claim Time-barred

Two companies set up a pension plan for their employees, then withdrew from it. This triggered federal requirements that the companies contribute to the plan. This withdrawal liability became the subject of a dance between the companies and the pension plan's trustees: defaults and lawsuits, followed by partial payments and dismissals of the lawsuits.

The most recent lawsuit was dismissed as time-barred. On appeal the trustees ask us to create a federal common law mechanism which would allow them to decelerate the withdrawal liability they previously accelerated. This would, in turn, preserve the timeliness of their claim. We say "create" because the statute makes no mention of such a deceleration mechanism. We decline to do so, and agree the plan trustees' claim is time-barred.

Affirmed

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