Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Gaston, an Illinois prisoner, first complained about pain in his left knee in May 2009. Drugs did not help. After some delay, Gaston saw an orthopedic surgeon in September 2010. An MRI exam was approved but not conducted until February 2011. In August 2011, Gaston had arthroscopic surgery. While Gaston’s left knee was healing, Wexford (the corporation that provides prison medical care) delayed approving an MRI of his right knee; one knee had to be sound before treatment of the other. In May 2012 Gaston had an MRI exam on the right knee. It showed serious problems. Another arthroscopic surgery occurred in October 2012. This did not bring relief. Arthroplasty (knee replacement) was delayed while specialists determined whether Gaston’s pulmonary and cardiology systems would handle the strain but took place in February 2015 and was successful. Gaston claimed that the delays while waiting for surgeries reflect deliberate indifference to his pain so that the pain became a form of unauthorized punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants offered evidence that the delays could be chalked up to a preference for conservative treatment before surgery and never to any desire to injure Gaston or indifference to his pain. The district court granted summary judgment to the individual defendants, ruling that none acted (or delayed acting) with the state of mind required for culpability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and affirmed judgment in favor of Wexford. Private corporations, when deemed to be state actors in suits under 42 U.S.C. 1983, are not subject to vicarious liability. Wexford could be liable for its own unconstitutional policies, but the policies to which Gaston pointed, reflected medical judgment rather than a constitutional problem. View "Gaston v. Ghosh" on Justia Law

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HSBC obtained a foreclosure judgment against the Lisses. To extend the time for appeal of that judgment, attorney Nora filed two bankruptcy petitions and multiple appeals, accusing HSBC and its attorney of federal crimes and seeking sanctions. The district court ultimately ordered Nora and her client to pay damages and costs related to the bankruptcy litigation and suspended her from the practice of law in the Western District of Wisconsin. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that this was not Nora’s first encounter with attorney discipline. Nora’s attempt to relitigate HSBC’s foreclosure judgment in bankruptcy court was frivolous; her stall tactics were “blatant.” Such litigation behavior—even assuming pure motives—constitutes objective bad faith warranting sanctions under 28 U.S.C. 1927. The court noted “her serial dilatory, vexatious, and unprofessional litigation practices” and frivolous motion practice and legal arguments in her appeals. Flippant, unfounded accusations of misconduct and fraud by opposing counsel and court officials demean the profession and impair the orderly operation of the judicial system. View "Nora v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

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Courtney had a CT scan performed at CDI’ diagnostic imaging facility. The radiologist, Webster, an independent contractor hired by MSC, missed Courtney’s rectal cancer. Courtney's cancer festered for over a year before being diagnosed, having metastasized to her lungs and liver. CDI claimed that it could not be held liable because CDI did not directly employ Webster. The district court rejected this argument and applied Indiana’s apparent agency precedent, which instructs that a medical provider is liable if a patient reasonably relied on its apparent authority over the wrongdoer. The jury returned a $15 million verdict. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first explaining that CDI had not registered under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, which limits liability for registered qualified health care providers and requires the presentation of a proposed complaint to a medical review panel before an action is commenced in court. MSC and Walker had registered as qualified health care providers, so the Websters had filed a complaint against them with the Indiana Department of Insurance. Courtney testified that she had no idea about the contractual relationships among MSC, CDI, and Dr. Walker and she was never provided information that the physician who would be interpreting her CT scan was not subject to CDI’s control or supervision. View "Webster v. CDI Indiana, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2002, in Texas, Dr. Phillips performed a laparoscopic hysterectomy on Bramlett, a 36-year-old mother. While hospitalized, Bramlett suffered internal bleeding and died. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital and Dr. Phillips, who held a $200,000 professional liability insurance policy with MedPro. He notified MedPro of the lawsuit. In 2003, the hospital settled with the Bramletts for approximately $2.3 million. The Bramletts wrote to Dr. Phillips’s attorney, Davidson, with a $200,000 Stowers demand; under Texas law, if an insurer rejects a plaintiff's demand that is within the insured’s policy limit and that a reasonably prudent insurer would accept, the insurer will later be liable for any amount awarded over the policy limit. MedPro twice refused to settle. The family won a $14 million verdict. The Supreme Court of Texas capped Dr. Phillips’s liability. The family sued MedPro, which settled. MedPro was insured by AISLIC, which declined to cover MedPro’s settlement. The district court granted AISLIC summary judgment, concluding that coverage was excluded because MedPro should have foreseen the family’s claim. An exclusion precluded coverage for “any claim arising out of any Wrongful Act” which occurred prior to June 30, 2005, if before that date MedPro “knew or could have reasonably foreseen that such Wrongful Act could lead to a claim.” The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, finding genuine issues of material fact regarding whether MedPro’s failure to settle was a Wrongful Act and whether MedPro could have foreseen a "claim" before the malpractice trial. View "Medical Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana v. American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Neighbors is a skilled nursing facility participating in Medicare and Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that Neighbors inadequately addressed sexual interactions between three cognitively impaired residents and that Neighbors’ failure to act put the residents in “immediate jeopardy,” and issued Neighbors a citation and an $83,800 penalty under 42 U.S.C. 1395i‐3(h)(2)(B)(ii)(I). An ALJ and the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board upheld the decision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Agency’s determinations and rejecting claims that the sexual interactions were consensual. The court noted findings that staff, aware of the sexual interactions, did not talk to the residents about their feelings about these “relationships”; did not document the residents’ capacity for consent (or lack thereof) or communicate with residents’ physicians for medical assessment of how their cognitive deficits impacted that capacity; did not discuss the developments with the residents’ responsible parties; and did not record any monitoring of the behaviors or make any care plans to account for them. Neighbors’ non‐intervention policy prevented any real inquiry into consent, except in the extreme situation where a resident was yelling or physically acting out. View "Neighbors Rehabilitation Center, LLC v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Shaf, a New Jersey company, sells apparel. Seventh Avenue, a Wisconsin-based catalog merchandiser, sells clothing protected by a trademark. After a dispute over Shaf’s alleged infringement of Seventh Avenue’s trademark, the parties entered into a consent agreement. Months later, Seventh Avenue discovered what it saw as continuing infringement by Shaf and moved to hold Shaf in contempt. Shaf was represented in the district court by Milwaukee counsel. The attorney received an email notification (from the court’s electronic docketing system) of the motion upon its January 17 filing, indicating that response was due January 24. Shaf failed to respond. The court scheduled a hearing for February 14. Nobody for Shaf appeared. The court held Shaf in contempt and required that it pay Seventh Avenue’s fees and costs. The contempt order prompted Shaf's local counsel to move for reconsideration, explaining that counsel was traveling internationally when the motion was filed. Counsel returned to work five days before Shaf’s written response was due and 26 days before the hearing, but took several weeks to catch up on his email. Shaf’s request also explained that local counsel believed national counsel would attend to any ongoing needs in the case. The court denied the motion to reconsider. Seventh Avenue supplemented its fee petition to reflect additional expenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $34,905 in fees and costs. While the delayed response was better than no response, the court acted within its discretion to find that Shaf’s initial unresponsiveness warranted a sanction. View "Seventh Avenue, Inc. v. Shaf International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Reynolds claimed that the law firm (H&L) gave bad advice that led him to violate federal disclosure laws when he drafted his LLCs’ financial statements. The district court granted H&L summary judgment, stating that Reynolds could not bring a malpractice suit on his own behalf because he did not have a personal attorney-client relationship with H&L. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although H&L had an attorney-client relationship with the LLCs that Reynolds co-owned and managed, and it was in his capacity as a managing member of these LLCs that Reynolds communicated with, and was advised by, H&L, Illinois courts consistently have held that neither shared interests nor shared liability establish third-party liability. For third-party liability in Illinois, Reynolds must have been a direct and intended beneficiary; simply because the officers of a business entity were at risk of personal liability does not transform the incidental benefits of the law firm’s representation of the business entity into direct and intended benefits for the officers. View "Reynolds v. Henderson & Lyman" on Justia Law

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For five years, DeHaan, a licensed family‐practice physician working in the Chicago and Rockford areas, was affiliated with agencies providing medical services to homebound patients, and served as medical director of several home health agencies, assisted living facilities, and hospices. DeHaan billed Medicare at the highest levels for services to homebound patients that were ostensibly time‐consuming or complex, when in fact he had either conducted a routine, non‐complex patient visit or had not seen the patient at all on the occasion for which he was billing. At the behest of home health agencies, DeHaan certified as homebound patients whom he either knew did not meet Medicare’s criteria (42 U.S.C. 1395n(a)(2)(A)) for home care or as to whom he lacked meaningful knowledge. DeHaan pled guilty to two counts of a 23‐count indictment, admitting to overbilling and fraudulent certifications. The district court took evidence and found that he was responsible for fraudulently certifying the eligibility of least 305 individuals for home health care services, resulting in wrongful billings to Medicare of nearly $2.8 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding no error in the district court’s “conservative loss‐estimation methodology,” and upheld a within‐Guidelines sentence of 108 months in prison with an order to pay restitution of $2,787,054.58. View "United States v. DeHaan" on Justia Law

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For several weeks, Redman posed as a psychiatrist at a Chicago medical clinic using the name and license number of Dr. Garcia. He “treated” patients for mental illnesses, and “prescribed” controlled substances. Redman actually did not attend school past the tenth grade. Before commencing employment, Redman provided falsified documentation: an employment application, payroll application, I‐9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, W‐9 form, photograph of an Indiana driver’s license with Redman’s picture, photocopy of an Illinois medical license, photocopy of a medical school diploma, a residency certificate for training in psychiatry, and a photocopy of a social security card. He used online counterfeiting services; he submitted an online Drug Enforcement Administration application and obtained malpractice insurance using false information. He was discovered when the real Dr. Garcia learned that someone had used his medical license number to obtain a DEA registration. A jury found Redman guilty of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, furnishing false and fraudulent material information in documents required under the federal drug laws, and distributing controlled substances. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his 157-month sentence, upholding the application of two-level enhancements for use of sophisticated means and for conduct that involved a conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury. View "United States v. Redman" on Justia Law

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Jansen pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and tax evasion, 26 U.S.C. 7201. Before sentencing, Jansen’s third attorney (Steinback) withdrew. His new attorney, Beaumont, requested Rule 16 discovery and obtained 42,700 documents. Jansen filed a pro se motion to continue his sentencing proceedings because none of his prior attorneys had requested or reviewed those documents. Weeks later, Beaumont withdrew, citing irreconcilable differences; he was replaced by Richards. Jansen indicated to the court that he wished to withdraw his guilty plea as not “knowing and voluntary” because of ineffective assistance of counsel. Richards also withdrew. The court permitted Jansen to proceed pro se but denied his motion to withdraw his plea and sentenced Jansen to 70 months’ imprisonment with a restitution payment of $269,978 to the IRS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, remanding the issue of restitution to allow the district court to clarify that its imposition of restitution is a condition of supervised release rather than a criminal penalty. The district court made the sound factual finding that Jansen hired Steinback “to negotiate the best possible plea agreement,” not to go to trial. Steinback formulated a “four-fold” “tactical strategy” that included forgoing investigation and discovery so that such a strategy was objectively reasonable. View "United States v. Jansen" on Justia Law