Articles Posted in Best Business And Class Action Lawyers Near Chicago

In 1964 the case of New York Times v. Sullivan reached the Supreme Court, which interpreted the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to mean public figures have a higher bar to clear when suing for libel.

The intention of the First Amendment is to give citizens the freedom to voice their opinion and publicly discuss public figures. At first, this just meant political officials, since the founding fathers saw the value in people being able to publicly debate and gain access to information on the people they would be voting into office. But subsequent rulings have expanded the actual malice doctrine to apply to public figures as well, including entertainers.

Because public figures are subject to a certain amount of public scrutiny, it makes sense for them to bear a higher burden of proof when suing for defamation and/or libel. Not only do they have to be able to prove the claim was false, they also have to prove that the person making the statement knew it was false at the time they made it, and that they made the false statement with the intention of causing financial harm to the plaintiff, hence the term “actual malice doctrine”. Now two Supreme Court justices are saying it’s time to reevaluate that ruling.

The two justices calling for a reexamination of the actual malice doctrine are Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, both of whom cite the modern news media landscape as having influenced their views on the actual malice doctrine and whether it should apply to all public figures.

Although we have long been told not to believe everything we see online, not only do many people believe what they see on the internet, they often act on what they see without bothering to verify those claims. Justice Thomas pointed to a New York Times article that described how someone might need to set up a home security system after being called things like “thief” or “pedophile” online, even if those claims are false. The person making those claims might not realize they’re false and/or might have no intention of causing financial harm to their target, but nevertheless, the harm is done. Does that mean the target of the vitriol should be able to sue the person making the false statements? Continue reading ›

A manufacturing plant may have closed four years ago, but according to multiple lawsuits, the effects of the alleged mismanagement of dangerous chemicals used at the plant are still affecting residents of the area surrounding the now-defunct plant.

The plant in Tioga, LA opened in 1961 and made pressure relief valves for the oil and gas industry. The plant was sold to and absorbed by various companies over the years, and the plant was finally shut down for good in 2017 after the company that owned and ran it was absorbed by General Electric Oil & Gas in 2010, and the two companies combined became known as GE-Dresser.

In November of 2011, when the plant was still up and running, a fire hydrant near the plant broke and water filled an area that had been excavated for repairs. According to some of the recent lawsuits, a chemical sheen could be seen on the surface of the standing water.

A few months later, GE-Dresser notified the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) about a spill at the plant that had resulted in trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) getting released into the ground around the plant. The chemicals are used to clean grease from metal, and neither exists naturally, but has to be made in a lab.

The LDEQ installed monitoring wells to test the soil and groundwater for dangerous levels of TCE and PCE, but allegedly did nothing to notify residents about the possibility that toxic chemicals had been released into their environment until January of 2020, when the department first learned about the contamination levels in the Aurora Park subdivision. Some residents claim they weren’t notified of the contamination until months later in 2020. Continue reading ›

Paying college tuition has long been a struggle for many aspiring students and their families, but when it comes to paying for college, tuition is just the beginning. The cost of textbooks and other school supplies is another financial hurdle, and according to an antitrust lawsuit, some of the biggest on-campus bookstore chains and publishers of college textbooks have deliberately created and taken advantage of the Inclusive Access program to monopolize the market on college textbooks and raise prices.

The Inclusive Access program requires students to buy one-time access codes to access textbooks and course materials online. Because the access codes only work once, students are required to buy into the program each semester, meaning they can’t reuse textbooks or any other online materials they (or other students) already used in another class. Because all the materials are available online, the program is less expensive than buying new, hard-copy textbooks, but more expensive than buying used, hard-copy textbooks.

The lawsuit was filed by college students, independent bookstores, and online textbooks retailers against Barnes and Noble Education, Follett Higher Education Group, Cengage Learning, McGraw Hill, and Pearson Education. According to the lawsuit, the textbook publishers and major retailers are collectively making $3 billion annually from their sales through the Inclusive Access program. At the same time, the lawsuit alleges, the same program raised prices for hundreds of thousands of students, requiring them to pay for the online access code to get all their class materials, instead of getting some of their textbooks used, which would allegedly have saved them money. Continue reading ›

How do we know how much a piece of art is worth? For most of us, a professional art appraiser or auction house gives us a number or price range, but that number is based partly on how much the artwork sold for the last time it changed hands, and it turns out determining that number is more tricky than it might initially appear to be.

To start with, who’s really buying the artwork? An auction house or dealer might say that sold a piece to a particular collector, but they rarely meet the collector in person. Instead, they deal with a “friend” of a collector, but that “friend” might turn out to be an “independent agent” who buys the artwork from the auction house or dealer for one price and sells it to someone else at a higher price.

Buyers and sellers are frequently shell companies, rather than individual agents, taking advantage of the secrecy inherent in the art world to conceal their identity.

Most investors would never consider investing millions (much less billions) into an industry with so much secrecy because such secrecy leaves the industry ripe for fraud. But in the case of the art world, it is that very secrecy that makes it so appealing to certain investors.

To combat the fraud that some say has become rampant in the world of art collecting, some people are saying it’s time we treat art dealers and auction houses more like we treat banks.

Banks are already required by law to identify their customers and where their wealth is coming from, as well as any transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash. Now the federal government is considering applying that same law to the art world. The new law would put an end to shell companies acting as collectors, or allegedly buying on behalf of collectors. Continue reading ›

The Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in a foreclosure action could have far-reaching implications for litigations within the state. In a 5-2 decision, the Court ruled that anyone seeking to serve a defendant in Cook County via special process server must first secure a Cook County judge’s authorization for the summons to be valid.

The case arose from a foreclosure action in Kankakee County. In the underlying case, the plaintiff Municipal Trust and Savings Bank filed a complaint for mortgage foreclosure against defendant Dennis J. Moriarty in December 2016 and issued summons from Kankakee County, where the mortgaged commercial properties are located. A special process server ultimately served the defendant at Rush Hospital in Chicago, which is located in Cook County. Upon the plaintiff’s motion, the circuit court entered a judgment for foreclosure and sale. Following entry of the foreclosure judgment, a sheriff’s sale was held on the property, and plaintiff was the successful bidder. The bank then filed a motion for confirmation of the foreclosure sale.

The defendant filed a Section 2-1401 petition challenging the judgment as void arguing that the circuit court was without personal jurisdiction to enter the default judgment in the foreclosure proceeding. The Defendant asserted that under section 2-202 of the Code, a special process server cannot serve process on a defendant in Cook County without first being appointed by the circuit court. The circuit court denied the defendant’s section 2-1401 petition finding that the special process server was not required to be specially appointed to serve process on the defendant. The appellate court affirmed. The defendant petitioned for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which granted his petition. Continue reading ›

In a recent order issued in the case of PNC Capital LLC v. TCode, Inc., the trial court swatted down the plaintiff’s excuses for refusing to answer jurisdictional discovery sought by the defendant and ultimately awarded sanctions against the plaintiff after finding that it lacked any substantial justification for its refusal to respond to essential jurisdictional discovery in order to thwart plaintiff’s constitutional right to remove the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. The order provides a cautionary tale for plaintiffs who wish to object to discovery issued by another party.

On September 4, 2020, the plaintiff in the case, PNC Capital LLC, which does business under the names Procuretechstaff Consulting Services and PTS Consulting Services, filed a three-count complaint against the defendant, TCode, Inc., in the Cook County state court alleging Breach of Restrictive Covenant (Count I), Tortious Interference with Contract (Count II), and Breach of Non-compete Agreement (Count III). The plaintiff has sought monetary damages of $104,000.

In response, the defendant requested that the plaintiff disclose the plaintiff’s members’ identity and state of citizenship. The purpose of the discovery was to determine if the case was eligible for removal to federal court. To be eligible for removal, the defendant would need to establish a valid basis for federal jurisdiction. In this case, the defendant sought to determine if the requirements for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332 were met. This requires establishing that the parties are completely diverse (i.e. citizens of different states) and an amount in controversy of more than $75,000. Plaintiff refused to comply, relying on a purported agreement with the defendant’s former counsel to exclusive jurisdiction in state court and venue in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The requirements for removal of a lawsuit from state court to federal court are found in 28 U.S.C. §1446 and provides that a defendant seeking removal must file its notice of removal within 30 days following service of the complaint. However, if the pleadings do not make it clear whether the requirements for removal are met, a defendant must promptly investigate whether the case may be removed. Under such circumstances, the 30-day clock for removal does not begin to count down until the defendant receives information “from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3).

In this case, the plaintiff was a limited liability company. For the purposes of invoking federal diversity jurisdiction, the citizenship of a limited liability company is based on the citizenship of each of its members. Thus, determining whether the case was removable required the defendant to identify each of the plaintiff’s members and their respective citizenships. Jurisdictional discovery is designed to obtain just this sort of information. A plaintiff is not at liberty to conceal facts necessary to the determination of whether the suit is removable or engage in a scheme to preclude the defendant’s timely removal. Rooflifters, LLC v. Nautilus Ins. Co., 13 C 3251, 2013 WL 3975382, at *3–6 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 1, 2013). Continue reading ›

A truck manufacturer was agreed to a settlement after it was sued for selling trucks with defective engines. Two members of the litigation class had filed separate suits against the company in state court. After the settlement was finalized, the manufacturer sought to have those suits dismissed. The plaintiffs attempted to intervene in the court where the settlement was approved, seeking to opt-out of the terms of the settlement. The district court refused and the plaintiffs appealed. The appellate panel affirmed the decision of the district court. The panel found that the plaintiffs had not shown that their decision to refrain from timely objecting to the settlement was an excusable one. The panel determined that the plaintiffs were attempting to obtain the benefit of both the settlement and their separate litigation, as a way of receiving whichever of the judgments was larger. The panel found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in binding the plaintiffs to the terms of the settlement.

A class of owners accused Navistar of selling trucks with defective engines. The suit was settled for $135 million. In June 2019, the district court gave the settlement its preliminary approval. Before the approval could become final, the court had to notify class members of their right to opt out, and it needed to consider any substantive objections by class members who elected to be bound by the settlement. In August 2019 such a notice was sent to all class members. The court held a fairness hearing in November 2019 and rejected some objections to the settlement. In January 2020 the court entered a final judgment implementing the settlement. Continue reading ›

A Cook County judge recently granted final approval to a $25 million class-action settlement to end a sweeping class-action lawsuit accusing well-known HR technology and service company, ADP, of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in the way it supplied equipment and support to employers requiring employees to scan their fingerprints when punching the clock at work.

According to class counsel, more than 40,000 people filed claims under the settlement. According to the terms of the settlement, these individuals will receive a prorated portion of the settlement fund equal to about $375 each. The judge approved an award of $8.75 million in attorney’s fees for class counsel or one-third of the total settlement funds.

The litigation resulting in this settlement dates back to 2017 when the first lawsuit was filed against ADP. In 2018, two additional class-action lawsuits were filed against ADP, all centered on nearly identical allegations. The three cases were eventually consolidated into one proceeding before Judge Atkins prior to the settlement. Continue reading ›

Fleas and ticks can carry Lyme disease, making them dangerous, and even potentially fatal, to us all, but especially to dogs who spend a lot of time outside and in whose fur fleas and ticks like to burrow. But when it comes to a certain flea and tick collar, could the protection against fleas and ticks be worse than the dangers posed by the bugs themselves?

Elanco Animal Health is an Indiana-based pharmaceutical company that makes medications and vaccines for animals, including Seresto flea and tick collars. After almost 1,700 incidents of pet deaths and about 900 humans harmed, all of which were reported as having been linked to the Seresto flea and tick collars, Elanco is now facing a class action lawsuit filed by consumers who allege their dogs were either harmed or killed by the collars, as well as a congressional investigation. Continue reading ›

By now, we’ve all gotten used to hearing stories of high-level executives of huge corporations getting fired for misconduct, and while some people might be glad to see some signs of accountability, it’s usually bittersweet when it gets announced that they received a severance package worth tens of millions of dollars. But now McDonald’s is suing their former CEO, Steve Easterbrook, to return the $37 million he was paid as part of his severance package, claiming his misconduct was more extensive than they realized at the time they negotiated his severance package.

Easterbrook was removed as CEO back in November of 2019 for having a personal relationship with a female colleague. The relationship was apparently consensual and consisted of nothing more than text messages and video calls, but it violated company policy, and as a result, Easterbrook was fired from his position as CEO without cause.

Only after Easterbrook had been fired, and had negotiated his severance package with the company, did the company receive information from an anonymous source claiming Easterbrook had had sexual relations with at least three other women at the company. In one instance, Easterbrook allegedly approved a discretionary stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to be granted to one of the women while they were involved. Continue reading ›

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