Reported Decisions

FVLD attorneys have been involved in numerous cutting edge and law-making cases. Some of the reported opinions in which we have been involved are below.

Williams Electronics Games, Inc. v. Garrity, et al., 366 F.3d 569 (7th Cir. 2004)

  The Firm frequently conducts confidential investigations for corporate clients on subjects ranging from suspected criminal conduct and fraud to employee harassment. In this case, the Firm’s lawyers were called in by one of its manufacturing clients to investigate a suspected purchasing impropriety. A forensic investigation ultimately accumulated evidence sufficient to obtain the confession of a former purchasing manager and various vendors, including that of the Chicago account executive of Arrow Electronics, one of the worlds’ largest electronics distributors, that they had victimized the client for years with a series of commercial bribery schemes. The Firm’s recovery efforts obtained millions of dollars for its client. The former purchasing manager pleaded guilty to a criminal indictment, as did a New York electronics broker that had sued the client in federal court for unpaid invoices. Two vendors, Arrow and Milgray Electronics, refused to make restitution, however, arguing that the client had ratified the corrupt sales or was equally at fault because it should have discovered the bribes earlier. They also argued that the most the client could recover was any unreasonable profit attributable to the bribery. In an extremely important ruling for victims of commercial bribery, the Seventh Circuit rejected these purported defenses as a matter of law. Moreover, it held that a victim is not limited to its actual loss and that intentional tortfeasors must make restitution of their total profits on the tainted sales. The Seventh Circuit decision was reported in the Chicago Law Bulletin as “Verdict against Game Maker Reversed” and “Restitution Represents Important Alternative.”

Knafel v. Chicago Sun-Times, et al.  413 F.3d 637 (7th Cir. 2005)The Seventh Circuit published an opinion unanimously affirming a judgment previously obtained by FVLD in a case charging defamation claim based on a newspaper column by Richard Roeper about the former mistress of NBA star Michael Jordan.  FVLD had obtained a judgment of dismissal for the Sun-Times in the United States District Court and Knafel appealed.  The Seventh Circuit opinion, authored by Judge Evans, resolved a potential conflicts between federal and Illinois procedure by holding that the plaintiff was not entitled to take discovery of Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper, that the innocent construction rule can be decided on a motion to dismiss in federal court, and the column was not defamatory as a matter of law because Roeper did not necessarily imply that Knafel committed the crime of prostitution.

Ralph Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, et al., 69 F.3d 631 (9th Cir. 1995).In this groundbreaking opinion, a federal appellate court recognized for the first time that the First Amendment applies to aliens speaking in the United States. The defamation appeal also raised novel issues regarding the protection afforded to scientific criticism and commentary. The plaintiff, a psychologist and author, accused our client, an Australian professor, of defaming him at a scientific seminar by questioning his credibility and lack of scientific method with respect to testifying in sex abuse cases. The Firm obtained summary judgment in federal court in San Diego. The judgment was affirmed on appeal by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the firm argued on behalf of all defendants. The Firm then utilized the appellate decision to dispose of several remaining cases that had been filed in jurisdictions where the comments had been subsequently republished.

Brennan v. Kadner, 351 Ill. App. 3d 963, 814 N.E.2d 951 (Ill. App. 2004)This case involved a newspaper column concerning a former school board attorney who had been found to have secretly financed a political committee to oppose an opposition slate of school board candidates.  Citing a confidential source, the column stated that “the election board could refer [plaintiff’s] case to the U.S. attorney’s office, claiming that he used the U.S. mail in perpetuating a fraud.”  Plaintiff argued that this statement imputed criminal conduct.  FVLD moved to dismiss the case and the appellate court agreed with columnist that the statement constituted a non verifiable opinion because it “was not couched in terms of a factual assertion that the plaintiff committed the offense of mail fraud, but as conjecture as to whether the election board could refer plaintiff’s case to federal authorities.”  The court also rejected plaintiff’s argument that he could prove the confidential source had not actually made the statement.  Instead, the court held that the original source of a statement has no bearing on whether it is defamatory.  The case was reported in the Chicago Law Bulletin as “Writer Statement Not Verifiable Fact: Court” and the Media Law Letter as “Columnists Opinion Defense Wins Appeal In Libel Case.”

Salamone v. Hollinger International, Inc., 347 Ill. App. 3d 837, 844, 807 N.E.2d 1086, 1093 (Ill. App. 2004)The appellate court held that it is not defamatory per se for a newspaper to call a person a “reputed organized crime figure” even if he has no criminal record.  The story reported on mob involvement in a local casino project.  One of the potential investors, who alleged that he actually was an innocent grocer, sued because he had been identified as linked to the mob.  FVLD obtained a dismissal of the original and amended complaints for defamation per se, defamation per quod and false light.  On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissals, agreeing that the term “reputed” acted as a “safe harbor” because it sufficiently supported an innocent construction of the phrase “organized crime figure.”   Therefore, it was of no consequence that the plaintiff lacked a criminal record.  The court also affirmed the dismissals of the per quod and false light counts.  This opinion was reported in the Chicago Law Bulletin as “Newspaper finds Safe Harbor” and the Media Law Letter as “Chicago Sun-Times Wins Two Cases On Innocent Construction Rule.”

 Harrison v. Chicago Sun Times, Inc. 341 Ill. App. 3d 555, 793 N.E.2d 760 (Ill. App. 2003)The substantial truth defense played a prominent role in upholding a judgment for the newspaper in this case, where a headline reported that a mother “kidnapped” her daughter when she fled Italy.  The trial court dismissed several counts but not others and FVLD successfully petitioned for an interlocutory appeal on a question of first impression in Illinois regarding whether the front page headline must be read in conjunction with the interior article.  The appellate court agreed with FVLD and ruled that the interior story defused the implication of criminal conduct conveyed by the headline.  The ruling led to the dismissal of the entire case.  This opinion was reported in Editor & Publisher and the Media law Letter as “Use of ‘kidnapped’ substantially true.”

Gyrion v. City of Chicago, et al. 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9508 (May 4, 2005). This case aroseout of the Sun-Times’ award winning “hired truck program” series that investigated improprieties in how Chicago leased privately owned trucks for city work.  The Sun-Times reported that the mother-in-law of a Mark Gryion, a water department official (who also was the Mayor’s cousin) owned a lucrative business leasing trucks to the City.  Afterwards, the City held a press conference to announce that Gyrion had been fired because he had “betrayed the public trust.”  Gyrion alleged that the Sun-Times stories collectively “exaggerated certain statements and/or presentation of the same” and conveyed the false impression that he had acted unethically by concealing his involvement in the hired truck program when he actually had disclosed it to the City.  Granting the Sun-Times’ motion to dismiss with prejudice, the District Court found that the stories implied that Gyrion’s mother-in-law “owed her lucrative HTP contracts to her relationship with Mr. Gyrion” but agreed that this conclusion was a “constitutionally protected expression of opinion about a matter of public interest.”  The Court also agreed that, because Gyrion did not contest crucial underlying facts published in the stories, his claim that the stories were “exaggerated” failed to state a claim. 

Chicago Tribune Company, et al. v. City of Chicago, 705 F.Supp. 1345 (N.D. Ill. 1989)The Firm represented the Chicago Sun-Times in a successful preliminary injunction action against the City of Chicago and American Airlines for violating the First Amendment at O’Hare International Airport after the City and airline removed the newspaper’s coin-operated newsboxes from the terminal’s passenger concourse, citing security concerns. Believing the decision actually was motivated by other factors, the Firm had a Sun-Times photojournalist compile a photographic survey of the airport, which demonstrated that the defendants had left unremedied much more substantial security concerns. After the survey was submitted to the Court, it ordered the newsboxes to be returned.

Grutzmacher v. Chicago Sun-Times, Inc., 22 Media L. Rep. 23971994 WL 742257 (Ill.Cir. Ct., Sept. 28, 1994).The Firm regularly defends media clients in defamation and privacy related litigation. In this case, the Firm represented a newspaper in defeating a defamation claim brought by a former mayoral candidate after the newspaper’s political columnist characterized the plaintiff as a “neo-nazi.” The summary judgment papers included a chart comparing the plaintiff’s political writings with comparable passages in Mein Kampf.

Chicago Sun-Times, Inc. v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 22 Media L. Rep. 2469, 1994 WL 739658 (Ill.Cir. Ct., Aug. 5, 1994).The Firm obtained a judgment enforcing the Chicago Sun-Times’ right of access under the First Amendment to internal school audit reports in litigation against the Chicago Board of Education. The Board of Education had denied the Chicago Sun-Times’ request for access to the records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, which was made as part of the newspaper’s investigation into whether principals and other school employees had mismanaged or misappropriated school funds. Not only did the newspaper prevail in establishing a right of access to the records under the First Amendment, but also the Firm recovered the newspaper’s legal fees in prosecuting the litigation.

Marks v. CDW Computer Centers, Inc, 122 F.3d 363 (7th Cir. 1997).The Seventh Circuit reversed the trial court’s dismissal of this Rule 10b-5 and breach of fiduciary duty complaint brought by a former shareholder and officer of CDW Computer Centers, Inc. several years after he had been induced to sell his 20% stake back to the company. The Appeals Court first found that our client could still bring suit because he could not have reasonably discovered the alleged fraud of CDW and its CEO at an earlier time. The Court also held that the defendants’ omissions and misstatements to our client were actionable. After the appellate court’s decision, CDW settled shortly before the scheduled trial.

Ward, et al. v. Succession of Richard W. Freeman, 854 F.2d 780 (5th Cir. 1988).Former shareholders alleged that a Louisiana Coca-Cola bottler, its officers, directors and other defendants violated the federal RICO laws, and various other federal and state laws, including the federal securities laws, by utilizing a series of tender offers to eliminate the outside shareholders’ interests in the bottler before the insider shareholders sold it to the Coca-Cola Company at a premium price. The Firm had represented the bottler in its negotiations with the Coca-Cola Company and continued to act as lead counsel for all of the defendants throughout a series of different shareholder lawsuits in New Orleans that were filed after the sale price became public. After a six-week jury trial in the Ward case, defendants were found not liable by the jury as to the RICO claims, although they were found liable on several of the federal and state law claims. On appeal, however, the Firm obtained the reversal of all of the jury verdicts against all of the defendants, as well as defeated the plaintiffs’ RICO cross-appeal.

Hoffmann v. Primedia Special Interests Publications, 217 F.3d 522 (7th Cir. 2000).The Firm represented a publisher of various nationally distributed magazines in defending against an age discrimination claim brought by a terminated group manager. We convinced the federal court in Peoria, Illinois to reject plaintiff’s statistical evidence of discrimination and obtained summary judgment for our client prior to trial. The judgment was appealed and affirmed by the Seventh Circuit.

Sheehan v. Daily Racing Form, Inc., 104 F.3d 940 (7th Cir. 1996).In the course of restructuring its newspaper publishing operations, Daily Racing Form, Inc. (“DRF”) released many of its editorial and production employees in its Chicago Office. We represented DRF in the course of the layoff with respect to WARN notifications and defeated a federal injunction action that the Chicago Typographical Union filed in an effort to enforce an alleged collective bargaining agreement that allegedly provided its members with lifetime tenure. After the office was closed, one of the editors that had been let go filed suit in Federal Court alleging age discrimination. The Firm obtained summary judgment based in part on the flaws in the statistical analysis performed by the plaintiff’s expert witness that the Firm exposed through the expert’s deposition. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment on appeal.

Rice v. Nova Biomedical Corp., 38 F.3d 909 (7th Cir. 1994).The Firm represented a client who sued his former employer and his former supervisor claiming retaliatory discharge, intentional interference with advantageous business relations, and defamation. The employee recovered both his actual damages and punitive damages at trial. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment for our client on appeal and ordered defendants to show cause why they should not be sanctioned.

Chicago Typographical Union No. 16 v. Chicago Sun-Times, Incorporated, 935 F.2d 1501 (7th Cir. 1991).In these consolidated appeals, the Firm successfully represented the Chicago Sun-Times in defending against a Union’s appeal challenging an arbitration award. The Court of Appeals held, among other things, that the Sun-Times was entitled to sanctions.

Chicago Style Productions, Inc. v. Chicago Sun-Times, Inc., 313 Ill. App. 3d 45; 728 N.E.2d 1204 245 Ill. Dec. 847, 28 Media L. Rep. 1893, 55 U.S.P.Q.2d 1059;; 28 Media L. Rep. 1893; 55 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1059 (1st Dist. 2000).The Firm successfully represented the Chicago Sun-Times in defeating a television production company’s claim that the newspaper misappropriated its concept for a television series. The appeal concerned the preemptive scope of the federal copyright laws in the context of alleged unfair trade practices and affirmed the dismissal of the complaint.

Imi-Tech Corp. v. Gagliani et al., 691 F.Supp. 214 (S.D. Cal. 1986).In this trade secrets and patent case, the Firm represented a start-up manufacturer of a new space-age technology known as polyimide foams. We obtained a preliminary injunction against a former employee and a sizable competitor that were attempting to go into competition with our client by misusing our client’s inventive work from disclosing our client’s trade secrets and infringing its patents.

Zenith Controls, Inc. v. Automatic Switch Co., 648 F. Supp. 1497 (N.D. Ill. 1986).In this case, the Firm’s client had been threatened with a patent infringement suit by a much larger competitor in the industry. The Firm filed a declaratory judgment action against the competitor seeking, among other things, to have its patent covering an arrangement of electrical switches used in industrial and commercial distribution systems to be invalid and unenforceable. The District Court granted our client’s motion for summary judgment that portions of the competitor’s patent invalid for obviousness.

Boden Products, Inc. v. Doric Foods Corp., 552 F.Supp. 493 (N.D. Ill. 1982).The Firm’s client, Doric Foods, owned the federally registered trademark for Florida Citrus Punch. The Firm successfully defended Doric in this lawsuit brought by a competitor alleging that the mark was generic and invalid.

Roy B. Taylor Sales, Inc. v. Hollymatic Corp., 28 F.3d 1379 (5th Cir. 1994).Hollymatic manufactures food processing equipment and related products, including machines for making hamburger patties and paper for handling hamburger patties. A company that sells and services food handling equipment and supplies claimed that Hollymatic violated the antitrust laws by requiring it to buy patty paper as a condition to buying patty machines. We did not represent Hollymatic at trial, and a jury awarded the plaintiff approximately $900,000. Hollymatic then retained the Firm for its appeal. On appeal, the jury verdict was overturned in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which held that, even assuming there was a tying arrangement, it was not illegal.

Flynn v. Phillip Morris, et al. 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2438 (January 19, 2006)FVLD obtained the dismissal with prejudice of a multimillion dollar anti trust complaint against our clients Hub Group and Hub Group Distribution Systems (HGDS) in federal district court.  The thirteen page memorandum opinion dismissed boycott and restraint of trade claims under the Sherman Act and Florida anti-trust laws and state law claims against HGDS for contractual indemnification, promissory estoppel and conspiracy as well as claims for intentional interference against HGDS’s co-defendants.  Prior to this judgment, HGDS had filed a successful motion to transfer the case from the federal district court in Florida to Illinois, enforcing a mandatory venue clause in the master contract that FVLD had previously drafted for HGDS to use on a nationwide basis.

Hirschauer v. The Chicago Sun-Times, 192 Ill.App.3d 193, 548 N.E.2d 630, 139 Ill. Dec. 245 (1st Dist. 1989).The Firm represented the Chicago Sun-Times in reshaping its distribution network. When the newspaper began terminating nonperforming newspaper distributors, a coalition of distributors argued that, according to prior judicial decisions, the Sun-Times had to buy back the distribution rights and they sought injunctions against the terminations in state and federal court. In the ensuing litigation, one distributor succeeded in temporarily restraining his termination. The Sun-Times obtained the dissolution of the resulting injunction, but the trial court subsequently refused to award damages to the Sun-Times for the wrongfully entered restraining order. The newspaper appealed. In finding that the order against the Sun-Times was wrongful, the appellate court went on to hold, contrary to the prior decisions, that a newspaper distributor’s relationship of indefinite duration was terminable “at will” by the newspaper. The appeal ultimately cleared the way for the Sun-Times to reshape its entire newspaper distribution network.

Baker v. America’s Mortgage Servicing, Inc. and Resolution Trust Corp., 58 F.3d 321 (7th Cir. 1995).For many years the Firm has represented mortgage servicers, as well as the RTC and Fannie Mae, in a series of putative class actions challenging numerous mortgage servicing practices in various federal and state courts around the country. The Firm aggressively attacted the substantive claims of the purported class representatives and none of the Firm’s clients paid damages or settlements in any of these actions. (In one case, the class representative actually was ordered to reimburse one of our clients for its attorney’s fees.) In Baker, the plaintiff challenged the interpretation of contract language used by lenders nationwide involving the computation of late charges. The Firm obtained summary judgment in the District Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment on appeal.

International Financial Services Corporation v. Chromas Technologies Canada, Inc., 356 F.3d 731 (7th Cir. 2004).Deciding a question of constitutional significance, the Seventh Circuit held that there is no Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial when a plaintiff is seeking to “pierce the corporate veil.”  The “piercing” remedy is frequently used to hold one corporation liable for the obligations of its (typically insolvent) affiliate.  The Seventh Circuit agreed with FVLD that veil piercing is an equitable remedy that can only be determined by the judge and not by a jury.  The court vacated a jury verdict against a foreign corporation that had been based on a default of its domestic affiliate. This decision has widespread ramifications for every corporation that conducts business in Illinois through affiliates and subsidiaries. 

Chrissafis v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 940 F. Supp. 1292 (N.D. Ill. 1996).This case presented the novel issue in the Seventh Circuit of whether a passenger can bring a claim for false arrest and imprisonment against an airline or whether the claim is preempted by the Federal Airline Deregulation Act. While recognizing that courts in other jurisdictions have come to divergent conclusions on the issue, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (with jurisdiction over the nation’s busiest airport) held that our client’s claim was not preempted. Our client, who had been arrested at the behest of the airline, went on to win nearly $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages after the subsequent jury trial.

Eskridge v. Farmers New World Life Ins. Co., 250 Ill.App.3d 603, 621 N.E.2d 164, 190 Ill. Dec. 295 (1st Dist. 1993).Elsie Eskridge was found dead in a house where she had formerly resided with the plaintiff, her estranged second husband. Prior to her death, Elsie had taken out several hundred thousand dollars worth of insurance on her life and named her husband as the beneficiary. After her death, the husband made a claim for the proceeds of the policies, as did Elsie’s three children from a previous marriage. When the authorities declined to prosecute Elsie’s husband for her death, the Firm represented the three children and proved not only that Elsie’s death was caused by criminal means but also that the plaintiff was the one who caused it. The court awarded all of the insurance proceeds, and the interest thereon, to the three children, and the determination was upheld on appeal.This case became the subject of a 60 Minutes story conducted in our offices by Ed Bradley of CBS.

Blanco Oso International Trading Company v. Southern Scrap Material Co., Ltd. 735 F. Supp. 294 (N.D. Ill. 1990)This suit was brought against a Louisiana client arising out of its contract to buy scrap metal located in the Virgin Islands from an Illinois company. We nevertheless obtained dismissal of the claim on the grounds that our client did not “transact business” in Illinois within meaning of Illinois long-arm statute.

In re Nu-Kote Holding, Inc., 257 BR 855 MD Tenn (Jan. 5, 2001)Our client, a foreign holding company, brought an adversary proceeding against a Chapter 11 debtor that had purchased assets from our client prior to the debtor having filed for bankruptcy. The debtor challenged the arbitration clause, and the Firm obtained a declaratory judgment that held that no substantial bankruptcy interests existed to overcome enforcement of the arbitration procedures against the debtor.

© 2021 Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman & Dunn Ltd. All rights reserved. Terms of Use. Privacy Policy.
Designed by Digital Strategy Firm, Usman Group.