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 conflict 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.

Imperial Apparel, Ltd. v. Cosmo’s Designer Direct, Inc., 227 Ill.2d 381 (2008). A clothing store sued for defamation per se, defamation per quod, false light, commercial disparagement, and consumer fraud claims after a newspaper published a mocking advertisement by a competitor. FVLD convinced the Illinois Supreme Court that the advertisement was constitutionally-protected speech.

Kapotas v. Better Government Ass’n, 2015 IL App (1st) 140534 (2015). An orthopedic surgeon at a county hospital who received pay during an unpaid leave of absence sued for defamation, false-light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with business expectancy, and public disclosure of private facts. The appellate court affirmed dismissal of all claims because, among other reasons, the reporting was substantially true.

Ludlow v. Sun-Times Media, LLC, 2015 IL App (1st) 142370-U (2015). A former university professor who was accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by a student sued a newspaper for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case because the article, which did not identify the professor by name, was capable of an innocent construction.

Brennan v. Kadner, 351 Ill. App. 3d 963 (1st Dist. 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 (1st Dist. 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 (1st Dist. 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.”

Marsalis v. STM Reader, LLC, 806 Fed. Appx. 748 (11th Cir. 2020). A former Chicago police officer alleged various tort claims in a federal court in Georgia over an article recounting a police misconduct lawsuit against him. The federal appellate court for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal based upon FVLD’s argument that the court lacked personal jurisdiction despite the article’s availability online and plaintiff’s alleged injury in Georgia.

Dahlstrom v. Sun-Times Media, LLC, Case No. 12 C 658 (N.D. Ill. 2020). Chicago Police Department officers who participated as “fillers” in a police lineup during the investigation of a fatal altercation involving the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley alleged that the publication of their personal information and photos violated the Illinois Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) FVLD successfully argued that the officers were not entitled to recovery because they suffered no actual damages from the publication of information protected by the DPPA.

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.

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.

FdG Logistics LLC v. A&R Logistics Holdings, Inc., 131 A.3d 842 (Del. Ch. 2016). This case arose out of a merger transaction where the selling securityholders sued the buyer to recover a pre-closing tax refund. In response, the buyer filed counterclaims for breach of the Delaware Securities Act and common law fraud. The court granted the firm’s motion for summary judgment with respect to the pre-closing tax refund claim based on the plain language of the merger agreement. Although the parties organized under Delaware law and the merger agreement contained a Delaware choice of law clause, the court also granted the Firm’s motion to dismiss the buyer’s fraud claim under the Delaware Securities Act because the transaction at issue lacked a sufficient nexus to Delaware. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s decision.

Iron Range Capital Partners, LLC v. Osprey Capital, LLC, 2014 WL 5073153 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 7, 2014). The Firm successfully pursued securities fraud and breach of contract claims on behalf of a private equity firm, alleging that a competing firm, fraudulently induced it to give up its right to purchase a third company. The court agreed with the Firm’s argument that the breach of a promise to sell securities can violate Rule 10b–5 without the plaintiff having to purchase or sell any securities.

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.

O’Hern v. Meech Lake General Partner LLC, 2019 Ill. App. LEXIS 1705 (1st Dist. Sep. 12, 2019). An investment portfolio manager sued his employer for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, and conversion relating to his compensation in the second half of his employment term. After disposing of the portfolio manager’s other claims, FVLD filed a motion for summary judgment on the breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims. The portfolio manager intentionally included attorney-client communications in his response to the motion for summary judgment thereby waiving such privilege and prompting the trial court to grant FVLD’s motion to compel the production of additional attorney-client communications. When the portfolio manager failed to comply with the order to compel, the court granted FVLD’s motion for sanctions in the form of dismissal with prejudice for the portfolio manger’s failure to comply with the court’s order, providing a false affidavit, and numerous other discovery violations. The appellate court affirmed, crediting the “extreme persistence” of FVLD attorney Seth Stern in seeking discovery.

Miranda v. Auto Wares Group of Companies, 2015 WL 274173 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 20, 2015). The Firm represented an employee who sued her former employer for unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The firm successfully argued that a prior settlement between the employee and her employer at an Illinois Department of Human Rights mediation did not bar her unlawful retaliation claim.

Outside the Box Innovations, LLC v. Travel Caddy, Inc., 695 F.3d 1285 (Fed. Cir. 2012). A district court held that our client’s patent was unenforceable for inequitable conduct stemming from pending litigation over the parent patent and for incorrectly claiming small entity status with the Patent and Trademark Office. On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the district court. The Firm successfully argued that under the Theranese standard, the pending litigation was not material and the claim of small entity status lacked deceptive intent.

Chicago Style Productions, Inc. v. Chicago Sun-Times, Inc., 313 Ill. App. 3d 45 (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.

Waters Indus., Inc. v. JJI Int’l, Inc., 2012 WL 5966534 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2012). FVLD pursued patent infringement claims on behalf of a lighting equipment manufacturer. In response, the defendants sought to amend their answers to the complaint and file counterclaims alleging inequitable conduct. The court agreed with FVLD’s argument that the defendants’ attempt to amend their answers was too little too late, stating that “not only is Defendants’ attempt to amend their Answer and Counterclaim untimely, their proposed amended Counterclaim V is futile pursuant to the Federal Circuit’s decisions in Exergen and Therasense.”

totes Isotoner Corp. v. Panther Vision, LLC, 2010 WL 55673 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 4, 2010). The exclusive licensee of a patent for baseball caps equipped with LED lights inside the brim accused our client, a manufacturer of headwear with LED lights, of patent infringement. FVLD successfully distinguished our client’s design with that of the plaintiff. The court recognized that our client’s cap contains multiple LED lights in the brim which provide multiple, distinct beams of light whereas infringement claims for plaintiff’s patent were limited to caps where the brims has “an array of light emitting diodes focused/configured to form a contiguous beam.”

Monarch Beverage Co., Inc. v. Rush Beverage Co., 2007 WL 9815886 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2007). The firm successfully moved to compel arbitration in a trademark dispute whereby our client sought to cancel and oppose the registration of certain trademarks similar to those owned by our client.

In the Matter of Certain Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes and Components Thereof, United States International Trade Commission Investigation No. 337-TA-625 (April 8, 2009). The firm submitted a complaint to the United States International Trade Commission on behalf of a patent holder alleging violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by reason of infringement of a patent for self-cleaning litter boxes and its components. After its investigation, the Commission agreed with the firm’s construction of the patent’s key claims, rejecting the respondents’ arguments that the patent was invalid for anticipation or obviousness. As a result, the Commission issued an order prohibiting the unlicensed entry of self-cleaning litter boxes and cartridges covered by the patent as well as cease and desist orders.

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 (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 attacked 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.

Elsasser v. DV Trading, LLC, 444 F. Supp. 3d 916 (N.D. Ill. 2020). Several commodities futures traders sued our client, a trading company, seeking damages and a declaratory judgment with respect to a $5 million settlement with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission over allegations that our client’s predecessor engaged in prohibited wash trading futures contracts. The traders claimed they had no obligation to reimburse our client for any portion of the settlement and that they were entitled to damages. FVLD successfully argued that the traders lacked standing to sue for lost profits or actual damages and that the traders could not avoid arbitration with respect to their other claims.

U.S. ex rel. Prose v. Molina Healthcare of Illinois, 17 F.4th 732 (7th Cir. 2021). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reinstated a relator’s qui tam lawsuit against managed care organization Molina Healthcare for violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and its Illinois counterpart. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by FVLD client and whistleblower Dr. Thomas Prose, the founder of General Medicine, P.C., a team of board-certified physicians and advanced nurse practitioners specializing in treating patients residing in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs). The lawsuit seeks to recover overcharges to Illinois’ Medicaid program for expensive SNF-related services that were not provided. The District Court had dismissed the case in June 2020, which prompted the Seventh Circuit Appeal.  In reversing that order, the 7th Circuit majority found, among other things, that the District Court “failed to give proper weight to the complaint’s description of Molina as a highly sophisticated member of the medical services industry” with knowledge of the capitated payment process. 

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. 

Matrix IV, Inc. v. Williams, 2012 WL 1866605 (N.D. Ill. May 18, 2012). The Firm successfully moved for sanctions after the opposing party attempted to pursue fraud claims against our client despite the Seventh Circuit’s ruling in a companion case rendering these claims untenable under the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The opposing party’s attorneys were required to the attorney’s fees and costs our client “incurred as a result of Matrix’s unreasonable and vexatious continued prosecution of these claims.”

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 (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.

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