July 2011

Q&H Wins Federal Case Where Client Municipality Sued By Hells Angels

Congratulations to Chicago office shareholders Paul O'Grady, Larry Kowalczyk, Kevin Casey and Chris Keleher in obtaining summary judgment for a municipality and its officials in a First Amendment claim brought by two Hells Angels members. The Hells Angels members claimed the municipality violated their freedom of speech and freedom of association rights under the First Amendment by allegedly threatening private bar owners with the loss of their business and/or liquor licenses if they served any members of the biker club. The members claimed they were denied entry to various establishments while wearing clothing bearing Hells Angels insignia. The municipality denied any such threats, but did admit to discussing with the various private establishment owners their right to have a "no colors" policy. In granting the Motion for Summary Judgment, the court held that the Hells Angels' insignia was not "protected speech" under the First Amendment, nor was their motorcycle club of a religious or political nature so as to avail themselves of the "freedom of association" prong of the First Amendment. No appeal is expected.

Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of $80 Million Putative Class Action

Brandon Lemley and Paul Rettberg recently convinced the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the dismissal of a novel class action lawsuit brought against a suburban municipality. The municipality issues parking tickets which include the owner's name, address, driver's license number, height and weight, among other information. Plaintiff filed a putative class action seeking $2,500 for each of the estimated 32,000 parking tickets issued in the past several years, alleging that including any information identifying the owner in the parking ticket violated the Driver's Privacy Protection Act ("DPPA").

The DPPA prohibits the disclosure of personal information obtained from a DMV record. However, it allows for some disclosures--when it relates to use by a governmental agency or in initiating a judicial or administrative proceeding, including the service of process. The Seventh Circuit held that although placing parking tickets on windows containing personal information from a DMV record could be considered a disclosure of that information, the disclosure was permitted because a parking ticket itself is service of legal process--which the statute explicitly lists as a permitted purpose.

The case is Senne v. Village of Palatine, Illinois, No. 10-3243 (7th Circuit, decided July 11, 2011).

Hamer Obtains Summary Judgment in Large Personal Injury Claim

Lissa Hamer of our Wheaton office recently obtained summary judgment for her client in a case in Winnebago County, Illinois. In the case, Lissa's client was stopped waiting to turn left when he was struck in the rear by the co-defendant, which then propelled Lissa's client across the oncoming lanes of traffic and into the plaintiff's car. Both plaintiff driver and passenger had significant injuries. After the party depositions were completed, Lissa filed her original motion for summary judgment. While the motion was pending, Lissa's client passed away. The co-defendant then filed her own summary judgment motion and pled in the alternative that the Dead Man's Act now applied, such that Lissa's client's testimony regarding being rear-ended was not admissible. The original judge assigned to the case agreed and granted summary judgment to the co-defendant. Plaintiffs then filed an appeal, which found that the co-defendant had no standing to invoke the Dead Man's Act and even expanded the Act to allow use of transcripts at trial or in dispositive motions upon leave of court.

Lissa then filed a revised summary judgment motion that was heard by a new trial court judge. Despite fierce opposition from both plaintiffs and co-defendant claiming there was an issue as to where Lissa's client's car was actually positioned when the impact occurred, Lissa emerged victorious and the case against her client's estate was dismissed.

Guolee Assists Skokie Park District on Use Agreement With The Talking Farm

Q&H shareholder Terrence Guolee recently represented the Skokie Park District in the negotiation of a novel agreement with The Talking Farm, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to urban agriculture. This agreement gives The Talking Farm access to a two-acre site near Skokie Park District's Tot Learning Center on Howard Avenue to grow produce using sustainable methods; to offer classes in growing, preserving, and enjoying local foods; and to conduct research relevant to urban agriculture.

The Use Agreement permits The Talking Farm to break ground this year on a 10,000 square foot raised bed demonstration garden. Future plans include larger growing areas, a permanent greenhouse, a small orchard and other gardening areas directed towards fresh, organic produce. Produce from the farm will ultimately be available to local restaurants, schools, farmers' markets and individuals. Surplus produce will be donated to local food pantries.

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