December 2010

Rettberg and Callicoat Defeat First Amendment Political

Retaliation Claim

Chicago office shareholder Paul Rettberg and associate Jason Callicoat recently won a dismissal with prejudice of a lawsuit filed by a former municipal employee alleging her job was eliminated in retaliation for her political association, in violation of the First Amendment. The Plaintiff was an assistant to the Village Manager, who was allegedly a political opponent of group of individuals who had gained a majority on the Village Board of Trustees. The Plaintiff alleged her job had been eliminated because she was known to be a friend of the Village Manager. She sued the Village, the Village President, and three of the Village Trustees.

The ordinance that eliminated Plaintiff's job also eliminated two other jobs and created one new position. Plaintiff argued these were simple administrative employment decisions regarding individuals, rather than a legislative restructuring of the Village staff based on legitimate budget priorities. Querrey & Harrow moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing the decision was entitled to the application of Absolute Legislative Immunity. That doctrine holds that legislators at all levels of government cannot be held liable for their legislative decisions, which often determine how to allocate limited resources among competing priorities. The goal of Absolute Legislative Immunity is to prevent these legislative decisions from being skewed by the fear that legislators will be sued by anyone who is negatively affected by their decisions. The U.S. District Court agreed with this argument and dismissed the case against all Defendants with prejudice

Farmans and De Angelis Obtain Summary Judgment For Homeowners Association

Joliet office shareholder Janet Farmans and associate Aaron De Angelis recently obtained a summary judgment for a defendant/homeowners association on this premises liability case where the plaintiff claimed that she slipped and fell on ice located on the sidewalk outside of her townhome. Plaintiff filed a 2-count complaint for breach of contract (terms of the condo declarations to maintain the common areas, including snow removal) and willful and wanton conduct against the homeowners association. Plaintiff alleged that she sustained a broken leg as a result of her fall, requiring two surgeries, including future physical therapy and treatment. Plaintiff's last demand was $400,000.

Lanzito Obtains Dismissal of Civil Rights Claim Alleging "Involuntary Servitude"

Congrats to Chicago office shareholder Dominick Lanzito for obtaining the dismissal of an interesting case where the plaintiff, suing as "John Doe", challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act. Specifically, plaintiff claimed that the Act was tantamount to a Bill of Attainder and cruel and unusual punishment. Dominick successfully filed for dismissal on behalf of all municipal defendants.

Q&H Wins Dismissal Of Civil Rights and Wrongful Death Claims Arising in Municipal Jail

Chicago office shareholders Dan Gallagher, Larry Kowalczykand Dominick Lanzito recently obtained a summary judgment order dismissing with prejudice a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit filed against a county sheriff and others following the death of a detainee. In the case, a detainee with a history of prior falls and injuries, was noted to have collapsed while waiting in an intake processing line at the jail and died shortly after being taken for emergency medical care. Post-mortem medical examinations resulted in a dispute between experts on both sides on whether the decedent's death was due to natural causes or the effects of prior injuries, or the result of injuries allegedly caused by an attack by unknown officers or other detainees. Despite several expert reports from plaintiffs' side claiming that the death must have been caused by an assault, Q&H obtained the dismissal of the case by documenting that there was no competent evidence regarding there being any assault occurring at the jail, detailing the decedents' history of past injuries and falls and setting forth evidence that the death could just have easily occurred due to natural causes. The District Court agreed with these arguments and found that the plaintiff's failure to identify any particular officer or detainee involved in any attack of the decedent left the case dependent solely on improper speculation and conjecture.

Guolee Successfully Defends Village Before IDHR

Chicago office shareholder Terrence Guolee recently obtained the dismissal of all age discrimination and harassment claims pending before the Illinois Department of Human Relations raised by a terminated office administrator against a south suburban Chicago-area village government. In entering its Notice of Dismissal for Lack of Substantial Evidence, the IDHR accepted the defenses raised for the village that the claimant's termination was connected to a required contraction of the village's administrative staff due to a severe budget shortfall. The IDHR also accepted the presentation of claimant's employment records that refuted her claims that she was improperly denied vacation and overtime.

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