CCL's Peck Quoted by Bloomberg Law about State Constitutions and Abortion after Dobbs

June 29th, 2022

     In "Abortion Rights Wars Shift to Battles over State Constitutions," Bloomberg Law reporter Mary Anne Pazanowski details the developing legal battle between the two sides now that the U.S. Supreme Court has abrogated the federal constitutional right. 

      She quotes CCL President Robert S. Peck, as a former law professor who taught classes about state constitutions, about the state of constitutional law on abortion rights. Peck noted that four states have used explicit state constitutional privacy rights to uphold rights to abortion, while other states have found a right under other provisions. Still, Peck points out that, as the Iowa Supreme Court held recently, changing membership on courts open the rights already established to reconsideration.

       The article can be found at Bloomberg Law on State Constitutions and Abortion.

CCL Wins Seventh Circuit Decision in COVID Death Case

June 15th, 2022

      Unanimously, the Seventh Circuit today held that a case alleging that an Illinois nursing home bore liability for the COVID death of one of its residents should be returned to state court for further proceedings in a case argued just two weeks ago by CCL President Robert S. Peck.

      In Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, the estate of Marlene Hill alleged that the nursing home resident died of COVID-19 due to negligence and willful and wanton misconduct that included insufficient staff, requiring staff with COVID symptoms to continue to work and expose vulnerable residents, and a failure to undertake any protective measures in a case filed in Illinois state court. The nursing home then removed the matter to federal court. In support, it claimed that it was acting under a federal officer as part of the national government's COVID response effort, that the case belonged in federal court due to a 2005 federal statute known as the PREP Act, and that the liability, if any, arose under federal rather than state law. 

      Based on a brief written by CCL, the district court ruled that none of the grounds asserted by the nursing home were valid and ordered the case remanded to state court. The nursing home appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit, which heard argument on June 2. In a ruling written with unusual rapidity by Judge Frank Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court and found no merit in the nursing home's argument. By rejecting those arguments and ordering the return of the case to state court, the Seventh Circuit joined three sister circuits, the Third, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, in ruling that way.

      In its briefing, CCL pointed out that in addition to the appellate court rulings, more than 80 district courts had also ruled consistently with those decisions, with no valid decision coming out the other way. The Seventh Circuit also rejected the nursing home's reliance on pronouncements from the Department of Health and Human Services, holding that these lightly supported advisory opinions bore no weight.

      In arguing these issues, CCL served as co-counsel to the Chicago law firm of Levin Perconti.

CCL Challenges New Florida Statute Treating Insurance Assignees Differently from Insureds

June 1st, 2022

     Challenging a new Florida statute passed at special session less than a week earlier, CCL contended that a statute that home-repair contractors who receive assignments of benefits from a homeowner insurance policy cannot be treated less favorably than the homeowner and thus violates the Florida Constitution.

     Florida legislators targeted assignees in response to pleas from the insurance industry that property insurers were paying too much after wrongfully denying insurance benefits and then being successfully sued for clams that the insurers promised to pay after receiving premiums to assure coverage. Under the statute, a homeowner who receives covered repair and remediation services may sue for wrongfully denied benefits and receive attorney fees, but when the insurance proceeds are assigned to a contractor, a common occurrence, the assignee is not entitled to attorney fees for a successful lawsuit. The provision has the practical effect of making such lawsuits too expensive to bring for denials that can average $3500, thereby creating a perverse incentive for insurers to deny coverage and obtain a windfall.

     The lawsuit argues that the provision violates the Florida Constitution's single-subject restriction on legislation, its access to courts guarantee, equal protection, and due process. CCL is co-counsel in the case with the Boca Raton law firm of Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Hermann.