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Friday, December 21, 2007

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues Indiana decision today

In Elizabeth A. Bright v. Hill's Pet Nutrition and Colgate-Palmolive (SD Ind., Judge Hamilton), a 9-page opinion, Chief Judge Easterbrook writes, beginning on p. 6:

All of this is so straightforward that the reader must be wondering why we have bothered to recap it in a published opinion. The fact that the district judge balked, in mid-trial, at implementing the Morgan rule is one reason. That Hill’s Pet Nutrition has stoutly defended the district court’s decision, when it should have confessed error in light of Isaacs (released after this case was tried), is another.

According to the employer, Isaacs is irrelevant because the facts at the trial of Bright’s suit differ from the facts in the summary-judgment record of Isaacs’s claim. That the proof differs is true enough; that’s inevitable even when two claims arise from the same workplace at roughly the same time. But what has this to do with rules of law? Counsel for Hill’s Pet Nutrition appears to believe that rules of law shift from case to case, so that anyone who “ought” to win (as Hill’s Pet Nutrition is sure that it should) must have the benefit of some favorable legal rule. That approach is nothing less than a challenge to the proposition that there are rules of law at all; it is a claim that every case should be tried “on its own facts” in a kind of law-free zone. We doubt that the employer would be so ready to jettison rules that favored its position; no more can it avoid legal rules that favor the plaintiff. Every case will have its own factual pattern, but the law does not change with the facts. * * *

The judgment in favor of Colgate-Palmolive is affirmed. The judgment in favor of Hill’s Pet Nutrition is reversed, and the case is remanded for a new trial.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 21, 2007 02:06 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions