"The foundations of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong." - Cicero

Microsoft sues US government over customer privacy concerns

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 at 5:50 pm    

Microsoft has launched a lawsuit against the US government that seeks to reserve the company’s right to notify its customers when federal agencies request customer information. Microsoft argues that the government is violating constitutional rights by prohibiting Microsoft from telling its customers when their emails are being searched by federal agencies. In the suit, Microsoft cited the fourth amendment, which guarantees the right for individuals to know if the government searches their property. Microsoft also cited the first amendment with respect to the company’s freedom of speech.

On the government’s side of the lawsuit is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The ECPA prohibits tech companies like Microsoft from relaying requests made by the government to their customers if the government has “reason to believe” that doing so will hinder an investigation. Also allowing the government certain liberties is the fact that the user information at stake is held in Microsoft’s cloud storage rather than on individual computers. Microsoft is claiming that the government is taking advantage of an outdated ECPA to access remotely stored information as a way to expand its power to conduct secretive investigations.

Some experts, however, question whether this lawsuit is simply a business-oriented publicity stunt. The battle between tech companies and government agencies with regard to user privacy is increasingly a matter of public opinion. Apple made headlines when it refused to comply with government requests to provide a backdoor into a mass-shooter’s iPhone. Some security experts question whether Microsoft is simply playing to a growing public concern with privacy in the digital age. Whatever the Microsoft’s motivation is, the lawsuit directly concerns thousands of Microsoft customers. Microsoft says that in the 18 months prior to the suit there were 5,624 legal orders made, 2,576 of which prevented Microsoft from informing the consumer of the request for information.

But there’s hope for those concerned. The lawsuit was filed a day after US Congressional panel approved a bill reforming the ECPA. The bill would only require to government to provide warrants and subpoenas to service providers, leaving the providers with discretion towards notifying individual customers. This bill, titled the Email Privacy Act, is still making its way through the Senate.

Uber Drivers File Class Lawsuit Against The Company

Posted on Friday, June 17th, 2016 at 11:35 am    

Driving with Uber App

San-Francisco based ride hailing company is facing another class lawsuit as its drivers filed a case on grounds that they have been misclassified as an independent contractor. Aside from driver status, the lawsuit also questions Uber’s practice of telling passengers that gratuity is already included and not to tip drivers.

This new case includes all Uber drivers not located in Massachussets and California. Both states have recently reached a settlement with Uber worth $84 million. The new lawsuit was filed by Lorri Trosper, an Uber driver. The new claim alleges that Uber misclassified drivers as independent contractors, did not pay overtime wages and compensation, owes expenses reimbursement , and did not turn over gratuities.

The first two cases were filed in California and Massachusetts in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Aside from settlement, Uber will also initiate several changes in its driver discipline policy. Now, the company can not just deactivate drivers’ account at its own volition. In addition, Uber will issue warnings to drivers to give them a chance to correct any issues before being cut from the service. Aside from that, Uber will no longer deactivate the account of drivers who frequently turn down rides.

The settlement still requires the approval of Judge Edward Chen of the District Court of Northern California. A spokeswoman from Uber revealed that it will probably take several months before it is approved. If approved the settlement amount will be distributed among drivers in the two states.

Valued at $62.5 billion, Uber has been using independent contractors to shuttle passengers to their destinations. For this reason, the company keeps itself from paying a wide range of benefits such as health insurance, Social Security, overtime, or sick leaves. Representing the drivers is Shannon Liss-Riordan who brought up the case against Uber and 11 other on-demand companies.

Given this scenario, it is unlikely that Uber drivers will be treated as employees. Uber has been arguing that drivers cannot be considered employees because they set their own working hours. On the other hand, the plaintiffs argue that since Uber has control of fares and perfomance standards, they should be classified as employees and hence eligible for perks.

The trial will begin on June 20, 2016 and will last for 5 weeks.

Jury decides against Monsanto in PCB case

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 at 12:47 pm    

PCB Warning

Monsanto has been ordered to pay three plaintiffs $17.5 million in damages and an additional $29 million in punitive damages by a jury in St. Louis after hearing a case alleging negligence in the production and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The three plaintiffs in the case all claim that exposure to PCBs caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma—they are among nearly 100 other plaintiffs making the same claim against the company. Sadly, some plaintiffs have died and had to be represented by their surviving relatives.

As of 1935, Monsanto was the foremost manufacturer of PCBs in the United States and only stopped production in 1977, just before Congress then banned the production of PCBs in 1979. The lawsuit claims that Monsanto was aware of the dangers posed by PCBs for decades, but chose to falsely tell members of the public that they were safe. Prior to 1979, PCBs were commonly used in commercial and consumer products, including paint, industrial equipment, and even food packaging.

After the jury made its 10-2 decision on the case, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Kherkher, told the St. Louis Dispatch, “This is the future. People don’t know that PCBs cause cancer and that PCBs cause cancer and that Monsanto has been suppressing” the evidence.

Kherker later explained to EcoWatch, “The only reason why this victory is rare is because no one has had the money to fight Monsanto,” and that his firm, Williams Kherkher, has pooled resources with other law firms to get the case moving.

As he went on to say, “It’s not going to be rare anymore.” Williams Kherkher now has around 1,000 plaintiffs making claims associated with PCBs.

In response to the increasing number of cases that his firm will be pursuing against the company, Kherkher told EcoWatch, “every judge allows us to acquire more and more information from Monsanto and discover their documents. There is a lot more information out there that has yet to be mined.”

Though the former Monsanto Chemical Co. that originally manufactured PCBs is no longer in existence, Monsanto—which now manufactures herbicides and engineers agricultural seeds—is handling the claims. However, three other companies were among the defendants in this case: Solutia, which was a spin off from the old Monsanto Chemical Co.; Pharmacia, which absorbed a portion of the old Monsanto; and Pfizer, which had merged with Pharmacia back in 2003.

Following the verdict made against Monsanto, one of the jurors, Nathan Nevius, told the St. Louis Dispatch, “All of us could pretty much agree that Monsanto was negligent.”

Juror Ashley Enochs told the Dispatch, “I think it goes to show that large companies can put stuff out there that’s harmful and they can do it for along time but that justice is going to be served whether it’s a year after the products are put out, or in this case, 80 years.”

In response to the jury’s decision on the matter, Monsanto issued a statement that said, “We have deep sympathy for the plaintiffs but we are disappointed by the jury’s decision and plan to immediately appeal today’s ruling. Previous juries in four straight similar trials rejected similar claims by attorneys that those plaintiffs contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of eating food containing PCBs. The evidence simply does not support today’s verdict, including the fact that scientists say more than 90 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases have no known cause.”

As of now, the $46.5 million decision against Monsanto marks a departure from prior rejections of claims made against the company for its production and handling of PCBs.

U.S. War Against ISIS in Syria and Iraq: A Violation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973?

Posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 3:42 pm    

Isis-explosions

While in the midst of an illegal war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Obama administration also faces a local war: a lawsuit filed by U.S. Army captain and intelligence officer Nathan Smith, who says that, by continuing the conflict despite absence of congressional support within the law’s time frame, President Obama has violated the War Powers Resolution.

According to the Army Capt., the President does not have the Congress’ approval for the war against ISIS either in Iraq or Syria, despite this, he did not end the war after the 60-day window period, thus, making the war illegal. Based on the War Powers Resolution of 1973, also referred to as the “War Powers Act,” if without Congressional approval, then the president only has 90 days to direct troops. Of these 90 days, mobilization of military forces may continue for 60; the remaining 30 days should be for the withdrawal of those forces.

While the case is pending, Capt. Smith remains on active military service; according to an affidavit that he filed, he claimed to having supported military action against ISIS, however, the potential illegality of the conflict bothered him. One of his colleagues even referred to the military campaign as one of the most severe violations of the Constitution this 21st century.

Bruce Ackerman, a Yale law professor who is advising Capt. Smith in his legal efforts, says that determining who is right or who is wrong is not the real issue, but whether Capt. Smith has the right to be given an answer. Ackerman feels that the courts may see the legislators’ votes, which approved the funding of the war, as the latter’s way of approving it and use this to dismiss Capt. Smith’s claims that the war is illegal. In spite of this, he is hopeful that, with the coming elections, those who are aspiring to be the country’s next leader will be asked about their views on the legal use of military force overseas and that this lawsuit will keep future presidents from using the war against ISIS as ground for unilateral warfare beyond the limits of the War Powers Resolution.

Replacing Qualified Americans with Foreign Nationals on Temporary H-1B Visas: The Charge Faced by Walt Disney World

Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2016 at 5:09 pm    

disney_signWalt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is facing lawsuits allegedly for conspiring to replace US workers with immigrants. Dismissed from work are tech workers, accountants and administrators, most of whom are still hopeful of getting rehired or finding new work within the company due to their length of stay and high performance ratings. The possibility of this, however, is becoming more and more distant as immigrant workers, mostly from India, with temporary H-1B visas are taking over to perform their work. The hurting thing is, most of the dismissed employees were even the ones asked to train their replacements during their final months with Walt Disney.

The defendants in the (separate but with similar complaints) lawsuits which are being accused of intentionally collaborating with each other to replace American workers with H-1B workers are the outsourcing companies that imported immigrants and Walt Disney.

US business employers are allowed by the government to hire foreign workers either on a temporary of permanent basis. Before doing so, however, they first need to acquire certification or documented proof from the Department of Labor (DOL) that no US citizen is available and/or qualified for the job, or is willing to take the job (under a specified wage amount). This certification is for the purpose of ensuring that the hiring of foreigners will not unfavorably or negatively affect the job opportunities, working conditions and salaries of US workers.

Clearly, however, as stated by Ms. Dena Moore, one of those who filed a lawsuit, employees have been negatively affected. How, specifically? They lost their jobs.

The H-1B visa was designed by the US Congress to allow foreign workers with special skills to be employed in the US. Jobs, like information-technology, engineering and accounting, are among the fields to which especially skilled and qualified individuals may apply for.

French Airline Files Lawsuit after Bomb Hoax

Posted on Thursday, December 24th, 2015 at 2:18 pm    

Air France has filed a lawsuit of reckless endangerment, following its fourth bomb hoax in recent weeks—a flight bound for Paris had a fake bomb that then forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing at Kenya.Air France Boarding

France has been on red alert from potential terrorists, following the attacks during the 13th of November 2015 when an extremist terrorist group staged suicide bombers and shooters at various places in Paris, killing 130 people and causing injury to almost 400 more people. It is due to this that upon seeing the fake bomb – made of cardboard, sheets of paper, and a run of the mill timer (according reports from the Associated Press) – the crew acted immediately and made the emergency landing.

However, this has been the fourth fake bomb since the mass shootings and all areas must be taken into consideration.

Air France spokeswoman, Uli Gendrot, reported that the lawsuit had “no particular perpetrator” in mind but the lawsuit allows for an investigation regarding the faux bombs. Six passengers on board, including the one who tipped them off, were questioned for the hoax.

Nearly 500 people were evacuated from the flight and they were tearfully met by loved ones once again upon landing on Parisian soil.

Volkswagen emission scandal: What’s up for the consumers?

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2015 at 2:36 pm    

VW_Emissions

This year could be the roughest for Volkswagen. Last August, it announced it is recalling 420,000 of its units after learning about a faulty steering wheel assembly that may cause the front airbags not deploy during a crash. This airbag-related recall seems to be completely unrelated to Takata’s airbag recall, which involves several other car makers.

But last September, the German auto giant has entered into what has dubbed to be the car maker’s most disastrous scandal yet. The U.S. Environment and Protection Agency said Volkswagen intentionally installed software designed to circumvent clean air regulations by detecting if the car is being tested for emission. The scandal sent waves of dismay and distrust that it lost nearly $2 billion in this year’s third quarter.

Volkswagen is also preparing to face consumers’ ire over the emission scandal. In fact, the company announced that it will provide two cash cards to those affected by the issue – the first one, worth $500, can be used anywhere, while the second one, worth between $500 and $750, can be spent at any Volkswagen dealership.

This move hopes to pacify the anger of many car buyers who believe that they have purchased a diesel car that’s both efficient and eco-friendly. To date, more and more people are suing the company, asking for compensation because of a decreased resale value.

Defects in car keyless ignition systems prompt class action suit

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015 at 3:52 pm    

With the advancements in automotive technology that is available today, drivers can now start their cars with the use of keyless ignition systems. Instead of using traditional keys, a driver can easily start their vehicle with a single press of a button. This mechanism works as long as the driver has the special electronic key fob on their person, since the ignition system is ideally designed to start only when it detects the fob within a given radius. Unfortunately, this state-of-the art design isn’t always foolproof. As a matter of fact, several car makers are currently facing a class action lawsuit because of this very issue.

Keyless Ignition

As reported by CNN Money, a class action lawsuit has been filed against the country’s top automakers for dangerous defects in keyless ignition systems. The lawsuit alleges that the defective keyless ignition systems allow cars to continue running even after the key fob is no longer within the specified vicinity required by the system. This led to cars continuing to run even while parked, causing carbon monoxide to build-up inside enclosed garages and seep inside people’s homes.

The lawsuit cites 13 fatalities caused by such incidents, including one that involves a Toyota Prius hybrid. Aside from Toyota, the other car makers named in the suit include General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Honda.

How Volkswagen Avoided EPA Emission Regulations

Posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 at 5:52 pm    

In 2009, tougher vehicle emissions regulations were instituted to protect the environment from the vast amounts of nitrogen oxide that cars were emitting all over the globe. These regulations came at the detriment of automobile manufacturers that produced diesel vehicles, which emit higher rates of nitrogen oxide due to the diesel fuel burned. Volkswagen was one of the first automobile manufactures to release a diesel vehicle that met the new, strict regulations.

Unlike most diesel vehicles that input an additional tank of urea-based solution used to decrease nitrogen oxide emissions, Volkswagen insisted the 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine on its smaller models did not require a rea injection system. They offered little explanation to this; however the vehicles were emitting satisfactory emission levels.

On September 18, it was discovered that Volkswagen has installed a software algorithm in its smaller diesel vehicles that could recognize when a car was being tested for emission levels. When the software suspected the test was occurring, the car would reduce emissions for the purpose of passing the test.

Volkswagen released almost 11 million TDI diesel cars that contained the “defeat device.” According to website of The Driscoll Firm, the device would deceptively show emission levels that met EPA’s legal limits instead of the true emissions that, in reality, exceeded regulations 10 to 40 times over. The car company has not released an official recall of its products to repair the software.

The cars affected include 2009 to 2015 TDI Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Audi A3s as well as the 2014 to 2015 Passat. These vehicles are powered by 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engines which were theorized to be small enough to not require the AdBlue solution other diesel engines utilized to meet more stringent emissions regulations. The EPA is investigating the case further to establish the scope of consequences from this event.

Airline Faces Lawsuit for Insufficient Protection of a Minor

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 at 3:11 pm    

American AirlinesAn underage girl (between the ages of 12-16) was reportedly touched inappropriately touched during a flight with American Airlines. The suspected perpetrator, Muhammad Asif Chaudry (37), has denied these allegations and was prompted not to comment by his legal team. He was released after paying a bail of $100,000.

In the lawsuit, it is stated in the girl’s claim that Chaudry attempted to touch her genitals. During the flight, when Chaudry left for the restroom, the girl called the attention of a flight attendant and was promptly transferred to the first available first-class seat.

The airline immediately contacted authorities – including the FBI – in order to investigate the claim at hand. Though Chaudry has denied the accusations, the girl has photographs on her phone of the man resting his leg across her lap. It has been stated that she could not move away from her position due to the fact that the seatbelt sign was on. She then details that she woke up to the inappropriate touch of the man by his hand and, later, his foot.
Minors travelling unaccompanied are charged an extra $150 for the promise that the attendants would care for them. The family has filed a lawsuit against the airlines for failing to provide the appropriate standard of care during the reported sexual assault against a minor.