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

The Future of College Sports

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at 9:44 am    

NCAAIt is no secret that colleges court the best football and basketball players coming out of high school, but they are limited by what the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) says they can offer as incentives to these budding stars. That could change, however, if Jeffrey Kessler wins his antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA to open the market in college sports.

Kessler maintains that since colleges make money from their players, the players should get a piece of the pie. He used the University of Texas, which earned more than $165 million for school year 2012-13 from its athletics programs according to its 2014 annual report, as an example.

This is not the first time that the NCAA has been accused of antitrust violations, and a federal judge has already ruled in that. As a result, five of the most influential conferences have gained more freedom about how they compensate their athletes, but Kessler wants college athletics to be as market-driven as professional sports.

It’s also not Kessler’s first time around the block in sports litigation. He was successful in negotiating for the free-agency system currently prevailing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL). He is now bent on expanding the earning opportunities of college athletes, many of whom may never make it to professional sports. Kessler’s bid has already made it past the preliminary hearings, and if all goes well, a trial date could be set for 2015.

Ferguson Shooting Brings Up Old Wounds

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014 at 4:22 pm    

14726321648_28b542b874_zIn the days of civil unrest that have followed the killing of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer, many of the details of the incident are still unclear.  Police officials maintain that the shooting followed an altercation and a struggle over the police officer’s gun, a narrative that has been met with “outrage and skepticism in the largely African-American community,” according to the New York Times.  What is acknowledged by both the police and community is that Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Only a year ago, jurors found the Chicago police department liable for the wrongful death of Aaron Harrison, a case that strikes a troubling resemblance to the shooting of Brown; Harrison too was an unarmed, 18-year-old African American male who was shot by a police officer.  While the Independent Police Review Authority in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune, found that the shooting was justified in 2009, jurors in a civil trial disagreed.

While jurors awarded Harrison’s family with $8.5 million for his wrongful death, it took 6 years for justice to be served.  However, it was the persistence of Harrison’s family that ultimately resulted in the city and police officer being held accountable for their son’s death. “They never gave up hope of justice and justice prevailed for them, the truth came out and the city was held accountable,” says Chicago-based lawyer Larry Disparti.

Outlined by the National Institute of Justice, most law enforcement agencies have specific policies that describe how a police officer may utilize a continuum of escalating actions to gain control of a situation.  As such, lethal force may normally only be used when a suspect poses a serious threat to the police officer or to another person.

At the time of the Harrison shooting, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, police officials claimed that Harrison raised a handgun at the police officer who then shot Harrison to defend himself.  However, five eyewitnesses disputed this claim, reporting that at no point did Harrison have a weapon until after he was already handcuffed.  The circumstances appear to be closely related to Brown’s shooting; police officials claim that the shooting officer was seriously attacked and in danger of further injury, while eyewitnesses claim that Brown had his hands raised above his head.

Depending upon the circumstances of the shooting, then, the Ferguson police department may also be found to be liable for the wrongful death of Brown, as in the case of Harrison.  As frustrating as it is, it may take a substantial amount of time and investigation to understand exactly what happened in the moments before Brown’s death. With that in mind, Disparti claims, “I think one of the lessons we can look to from the Harrison case is that people in Ferguson need to have faith in the legal system.  It works.”  While financial compensation will never account for the loss of life, it may serve as a statement against the injustices sustained by Harrison and his family.

Days after Brown’s death, a White House petition was created calling for police officers to wear cameras on their vests at all times, as reported by the Washington Post. Having already surpassed 100,000 signatures, the White House is now obligated to respond to the petition.  The video evidence this policy would make available would likely have a twofold effect: police officers would be under greater obligation to adhere to the procedures of their police department, and definitive proof would be made available either affirming or disproving allegations of police misconduct.

Controversial Liability Law Under Fire From Big Insurance

Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2014 at 3:24 pm    

scaffoldingManhattan’s iconic skyline view would not have been possible without the hard work and bravery of construction workers who perform one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, high above the ground. Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law, also known as the Scaffold Safety Law, protects those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job. The Scaffold Law applies to height-related construction injuries and holds property owners and general contractors accountable when a worker’s accident is caused due to the lack of proper safety protections.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are lobbying hard to eliminate the Scaffold Law and deprive construction workers of a necessary protection. Contrary to the insurance industry’s claims, owners and contractors can avoid all liability under the Scaffold Law simply by providing workers with necessary safety precautions. The Scaffold Law is essential in holding contracting firms accountable and ensuring that money-saving corners are not cut at the expense of human life. Thanks to the Scaffold Law, New York had the nation’s fifth-lowest construction injury rate.

quoteIn a recent case, Hach & Rose obtained a thirteen million dollar jury verdict for a worker who fell from a twenty-five foot ladder while he was painting, suffering severe, life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, the victim did not have a co-worker available to hold his ladder while he was painting, and a safer way to do his job was not provided to him. If not for the protections of the Scaffold Law, the worker would have been limited to the benefits of workers’ compensation. Michael Rose, who tried this case, said:

“This case is the perfect example of why the scaffolding law is so important. If the law did not exist, our client would have received about $500 per week, that’s it. I don’t see how that could possibly be fair for someone who spent one year in a rehabilitation center after brain surgery, learning how to walk, talk, eat, and read all over again. His brain has been permanently injured and he cannot exist on his own. If he had simply been provided with a mechanism to tie off his ladder or had someone available to hold the latter for him, he would still be living a normal life with his family. Thankfully, the protection provided by the Scaffold law allows injured workers to be compensated for their full damages and live their lives with dignity when proper safety precautions are not taken.”

Fortunately, because of the accountability provided by the Scaffold Law, the victim was compensated for his past and future lost earnings, past and future medical expenses, loss of pension benefits, loss of annuity benefits, loss of medical insurance, and for his pain and suffering. Although money cannot make up for loss of health, it can allow the victim and his family financial security.

Trademark Infringement for a Roll

Posted on Thursday, July 31st, 2014 at 11:36 am    

When a native dish in one country is brought to another country, can the bringer claim it as a trademark?flatbread

This is the main issue in a lawsuit brought by one company that opened in 2002 against another that opened in 2014 in the same neighborhood with similar offerings. The primary one is the kati roll, a treat typically found on the streets of India, which is basically an Indian flatbread filled with meat, cheese, vegetables and egg. The plaintiff claims that the defendant had unfairly appropriated her trademark colors, recipes, and layout, including hiring former employees, to mislead customers into thinking they were one and the same company.

The defendant claims that the kati roll is common in India and similarities in taste and presentation would be inevitable, as well as many of the traditional flavor combinations and accompaniments. They further denied that the former employees were in any way instrumental in influencing the décor, layout and uniform of the new restaurant. None are in management positions and were hired after the restaurant had already been set up.

The case was brought before the Manhattan Federal District Court, and presiding judge Shira Scheindlin allowed the lawsuit to proceed after hearing the arguments from both sides. A trial date has yet to be set.

It would be interesting to see how the case will eventually go. There are many cultures in the US, and there will always be someone who will be the first to introduce their favorite native dish to the public. However, this does not give them the right to appropriate it as their own and prevent others from doing the same thing just because they are losing business, unless the similarities are such that a reasonable person would inevitably confuse one with the other.

Truck Accident Injuries, Fatalities on the Rise

Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at 10:34 am    

Truck AccidentAccording to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of injuries resulting from a truck accident increased 18% in 2012 over the figures from 2011. A total of 104,000 people were injured in accidents involving a large commercial truck, according to the agency.

In addition to injuries, fatalities resulting from truck accidents also demonstrated an increase. 3,921 people were killed in a truck accident in 2012, compared to 3,781 in 2011, for a reported increase of 4%.

The worrying trend displayed in these numbers makes clear that truck accidents remain a significant threat to those on our nation’s roadways. Indeed, as the website for Williams Kherkher, Houston truck accident lawyers, points out, the average cost resulting from a truck accident is more than $59,000, meaning that many accident victims have to cope with large financial costs as a result of their injuries.

For this reason, truck accident lawsuits can play an important role in helping the victims of truck accidents, as well as the families of those who may have been killed in these types of accidents, to pursue much-needed compensation.

City Sued over “Excessive” Parking Ticket Fines

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014 at 10:59 am    

When your parking ticket fine is three times more than what you earn in a day, it is a matter of concern. But is it in violation of the Constitution? shutterstock_55735285

A resident of Los Angeles, Jesus Pimentel, started the class action ball rolling when he received a parking ticket when the meter where his car was parked expired. He is claiming that the $175 fine was excessive, and in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as Article 1 Section 17 of the California Constitution. He also alleged that when he failed to pay the fine, he was not allowed to renew the registration on his car and was threatened with impoundment of his car as well as civil litigation. This, Pimentel’s lawyer says, is a violation of due process, another hit at the Constitution (Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments).

Pimentel is the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against the city, but his lawsuit is not the only one. Jeff Galfer, another Los Angeles resident who received similar treatment is also petitioning for joiners for a class action suit. In addition to the city’s Department of Transportation, Galfer also named Xerox State and Local Solutions, which handles the parking ticketing system for the city. If the court rules for the plaintiffs, it could have significant repercussions in transportation departments all over the U.S.

Stryker Hip Implant Trials Scheduled for mid-2015

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 at 3:47 pm    

hip implantA case management order filed earlier this year for the multidistrict litigation case regarding defective Stryker Hip Implants in the District of Minnesota (MDL 2441) indicates that the cases may go to trial by next summer. MDL 2441 currently represent 616 cases but more than 1,500 cases are pending throughout the US and the number of lawsuits filed is only expected to rise.

The Stryker Rejuvenate & ABG II Hip implants and similar models were recalled in 2012 when studies revealed that the products had unacceptably high rates of failure, causing a lot of pain as well as bone and organ damage in some cases, often requiring replacement surgery. The hip implants were supposed to last at least 15 years before needing replacement, but about 13% of patients needed replacement less than two years after implant surgery. Many patients retained metal debris that resulted from a design defect in the implants.

A similar case was filed against medical device maker and Stryker Co. rival Biomet, which has agreed to settle cases under MDL 2391 in the Northern District of Indiana for its M2a 38 and M2a Magnum hip implants. Stryker likewise settled four cases on December 16, 2013.

Pier 1 Subject of Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 8:40 am    

Pier 1 Imports, a national chain devoted to furniture and home décor, has become the source of a class-action lawsuit after allegedly failing to PregnancyDiscriminationaccommodate the needs of a pregnant employee. Kimberly Erin Caselman, a 31-year old employee at a San Jose Pier 1 store, has alleged that the company refused to allow her to refrain from lifting heavy items and climbing ladders, per her doctor’s recommendations, and has forced her to go on unpaid medical leave which is set to expire months before her child is due.

Fortunately for Caselman, California law does not allow for discrimination against employees because of pregnancy. This includes failing to make reasonable accommodations for the needs of pregnant workers, something which Caselman’s request clearly should have been considered, particularly in light of the fact that the store had previously granted the request for an 8 week period.

Individuals in other states, unfortunately, are not always able to receive these types of legal protections. Many states do not have specific laws protecting workers against pregnancy discrimination, and it is a sad but undeniable truth that women in these states may lose their jobs or otherwise face discriminatory treatment without any means to pursue justice.

Actos Makers Ordered to Pay $9 Billion in Damages

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 2:14 pm    

PillBottleTakeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Eli Lilly and Co. have been ordered to pay a total of $9 billion in damages to users of the drug Actos after evidence linking its use to an increased risk of bladder cancer emerged. A Lafayette, Louisiana jury ordered Takeda to pay $6 billion in punitive damages and Eli Lilly to pay an additional $3 billion for the effects that the drug may have had on patients.

Actos is a medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes and was originally developed and distributed as a safer alternative to another medication used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, Avandia. However, more recent studies have found that the serious risks associated with Actos may make it more harmful than beneficial for patients.

According to some legal observers, the final amount of damages that Takeda and Eli Lilly will be required to pay are likely to be lower than the jury’s $9 billion verdict, citing a Supreme Court precedent that limits the amount of punitive damages that can be imposed in cases relative to the amount of compensatory damages awarded. Nevertheless, the total damages awarded may still end up as among the largest ever assessed against a pharmaceutical company for intentional wrongdoing in U.S. history.

The Downside to Propylene

Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 at 9:08 am    

Propylene, also known as propene or methylethylene, is an important organic compound used in many industries and products, including medical supplies, construction materials, and plastic manufacturing. It is considered a relatively safe environmental product because it can be re-used and recycled many times.  One of its polymers, polypropylene, in particular is widely used in laboratory equipment, textiles, packaging and labeling, automotive parts, and reusable containers. It is typically used in such products as it is a durable polymer that can withstand degradation from a large number of chemical acids, bases and solvents.

Its high rate of use prompted the creation of propylene plants that would ensure the steady supply of the compound at predictable prices. Prior to the existence of propylene plants, the compound was largely a by-product of petroleum refining and ethylene processing.  Despite its benefits, however, there are dangers inherent to working with propylene.

Because it is a volatile and flammable compound, it can be dangerous if not handled properly. Propylene is a gas at room temperature. This was the problem when an accidental tear in one of the propylene pipes at the Formosa Plastics plant in Port Comfort, Texas exposed the compound to the air. As the plant does not produce propylene, but rather uses it, it is kept in storage tanks. Normally stored as a liquid, the escaping substance turned into gas at it hit room temperatures, forming a deadly layer of flammable vapor. The resulting propylene explosion was triggered by a stray spark and burned for 5 days. Because of a flaw in the plant safety system, the pipeline could not be shut off. As a result of the explosion, some workers were badly burned.

Most of the time, such accidents can be avoided if due care and caution is used when handling propylene. According to Williams Kherker in Houston, TX, there is only one propylene plant in the US, also in Texas, but more plants are planned to be in production by 2015. These have a higher potential for explosion accidents because these plants have a capacity of 455,000 metric tons of propylene at the minimum. In order to avoid such explosions and serious accidents, plant managers and owners need to take the proper precautions and follow all necessary regulations.