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sued if you do

“On the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the threat of $500 fines, the Southern California couple received a letter from their city threatening a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn.” [AP]

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“Exxon Mobil Corp. isn’t responsible for alligators overrunning a rural dump site it owns in Mississippi, the state supreme court ruled, because the global oil explorer can’t control wild animals. … Even if Exxon had wanted to cull the congregation, it would have been prevented by state law that designates alligators as a protected species, making it illegal to hunt or disturb them, according to the ruling.” [Bloomberg/Insurance Journal]

“Suit claims Princeton violated rights of suicidal student by pressuring him to leave” [ABA Journal] Earlier on the direct issue here, here, and here, and more broadly here.

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Washington: “A Lake Stevens police officer who was at the center of a civil rights lawsuit that cost the city $100,000 filed a claim Monday alleging city officials mishandled the lawsuit and tarnished his reputation. … ‘The cumulative result of the City’s errors is that Warbis has been continually portrayed as a rogue and hot-headed cop, something that is completely contrary to the truth and case facts,’ according to the claim. … The claim does not spell out how much money the police officer is seeking, however, it says ‘a seven-figure-damages judgement is not unreasonable.’” [Everett Herald]

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In an effort to reduce possible exposure to harassment claims, employers have occasionally adopted “anti-fraternization” policies that prohibit some types of contact between employees, as by prohibiting male and female employees from being alone together behind closed doors. It has long been predicted that such policies might themselves generate worker discontent and result in litigation. Now a woman is suing Dallas-based law firm Scheef & Stone LLP alleging, among other things, that its former anti-fraternization rules kept female employees from developing mentor relationships and resulted in their being marginalized in the workplace. [Courthouse News via Becket Adams, The Blaze]

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In Connecticut, disability vs. disability: “A cab driver who claims he suffers from cynophobia (a fear of dogs) and who refused to pick up a blind customer with a service dog has filed a federal lawsuit against his employer for discrimination on account of his disability after he was fired.” [Daniel Schwartz]

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Parsippany, N.J. hired a new town clerk last year, but her tenure does not seem to have proved a long or happy one: four office employees soon filed complaints against her, “charging her with making racial, sexual and religious statements that left them feeling uncomfortable in the workplace,” and she filed counter-complaints. “All of the grievances were dismissed by township administration, and both sides filed suit against the town.” Now the town has paid $200,000 to resolve the former town clerk’s claims, which she has not elaborated publicly on advice of counsel, while the status of the office workers’ $4 million claim is not clear. [Parsippany Patch via NJLRA]

April 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 4, 2011

  • Verbal fireworks from Judge Kozinski in Ninth Circuit “stolen valor” case [Above the Law]
  • Measure of artificially contrived scarcity: “NYC Taxi Medallions Approach $1 Million.” Would officials in Washington, D.C. really consider introducing such a destructive system? [Perry, more]
  • Workers’ comp OK’d in case where simulated chicken head blamed for subsequent emotional disability [Lowering the Bar]
  • “NBA referee sues sports writer over tweet” [Siouxsie Law] “Lessons from Dan Snyder’s Libel Suit” [Paul Alan Levy/CL&P, earlier]
  • Litigation rates similar for poor and good nursing homes, researchers find [US News] Effects of medical liability reform in Texas [White Coat, scroll] New York’s Cuomo caves on medical liability plan [Heritage] Sued if you do, sued if you don’t in the emergency room [same]
  • “Federal Government Wants to Bully School Bullies, and Demands School Help” [Doherty, Bader, Popehat, Bernstein] New York law firm launches school-bullying practice [Constitutional Daily]
  • Mass tort settlements: “The market for specious claims” [S. Todd Brown, Buffalo, SSRN]
  • Could Gene McCarthy’s candidacy have survived Arizona elections law? [Trevor Burrus, HuffPo]

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“There’s no doubt delivering food is a risky job — it routinely ranks on the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s most-dangerous jobs list — and after last week’s much-publicized robbery of a Chinese food deliveryman, some restaurants might be inclined to avoid delivery to high-crime areas. But in doing so, restaurants might open themselves up to civil litigation regulating anti-discrimination practices, essentially creating a catch-22 for the businesses, legal experts said.” [Harrisburg Patriot-News]

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As we have seen in earlier coverage, automakers will get sued over some kinds of accident if they decide to use laminated glass, and sued over others if they decide to use nonlaminated glass. Now Ted at Point of Law has details of another case, this one against Ford, in which the South Carolina Supreme Court held that NHTSA regulations resolved the issue at hand and should not be second-guessed by tort litigation. Unfortunately, as Ted notes, the trial bar and its allies in the Obama administration are doing their best to weaken the preemption defense, which would open up maximum scope for sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don’t litigation of this sort.

Australia: “A man who held the nation to ransom with a letter-bomb campaign has won compensation linked to the failed workplace love affair that sparked the terror reign.” [Herald-Sun] In other Antipodean workplace news, a man currently jailed on child porn charges has won an unfair dismissal case against his former employer, food company Nestle, notwithstanding “allegations that he had routinely harassed women in the workplace, and even attempted sabotage” by placing a sexual drawing into a box of the company’s products. [Herald-Sun]

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Springfield, Mass.: The parents’ suit charges that the chain wrongfully sent Corey Lind out to deliver pizza to dangerous and unknown addresses; he was ambushed and murdered in 2007. Noteworthy angle:

According to the suit, prior to 2000 Domino’s had a policy of not making or of limiting deliveries to certain areas.

As a result of discrimination claims against the company, the federal Department of Justice investigated the policy. The result was an agreement between the government and Domino’s establishing procedures Domino’s could use to limit or stop deliveries to certain areas based on safety.

The suit said that Domino’s required all stores to implement a Limited Delivery Service Policy which, among other things, would evaluate each store’s delivery and service area and provide for the safety of delivery workers.

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Sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don’t dept.: “United Parcel Service tentatively settled a 10-year-old lawsuit Tuesday by agreeing to allow some deaf and hard-of-hearing employees to compete for jobs driving small delivery vans after special testing and training. …UPS argued that deaf drivers were more likely to get into accidents because they couldn’t hear sirens, screeching tires or other danger signals.” [Egelko/SF Chronicle] We covered the litigation in 2006.

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There is a horrifying tale on Consumerist about a family that missed a flight to visit their dying mother in the hospital because a ticket agent refused to help them because it was time for her break.  What the story doesn’t tell you, and what none of the commenters seem to realize, is that it’s the trial lawyers that put United Airlines in that situation.  Oregon labor laws California labor laws require workers to be permitted to take breaks; plaintiffs’ attorneys have made a multi-million-dollar cottage industry out of class action lawsuits against employers where customer service was permitted to take priority and workers occasionally didn’t take their breaks.  (In California, the penalty for failing to provide a ten-minute break is an hour of pay.) To avoid this, the employer has to enforce the break period stringently, because they can potentially be held liable even if the employee voluntarily avoids the break.

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Before you click the link, guess: who wins the $200,000? Was your guess right? Were other guesses just as plausible? And where does race fit in?

More: Coyote (“Here is a real journalistic triumph — the story of a multi-party conflict in which I immediately dislike absolutely everyone in the story on all sides of the conflict, up to and including the jury and the third parties quoted.”) And Scott Greenfield.

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Yes, he’s back in court: Dr. John A. King is now suing, for $50 million, the lawyer he hired to sue the three law firms that represented him previously. “King has an extensive history of suing hospitals who terminated his privileges, medical boards who took away his licenses and lawyers he hired to represent him.” Putnam General Hospital, where he previously practiced, and HCA have paid out around $100 million to settle claims against King. [Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail].

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Altria v Good affirmed 5-4

by Ted Frank on December 15, 2008

The Supreme Court rejected (h/t Beck/Herrmann) tobacco companies’ argument that the FTC’s use of the Cambridge Filter Method standard of measuring tar and nicotine impliedly preempted lawsuits against the tobacco companies for advertising their cigarettes using data from the Cambridge Filter Method standard of measuring tar and nicotine.  The fact that the federal government disavowed preemption lends another data point in support of Professor Catherine Sharkey’s argument that the Court tends to defer to the Solicitor General’s position on preemption disputes.  Justice Thomas’s dissent, which would undo the unworkable Cipollone plurality, appears to me to be the stronger argument, but it didn’t carry the Kennedy Five.

The fact pattern is the subject of numerous multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies alleging that their sales of light cigarettes are fraudulent.  The light-cigarette consumer fraud litigation still suffers from constitutional flaws relating to due process in aggregate litigation, but these remain to be resolved.

Perhaps a candidate for the “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” files? From Gov. Sarah Palin’s ethics disclosure form to the Attorney General of Alaska concerning allegations that she improperly sought the removal of Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten, an estranged brother-in-law who’d made threats against her family:

It was a matter of public importance that some Alaska State Troopers seemed to feel themselves above the law. Beyond the governor’s own personal experience, the state was sued for troopers’ violations of constitutional rights, occasionally losing jury trials that would cost the taxpayers substantial money. And, of course, such abuses of power by troopers are exactly the kind of corruption that the governor has long opposed. On occasion, Governor Palin would let Monegan know that she felt this was a problem within the Department of Public Safety; Monegan has told the press that at least once the Governor included mention of Wooten as a prime example of someone who was a problem within the department. Monegan himself told the Washington Post about an e-mail Governor Palin sent him after he informed the governor about one such jury trial loss.

(courtesy Anchorage Daily News, PDF — see p. 9, paragraph 45)(background: WaPo, CNN). More: Beldar.