A YouTube clip went viral last week of three men in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park toppling over an ancient “goblin” sandstone rock formation that they considered it a safety hazard, then laughing and high-fiving afterward. It might seem surprising that the one who gave the shove, Glenn Taylor, was up for such vigorous activities, since he suffered what were described as “debilitating” back injuries (according to his legal claims) in a road accident four years ago. According to the father of the defendant in that still-unresolved case, neither Taylor nor others involved visited the hospital after that rear-ending. “Taylor’s attorney Mark Stubbs says just because his client is beginning to recover from his injured back doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered from pain in the past, and he says Taylor’s medical bills in the wake of the accident could continue for years.” [CNN, NYDN, KUTV (auto-plays video)] More: NY Post. More: Lenore Skenazy (but it’s to make kids safer!).
“In a decision issued [earlier this month], the Supreme Court ruled that police have a ‘duty of care,’ or a responsibility, to the people they chase down. The decision ruled in favor of the family of Wayne Torrie, 16, who died in 2010 when he crashed in Weber County after a high speed police chase. Torrie’s family sued the officer that chased him, as well as the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.” [Salt Lake Tribune]
“Even though I was always on public property when I filmed the horrors I saw outside that slaughterhouse in February, I became the first person charged under one of these ‘ag-gag’ laws.” [Amy Meyer, Washington Post, Utah]
Posting videos of yourself to YouTube, for example, is definitely not a good idea, at least unless they are consistent with the disability you are claiming. “Don’t go climbing trees or fixing your roof in public. And certainly do not upload to YouTube a video that shows you half-naked and covered in tinfoil, doing ‘the robot’ to the tune of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride.’” [Slate, Utah A.G.'s office] More on “dubious disability”: Lee Habeeb, NRO. Earlier on growth of federal Social Security Disability payments here and here.
That sum, demanded by a Las Vegas man in a suit against three Utah attorneys, is far in excess of all the money in the world, so there may be collectibility problems. [Provo Daily Herald]
Wal-Mart stores in many parts of the country are famous for letting motor-home travelers park overnight in their lots for free. One wonders whether that policy will last: a Florida couple is now suing the retailer over an incident in the parking lot of its Cedar City, Utah store, in which the family shot and killed a man who intruded in their parked home. They say they have suffered emotional distress and medical problems and that “store officials knew the man was loitering in the lot” but failed to act. [Salt Lake Tribune via Consumerist, where commenters haven't been conspicuously sympathetic to the plaintiffs]
Defying a national trend, Utah has moved to amend the interpretation of its state-level version of the Americans with Disabilities Act so as to curtail pet owners’ rights to demand that their “emotional support service animals” be allowed onto the premises of reluctant business owners. [Salt Lake Tribune via Patrick at Popehat]
If Salt Lake City’s Deseret News must run anti-videogame screeds, couldn’t it find authors to write them who are not, you know, disgraced and disbarred?
Peter Jose Smith of Provo, Utah, is suing the Mercado Latino market, saying it violated his accommodation rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because it wouldn’t let him wear inline skates in the store behind his wheelchair. Store owner Hugo Martinez said Smith, who has sued other local businesses, was asked to comply with the store’s policy against skates after he “was riding quickly in the store and bumped into another customer”. (Ace Stryker, “Disabled Provo man suing Latin market”, Provo Daily Herald, Jul. 18).
A Utah federal court will consider the Pace family’s lawsuit against California anesthesiologist Barry Swerdlow, whom they had earlier hired as an expert witness as part of their medical liability suit against another anesthesiologist, Stephen Shuput, whom they blamed for their late daughter’s death. After agreeing to come on board as an expert for the Paces, Swerdlow examined Shuput’s deposition and concluded that Shuput had met the standard of care; he proceeded to inform Shuput’s lawyers of this, and they quickly got the case dismissed. The Paces then sued Swerdlow for “malpractice, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligent infliction of emotional distress,” to quote AMNews’s catalogue. Swerdlow conceded that he was new at the expert witness game and that it would probably have been a good idea for him to have read Shuput’s deposition earlier. The
EleventhTenth Circuit ruled that a lower court should consider the Paces’s contention that they had suffered legally actionable damages from Swerdlow’s actions. (Bonnie Booth, “Expert who changed mind claims immunity, but plaintiffs still sue”, American Medical News, Apr. 14).
Judge Gorsuch, dissenting from the
EleventhTenth Circuit’s ruling, wrote:
Parties already exert substantial influence over expert witnesses, often paying them handsomely for their time, and expert witnesses are, unfortunately and all too frequently, already regarded in some quarters as little more than hired guns. When expert witnesses can be forced to defend themselves in federal court beyond the pleading stage simply for changing their opinions – with no factual allegation to suggest anything other than an honest change in view based on a review of new information – we add fuel to this fire. We make candor an expensive option and risk incenting experts to dissemble rather than change their views in the face of compelling new information. The loser in all this is, of course, the truth-finding function and cause of justice our legal system is designed to serve.
(Decision of the Day, Mar. 5; Karen Franklin, Forensic Psychologist, Mar. 7; The Briefcase, Mar. 7).
In a 3-2 decision, the Utah Supreme Court has held a liability waiver unenforceable, and permitted a skier to sue a resort for his injuries in a skiing accident, notwithstanding his agreement to the contrary by disingenuously expanding a state assumption-of-the-risk statute for ski resorts to forbid any contractual modification of liability. When even Utah refuses to honor contracts, you know we’re in trouble.
Edited to add: For some reason, multiple commenters who haven’t read the opinion are claiming that the only thing the opinion does is require a signature. Not so: Rothstein explicitly signed a release, and the release only covered negligence (permitting Rothstein to sue for intentional torts). Rothstein realized the benefit of the bargain, by getting season tickets for a considerably cheaper price than he would have been able to if the resort knew he wasn’t going to honor his end of the bargain. The Utah Supreme Court (not an intermediate appellate court) rewrote the agreement retroactively. Consumers are hurt.
Following breathless press exposes of the “payday lending” business near military bases (they charge high interest rates! It’s a bad deal if you’ve got access to conventional credit!) a new federal law sharply restricts the interest that can be charged to military borrowers. This report from Utah finds lenders responding by simply refusing to make loans to members of the military. A critic of the industry, Linda Hilton of the Coalition of Religious Communities, says she’s glad the option is disappearing and recommends that if service personnel find themselves in financial straits “then they ask their church, military relief groups, family or others for help”. More great moments in predatory lending law: Oct. 17, 2006 (cross-posted from Point of Law; & welcome Marginal Revolution readers).
Arthur Friedman announced to his wife, Natalie, after ten years of marriage, that he wanted the couple to engage in group sex and swinging, so he could gratify himself watching his wife have sex with other men. Natalie, however, fell for one of her partners, German Blinov. The two left their spouses and ran off with one another. Arthur sued Blinov under the Illinois alienation of affection laws, and, amazingly enough, won $4802 from a jury that thought the case was stupid. (Steve Patterson, “Putting a price on love”, Chicago Sun-Times, Jul. 1). The former Mrs. Friedman expresses dismay about the award, but it’s not clear whether it’s the fact of the award or the trivial amount that offends her. Chicagoist and Alex Tabarrok are appropriately appalled.
Most states have passed the tort reform of abolishing the alienation of affection cause of action. Earlier on Overlawyered: Nov. 2006 and May 2005 (North Carolina); Nov. 2004 (Illinois); May 2000 (Utah).
Update: Of course, one doesn’t necessarily need that 19th-century cause of action when entrepreneurial lawyers are in play. Recently fired WellPoint CFO David Colby allegedly rotated among several girlfriends he met on a dating website, several of whom he allegedly promised to marry, even as he was married to someone else (albeit separated). One of the ex-girlfriends is suing WellPoint for “facilitat[ing] Colby’s lifestyle”; it seems Colby pointed to his webpage on the WellPoint site to seduce some of his targets. (Lisa Girion, “WellPoint named a defendant in sexual-battery suit”, LA Times, Jun. 29; see also “Women claim lives with WellPoint exec”, LA Times, Jun. 13 (no longer on web)).