John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.
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• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on liarscheatersrus.com. "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting




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$1.7 Mln Verdict Tossed in Crawfish Biotech Disaster Print

A troubling decision by a Louisiana appeals court may mean the middlemen who bring crawfish to consumers receive no compensation for lost income resulting from a biotech disaster that destroyed crawfish crops.

ICON, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer CropScience, was used by Louisiana rice farmers to control rice weevils that plague one of the state's largest cash crops. But it had the unfortunate side-effect of sterilizing crawfish, another major crop which are often farmed in the same fields as rice.

Bayer settled the claims of hundreds of crawfish farmers for $45 million and three crawfish buyer/processors won a jury award of $1.75 million in 2007 after a judge ruled that they came within the scope of Bayer's duty to avoid damaging the crawfish crop because of the “ease of association” between farmers and the middlemen further up the “supply chain.”

Following the victory of Patrick Phillips, Lisa Guidry, and James Bernard -– who served as  “bellwether” plaintiffs –- a group of crawfish buyers and processors filed a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in December.

But a 4-1 majority of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has now muddied the waters by throwing out the jury award, finding in an April 8 opinion that Bayer's duty does not extend beyond the farmers who actually “own” the crawfish.

“[T]he plaintiffs in this case have failed to prove a proprietary interest in the crawfish crop destroyed by the use of ICON,” Judge Elizabeth A. Pickett wrote for the majority. “Therefore, the plaintiff’s cause must fail.”

She relied in part on PPG Industries v. Bean Dredging, 447 So.2d 1058 (1984), a case involving a damaged natural gas pipeline in which the Louisiana Supreme Court said,

It is highly unlikely that the moral, social and economic considerations underlying the imposition of a duty not to negligently injure property encompass the risk that a third party who has contracted with the owner of the injured property will thereby suffer an economic loss.

In a strong dissent, Judge John D. Saunders doubted that PPG Industries “absolutely and unequivocally requires that a plaintiff have a proprietary interest in the thing damaged in order to recover for damages done to that thing.”

The Supreme Court, he noted, used the phrase “'highly unlikely' rather than 'never'” and “the word 'negligently' rather than simply omitting any reference to the level of negligence displayed by the tortfeasor. In the present case, I think that the only conclusion a reasonable juror could reach was that Bayer had reckless disregard for the potential ramifications to this state’s crawfish industry, as a whole, when crawfish farmers used ICON.”

As evidence of Bayer's “callousness,” Saunders pointed to the testimony of ICON salesman Michael Redlich, who admitted he had “concerns” about the pesticide's effects on crawfish before it was sold to rice farmers.

The class-action suit –- Wiltz v. Bayer CropScience -- is now before a federal court in Lafayette, La. “I think the federal court will apply the ruling” of the 3rd Circuit, says an attorney involved with the case, noting that it was based on the Louisiana Supreme Court's precedent in PPG Industries.

Perhaps, though, the "moral, social and economic considerations" should ultimately favor the crawfish middlemen since under the reasoning of the 3rd Circuit majority, as Saunders puts it,

a tortfeasor may intentionally damage property necessary for a party to fulfill an obligation under a contract, yet only be responsible to that property’s owner for the actual damage done to the property.

Bayer pulled ICON, the brand name for fipronil, from the rice market in 2004. The class-action plaintiffs allege that as recently as 2006, tests still showed harmful levels of the pesticide in south Louisiana rice and crawfish fields.

UPDATE

  • A judge summarily dismissed the Wiltz case on May 6, 2010.


  • This story linked by:


    By Matthew Heller
    4/15/09


     

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