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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Julianna Walker Willis Technology



• 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 "[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


Burning of Surreal Boat Sparks $1M Artists Rights Suit Print

The unusual $1 million case of two San Francisco artists suing the landowner who torched the 40-foot replica of a Spanish galleon which they had stored on his property could hinge on whether La Contessa is a “work of recognized stature.”

La Contessa on fire

The boat, constructed around the body of a school bus by Simon Cheffins and Gregory Jones, sailed across Nevada's Black Rock Desert during the annual Burning Man Festival. But Gerlach, Nev., ranch owner Michael Stewart evidently did not appreciate its artistic significance when he set fire to it on Dec. 5, 2006.

Cheffins and Jones –- who say Stewart never gave them a chance to remove La Contessa from his property -– sued him last month, alleging he is liable for conversion and for violating the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990. They estimate the value of their work at $900,000 and could also recover up to $150,000 in statutory damages.

Stewart acted “with a conscious disregard for the rights of the authors and owners of the artwork known as La Contessa,” the complaint says.

In the Nevada desert, property rights are considered sacred and Stewart's lawyer has suggested he was well within his rights to dispose of La Contessa. “What would you do if someone left some junk on your property?” F. DeArmond Sharp of Reno asked the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

The "life tenant" of Stewart's ranch which borders the Black Rock Desert had allowed Cheffins and Jones to store the boat on the property since 2003. The life tenant moved away in 2005, causing the property to revert to Stewart. According to Sharp, he never gave the artists “written consent or implied consent” to keep La Contessa there.

But VARA clearly leans toward the protection of art, prohibiting “any intentional or grossly negligent destruction” of a “work of recognized stature” and making no exception for artwork located on private property.

One issue in the case could be whether La Contessa meets the “recognized stature” requirement. “In spite of its significance, that phrase is not defined in VARA, leaving its intended meaning and application open to argument and judicial resolution,” the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in Martin v. City of Indianapolis, 192 F.3d 608 (1999).

U.S. District Judge David N. Edelstein fashioned a test in a case involving an unfinished sculptural installation at a Macy's warehouse in Queens, N.Y.:

(1) that the visual art in question has “stature,” i.e. is viewed as meritorious, and (2) that this stature is “recognized” by art experts, other members of the artistic community, or by some cross-section of society. In making this showing, plaintiffs generally, but not inevitably, will need to call expert witnesses to testify before the trier of fact. Carter v. Helmsley-Spear, 801 F.Supp. 303 (1994).

In Martin, the 7th Circuit said an outdoor sculpture satisfied that test, but Judge Daniel A. Manion dissented, citing the “well-worn adage that one man's junk is another man's treasure” and concluding that the sculpture was “not one of those exceptional cases where something of unquestioned recognition and stature was destroyed.”

Cheffins and Jones say in their complaint that La Contessa “was recognized as a significant piece of artwork” in several media outlets and in several books about Burning Man. The boat featured 16th-century design standards and an interior described as “a cross between a fancy bordello and a captain's stateroom.”

But that evidence — without expert testimony — may not be enough to establish the artistic merit of La Contessa. As Manion said, “A plaintiff cannot satisfy his burden of demonstrating recognized stature through old newspaper articles and unverified letters.”

In Carter, Judge Edelstein declared the artwork protected after an art historian compared it to the Watts Towers in Los Angeles and Antoni Gaudi's Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain.

By Matthew Heller


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  • Hotel Sued Over Slaying of Escort by 'Craigslist Killer'

    The mother of a prostitute slain by the “Craigslist killer” at a Marriott hotel in Boston has alleged in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that the hotel's operator is liable for her daughter's death because it failed to prevent prostitution from occurring on its premises.
  • Court Extends Doctors' Liability for Prescription Gaffes

    The Utah Supreme Court has given a boost to the battle against prescription drug abuse by ruling that medical professionals can be sued over injuries to a nonpatient that were allegedly caused by  drugs they carelessly prescribed to patients.
  • Girl's Slaying Tests Cruise Line Liability

    The family of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout on a Caribbean island has asked an appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit that tests the liability of cruise ship operators for onshore injuries to passengers.
  • Bystander Claims "Swoon and Fall" Injuries at Church

    In yet another “swoon and fall” case against a church, an Illinois woman claims she was injured during a church service when a parishioner who was receiving the “spirit” fell backward, knocking several other worshippers into her.
  • Jurors' Comments Fuel New Trial Bid in Bullying Case

    Jurors may have opened the door to a new trial in a Maryland school bullying case by saying they returned a verdict for the defense because they were afraid of setting a bad precedent for school systems throughout the country.
  • Abuse Victim Can Sue Ex-DA Over 'Sexting' Messages

    A Wisconsin judge has protected a domestic violence victim from a rogue prosecutor, finding that she can sue him for sending her text messages in which he pressured her to have sex with him.
  • Four Loko Maker Says Users Knew of Health Dangers

    The maker of Four Loko has previewed its defense of a slew of product liability lawsuits, arguing that the physical effects of the energy drink's mixture of alcohol and caffeine — far from being an undisclosed risk to consumers — are precisely what made it so popular.

U.S. v. Arpaio
Subject: Civil rights
Document: Complaint

Schultz v. Medina Valley
Subject: School prayer
Document: Non-Kumbaya order

Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Verdict

Jackson v. Paula Deen
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Complaint

Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
Subject: Roaches on a plane
Document: Complaint



Peterson/Pryde v. Thyden
Court: Montgomery (Va.) Circuit
Subject: Virginia Tech shootings
Verdict: $8 million

Sheridan v. Cherry
Court: L.A. Superior
Subject: Wrongful termination



Brown v. Herbert
Date: 12/16/11
Court: USDC, Utah
Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case