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




Alltop_125x125.jpg







Chuck Yeager Keeps Flying With Publicity Rights Suit Print

Famed test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager has won another undeserved victory in his publicity rights lawsuit against AT&T as a California judge ruled, in effect, that his breaking of the sound barrier is a protectible intellectual property asset.

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell dashed AT&T's hopes of avoiding a trial in a decision that inexplicably grants a historic achievement the same legal protection as an artistic work or a consumer product. Yeager sued Cingular Wireless (now AT&T Mobility) in 2007 after it issued a press release that compared the breaking of the sound barrier to the launching of a new cell phone service.

“[T]he context of the communication and the nature of the information conveyed demonstrate that plaintiff Yeager’s name and accomplishments were used to attract attention to defendant’s unrelated wireless services,” Damrell said in denying AT&T's motion for summary judgment.

AT&T had asserted First Amendment and “incidental use” defenses, arguing that Yeager should not be allowed to “assert a monopoly on all mentions of a historic event.” Damrell also allowed him to proceed on his “false endorsement” claims under the Lanham Act -– even though his evidence of consumer confusion is “somewhat vague.”

Yeager's wife testified in a deposition that she spoke to people “who believed he was affiliated with AT&T” but was unable to identify any of them.

Early in the litigation, Damrell denied AT&T's motion to dismiss the case. His latest decision could also help Yeager in a similar case he filed in September against computer chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) over its sales pitch for a new product.

In its press release, Cingular suggested Yeager's breaking of the sound barrier was comparable to the breaking of “another kind of barrier with our MACH 1 and MACH 2 mobile command centers, which will enable us to respond rapidly to hurricanes and minimize their impact on our customers.”

“[T]he Publication’s sole purpose was to promote defendant’s  services,” Damrell said, and “Where a plaintiff’s identity is used, without consent, to promote an unrelated product, such speech is actionable.”

He cited a case in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said two surfers could sue a clothing company for using a photograph of them in a catalog without their permission. Downing v. Abercrombie & Fitch, 265 F.3d 994 (2001). But Cingular did not use a photo of Yeager in its press release and used his name only in connection with an achievement that is part of the public domain.

Citing Pooley v. National Hole-In-One Ass’n, 89 F. Supp. 2d 1108 (2000), Damrell concluded that “the use of [Yeager's'] name and identity uniquely enhanced the marketability of defendant’s service.” But that case is also distinguishable because it involved the use of a professional golfer's actual image in a marketing video.

Yeager's “evidence” includes the report of an expert witness –- talent agent Jon Albert -– who said that associating Cingular's hurrricane response service with the breaking of the sound barrier might help pique the interest of a newsman. Any self-respecting newsman would be more likely to recognize the release for the puffery it obviously was.

AMD's press release said that “Just as the achievement of Chuck Yeager signaled the beginning of a new era in aviation, the 1GHz processor ushers in a new era of information technology.” Yeager's case against AMD is pending in Santa Clara County (Calif.) Superior Court.

UPDATES

  • In his most tenuous lawsuit yet, Yeager sued Virgin America on Dec. 29, 2009 for promoting an in-flight Wi-Fi system in a press release that said, "Not unlike Buzz Aldrin or Chuck Yeager, you have the opportunity to be a part of a monumental moment in air travel."

  • AT&T filed a motion to certify the case for appeal Jan. 8, 2010, arguing that under the commercial speech test "as applied by this Court, all corporate speech will now be deemed commercial speech. This is not the law."

  • Judge Damrell certified the case for appeal but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear the case.




  • By Matthew Heller
    12/13/09


     

    Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

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