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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Miley's Big Business, But Is She an "Establishment?" Print

However ridiculous it may seem, a $4 billion class action suit alleging teen idol Miley Cyrus discriminated against Asian Pacific Islanders with a facial expression does present the novel legal issue of whether a celebrity is a “business establishment.”

With estimated earnings of $25 million for the year ended June 2008, there's no doubt Cyrus is a big business. The suit filed last week by a Los Angeles woman alleges she is a “business establishment” liable under California's Unruh Act for slanting her eyes when she recently posed for a photograph with a group of friends.

Cyrus's “racist, prejudicial, stereotypical gesture ... specifically targeted persons of Asian Pacific Islander descent based on their race, color, ancestry and national origin,” the complaint says. Plaintiff Lucie Kim claims to represent a class of more than one million Asian Pacific Islanders living in California.

The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination by a “business establishment of any kind whatsoever.” The term “business establishment” is not defined, but courts have applied the law to everything from restaurants and hotels to country clubs and apartment buildings.

“The word 'establishment,' as broadly defined, includes not only a fixed location, such as the 'place where one is permanently fixed for residence or business,' but also a permanent 'commercial force or organization' or 'a permanent settled position (as in life or business),'” the California Supreme Court said in Burks v. Poppy Construction Co., 57 Cal.2d 463 (1962).

Kim draws on that language in arguing that Cyrus “is a business establishment within the scope of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code Section 51.”

The pop star is engaged in an “occupation or trade,” the suit says, and

Due to her notoriety and active marketing of her Image, Cyrus is in fact a commercial force or organization and currently holds a permanent settled position in the entertainment industry, which settled position is confirmed by Cyrus' appearance at the Grammys, television shows, internet presence, music and appearance at other entertainment awards programs.

Whether anyone has a “permanent settled position” in the entertainment business is an arguable point. But as a matter of law, Kim is probably stretching the Unruh Act too far.

In Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of Boy Scouts of America, 17 Cal.4th 670 (1998), California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk concluded that “the phrase 'business establishments' in section 51 means areas of activity, whether or not in public view, and whether or not at a physical location, that encompass proprietor-patron relationships.”

Proprietor-patron relationships, he said, “involve the providing of goods or services, nongratuitously, for a price or fee, in the course of relatively noncontinuous, nonpersonal, and nonsocial dealings.”

While Cyrus's fans pay a price or fee for her services, no California case has defined the entertainer-fan relationship as a proprietor-patron relationship. And if the state Legislature had intended the Unruh Act to prohibit discrimination by an individual organized as a business, it could certainly have specified as much.

The municipal code of Davis, Calif., for example, defines “business establishment” as “Any person, however organized, which furnishes goods, services or accommodations to the general public.”

This story linked by:

By Matthew Heller
On Point


 

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

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RC_OnFile

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
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Document: Complaint

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RC_OnTrial

Peterson/Pryde v. Thyden
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Subject: Virginia Tech shootings
Verdict: $8 million

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

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