Oct November 14 Dec
| || 1|
| 2|| 3|| 4|| 5|| 6|| 7|| 8|
• 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
Miley's Big Business, But Is She an "Establishment?"
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.”
By Matthew Heller
Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.
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
Schultz v. Medina Valley
Subject: School prayer
Document: Non-Kumbaya order
Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
Subject: Sexual harassment
Jackson v. Paula Deen
Subject: Sexual harassment
Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
Subject: Roaches on a plane
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
Court: USDC, Utah
Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case