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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
Owner of Cockfight Site Sued Over Death of Spectator
The family of a California man has filed a first-of-its-kind wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of a property where he was fatally stabbed during an illegal cockfight by a razor-sharp “spur” attached to a fighting rooster.
The bird apparently pierced the leg of Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, cutting a vein, as police were breaking up the Jan. 30 cockfight in a remote area of Tulare County. A police sergeant said people started fleeing and, in the commotion, “One of the roosters jumped at the decedent.”
In a complaint filed last month, Ochoa's widow and three children allege the landowner, John Cabrera, is liable for leaving fighting birds “in an area where they were not contained and were able to be in contact with people at the premises.”
Stadium and event-site owners have a duty to provide reasonably safe premises for spectators at sporting events. The Ochoas claim Cabrera owed spectators at the cockfight the same duty even if the event was illegal.
“This is a very unfortunate case where safety concerns were not considered at all,” their lawyer, Steve A. Nichols (Young & Nichols, Bakersfield, Calif.), tells On Point.
No court, however, has opined on what are reasonable safety precautions at a cockfight. And some might argue that, as a matter of public policy, a spectator at an illegal event — be it a cockfight or a drag race — assumes the risk of injury.
Cockfighting appears to be on the rise in California, one of the few states where a first offense for cockfighting is not charged as a felony. Over the past two years, 34 of the state's 58 counties reported cockfighting incidents in which law enforcement was called.
Ochoa himself was put on three years' probation and fined $370 in May 2010 after pleading no contest in Kern County to a misdemeanor count of owning or training an animal for fighting,
An anonymous call brought police to Cabrera's property, where officers found five dead roosters and other evidence of cockfighting. Ochoa had fled the scene but showed up later at Delano Regional Medical Center, where he died.
An autopsy showed Ochoa was killed by a “sharp force” injury to his right calf. “It's pretty rare, but I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often considering the knives they put on those birds,” a Humane Society official told the Bakersfield Californian.
Cockfighters commonly attach artificial spurs to the legs of fighting birds to bring bouts to a speedier conclusion.
According to the Ochoa family's suit, Cabrera conducted the cockfight on his property “in such a way as to reduce all costs regardless of the safety consequences to those present” even though he fenced off the premises “to permit only those he wanted onto the premises” and hired security guards.
“The owner of premises is responsible for maintaining the property in a condition that does not cause injury to people,” Nichols says. “So Cabrera has responsibilities to people if he is going to have them present.”
Nichols also argues that since Ochoa was not handling roosters, assumption of risk is not a defense for Cabrera. “Mr. Ochoa was simply watching the event.”
But spectators at a cockfight are distinguishable from those at, say, a baseball game. For one thing, they participate directly in a fight by betting on the outcome. And most states, including California, have made it a crime to be a spectator at a cockfight.
“Knowingly present spectators who purposefully watch cockfighting encourage the 'sport,'” an appeals court said in finding California's spectator law constitutional. People v. Superior Ct. (Elder), 201 Cal.App.3d 1061 (1988).
Ochoa's family is also suing Delano Regional for medical malpractice, alleging the hospital failed to treat his injury properly.
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