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


Taser Jolted with $6.2M Wrongful-Death Award Print

taser1The day of reckoning may finally have arrived for the maker of Tasers as a California jury awarded $6.2 million to the family of a man who died after police repeatedly shocked him with the stun guns.

Out of more than 70 wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits involving Taser shocks, the case of Robert Heston is the first in which a jury has found Taser International (Nasdaq: TASR) liable. The verdict includes $1 million in compensatory damages and $5.2 million in punitive damages for negligent marketing of the Taser M26 product.

An autopsy showed dangerously high levels of methamphetamine in Heston's blood and Taser attributed his death to “excited delirium as a result of his chronic substance abuse, heavy use of methamphetamine, and an enlarged heart caused by his long-term drug abuse.” Heston, 40, died a day after being arrested at his parents' home in Salinas, Calif.

But “excited delirium” is not recognized as a diagnosis in official medical manuals and the federal court jury accepted the theory of Heston's parents that the repeated shocks from the Taser “electronic control device” caused him to have a heart attack.

“[A]s a consequence of the prolonged deployment of Taser ECDs prior to his death, Robert C. Heston suffered acidosis to a degree which caused him to have a cardiac arrest,” the jury ruled June 6, finding Taser liable for failing to adequately warn users of the potential effect of repeated shocks.

Acidosis is a buildup of lactic acid in the blood that can be caused by the rapid contraction and relaxation of muscles resulting from electric shocks.

The jury cleared four Salinas police officers of using excessive force and found Heston 85 percent responsible for his death, but the comparative negligence finding applies only to the compensatory damages, leaving a net award of $203,150 to Heston's estate and $5.15 million to his parents.

“I think Taser's going to have to rethink its litigation strategy and its warning policies,” plaintiffs' attorney John C. Burton said.

Taser has aggressively defended its products, asserting the “excited delirium” defense and even suing coroners who have cited Tasers in autopsy reports. Only last month, a judge ordered the Summit County, Ohio, coroner to remove any reference to Tasers in her reports on three men who died after confrontations with Taser-wielding police officers.

Taser attorney Mildred K. O'Linn argued there was not a “scintilla” of evidence proving the 50,000-volt Taser M26 caused Heston's death. But the jury's ruling has shot a big hole in the “excited delirium” theory.

Heston's father called police Feb. 19, 2005, saying he was “acting strangely.” He turned blue after officers shocked him multiple times with their Tasers -– even when he was lying face-down on the floor –- and died the following day.

The plaintiffs alleged that Taser negligently marketed the M26 by not providing adequate warnings that repeated shocks can cause cardiac arrest, especially in persons who are in an agitated or excited physical state.

Taser's stock fell more than 11 percent today, with analysts attributing the decline to the Heston verdict.


  • Taser's motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law are set for a hearing Sept. 26, 2008.

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    By Matthew Heller


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