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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Teen's Scary Fog Machine Suit Spooks Haunted House Print

A number of recent personal injury lawsuits — including one in which a teenage girl claims chemicals used in a fog machine caused her to have an asthma attack — may be putting a scare into operators of haunted houses.

According to the Haunted House Association, there are more than 2,000 haunted attractions in the U.S. and more than 300 amusement parks offer some sort of Halloween or haunted house event. Charity groups honor Halloween by staging more than 1,000 haunted attractions.

Assumption of risk usually bars liability for injuries suffered by patrons of haunted houses. In Mays v. Gretna Athletic Boosters, 668 So.2d 1207 (1996), the Louisiana Court of Appeal said a woman assumed the risk of running into a brick wall at a haunted house after being frightened when “someone jumped out and hollered” at her.

But in December, Jessica Launderville sued the operator of the Realm of Terror attraction in Round Lake Beach, Ill., alleging her feet got entangled in rubber mats, causing her to slip and fall, as she was being chased by “an employee with a chainsaw as a scare tactic.”

Kristof's Entertainment Center was negligent in, among other things, “improperly chas[ing] individuals in the haunted house toward the exit,” the complaint said.

In a similar case, an Independence, Mo., woman claims she tripped on “an unmarked step” at the Edge of Hell haunted house in Kansas City as she was walking through “a pitch black hallway with dog creatures on piston-type mechanisms that would physically strike [customers].”

Rhonda Gomez's suit says the step was a “dangerous condition” and Full Moon Productions is liable for “failing to provide adequate lighting” and “allowing mechanical creatures to physically strike customers.” She allegedly suffered injuries including a broken nose, fractured wrist and dislocated elbow.

Being scared by a chainsaw-wielding employee or mechanical creatures is part and parcel of the haunted house experience. As the Mays court noted,

Patrons in a Halloween haunted house are expected to be surprised, startled and scared by the exhibits but the operator does not have a duty to guard against patrons reacting in bizarre, frightened and unpredictable ways. Operators are duty bound to protect patrons only from unreasonably dangerous conditions, not from every conceivable danger.

But Launderville and Gomez could still have viable claims if they can show they were injured by dangerous flooring. A haunted house operator, like any business, has a duty to maintain its premises in “a fashion commensurate with ordinary and reasonably care.”

The case of 15-year-old Brittney Holmes, meanwhile, presents the novel issue of whether the operator of The Darkness in St. Louis is liable for failing to warn her of the dangers of chemicals emitted from its fog machine.

Holmes visited the haunted house last Halloween and, according to a complaint filed in April, she was exposed to “various chemical components comprising artificial fog, smoke and scents” that caused her to have an asthma attack so severe it left her in a coma. She has so far incurred $545,000 in medical costs, the suit says.

The owner of The Darkness told Missouri Lawyers Media that the fog from his machine, consisting of “90 percent water and sugar,” is safe and he has posted warnings for people with respiratory ailments on the haunted house's website, on the exterior of the haunted house itself, on a sign near the ticket windows, and on the tickets.

“There's nothing else I could have done to warn people who have asthma,” Larry Kirchner said.

UPDATES

  • In a complaint filed Nov. 3, 2010, a DeKalb, Mo., woman alleges she was injured at The Beast, a haunted house in Kansas City, when an alligator head, "propelled at a high rate of speed from a wall," struck her in the knee.

  • A judgment filed Jan. 11, 2011 shows Gomez accepted a $45,000 settlement of her case.


  • This story linked by:


    By Matthew Heller
    10/29/10


     

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