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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
Woman Sues TV Preacher for Failing to Disclose Affair
In what may be the first “truth-in-hiring” case of its kind, a former employee of a televangelist has sued Rev. Marcus Lamb for inducing her to work for him under the false pretense that he conformed to “the highest standards of Christian behavior.”
Marcus and Joni Lamb discuss his infidelity on their "Celebration" show
Jeannette Hawkins alleges she accepted the job of director of marketing for Lamb's Daystar Television Network in the belief that it was a “moral” place to work. She has “experienced severe emotional trauma” since learning in 2007 that Lamb was, in fact, having an extramarital affair with top aide Janice Smith at the time he and Smith interviewed her for the position.
“With the intent to induce Plaintiff to accept employment with Daystar, and to continue her employment there,” Hawkins says in her complaint, Lamb and Smith “misrepresented how Daystar was being managed and they failed to disclose that the two persons to whom she would report were engaged in an ongoing, longstanding, illicit sexual relationship.”
Hawkins resigned in 2008 but only filed her lawsuit Dec. 2 — two days after Lamb confessed on his “Celebration” show that he had been unfaithful to his wife and co-host Joni. On Dec. 3, he sued Hawkins and two other former employees for conspiracy to commit extortion.
Courts have allowed “truth-in-hiring” fraud claims when the employer misrepresents “current or historical fact” to a job applicant, for example by making misleading assertions about the financial strength and economic stability of the employer's enterprise.
Hawkins is taking the law a step further by alleging fraud based on misrepresentations about Daystar's “moral climate.” But she may not be able to show that she reasonably relied on what Lamb told her at her job interview.
“Hawkins claims she was fraudulently induced to work at Daystar,” Lamb says in his extortion complaint. “No such claim exists.”
The folksy, goateed Lamb, who has been preaching since he was 15, is the founder of the Word of God Fellowship in Dallas and launched Daystar as his televangelism outlet in 1998. On the “Celebration” show, he and his wife come across as a more glamorous version of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
According to Hawkins, she “was and is a Christian” and, before accepting the job at Daystar, it was “very important” to her “to determine the moral integrity of the organization and especially the individuals under whose authority she would be placing herself.”
“Indeed, in an employment brochure,” she says,
Daystar encouraged job applicants to do just that, quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.”
In her job interview, she accordingly asked Lamb and Smith, the vice president of marketing, “about the moral standards with which Daystar was managed and the moral climate of the workplace there.” Both of them responded that it “was operated in conformity to the highest standards of Christian behavior, making specific reference to chastity, modesty and purity.”
At the time they made these representations, the suit says, Lamb and Smith “were themselves in the midst of an illicit sexual affair.” They had an “affirmative duty” to disclose the affair to Hawkins since they had “voluntarily disclosed information to her information about the standards of conduct to which employees of Daystar were expected to conform.”
The Texas Court of Appeals has found that a failure to disclose information may be fraudulent when there are circumstances which would “impose a duty to speak.” Stephanz v. Laird, 846 S.W.2d 895 (1993).
But while it may be reasonable for a prospective employee to rely on an employer's assertions of economic viability, the same can hardly be said of assurances of "Christian behavior." Hawkins obviously didn't take the standards at Daystar for granted — and she had to be aware of the sex scandals involving televangelists from Bakker to Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard.
Her case could also open up a Pandora's box for employers who vouch for moral standards during a hiring interview. What if the boss turns out to have a liking for pornography or a drug addiction? Would that make him liable for fraudulent inducement?
Daystar claims to be “one of the two largest Christian television networks in the world.” In his suit, Lamb says Hawkins conspired with former coworkers Karen Thompson and Jennifer Falcon to extort $7.5 million from him in return for not making his affair 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