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


Woman's Death Blamed on Hotel Exec's "Hedonism" Print

Taking employment law into uncharted waters, a $645 million lawsuit alleges the operator of the Hard Rock resort in Las Vegas is liable for the death of its former CEO's girlfriend because it consented to his “hedonistic lifestyle.”

Michelle Hatchel

Ed Scheetz

Michelle Hatchel, 23, died of a drug overdose Aug. 29, 2007 while staying at a Las Vegas condominium with Ed Scheetz, who was then the chief executive officer of Morgans Hotel Group (NASDAQ: MHG). Members of Hatchel's family filed a wrongful-death suit last week that names both Scheetz and Morgans as defendants.

According to the complaint, Scheetz flew Hatchel to Las Vegas from New York on Morgans' private jet for a weekend of cocaine and sex. She was killed, it says, “as a proximate result of the Defendants' ... wrongful and/or negligent acts or omissions” in the three-bedroom penthouse suite leased by Morgans.

An autopsy report attributed Hatchel's death to “acute, multiple drug intoxication (oxycodone, cocaine).” Police allegedly found more than seven grams of cocaine and a prescription bottle in Scheetz's name for oxycodone, an opiate painkiller, in the condo.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for an employee’s torts committed within the scope of employment. The plaintiffs suing Morgans have given a novel twist to that theory by arguing that Scheetz's behavior mirrored the raunchy “image” of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The complaint is not exactly a model of clarity. In attempting to explain Morgans' vicarious liability, it says:

Plaintiffs are informed and believe that a part of the “Hardrock” marketing’s strategy its target demographic patrons included hedonistic sexually permissive and promiscuous lifestyle which also included use of illegal and/or illegally obtained, provided, given, and/or supplied controlled substances including but not limited to cocaine and oxycodone ...

Scheetz's lifestyle, the suit says, involved “multiple sexual partners,” the “voluminous use and abuse” of cocaine, and the providing to others of oxycodone, and since his hedonism was a “living example of [the] 'Hardrock' image ... all of his actions, inactions, and/or omissions [at the time of Hatchel's death] were within the course and scope of his employment.”

The case goes far beyond any precedent in Nevada, which, under a statute enacted in 1997, has limited employer liability for the intentional conduct of an employee.

An employer is not liable for harm or injury, NRS 41.745 says, if the employee's conduct:

(a) Was a truly independent venture of the employee;
(b) Was not committed in the course of the very task assigned to the employee; and
(c) Was not reasonably foreseeable under the facts and circumstances of the case considering the nature and scope of his employment.

In Prell Hotel Corp. v. Antonacci, 469 P.2d 399 (1970), the Nevada Supreme Court found a casino operator liable for a blackjack dealer's assault on a customer because the assault occurred “within the scope of the very task assigned to [the dealer], that of dealing '21.'”

There is no such connection between Hatchel's death and Scheetz's duties as a CEO. Even if Morgans sanctioned his “hedonistic proclivities” and he was using its plane and condo, it surely did not assign him the “very task” of providing illegal drugs to Hatchel.

Moreover, “considering the nature and scope of his employment,” it was hardly foreseeable to Morgans that Scheetz's behavior would result in Hatchel's death.

According to police, Scheetz returned home to the condo about 8 p.m. on Aug. 29, 2007 and called 911 to report that a woman, whom he described as his girlfriend, was not breathing. Hatchel's family say in their suit that he lied to police when he told them she was still alive when he left the condo for work at 9 a.m.

Late on Aug. 28, Hatchel sent a friend a text message from a closet in the condo. “Things are really bad. Ed has been so mean to me,” it said.

Scheetz resigned as CEO of Morgans three weeks after Hatchel's death. He settled an earlier wrongful-death suit filed by her father and the new case may well be an attempt to leverage a settlement out of Morgans, which operates luxury hotels in such cities as New York, Miami and London.


  • As On Point reports here, the Hatchel family agreed to a settlement with Scheetz and dropped their claims against Morgans.

  • By Matthew Heller
    On Point


    Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

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      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.
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    U.S. v. Arpaio
    Subject: Civil rights
    Document: Complaint

    Schultz v. Medina Valley
    Subject: School prayer
    Document: Non-Kumbaya order

    Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
    Subject: Sexual harassment
    Document: Verdict

    Jackson v. Paula Deen
    Subject: Sexual harassment
    Document: Complaint

    Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
    Subject: Roaches on a plane
    Document: Complaint



    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
    Date: 12/16/11
    Court: USDC, Utah
    Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case