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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
Lawyer: Zoo Ignored "Known" Dolphin Splash Danger
Staff at a Chicago zoo had known “for years” that concrete floors were made slippery by dolphins throwing water at dolphin show spectators but did nothing to correct the problem, the attorney for a woman suing the zoo tells On Point.
“It's a known problem in the industry,” attorney Edward G. Proctor (Munday & Nathan, Chicago) said in his first public comments on Allecyn Edwards' controversial slip-and-fall lawsuit against the Chicago Zoological Society.
Edwards, 60, alleges that she slipped and fell in the spectator stands at the Brookfield Zoo's indoor dolphin arena in August 2008. According to Proctor, she was treated in the hospital for “multiple fractures.”
A wet and slippery condition caused by water from splashing dolphins might appear so “open and obvious” that Edwards has no legal leg to stand on. The “open and obvious” defense to premises liability claims applies when “both the condition and the risk are apparent to and would be appreciated by a reasonable person in the plaintiff's position exercising ordinary perception, intelligence, and judgment.”
But Proctor says the danger of slipping on the floors in the zoo's dolphin arena was caused by more than just water -- and the zoo's staff is liable for their "conscious disregard" of that danger.
“The conscious disregard comes from knowing how slippery these floors can get and how people have slipped and fallen, some with injuries,” he argues. One dolphin trainer, he says, told him he has seen dolphin show spectators slip and fall on a “daily basis.”
Edwards' complaint, which seeks at least $100,000 in damages, blames her fall only on the water thrown into the stands by the dolphins. The zoo staff “recklessly and wilfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands[,] making the floor wet and slippery,” it alleges.
Proctor -- who is planning to file an amended complaint -- says there was actually "all this other stuff being thrown onto the concrete [which] really makes it a slippery surface.”
“The dolphins are in salt water, which erodes the concrete surface,” he explains. “That erosion makes the surface slippery.” In addition, the water contains “dolphin waste products,” algae and polymers, contributing to the formation of a “black slime.”
Water parks, he notes, apply a traction agent called “gunnite” to concrete to prevent guests from slipping and the Brookfield Zoo should have taken similar precautions to make the dolphin show arena slip-resistant, such as applying epoxy to or putting “graded mats” on the floor.
In Buchaklian v. Lake County Family YMCA, 732 N.E.2d 596 (2000), an Illinois appeals court said “The law generally assumes that persons who encounter conditions such as fire, height, and bodies of water will take care to avoid any danger inherent in such conditions.” But it still ruled that a defect in a mat in the shower area of a locker room was not so obvious that a woman who tripped over it could not sue the property owner.
“We refuse to hold that invitees, as a matter of law, are required to look constantly downward,” the court found.
Proctor says Edwards was distracted as she left the arena with a crowd of people after the dolphin show and could not be expected to watch her every step. “It's certainly obvious that the animals are making everything wet ... but [the danger] is not so obvious when you're exiting in a herd,” he argues.
The reaction to the case has, predictably, been one of outrage, with one Chicago Tribune reader saying, “This is the kind of case that we need 'tort reform' for.” But Proctor's comments suggest the case is more nuanced than depicted in initial media reports and could come down to expert testimony about such matters as concrete erosion, slip resistance and algae accumulation.
The Brookfield Zoo earlier this year suspended dolphin shows until further notice to focus on the care and treatment of an ailing dolphin. The dolphin was euthanized in April but the shows have yet to resume.
Edwards amended her complaint to allege that salt water, waste products and algae thrown from the dolphin pool make the concrete deck of the bleachers "very slippery."
Court documents filed Sept. 15, 2010 show the case was settled. The zoo has a no-fault insurance policy providing for medical coverage of up to $15,000 for any individual injured on its property and Edwards was seeking $15,000 in medical expenses.
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