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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Lawyer: Zoo Ignored "Known" Dolphin Splash Danger Print

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.

UPDATES

  • 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.


  • This story linked by:


    By Matthew Heller
    9/1/09


     

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

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