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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Judge OKs Ex-Waitress's Suit Over Bestseller's Cover Print

The photo on the cover of “Nickel and Dimed” is not reasonably related to the subject matter of the nonfiction bestseller, an Illinois judge has ruled in refusing to dismiss a privacy suit against the book's publisher.

While working in 1986 as a waitress in Peoria, Kimmie Jo Christianson posed for Fortune magazine to illustrate an article about single mothers struggling to make ends meet. She sued Henry Holt and Co. last year after the same image appeared without her permission on the cover of “Nickel and Dimed.”

The book recounts author Barbara Ehrenreich's experiences working low-wage jobs such as waiting tables and the publisher argued that the First Amendment protects the cover of the book as much as it would the content.

But U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade said the photo of Christianson “does not depict any part of the story of Ms. Ehrenreich’s personal journey” and therefore fits within the publisher's “role of selling the book” rather than the author's role of telling a story.

“Defendants envision a world where a publisher can troll any medium for any individual’s personal image and use that image on the packaging for their publication -- free from the constraints that are faced by every distributor of every other product,” he ruled in a recent opinion. “This Court does not interpret the law as envisioned by Defendants.”

Christianson filed suit under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, which says “[a] person may not use an individual’s identity for commercial purposes during the individual’s lifetime without having obtained previous written consent.” She alleges she only consented to having Fortune use her photograph.

Holt invoked two exceptions to the statute, but McDade said neither of them applied because the text of “Nickel and Dimed” does not “attempt to portray, describe or impersonate Plaintiff” and the use of her image on the cover has only the commercial purpose of “catch[ing] the eye of a prospective customer.”

On the First Amendment issue, McDade acknowledged that “The photograph and the book both concern the plight of the working poor in America.” But “at no point,” he continued,

is Plaintiff, her photo, or the restaurant where she appears ever part of the subject matter of the book ... [A]s a result, the book and the photo do not bear a reasonable relationship with each other.

In an earlier ruling, McDade commented, “Like it or not, customers judge a book by its cover and covers are often among the main reasons that today’s reader purchases a book.”

“Nickel and Dimed” has sold more than one million copies and been adapted into an off-Broadway play. Any damages to Christianson could be limited since, as McDade has noted, “she is not in the business of modeling or marketing the commercial value of her identity for book covers.”

Christianson says in her complaint that she never signed a written release "for the use of her picture in Fortune Magazine or for use in any other publication." She is also suing the Magnum photo agency and Ehrenreich.

UPDATE

  • The case was dismissed 7/14/08 as part of a settlement.

  • By Matthew Heller
    9/20/07


     

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

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