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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Ruling Leaves Student's Dorm Death A Mystery Print

 

Judge Blackburn

A federal judge has dismissed a civil-rights case against the Colorado School of Mines without addressing the merits of whether school officials concealed from a dead student's parents that he was the victim of a homicide.

Demetrios “Rio” Nicholas, a 19-year-old freshman, was found dead in the shower of his dormitory suite early on Dec. 6, 2001. A coroner who examined the body at the scene found he died of “cocaine toxicity” and the school announced in a campus-wide e-mail that he had accidentally overdosed.

That explanation has not satisfied Nicholas's parents, who sued four CSM officials in October 2005, alleging they conspired to cover up “any hint of a homicide” and so protect the school from any adverse publicity.

John and Brenda Nicholas said the positioning of Rio's body in the shower was “staged” and it was “evident at the death scene” that the body “had been moved there to create the appearance of an unattended, self-induced death, thereby to conceal a homicide.”

But U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn did not consider those alleged facts in summarily dismissing the case. The plaintiffs' claims, he ruled in a recent order, were time-barred since they knew or should have known their right to access to the courts had been violated more than two years before they filed suit.

“The undisputed facts in the record demonstrate that the plaintiffs had such an awareness no later than May 7, 2003,” he concluded, referring to a letter that John Nicholas wrote that day to the Jefferson County, Colo., district attorney.

“We have been so screwed around by the [CSM] authorities,” Nicholas complained. The letter also said school police “were more concerned with protecting the school’s reputations and their own butts than getting to the truth.”

The plaintiffs had argued they filed within the statute of limitations because their suspicions of a coverup were not confirmed until the spring and summer of 2005. “I was raised to respect law enforcement,” John Nicholas testified in a deposition. “... And once I'm told something by an authority, that's the deal, that's the truth.”

An expert hired by the plaintiffs found in April 2005 that the accidental overdose theory was not plausible and the following June, a forensic pathologist concluded that Rio's body was moved into the shower.

The evidence of a homicide is far from conclusive. But Blackburn ignored the summary judgment standard by failing to view the evidence “in the light most favorable” to the plaintiffs –- including their explanation of the delay in filing suit.

“At a bare minimum, it remains a question of material fact as to when Plaintiffs knew or should have known their son did not die from a self-inflicted cocaine overdose,” the Nicholases said in a court brief.

Earlier this year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Blackburn's summary dismissal of a high-profile sexual assault case against the University of Colorado. The Nicholases have appealed his ruling in their case to the same court -– and they, too, should get their chance before a jury.

Other Judge Blackburn Cases

By Matthew Heller
11/27/07

 

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

rc_insidestories
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
  • 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.
    Read more...
RC_OnFile

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

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RC_OnTrial

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

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RC_OnTheDocket

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

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