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Jilted to Gilded: North Carolina Husband Gets $8.8M From Man Who Slept With His Wife

For the most part, courts aren't concerned with telling people who they can and can't sleep with. Sodomy laws are unconstitutional, and even the states that still have them rarely enforce their adultery statutes. But there's one legal claim jilted lovers can use to extract some financial penance from those with whom their spouses cheated, and one state that appears all too happy to order millions in relationship restitution.

Keith King says his wife's affair with Francisco Huizar ruined their marriage. And a North Carolina judge is ordering Huizar to pay King over $8 million in damages. Must've been some marriage.

The Price of Affection

So-called alienation of affection lawsuits are nothing new. And they've ensnared some pretty famous folks. Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox was sued last year by a man claiming Cox's affair with his wife destroyed their marriage. Former presidential candidate John Edwards' wife threatened to sue his aide Andrew Young for facilitating her husband's affair with another woman. Even golfer John Daly's ex had her case appealed to the Supreme Court.

And many of the biggest awards for alienation of affection are coming out of the Tar Heel State. An estimated 200 such suits are filed in North Carolina each year, leading to some pretty big payouts. In 2010, a jilted Mrs. Cynthia Shackelford won $9 million from her husband's mistress, and in 2011, a judge in Raleigh awarded $30 million to Betty Puryear, the former wife of a trucking company owner.

Breaking Up a Happy Home?

In this case, Durham County judge awarded King, the owner of a BMX bike stunt show company, more than $8.8 million: $2.2 million in compensatory damages and triple that in punitive damages. According to court documents and testimony, Keith and Danielle King married in 2010 and have a 5-year-old daughter. King claimed the affair, and an assault by Huizar, cost his business revenue and an employee (Danielle worked for the company) and increased his expenses on household help, child care, and counseling.

Huizar's attorney, Cheri Patrick, claimed her client was not responsible for breaking up a marriage that was already damaged beyond repair. Danielle King testified that the marriage had been unhappy from the first year and that she pursued Huizar. "This marriage needed one more blow before it was over," Patrick said. And then there was the alleged "discovery" set-up, in which Danielle, who had since moved into an apartment with Huizar (unbeknownst to King), asked her husband for help with electrical trouble and had Huizar answer the door when King arrived. King's attorney claims the pair were setting him up for a domestic violence allegation, and the resulting scuffle left King with PTSD.

The multimillion-dollar award will do little to stem the flow of alienation of affection lawsuits, and more judges and juries are likely to drag sordid bedroom details into the courtroom.

by Christopher Coble, Esq.

Apple Sued Over Siri's Commands -- Again

 

Apple gets sued all the time -- at least twice last month over Siri's voice commands.

In the latest lawsuit, a company is suing Apple over its patent for a "hands-free, voice-operated remote control transmitter" that is used to control appliances. In plain language, that would be Siri.

Apple fans are calling the plaintiff a "patent troll," although that name is reserved for those who buy patents just to sue over them. As for SpeakWare, it's a case of if it walks and talks like a duck it's a troll.

Patent Trolls

The company is fairly new, and appears to be in the litigation business. It registered as a corporation in California a year ago, and it has already sued Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft.

Its patent was issued in 2002, so yeah, SpeakWare didn't invent anything but the lawsuits. In the case against Apple, it claims infringement by iPhone 6, HomePod, and sixth generation iPad.

Those devices implement HomeKit programs that can talk to household appliances. So when you tell Siri to turn on the lights, it's apparently a patent violation, too.

Siri has been in trouble before -- and not for her sassy comebacks. Last month, a different patent troll sued Apple for violating a patent for "Speech Recognition and Transcript Among Users Having Heterogeneous Protocols."

Dense Language

9to5Mac called Advanced Voice Recognition Systems another patent troll suing over Apple's iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, HomePod operating systems.

"The patent itself is written in the usual dense language you expect with such applications, but doesn't appear to have much bearing on Siri," Ben Lovejoy wrote.

It's more of the same, according to the critics. Patent trolls make broad claims, hoping a piece of the patent will stick.

When it comes to tech giants like Apple, that piece could turn out to be pretty big.

By William Vogeler, Esq.

Las Vegas Shooting Venue Owner Sues Victims to Avoid Mass Shooting Liability

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 17, 2018 2:05 PM

 

Normally after a mass shooting (and how awful is it that there is a 'normally' attached to 'mass shooting'), victims and their families are the ones that file lawsuits-- against the shooter, the gun-maker, the police, or the owner of the location. But in the wake of the horrific shooting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas last year, the tables appear to have been turned.

MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay and the concert venue where the victims were gunned down, has filed federal lawsuitsasking judges to declare the resort company free from any liability in the shooting. Why the reversal?

Federal Terrorism Protection

While the lawsuits are technically filed against over 1,000 shooting victims, MGM is not seeking any damages. Instead, the company is asking federal judges to declare it immune from lawsuits under a 2002 statute that provides liability protection to companies that use "anti-terrorism" technology or services that can "help prevent and respond to mass violence."

MGM hired Contemporary Services Corporation to provide security for the Route 91 Harvest festival, and is arguing that, because the company's services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for "protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction," that immunity should extend to MGM and its subsidiaries.

Incompetence and Immunity

It does seem ironic that the MGM is using its employment of an ultimately ineffective security company as a way to preemptively block victims' lawsuits and avoid liability. Stephen Paddock stayed at the Mandalay Bay resort for several days before he opened fire on festivalgoers last October, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.

The suits filed by MGM name over 800 defendants in California, and more than 200 in Nevada, many of whom have threatened to sue or have already filed injury or wrongful death lawsuits against the company in state court. "No MGM Party attempted to commit, knowingly participated in, aided, abetted, committed, or participated in any conspiracy to commit any act of terrorism," the federal lawsuits claim.

If successful, MGM could bar any current or future litigation based on the shooting. "The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. "Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing."

But Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet, who has represented several of the victims, called the legal maneuvering a "blatant display of judge shopping" that "quite frankly verges on unethical." "I've never seen a more outrageous thing, where they sue the victims in an effort to find a judge they like," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It's just really sad that they would stoop to this level."

Jury Awards $4.7B in Another J&J Baby Powder Lawsuit

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 17, 2018 11:10 AM

The long and winding road of baby powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson took an expensive turn last week, with a St. Louis jury awarding almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families who claimed that asbestos contained in the company's talc-based powder products contributed to their ovarian cancer.

It's the largest of five previous verdicts against Johnson & Johnson involving their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. But like those others, it is sure to be challenged, appealed, and may be overturned or reduced.

Risk / Reward

The incredibly complex litigation has been leaking allegations, jury verdicts, appeals, and reversals for at least two years:

Last year, Bloomberg estimated that Johnson & Johnson was facing over 5,000 talc and baby powder claims, many of which were consolidated in St. Louis. Litigants have cited a 1997 internal from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant saying, "anybody who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." And the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified the genital use of talc-based body powder as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Awards & Appeals

The enormous verdict in the latest case is somewhat due to the number of litigants involved: 22 plaintiffs including six who sued on behalf of deceased relatives and others who had a spouse who claimed health effects. The jury awarded $25 million to each family who sued, along with $3.15 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and another $990,000 against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

An unnamed female juror told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the jury multiplied the estimated $70 million Johnson & Johnson pocketed from baby powder in a single recent year by the 43 years it's been since the company denied their products contained asbestos. "We were just trying to find something they would feel," she added.

That award may be tenuous. Plaintiffs' attorneys conceded punitive damage awards are limited by state law to five times the amount of compensatory damages awarded and Johnson & Johnson attorneys have already vowed an appeal. "Johnson & Johnson remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies," the company asserted in a statement. "Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed."

If there's anything that's certain about J&J's talc litigation, it's that the trials are far from over.

New Predatory Loan Scheme: Private Equity Firms Just Mailing Checks to Poor People

You may have heard about predatory payday loans, wherein lenders give consumers cash advances based on their payroll and employment records. These loans often come with exorbitant interest rates, leading consumers to borrow more money, diving deeper into debt. But why make cash-strapped consumers come to you with their pay stubs, when you can just mail them a check, hoping they'll cash it and start the spiraling debt cycle themselves?

That's the latest predatory loan scheme, and its backers may be surprising.

People in Charge of Predatory Lending

As the Washington Post recently reported, the market for "consumer installment loans" has been booming, especially as federal regulators have cracked down payday lending. Those new restraints were led by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who linked predatory lenders to the 2008 financial crisis. So it may have raised some eyebrows when Geithner became the president of private equity firm Warburg Pincus months after it acquired Mariner Finance.

Mariner, according to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, is one of many companies that mails checks to consumers that, once-signed, become loans with interest rates as high as 36 percent. Since Geithner's arrival, Mariner has grown from 57 branches in seven states to more than 450 branches in 22 states. Mariner is not the only lending company mass-mailing checks to customers with poor credit, and Warburg Pincus is not the only private equity firm invested in such lending practices. But the company provides a particularly stark insight into the installment loan market.

Monetizing Poor People

"It's basically a way of monetizing poor people," former Mariner manager trainee John Lafferty told The Washington Post. "Maybe at the beginning, people thought these loans could help people pay their electric bill. But it has become a cash cow." The check amounts can vary, around $1,000 to $2,000. But this seemingly small amount of money can make a big difference to someone behind on their bills, and that sum can balloon rapidly.

Stephen Huggins told the Post he cashed a $1,200 check to pay for truck repairs, and less than a year later he was being sued by Mariner Finance for $3,221.27, an amount that included the company's legal fees in filing the suit. The Post reported that Mariner filed nearly 300 lawsuits in Baltimore alone last year.

It may be tempting to take advantage of "free" money sent to you in the mail. Just know that lenders -- and in many cases some well-heeled equity firms -- are trying to take advantage of loose lending regulations and outrageous interest rates to put and keep you in debt.

 

Source: Findlaw

Parkland Students Target Police in School Shooting Lawsuit

'This is a shot at specific law enforcement officials who failed the students on that particular day. Law enforcement choked and the goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that this never happens again. If they choke and they cause people to die, they will have to face the music.' That music, according to attorney Solomon Radner, is a lawsuit filed by survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court takes aim at Broward County Sheriff's officers who either oversaw operations at the school or were on-site that day, claiming they failed to stop shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Eight Minutes of Hell

While none of the 15 student-plaintiffs were physically injured in the shooting, they are alleging that the officers' incompetence, poor training, and inaction caused "at least, psychological injury and trauma." During what the lawsuit referred to as "eight minutes of hell," it claims "failures by numerous government actors, including law enforcement, strongly continued to Shooter's ability to carry out this horrific attack without which this attack could not have happened."

Specifically, the suit focuses on several Broward County officers:

  • School Resources Deputy Scot Peterson: Allegedly stood outside despite hearing gunfire from within (and has also been sued by the family of one of the victims);
  • Sheriff's Commander Jan Jordan: Allegedly "refused to allow emergency personnel to enter the school, even into the safe areas, to save lives";
  • Schools Guard Andrew Medina: Allegedly recognized Cruz as "a known danger" but did not stop or question him or lock down the school, instead radioing ahead to another monitor; and
  • Three Other Unidentified Law Enforcement Officers: Allegedly stood outside the building with Peterson, guns drawn, but also didn't go in.

No Legal Duty to Protect

As egregious as those accusations may sound, suing the police is not easy. Unfortunately, even though police are tasked to protect and serve, courts have cited a "fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen." Police, therefore have no legal duty to protect you and no legal duty to investigate crimes.

Medina's attorney, Russell Williams, seemed to argue as much, telling the Sun-Sentinel that Medina is "immune from prosecution, including civil action, as an individual unless the conduct at issue was committed with ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent. There's no way any expert is going to get on the stand and testify to that."

The shooting survivors may face an uphill battle in this lawsuit, but they've shown the willingness to fight before.

 

Source: Findlaw/Christopher Coble