Category: Torts

WA Parents File Lawsuit Against Gov. Inslee Alleging Emergency School Closures Are Unconstitutional

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee

Last week several parents on behalf of themselves and their minor children filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Washington seeking injunctive relief and for the Court to declare the closures unconstitutional as the governor’s proclamations violate the “paramount duty on the part of the state to make ‘ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The underlying information alleged within the lawsuit presents facts that Plaintiffs assert demonstrate that the current state of the COVID-19 virus’ threat no longer credibly constitutes an actual emergency and that the governor’s Proclamations as a result lack a foundational basis to remove children from schools. The suit further states the governor applied a wide brush to declare all Washingtonians as being at risk when the epidemiological evidence shows that the COVID-19 infection and death rate mirrors that of Influenza and Pneumonia infection rates of past years yet no public emergency was declared then. Furthermore, the illness and death rate for those less than twenty years in age is non-existent in the state and nearly everywhere else sampled. Plaintiffs proffer that the failing of the governor to limit the scope of application of the Proclamations to those actually vulnerable to the virus, the elderly and sick, infringed upon the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and other children who have physiologically shown no significant vulnerability to the virus yet suffered the violation of their right to education resulting from an overly-broad inclusion under the declarations of state of emergency.

The complaint also mentions the sub-par nature of the education provided the minor Plaintiffs by the state, equating in one example only an hour of education and that much of what is expected is for grade school children to self-initiate and self direct their own education. One child, resides at times with a parent who has no Internet service at his residence and thus cannot facilitate an ample accomodation to meet the child’s special educational needs.

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Zoom and Doom: Company Accused Of Corrupting Bible Class Through Pornographic Zoombombing

downloadThere is an interesting case out of San Francisco where one of the oldest churches is suing Zoom Video Communications, Inc. after bible classes were interrupted by pranksters “zoombombing” with pornographic images.  Saint Paulus Lutheran Church filed a complaint in federal court to lay the foundation for a class action.

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The Future Of The Economy May Depend On An Ancient Doctrine Of The Past

Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942Below is my column in The Hill on the legal foundation for an economic recovery in reopening businesses in the United States.  While some often seem to assume a zero tolerance approach for any risk of spread, we have no choice but to try to get this economy out of the current disastrous conditions.  Unless we want to reintroduce a barter economy, we need to stop the exponential growth of debt coupled with the perilous decline of employment.  The key may be individual choice and an ancient legal doctrine.

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Foreseeable Misuse? Trump’s Suggestion Of Possible Use Of Disinfectant In The Blood Triggers Industry Warnings [Updated]

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The maker of Lysol also issued a statement warning against any internal use  of its disinfectant after President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of an “injection” of disinfectant into victims of the coronavirus.  The warning reflects an interesting legal problem for these companies.  Under product liability rules, a company is liable for the “foreseeable misuse” of its products.  While the intentional ingestion of household cleaners have been a problem in a small number of cases, President Trump’s musing about its use could encourage others to attempt such a home remedy.  We have already seen such poisonings from products ranging from tainted alcohol to fish tank cleaners.  Lysol and other companies have every reason to issue warnings, particularly in the baffling absence of a corrective statement from the White House. Polls show that only 23 percent of viewers have a high level of trust what the President says on the pandemic. That is notably lower than his support in most polls overall. There are still many who trust the President on advice to a moderate or high degree.  Ultimately, this is not about politics.  This type of statement is dangerous for those who do rely on the President for information on the virus. Update: The White House has issued a statement this morning blaming the media for misrepresenting the President’s remarks.

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Oregon Man Throws Firework At Female Friend . . . Causing Four Trucks and A Gas Thief To Catch Fire

In torts exams, professors will often string a series of unexpected events together in a proximate cause scenario. A case out of Oregon seems right out of such an exam narrative. Thomas Hannah, 28, is accused of getting into an argument with a female friend in the parking lot of a U-Haul center in Eugene. He proceeded to light and throw a firework at her, which promptly caused four trucks (and a gas thief) to catch fire.

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Get Thee [Insurance] For It Is Written: Florida Pastor Loses Insurance In Defiance Of Pandemic Order

Call if Luke 4:8 abridged. Jesus said “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God.” We can now add getting insurance behind you. We have discussed the defiance of the pandemic order against groups over 10 people and how Rodney Howard-Browne, the head pastor at the River at Tampa Bay Church, has refused to comply. His holding of large services led to his arrest recently, but Howard-Browne insisted that he would continue to fight against “government tyranny.” He will now have to do so without insurance and that could prove more a far greater challenge than state sanctions.

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“Behold He Who Has Repented of His Sins”: Oregon Women Sues Mormon Church Over Reporting Husband’s Child Abuse

There is an interesting case out of Oregon where the wife of a convicted child sex offender is suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for contacting police after he confessed to sexually abusing the couple’s daughter. Timothy Samuel Johnson and his wife Kristine Johnson were members of a Stayton “ward” and his wife prompted his going to the church after learning that he had “engaged in inappropriate conduct” with a minor known to him.  Kristine Johnson is seeking $9.5 million for the breach of promised confidentiality by a clergy member. It is a fascinating twist on the usual challenge to evidence obtained by police in such clergy cases. Here the defendant is the church itself in a civil action for inducing the disclosure of incriminating information under allegedly false representations of confidentiality. The case could prompt churches and religious organizations to post warnings about their intention to go to police with any allegation of criminal conduct — a notice that could have an impact on the willingness of the faithful to be forthcoming in such confessional settings.

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Trump Attacks Page and Strozk With Disturbing Reference To Alleged Restraining Order

In a highly disturbing moment last night, President Donald Trump launched into an attack on former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI Counterespionage Chief Peter Strozk with a shocking reference to a restraining order that Page allegedly had to take out on Strozk after their affair. President Trump has previously attacked the couple, even mocking them in a made-up, seemingly orgasmic conversation in bed. Those were highly inappropriate and unpresidential moments but this could be defamation, if untrue. [Some media sites like the Daily Beast are saying that the allegation is being denied as untrue] Even if it is not actionable, occupying the space somewhere between defamation and demagoguery is no place for a president. (Note Lisa Page just filed a lawsuit under the Privacy Act on the disclosure of her emails with Strozk).

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Brooklyn Teacher Tells Six Year Olds There Is No Santa

Every year it seems like a teacher takes it upon himself or herself to shatter childhood fantasies about Santa. This year, the misguided educator was a substitute teacher in Brooklyn who decided that the best way to lead a discussion on “convincing” was to explain that neither Santa nor the Tooth Fairy are real. The kids in the class are six years old and it was three weeks before Christmas.

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Musk Defamation Trial Continues With Discussion Of His Wealth Before The Jury

The defamation trial against Elon Musk is unfolding in Los Angeles, but one story caught my eye from a litigation perspective. Yesterday, the federal judge in Unsworth v. Musk, 18-cv-08048, overruled an objection and ordered Musk to tell the jury how much he is worth. It was a surprising and troubling bench decision in my view. Most judges bar such questions to avoid prejudicing a jury. When a jury hears that someone is worth $20 billion, it can make a verdict and award seem like chump change in the jury room. While I greatly respect his brilliance and accomplishments, I have little sympathy for Musk in the case. He is being sued for a tweet calling a diver a “pedo guy” after he criticized Musk’s effort to rescue trapped kids in a Thai cave. Musk seems to be relying on a Trump-like defense that he just let’s it rip on Twitter and it was a flippant moment.

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Turkey Torts (2019)

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I give you our annual Turkey Torts of civil and criminal cases that add liability to libations on this special day (with past cases at the bottom). Many criminal defense attorneys and torts attorneys give special thanks for a holiday that can involve copious amounts of alcohol, strained family relations, over-the-hill amateur football players, “Black Friday” sale stampedes, and novice cooks.  These cases are why Johnny Carson said “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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David Boies Sues Alan Dershowitz In Latest Defamation Lawsuit Tied To Epstein Scandal

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Defamation lawsuits are flying New York between leading lawyers involved in the Jeffrey Epstein controversy. We recently discussed a court’s ruling against Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz in his effort to dismiss a defamation case against him. Now, leading litigator David Boies has filed his own defamation lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court. The filing came one day after Dershowitz on Friday — just one day after Dershowitz made accusations against him and his clients in his own defamation lawsuit in federal court.

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Stone Cold: Actress Sues Rapper For “Gratuitously” Repeating Her Name

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Actress Sharon Stone has sued rapper Chelsea Dudley, known as Chanel West Coast, for “gratuitously repeat[ing] the name ‘Sharon Stone’ thirty-three times and the name ‘Sharon’ ninety-nine times.” The song is called “Sharon Stoned.” I am deeply skeptical but I have been a longtime critic of copyright, trademark, and publicity claims over commonly used terms or names.

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Great Danes Kill Ohio Woman

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This week, I taught (with our esteemed visiting Professor Luna) animal-related torts, including the “one-free-bite rule.” One question that came up in class was whether the size of the dog could be treated as knowledge of the vicious propensity of the animal. I explained that it did not correlate to viciousness and gave Great Danes as an example of a large but thoroughly gentle dog. Right on cue, a story ran that night of a woman in Ohio who was killed by her Great Danes. The case actually tracked some of the issues that we discussed in class with the notable exception of the breed commentary on my part.

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Professor Luna Teaches Animal Liability At GW Law

Professor Luna returned to my Torts class last night to teach animal liability under the common law and various state statutes. This is a picture with a few of her academic devotees during the break. The students did not seem to mind that the Professor would occasionally doze in front of class. Such is the life of a tenured canine academic.

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