Category: Torts

“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

FoxNews Screenshot

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


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


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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Connecticut Man Arrested For Allegedly Putting Razor Blades In Halloween Candy Bags

I recently presented my annual “Spooky Torts” powerpoint to my Torts class of the latest holiday litigation cases. At the time, I noted that the whole fear of razor blades in apples appears an urban legend. Well, give it enough time and someone will prove you wrong. That is the allegation of Waterbury, Connecticut police who say that Jason A. Racz, 37, put razor blades in candy bags of at least two trick-or-treaters.

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Spooky Torts: The 2019 List Of Halloween Litigation Horrors

Here is our annual list of Halloween torts and crimes. Halloween of course remains a holiday seemingly designed for personal injury lawyers around the world and this year’s additions show why. Halloween has everything for a torts-filled holiday: battery, trespass, defamation, nuisance, product liability and more. 

So, with no further ado, here is this year’s updated list of actual cases related to Halloween.

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Innocent Plaintiff Receives $100k Settlement After Brady Violation By Police And Incarceration

City of Kent, Washington Logo

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

A citizen of Washington who was falsely accused and incarcerated for an alleged arson received a one hundred thousand dollar settlement in exchange for dismissal of her Section 1983 case against the investigating officer who withheld exculpable evidence from her defense, including information identifying a possible suspect.

The sixty-six-year-old Plaintiff was held in jail for a month and subjected to eight months of house arrest after being charged with Arson in the First Degree after a fire at a Dollar Tree Store in Kent.

Apparently to the investigating officer it was a righteous case that a sixty-six year old disabled woman with no criminal history was an arsonist but that information from another investigator who received a tip the day of the fire that a gang-banger and convicted arsonist with multiple prior convictions had bragged that he torched the store as a diversion to cover his shoplifting was not worthwhile enough to provide the prosecutor’s office or her defense.

Had it not been for the efforts of her criminal defense attorney, her potential legal jeopardy could have become much worse.

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Strike Suit: NLB Umpire Joe West Sues former Catcher Lo Duca For Defamation

There is an interesting defamation lawsuit filed this week by Major League Baseball Umpire Joe West. According to USA Today, West is suing former catcher Paul Lo Duca after Lo Duca suggested that West took loans of a hot car in exchange for a more generous strike zone. This could be a new meaning to the term “strike suit.”

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Dershowitz Loses Bid To Prevent Defamation Trial By Alleged Victim In Epstein Scandal

Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz once dared his accusers to sue him in the ongoing controversy over his role in the alleged abuse of underaged girls in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. One did just that. Virginia Giuffre has claimed that she was forced to have sex as an underaged girl with friends and acquaintances of Epstein, including Dershowitz. Dershowitz called her a liar on multiple occasions, including statements he never met Giuffre and that she is a “serial perjurer,” a “serial liar,” and a “serial prostitute.” She sued him for defamation and U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York has rejected Dershowitz’s motion to dismiss and held that Dershowitz will have to face a trial on her claims. Former judge Paul Cassell has also leveled charges against Dershowitz as one of the abusers.

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