CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

April 2014 Archives

E-Cigarette, Cigar, Hookah Restrictions Laid Out in New FDA Rules

Should electronic cigarettes be sold to children? The Food and Drug Administration says no and has announced historic rules to ban sales of the popular devices to minors and require warning labels.

The FDA wants to regulate more than the booming electronic cigarette market. It is seizing on this opportunity to also restrict sales of cigars, hookahs, water pipes and dissolvable tobacco products.

The proposed rules (attached below) would be the first restrictions on e-cigarettes, a nearly $2 billion industry that for years has operated outside the reach of federal regulators. E-cigarettes have been growing in popularity for years and generally attract younger smokers.

The proposed rules won't ban advertising unless the products make health-related claims. Child-friendly e-cigarette flavors like bubble gum and chocolate (which are banned in traditional cigarettes) will still be allowed. Critics say flavorings like watermelon, grape soda and piƱa colada are aimed at attracting young smokers.

E-cigarettes generally resemble the size and shape of traditional cigarettes. But rather than burning tobacco, the battery-powered devices heat up a flavored, nicotine-laced liquid, turning it into a vapor that the user inhales. Industry supporters say that makes e-cigarettes preferable to other cancer-causing tobacco products.

Aereo Case Will Let Supreme Court Define the Future of TV

The Supreme Court will consider the future of television on Tuesday when it hears arguments about the legality of Aereo, an Internet-television service that uses tiny remote antennas to capture broadcast TV signals and redistributes them online.

If the High Court says Aereo is legal it could usher in a revolution that shapes the way we watch and pay for television.

Aereo's technology is a threat to both the lucrative cable bundles and the networks that receive big-time fees for inclusion in cable packages. Aereo would give so-called cord cutters the means to assemble a more affordable package of online streaming options like Netflix or Apple TV and still watch "NCIS" and the NFL. Consumers pay $8 to $12 a month to watch and record broadcast programs with a few seconds delay.

The legal question before the Justices is whether Aereo is violating broadcasters' copyrights by setting up farms of tiny antennas and then renting access to each one to its subscribers. The technology is a crafty work around that essentially means no cable box and no expensive cable bill.

Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS sued Aereo for copyright infringement, saying Aereo should pay for redistributing the programming the same way cable and satellite systems do.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo Tuesday. Read Aereo's Supreme Court brief here:

Miami police are investigating a woman's report that she blacked out after drinking and smoking marijuana with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players.

The police report (attached below) does not allege any crimes but police say they are investigating the case as a "suspicions incident."

"There are no charges, definitely not. There is an investigation," Miami Police Department office Rene Pimentel told USA Today.

A woman (whose name is redacted from the report) said that on April 1 she visited Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, 27, at a Miami apartment.

She said Kaepernick, 26, and 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton, 23, were also at the apartment. She also said she had been in a "sexual relationship with Mr. Kaepernick in the past," according to the police report.

Rabbi Loses Supreme Court Case Over Frequent Flyer Miles

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that an airline customer cannot sue after being thrown out of a frequent flyer program.

The court ruled 9-0 that Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg cannot pursue his claims against Northwest Airlines, which merged in 2010 with Delta. He sued after he was ousted from Northwest's WorldPerks loyalty program for complaining too often about getting bumped from flights and repeatedly seeking compensation.

The decision (attached below) means airlines have sole discretion to drop frequent flyers.

The court held the federal Airline Deregulation Act barred Ginsberg's lawsuit. The act says states have no say in regulating the price, route or service of an air carrier.

Ginsberg said the airline told him it took action in part because he allegedly sought compensation after booking reservations on full flights, knowing he would be bumped to another flight.

Northwest said he filed 24 complaints and that the contract allowed it to terminate membership for abuse of the program at its sole discretion.