Decided - FindLaw Important Court Decisions and Settlements Blog

Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog


A federal judge has tentatively approved the largest class action settlement in U.S. history, allowing Volkswagen's agreement to pay $15 billion to consumers to move forward. The car manufacturer settlement claims that it doctored emissions data on hundreds of thousands of cars, leading consumers to think they were more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

With judicial approval, Volkswagen can now start gathering information on some 475,000 consumers eligible for compensation, which could begin as early as October. Here's what you need to know.

In a reminder that state statutes can be woefully behind the times when it comes to technology and crime, a Georgia appeals court overturned a man's conviction for surreptitiously taking cell phone video underneath a woman's skirt without her consent. The practice, known as "upskirting," is disgusting, odious, and morally reprehensible, but, as the court in this case pointed out, not technically illegal under some current state statutes.

So how was the man convicted in the first place? And how did he ultimately end up going free? Here's a look at Georgia's privacy law and what the court said.

A Win for Nature: Fed Court Strikes Navy Sonar Program

Nature's lawyers won a victory for marine life last week. The Natural Resources Defense Counsel and other activists had challenged a U.S. Navy sonar detection program that places loudspeakers in the ocean, creating walls of sound that travel hundreds of miles and have been found to harm marine mammals.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the ocean's advocates, saying that the Navy did not do enough to protect marine life. The sonar blasts reportedly deafen mammals, drive them from breeding grounds, and impede their ability to navigate, communicate, and catch prey. The court found that the government must do more to protect the marine mammals, and not just in waters near the United States.

Spark Networks Settles: Dating Sites to Recognize LGBT Users

Love is blind. It does not discriminate. The same now applies to Christian Mingle and other targeted dating sites owned by Spark Networks, according to an approved settlement in a California court case seeking accommodation for LGBT singles.

The lawsuit was brought by two gay men on behalf of a class of plaintiffs and alleged successfully that the Spark Networks dating websites violate state law by not allowing certain preferences to be expressed in a profile or in site searches. According to the terms of the settlement, this will change within two years, CBC News reports.

Supreme Ct: Abortion Clinic Restrictions Can't Unduly Burden Women

Today the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Texas legal provisions that would have severely restricted access to abortions in that state. Five justices agreed that the law placed an undue burden on women in violation of constitutional rights, and the decision is considered significant nationwide.

At question were provisions in a law that added requirements for clinics performing abortions and their physicians, ostensibly to protect women. But the majority of the court found the contrary, writing that the restrictions did little for women's health. Let's consider the decision.

No Deportation Relief for Undocumented Parents of Americans and LPRs

The Supreme Court announced a deadlock today in a case about an immigration reform measure by President Obama. It would have allowed millions of undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents to avoid deportation and live in the light.

Texas led 26 states in opposing the Obama administration's measure, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. After the ruling's release, the President issued a statement expressing regret that he could do no more for immigrants before his term ended.

Supreme Court Shifts Perspective on Illegal Police Stops

It used to be that if a police stop was unreasonable, evidence found after that illegal stop was excluded from a case when successfully challenged in court. This week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that evidence from an unreasonable stop can be retroactively validated by a pre-existing warrant.

The ruling seems confusing and of little consequence to many. However, it's actually a big deal because millions of people have outstanding warrants for small infractions. Also, the decision shifts the angle on time and evidence in criminal cases. In the words of one dissenter, "Do not be soothed by the technical language." Let's consider the opinions -- majority and dissent -- and why this case is significant.

Net Neutrality Matters: Internet Is a Utility, Not a Luxury, Court Rules

We the people need the web, according to a federal appellate court decision issued today. Specifically, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that strict regulation of broadband companies by the Federal Communications Commission is legal because broadband access is a utility, not a luxury, reports The New York Times.

In a 184-page decision, the court concluded that the internet is a tool for all and, as such, subject to strict regulation, unlike luxury items which are just for a few. It is no longer optional but integral to life in our society, kind of like water and electricity. Let's consider the decision and its significance to all of us.

Supreme Court Invalidates Puerto Rico's Debt Restructuring Act

If you want to feel better about your own money troubles, take solace in the woes of Puerto Rico. The Caribbean island, which is an unincorporated US territory, is struggling with its debt and enacted legislation that would allow it to restructure debt similar to entities that do have bankruptcy protection, like states.

But the US Supreme Court just ruled that Puerto Rico cannot be a debtor under bankruptcy law, so local legislation passed to restructure the territory's debt is invalid, pre-empted by the federal bankruptcy code. Technically, this a case about preemption, whose laws rule, federal or state. But Puerto Rico is not a state, so the case really highlights the complicated relationship it has with the US and its law. Let's consider the decision.

Despite all the public backlash against Minnesota dentists travelling to Zimbabwe to shoot celebrity lions and countries auctioning off the right to hunt species whose numbers are already threatened by poaching, there are still people that want to travel to exotic places, see beautiful animals, and kill them dead. And there are still nations that will allow people to riddle endangered species with bullets. But there might not be a way for folks to get their big game trophies home anymore.

A federal court in Texas has ruled that Delta (and, presumably other similarly conscientious airlines) doesn't need to transport a hunter's endangered rhino trophy, upholding the airline's ban on "Big Five" trophies.