Decided - FindLaw Important Court Decisions and Settlements Blog

Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog


The downtown Los Angeles underground light rail has finally gotten the green light from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Two downtown businesses, a shopping plaza and a hotel, filed suit back in 2013 to stop the construction, claiming that the construction would have a negative impact on their businesses. The two businesses specifically claimed that the noise from the construction, as well as other impacts from the construction, would disturb the retail mall's shoppers as well as the hotel's guests.

Last year, the federal court granted summary judgment against the businesses, however the businesses appealed. After over three years of litigation, it looks like the construction may finally begin on the new lines.

Walmart has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by thousands of employees claiming the retail behemoth denied health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. While the lawsuit was filed by one former employee, Jacqueline A. Cote, the settlement will apply to thousands of employees who weren't able to obtain health insurance coverage for their same-sex spouses from 2011 to 2013.

Under the terms of the settlement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Walmart admits no wrongdoing, and contends it is paying plaintiffs "in the interest of resolving this dispute between the parties without the significant expense, delay and inconvenience of further litigation."

The real makers of the popular energy supplement 5-Hour Energy, Living Essential, were pleased this week when a California jury found two individuals guilty of manufacturing counterfeit 5-Hour Energy drinks. The federal charges allege that the criminal drink makers produced millions of counterfeit bottles using unknown ingredients in an unsanitary facility. The couple could face over a decade in jail and $2 million in fines. Their conviction comes after the resolution of the consolidated civil suit earlier this year against more than 20 individuals, all involved in a conspiracy to make and sell fake 5-Hour Energy shots.

The convicted Southern California couple initially had a legitimate deal with Living Essential to distribute 5-Hour Energy drinks in Mexico. However, the initial deal provided the couple with Spanish labeled bottles which they relabeled and then sold in the US below the US market rate. The following year, the couple set up the manufacturing scheme to make the counterfeit drinks.

A Federal judge in Texas is making a big impact from coast to coast on businesses that have salaried employees making less than $45K per year. The overtime pay rules that were slated to go into effect on December 1st have been put on an indefinite hold as the court figures out whether the new rules are legal. The indefinite hold is the result of an emergency preliminary injunction that was ordered at the request of 21 states that have joined together to block the new rules from taking effect.

The challengers to the new rules assert that the Department of Labor overstepped their authority in revising the overtime rules. The new rules would have effectively made all employees who are currently salaried and make less than about $45K per year eligible for overtime pay. Currently, the overtime pay rule applies only if a person's salary is less than approximately $23K per year or $455 per week.

In an interesting twist in the 2014 case filed against two Tucson officers for wrongful arrest, an appeals court has upheld the officers' arrest of a man who refused to show the officers his driver's license. A district court had initially ruled that the suit could continue. However, on appeal, the court determined the officers are immune from liability as the arrest was based on probable cause.

What happened in this case is rather complex, and whether this result will be appealed is still undetermined.

Urban Outfitters, the popular clothing store, has finally settled the lawsuit brought against it by the Navajo Nation over the Navajo product line the retailer introduced over five years ago. While the details of the settlement are confidential, the Navajo Nation announced that there will be a future partnership with the retailer to sell real Navajo jewelry.

The lawsuit all started back in 2012 over Navajo panties, and other Navajo branded items, that Urban Outfitters started offering for sale in their stores. When Native American customers started seeing the products, they became offended. One Native American woman demanded the retailer pull the items from their shelves as she believed the items were offensive to Native Americans and disrespectful to the culture, history, and heritage. When the retailer did not pull the items, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit.

The New York Attorney General's office today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with President-elect Donald Trump in a series of lawsuits regarding his eponymous Trump University. According to a statement from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations of fraud after thousands people across the country were duped into paying for Trump University courses, which more often than not left students "worse off financially than they had been before."

It marks a change of heart for the litigious future president, and means he'll carry one fewer legal headache into office next year.

In a decision that was bound to be controversial regardless of the result, a Missouri appeals court ruled that the frozen embryos of a divorced couple are not people, and refused to grant custody of the embryos to either spouse. While this result may seem completely logical, it is seemingly at odds with Missouri law. In Missouri, pretty much any time after conception, an unborn child is considered a human being with protectable rights. The dissenting judge's opinion highlights the decisions conflict with Missouri law.

The case involved a divorce couple that had a few embryos frozen prior to their divorce. After the divorce, the former wife wanted to use the embryos, while the former husband wanted to either donate the embryos to a third party or have them destroyed. The judge basically blocked either from being able to get want they want by ruling that both former spouses had to consent to how and by whom the embryos could be used.

An Illinois judge recently ruled against Dennis Hastert, allowing the victim of the former politician's sexual abuse to proceed with his contract enforcement action. The case stems from a recently entered into oral settlement agreement between Hastert and an unnamed individual whom Hastert abused in the 1970s while the individual was a minor.

In 2010, Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to the unnamed individual in installments over a period of time. When Hastert had neared the half way point, in about 2014, Federal authorities became suspicious of Hastert's banking activity. As a result of the incremental withdraws from his bank account, Hastert was charged with the crime of structuring, which makes it a crime to attempt to hide certain banking transactions. The unnamed victim filed suit back in April of this year.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire re-affirmed the state's rape shield laws and overturned their own decision. The 2014 conviction for the 2012 sexual assault and murder of Lizzi Marriot was appealed, and as part of the appeal, the attorneys for the appellant wanted to include part of the record that had been sealed as it related to Ms. Marriot's sexual history.

Initially, the court granted the defendant's motion to unseal the records for use on appeal, which would put them into the public record. However, after victim's advocates voiced their concerns over what that ruling would mean, and the attorney general's office appealed that ruling, the court actually reversed their own ruling.