September 2010 Court Decisions: Decided
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September 2010 Archives

NJ Harrah's Casinos to Pay $8M for Misleading Advertising

Failing to honor $15 vouchers may cost Harrah's Casino $8 million for misleading advertising. The Harrah's Casinos class action was brought by some birthday club members that were "tricked" by a promotion.

A very happy belated birthday may be on the way for 80,000 members of Harrah's Total Rewards club. The club members that were part of the Harrah's Casinos class action are set to receive a $100 in the mail. The birthday vouchers were not misleading in the amount or the purpose, but in the timing of when they could be redeemed. Press of Atlantic City reports that because the ads did not explicitly state that the $15 vouchers could not be redeemed until after 8 a.m. on the days in question, the birthday cash was a form of misleading advertising.

DOJ Settles with Big Tech Companies over Hiring Practices

The U.S. Department of Justice has tentatively reached a settlement with Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Disney's Pixar unit. The big tech companies have agreed not have their employees enter into no solicitation agreements. The settlement will significantly open up competition to attract top talent.

According to lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, the six companies entered into anti-competitive agreements with regard to their hiring practices in order to restrain competition for top employees. "The agreements challenged here restrained competition for affected employees without any procompetitive justification and distorted the competitive process," said Molly S. Boast, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "The proposed settlement resolves the department's antitrust concerns with regard to these no solicitation agreements."

Florida Court of Appeals Rules Gay Adoption Ban Unconstitutional

This week, the last state statue expressly banning all homosexual parents from adopting children was struck down by the Florida Court of Appeals. The gay adoption ban was found by the court to unconstitutionally limit same-sex families from adopting, even though they had been permitted to become parents in other ways. The Florida Department of Children and Families, who defended the law, will almost certainly appeal the decision to the state's highest court.

The Miami Herald writes that attorneys for Frank Martin Gill who, along with his partner, had been fostering their children but were not permitted to adopt them, were elated by the decision. "This is good news for the advancement of human rights and the children in Florida's troubled foster-care system," ACLU attorney Howard Simon said.

Sportingbet to Forfeit $33M in Settlement With U.S.

Sportingbet has reached a settlement with U.S. prosecutors who have agreed not to prosecute the company in exchange for the company forfeiting $33 million. The company had been accused of illegally using payment processing tactics that hid the nature of their clients transactions from U.S. credit card companies. The companies had banned the use of their cards for such transactions.

The settlement immediately caused the gambling sites share prices to rise, up nearly 12% at the time this was written. Chief Executive Officer Andrew McIver believes that the settlement will make it easier for the company to get access to credit, acquire other companies and eventually enter into the U.S. market if online gambling is legalized, The Guardian reports.

Forest Labs to pay $313M for Illegal Drug Distribution, Promotion

Forest Labs, the New York-based makers of Levothroid and Celexa have settled criminal and civil charges stemming from illegal drug distribution and promotion for $313 million. According to Bloomberg, the drug manufacturer will pay $150 million in criminal fines, forfeit $14 million in profits, and over $149 million in a settlement over violations of the False Claims Act.

The high-figured settlement comes just weeks after Allergan settled criminal and civil charges to the tune of $600 million for misbranding one of their most popular products, Botox. Forest Labs was accused of illegally promoting Celexa for unapproved pediatric use for the treatment of depression, as well as making false claims for two other popular drugs: thyroid drugs Levothroid, and Lexapro. The company was also charged with giving kickbacks to physicians that promoted the illegal use of the drugs.

Federal Court Strikes Down Hazelton, PA Immigration Law

A 2006 Hazelton, Pennsylvania immigration law that allowed the city to revoke business licenses for those companies that employed illegal immigrants, and fine landlords that knowingly rented to them has been struck down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. You can read the case opinion in Lozano v. City of Hazelton on FindLaw.com.

The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Chief Judge Theodore McKee's rationale in the Pennsylvania immigration law case:

"Federal law simply does not prohibit landlords from renting (in the ordinary course of business) to persons who lack lawful immigration status. Nor does federal law directly prohibit persons lacking lawful status from renting apartments. It is not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted. We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by congress."

Cal. Sup. Ct. Won't Force Gov, AG to Defend Prop 8

This week the California Supreme Court set up another sign-post on the legal road for Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the suit over California's ban on same sex marriage. As discussed in a prior post, the court was petitioned to force the Governor, along with Attorney General Jerry Brown, to defend the law to the court of appeals. The California Supreme Court has decided the governor and attorney general have no legal requirement that would force them to defend Prop 8.

Conservative groups have argued state authorities have a legal obligation to defend the law, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The Los Angeles Times even went so far as to editorialize that "California's top public lawyer and its chief executive have an obligation to defend the laws of the state whether they like them or not - and that should include the ban on same-sex marriage." However, it may not be so much a case of personal distaste, as one of spending scarce state resources on a law that has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court.

9th Cir: Tattoos Are Art Protected by the First Amendment

Today, tattoo artists are weeping tears of joy into their ink. On September 9, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down their decision in Anderson v. Hermosa Beach, which finds tattoos and tattooing are "forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment."

Well, it is almost cause for tears, as the city has told the Los Angeles Times that it plans to appeal to the full 9th Circuit Court. But for today, it is a victory for tattoo artist and shop owner Johnny Anderson. As discussed in a post on FindLaw's Law and Daily Life, Anderson wished to relocate his shop, the "Yer Cheat'n Heart Tattoo" from Gardena, California, to the more upscale Hermosa Beach. However, the city of Hermosa Beach had an ordinance prohibiting all tattoo studios within the city. Anderson sued.

Skilled Healthcare Settles Nursing Home Lawsuit After Verdict

As discussed in a prior post, Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. was hit with a $671 million verdict by a California jury who found the company failed to properly staff its 22 nursing homes throughout the state. Now, Skilled Healthcare Group has settled with the class of plaintiffs for $50 million to avoid the largest jury verdict awarded this year. The terms of the settlement are still awaiting the judge's final approval.

During the trial, the jury found the company violated the state health and safety code by failing to meet the requirement of 3.2 hours of direct nursing care to patients per day. According to the San Francisco Chronicle and Bloomberg News, under the settlement, the company will redress that issue by providing specified nurse staffing levels complying with state and federal laws on staffing and providing reports to a monitor. Escrow accounts will be set up for the plaintiffs to provide payments from the funds under the settlement.

Federal Court Says 'Ladies Nights' are Legal

A recent federal court decision concerning ladies nights deserves a ladies night itself. A suit brought by a self-proclaimed men's rights activist, Den Hollander, claiming that ladies nights, and the half off drink specials that accompany the female only outings, are a violation of equal protection clause of the Constitution has been denied in favor of the ladies (Read the full opinion here).

MSNBC reports that the suit against New York nightclubs was based on the argument that because bars and clubs are licensed by the state, they are essentially state actors, making their ladies only policy a violation of equal protection. Hollander is quoted as, "fighting for mens rights before they don't have anymore left. Guys are paying for girls to party. I don't think that's fair." He plans to keep fighting in appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jury Hits Ford Motor Co with $131 Million Verdict

The family of a New York Mets baseball prospect has been awarded a $131 million jury verdict against the Ford Motor Company. The Mississippi jury ordered Ford to pay after Brian Cole died in an rollover accident while driving an Explorer in 2001. Cole received especially high damages from the jury due to the nature of his profession.

Reuters reports that Ford blamed Firestone tires for blowouts and rollover accidents that caused the deaths of Explorer drivers. Ford denied allegations that the Explorer was particularly prone to rollovers. The automaker set aside $2.6 billion to replace 19.5 million Firestone tires and settled a number of wrongful death lawsuits.

Family attorney Tab Turner said that, after the jury returned its $131 million verdict, Ford came to a settlement agreement with the family for an undisclosed amount. Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans disputed the decision made by the jury, contending that the accident was the fault of Cole. She said he was driving over 80 mph and was not wearing his seat belt. She further stated that the family of Brian Cole only won the case because the judge excluded relevant evidence, Reuters reports.

Boy Scouts Settles Abuse Cases with Oregon Men

Although the details remain undisclosed, a final settlement has been reached in six of the cases pending against the Boy Scouts of America over the molestation of the plaintiffs when they were Scouts. The settlement brings closure to the cases from Oregon lead by the trial for plaintiff Kerry Lewis. Mr. Lewis and the other plaintiffs were members of the same scout troop in Oregon in the 1980s.

Kerry Lewis told reporters he was "glad this is over," reported the New York Times. Lewis's trial had resulted in jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $19.9 million in damages last April. During the trial, a former assistant troop leader, Timur Dykes, admitted to molesting the then 12 year-old Lewis. Other evidence reported at the time of the trial concerned the so-called "perversion files" kept by the organization as a record of potential abusers.

$12M Settlement Approved in Peanut Salmonella Case

A federal judge has approved a settlement in the cases stemming from last year's salmonella contamination of peanuts and peanut butter. The Peanut Corporation of America was responsible for the peanut salmonella outbreak that killed nine and sickened at least 700 people in 2008 and 2009. The PCA filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

U.S. District Judge Norman Moon has approved the $12 million settlement, according to the Associated Press. Some funds will be paid by PCA's insurer, Hartford Casualty Insurance Co., and some will be paid by Kellogg Co., which purchased some of the peanut products. Settlement funds will be divided based on the severity of the victim's illnesses.

Allergan Inc. Settles Botox Off Label Case for $600M

Beauty ain't cheap. Botox manufacturer Allergan Inc. recently settled civil and criminal charges that will cost them over $600 million in fines, reports Medical News. The Irvine-based Allergan was under investigation from 2000 to 2005 over misbranding charges relating to the off label use of one of their most popular (and profitable) products, Botox.

More specifically, company was accused of failing to fully inform users of the potential for migrane headaches, pain, spasicity, and juvenile cerebral palsy when using the product. Botox, which has both theraputic and cosmetic uses was only approved by the FDA for treating muscle contractions, overactive sweat glands, and crossed eyes during the time in question. In the end, Allergan plead guilty to the misdemeanor misbranding charge and agreed to settle the civil claims charged against the company under the civil false claims act. The DOJ also accused Allergan of paying kickbacks to physicians who used Botox for cosmetic purposes and teaching doctors how to bill for off-label uses.