February 2011 Court Decisions: Decided
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February 2011 Archives

Automakers Can Be Sued For Seat Belt Deaths, Says Supreme Court

Ever wonder why the rear middle seats in older cars are often without shoulder seat belts, leaving passengers to hold on tight in the event of a crash? Isn't the lack of shoulder restraints going to result in seat belt deaths?

A little known fact is that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, until 2007, permitted automakers to choose between lap and shoulder seat belts when outfitting rear middle seats.

A better known fact is that this choice has left some people dead or severely injured.

Can't Sue Drug Companies for Vaccine Defects Rules Supreme Court

On a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court has issued an opinion ruling that vaccine makers cannot be sued in state courts for vaccine defects that arise out of the product's design. The case, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, stems from a series of DPT shots given to Hannah Bruesewitz when she was an infant in 1992.

After receiving the third shot in the series, Hannah began to have seizures, reports CNN. The family blamed Wyeth for the child's disorder, alleging that the manufacturer had a better, less dangerous vaccine that it failed to promote. The "vaccine court" rejected the claim that the vaccine was tied to Hannah's injuries. The Bruesewitzes then sued Wyeth in state court alleging design defects.

Gitmo Shut Down: Appeals Court Overturns Detainee Release

During the first week of his presidency, President Obama ordered Gitmo shut down within the year. An advisory board was to be created, and the record of each Guantanamo detainee was to be reviewed. Eventually, he hoped, the prison would be closed, and detainees would be released or moved elsewhere.

Two years later, this plan has yet to be realized, with few detainees being released. And according to the courts, they don't have to be.

Saeed Hatim, a Yemini national, has been a Guantanamo detainee for almost 9 years. According to court documents, in 2001 Hatim was captured in Pakistan, and then was later moved to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly tortured until he gave what he says is a false confession. He then became a Guantanamo detainee.

Chevron Ecuador: Oil Giant Fined 8.6 Billion by Ecuadoran Judge

When Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001, it inherited more than it bargained for. A lawsuit against the company accusing Texaco of contaminating the Ecuadorean Amazon was filed in a New York court, but was moved to Ecuador in 2003. Since then, Chevron, Ecuador and lawyers representing local villagers have been hashing it out. The court logs read like a legal thriller.

Not only did Chevron force a judge to resign when it produced recordings pointing to a bribery scheme, it has also acquired outtakes from a documentary showing a plaintiff's lawyer discussing meetings he had with judges and government officials. The company also has evidence that shows collaboration between plaintiffs and a court-appointed expert who valued the lawsuit, reports Reuters.

Despite all the evidence produced by Chevron, Ecuador Judge Nicolas Zambrano ruled against the company, ordering it to pay a $8.6 billion fine.

Pfizer to Pay $330 Million Over Menopause Drug Prempro

For Pfizer, Prempro has been a significant source of problems. In 2009, when the company bought Wyeth, the original manufacturer of the menopause drug, it inherited a host of lawsuits.

It appears that, after eight years of litigation, this chapter in Wyeth's history may be coming to an end; Pfizer is allegedly starting to settle.

'Bikini Barista' Acquitted, Yakima Coffee Shop Owner Guilty

Want a peepshow with your latte?

Well, you better not head to a Yakima coffee shop, where half-naked servers have been taken off the menu.

Washington State has been experiencing a boom in the bikini barista movement. Cafes have been popping up, hoping to draw in customers with young female servers in--you guessed it--bikinis. Responding to complaints by repressed citizens, Reuters reports that many cities have begun criminalizing indecent clothing in public--namely G-strings and anything see-through.

No Need for Spanish Warnings on Products, Miami Court Rules

¡Aviso! ¡Peligro! ¡Advertencia!

If you live in the United States, chances are you've seen these Spanish warnings posted before. But guess what? Manufacturers and businesses may be posting them out of the goodness of their hearts and not any legal requirement.

A District Court judge in Miami has ruled that manufacturers are not required to translate warning labels into other languages except in very narrow instances. While the case deals with Spanish warnings, it applies to all languages.

Health Care Reform Destined for Supreme Court?

The tension surrounding health care reform since its inception has virtually guaranteed the law's eventual presence in the Supreme Court. With federal lawsuits popping up across the country, the time might be closer than once thought.

Since the bill came into law, judges in Lynchberg, Virginia and Detroit have ruled that health care reform law is constitutional. In more recent months, two courts have found differently. 

Expanding upon a ruling in Virginia that declared a portion of the law unconstitutional, Florida Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson has struck down all of health care reform as violating the Commerce Clause.