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9th Cir. Reverses Lower Court ADEA Age Discrimination Case

Last August, the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower district's summary judgment in favor of the Department of Homeland Security when a border patrol agent sued the branch of the agency alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, better known as ADEA.

In the lawsuit, government employee John France alleged that he had been passed over for promotion to Assistant Chief Patrol Agent with a pay scale of GS-15 because he was the oldest candidate who applied. The Department of Homeland Security demurred and the Appellate Court finally reversed, ruling that the facts did not support summary judgment.

In a class action lawsuit that's sure to get heart rates up, a Florida man has alleged that Fitbit's technology is a fraud. James Brickman claims that the company duped him and others out of their cash by making false claims that it could track their sleep.

Fitbit sells wearable tech devices that track a consumer's steps, calories burned, distance covered and other data. Those features have made it a widely popular accessory amongst fitness nerds. The company also advertises a sleep tracking feature, promising "quantified sleep" and "quality data." According to the class action, however, the product's sleep tracking function does not and cannot do what it claims.

The Ninth Circuit has reinstated a proposed class action against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Nutritionals over allegedly misleading health claims and the trans fat content of their Benecol butter substitute, once hailed as one of the first foods "designed to act like medicine."

Plaintiff Robert Reid contended that Benecol was improperly being marketed as a health food, particularly challenging the product label's statements that it contained "no trans fats" and touting the cholesterol-reducing powers of plant stanol esters. The unanimous decision overturned a district court's ruling that such claims were pre-empted.

Benecol, whose name is meant to evoke "good cholesterol," claims to contain no trans fats and reduce cholesterol through the inclusion of plant stanol esters. Much to Reid's chagrin, a serving of Benecol included up to half a gram of trans fats.

SCOTUS Asks: Do Cops Have ADA Duties to Crazed Knife Lady?

This is the weirdest application of the Americans with Disabilities Act I've ever seen. And with the Ninth Circuit's reputation, and the Supreme Court's decision to grant certiorari earlier this week, it may not be long for this world.

9 From the 9th: Trademark Tacking, Federal Tort Tolling, Church Signs

FindLaw's "SCOTUS Week" is coming to a close -- but wait, what's that? Overtime? Extra innings?

Exactly, and you have the Ninth Circuit to thank for the bonus coverage. Why? Because the Ninth Circuit has nine cases on the Supreme Court's docket so far -- one of which, Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, has already been argued and blogged about on our In House blog.

What about the other eight? Here's Part 1 of our Ninth Circuit SCOTUS preview:

3 Questions After Model Mayhem's CDA Sec. 230 Immunity Denial

From 2006 to 2011, Emerson Callum and Lavont Flanders posed as talent scouts on ModelMayhem.com, a social network for aspiring models. The duo would lure women to Miami under false pretenses, then drug and sexually assault them on tape, marketing the videos as pornography. Both were eventually convicted and received life sentences.

In 2008, Internet Brands purchased ModelMayhem.com from its founders. Two years later, the company sued the founders for failing to disclose the potential for liability for civil suits due to the two rapists' actions. And yet, IB posted no warnings. In 2011, Jane Doe became another one of their victims.

She sued IB under California law, alleging a violation of the state's "duty to warn" (the Tarasoff duty). The district court dismissed the suit, holding that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provided immunity for online service providers over content posted by third parties.

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit reversed, essentially holding that the CDA had nothing to do with Doe's claims whatsoever.

9th Cir. Allows Child Slave Labor Suit Against Nestle

Where the Eleventh Circuit dismissed a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act last month, the Ninth Circuit -- under different, but similar, circumstances -- reversed a dismissal. The case before the Ninth Circuit was originally filed by former child slaves forced to harvest cocoa in Ivory Coast. The defendants were Nestle USA, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland -- all American food companies that made chocolate products from Ivory Coast cocoa.

Like the victims in the "Chiquita terror" cases, the child slaves from Ivory Coast alleged that the American companies provided assistance to farmers employing slave labor in an attempt to keep costs down.

9th Carves Hole in California's Damages Cap for Sec. 1983 Cases

In 2008, a conflict between a police officer and an autistic 21-year-old man came to a tragic end when the officer shot and killed Mohammad Usman Chaudhry. Officer Joseph Cruz initially claimed self-defense, that Chaudhry had come at him with a knife. But the evidence all pointed to a case of excessive force.

That case, along with many other allegations, led to a $1.7 million verdict against Cruz and the City of Los Angeles, but a federal district judge nixed $1 million in damages for excessive force based on the victim's pain and suffering, as such awards are not allowed under California state law.

The family appealed.

License-Plate Reader's Mistake Leads to Excessive Force Claims

Technology fails. Computers crash, cell phone calls drop, and automated license-plate readers (ALPR) misread plates.

With that truism established, whose fault is it when a police officer (or six) stops a woman at gunpoint, holds her at gunpoint, handcuffed for twenty minutes, then realizes that the computer had a glitch?

The trial court called it a reasonable mistake, held that there was reasonable suspicion for a stop, and held that qualified immunity applied, but the Ninth Circuit reversed yesterday, holding that if all inferences were made in favor of the plaintiff, that there was a triable issue of fact over whether there was reasonable suspicion, whether excessive force was used and whether she was arrested, rather than subject to an investigatory stop.

A Case About Sunflower Seeds; Adjust Expectations Accordingly.

We can't beat Judge Silverman's summary of the case, so we'll stick with the direct quote:

"Some days we are called upon to consider such profound issues as eleventh-hour death penalty appeals, catastrophic threats to the environment, intense and existential questions of civil and human rights, and the most complicated, controversial problems in civil, criminal and administrative law. Today we consider the coating on sunflower seeds."

Yes, this is a class-action lawsuit over the coating on sunflower seeds, and whether the sodium in the coating must be disclosed on the product's nutrition label.