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January 2016 Archives

Lyft Amputates a Toe to Save the Foot, Settles Class Action Suit

"It looks like Lyft got off fairly lightly here," according to a market analyst commenting on the recent settlement agreement between Lyft and its drivers. Under the terms of the settlement, the ride-sharing company will pay $12.5 million, give concessions, and give drivers notice if they are to be deactivated.

It's good news for Lyft, but not so great news for its bigger rival Uber, whose head is still inching toward the chopping block.

Andy Lopez's Friends Can Sue Cops for Abuse

Federal district judge William Orrick trimmed a civil rights lawsuit down to size by dismissing charges against several defendants with prejudice. But the judge let stand claims against two Sonoma County Sheriff's officers for some rather egregious conduct.

So what got them in trouble? The suit involves complaints of an officer jumping out of a patrol car, pointing a gun at children, and telling them to "get [their] f***ing hands up now!"

SEC Filing Is Not a Public Disclosure, California Court Rules

A California Court of Appeals has ruled rather controversially that federal filings with the SEC do not amount to "public disclosure" for purposes of qui tam relator suits under California's False Claims Act ("CFCA"). This is the case of State ex rel. Bartlett v. Miller, decided on January 19th.

How could this possibly be the ruling? CFCA cases based on public information, said the three judge panel for California's Second Appellate District, are triggered only when such disclosure is through channels explicitly accounted for in the state statute, a mechanism known as the "public disclosure bar."

If you purchased some bulk shrimp from Costco last summer, it's possible that your shrimp cocktail included seafood that was "derived from a supply chain that depends upon documented slavery, human trafficking, and other labor abuses" -- at least according to a lawsuit against the company.

A California woman sued the retailer last August, alleging that the company's Thailand-sourced shrimp were produced with slave labor, despite its supplier code of conduct which prohibits human rights abuses. That's false advertising, Monica Sud argued in her putative class action.

But it turns out, Sud had never purchased Thai shrimp from Costco, slavery-sourced or otherwise. Her suit was dismissed last Friday for lack of standing.

Yosemite Will Change Historic Names in Trademark Dispute

When news first came out about Yosemite "losing" its trademark rights to a greedy Madison Ave. company, people predictably started foaming at the mouth. But it turns out that it's a little more nuanced than that.

In the end, it could be a case of "big bad corporate America against Park Service" turned on its head. Welcome to IP meets National Parks.

On October 23rd, the Southern California Gas Company's natural gas storage well sprung a leak in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch. For over two months, it has spewed gas, releasing over 80,000 metric tons of methane. No one seems able to stop it, either.

While the leak pumps out thousands of tons of toxic greenhouse gases, the lawsuits are already piling up: 25 so far and climbing.

Surrogate Mom Threatened by Birth Father Sues in California Court

A woman has brought suit in a California court to avoid having one of three babies aborted in utero. Yes, you read that one right.

The case shines a rather troubling light in that area of the law generally known as surrogacy law: contracts having to do with the births of children. It goes to show you just how far contract law can apply -- the very limits of decency.

Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow Guilty on All 162 Criminal Counts

Raymond Chow is guilty of all 162 criminal counts brought against him in monumentally large indictment that alleged the former Chinese-mafia leader engaged in murder-for-hire, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic in stolen goods, as well as a slew of other hefty crimes. It's been almost ten years since Allen Leung was shot dead in the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. Soon, it seems, his story will come to a close.

"Shrimp Boy" will be sentenced on March 23rd this year, and faces a life-long prison term.

The California State Bar Board of Trustees announced in December that it would be appointing Jayne Kim to a second four-year term as chief trial counsel, the state bar's top prosecutor position. The chief trial counsel is responsible for investigating and prosecuting attorneys for professional misconduct, overseeing more than 200 employees and a $40 million budget.

But Kim is a contentious choice for reappointment, after employees in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel overwhelmingly voted "no confidence" in her leadership in October. Here's some background on Kim and the controversy behind her.

The California State Legislature passed, and Governor Brown signed, more than 800 new laws in 2015, covering everything from physician-assisted suicide, to minimum wage, to beer-tastings at farmers' markets. As is often the case, most of those new laws went into effect at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2016.

Here's a quick overview of some of the most significant new laws and how they might affect your life and your legal practice.

The California state legislature may put fort nonbinding, advisory ballot measures, the state's Supreme Court ruled this morning. In a six to one ruling, the court found that the legislature has the power to poll the public through the ballot box, with questions that would not have any legal impact.

The ruling comes from Proposition 49, a measure proposed by the state legislature for the 2014 ballot but withdrawn after a conservative group sued, arguing that advisory measures were simply attempts to influence voter turnout. The ballot measure would have asked voters whether Congress should pursue a constitutional amendment to overrule the controversial Citizens United decision, though the actual vote would have no effect on state law, Congress, or the federal Constitution.