Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog


Let's be honest, we've all probably driven a rental car that we weren't allowed to. Maybe a friend rented the car for a road trip and didn't feel like putting four people on the rental agreement. Or your parents rented a car to visit you, and you decided to run a quick errand in it.

Either way, you violated the terms of the car rental agreement. But does that violation mean you don't have the same expectation of privacy as the registered driver? Not unless you stole it, according to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies equally to the driver who rented the car and a driver who has permission to use the rental car.

Free Speech Includes Inmate's Right to Silence, Court Rules

Freedom of speech is one of those things that sounds simple enough in theory, but gets more complicated and intricate the more it's applied to real life. It doesn't mean you can say anything you want to, and saying something might be perfectly acceptable in one setting, but off limits in another. But have you thought about whether or not the First Amendment also gives you the right to say nothing at all? One court recently held that free speech includes an inmate's right to silence.

Colleges May Have a Duty to Prevent Suicides in Some Cases

There's no denying college and graduate school can be an intensely stressful experience at times. Between exams, papers, projects, and just fitting in, it's a lot for students to handle, especially if mixed with other mental health issues. And in tragic cases, these can be so great the individual turns to suicide.

Of course, after such a devastating event, many wonder why it happened or how it could have been prevented. In a case out of Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that although a college and its professors were not responsible for a student's suicide, colleges and professors may have a duty to prevent suicide in some cases.

Gig Workers Win Major Ruling at California Supreme Court

As housing costs soar and workers try to bring in more income, Californians who have been working as independent contractors may have to be re-categorized as employees thanks to a recent California Supreme Court ruling. The court's decision applies a standard used in a few other states, and could have a significant effect on "gig workers" such as Uber, Lyft, and Amazon delivery drivers.

Since 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency has had the authority to set national emissions standards for automakers limiting the hazardous air pollutants from cars. And under prior regulations, manufacturers were fined $55 for each mile per gallon they fell short of annual Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets set by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fines that multiplied by the number of offending vehicles sold that year.

Congress upped these "gas guzzler" fines as part of an across-the-board inflation assessment in 2015, to $140 per mpg shortfall, but the NHTSA under President Donald Trump tried to delay implementation of the new rule. That effort was blocked by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York this week, meaning the fines will go into effect.

Lawsuit Against Uber's 'Hell' Wiretap Program Mostly Dismissed

The feud between Uber and Lyft continues with no end in sight. And that's normally a good thing for ride-sharing consumers, because strong competition usually drives prices down. But according to one man's lawsuit, Uber used a wiretap program to lure drivers away from Lyft, increasing Lyft customer wait times, and encouraging them to call an Uber instead. However, a federal judge has mostly dismissed the man's lawsuit, ruling that his allegations don't satisfy the federal Wiretap Act.

It is well established, as the Supreme Court noted in an opinion handed down this week, that "any alien convicted of an 'aggravated felony' after entering the United States will be deported." What is less well-known is what qualifies as an aggravated felony.

Upon examining this issue, the Court ruled that the federal statute used to determine whether a particular conviction constituted an aggravated felony is unconstitutionally vague. This means the definition of an aggravated felony under federal immigration law will need to be tightened up, and in the meantime, the rules for automatic deportation could be loosened.

Even cases that don't go a particular plaintiff's way can have larger and more positive ramifications for an entire community. Engineer Nicole Wittmer's claims against Phillips 66 -- that the energy company refused to hire her because she's transgender -- could be one of those cases.

Though a federal judge in Texas ruled that Wittmer lacked the evidence to prove discrimination in her particular case, the judge also ruled that federal employment law protecting workers from sex discrimination also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Meaning LGBT plaintiffs in other employment discrimination cases could benefit, even if Wittmer lost.

Employers Can't Use Prior Salary Amounts to Justify Pay Gap

Many of us secretly wonder how much our colleagues make and whether or not we're being paid what we deserve. And if we're not paid the same, what's the justification for those pay differences? When a Fresno math consultant found out her male counterpart was paid more solely because he made more at his last job, she sued her employer. Now, a federal court has decided that prior salary cannot be used to justify a pay gap.

A Pokemon Go Fest without Pokemon Go isn't much of a fest at all, as game creator Niantic quickly learned last summer. The first (and perhaps last) of its kind, the festival was held in Chicago's Grant Park and attracted over 20,000 of the game's most ardent fans. But, as attendee Andrew Goldfarb described, "for much of the day, most people couldn't even get the game to start, leaving them standing in the hot, crowded park with not much to do but wander aimlessly."

"Others could connect but found the game laggy and unresponsive," Goldfarb added, "or encountered crashes every time something good popped up." Of course, this led to quite a few lawsuits, most of which were settled by Niantic this week, to the tune of $1,575,000.