Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog


Soda Tax Is Legal in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia legislatures have tighten the screw caps a bit more on those naughty soda drinkers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT), which adds a 1.5 cent per fluid ounce tax, paid by beverage distributors, on "sugar sweetened beverages."

Dubbed the "Soda Tax," this applies to sweetened and sugar-substitute sodas, as well as some juices and sports drinks. Philadelphia now joins the ranks of fellow Soda Tax cities San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Boulder, and Seattle. And the list keeps growing.

'Drug Free' as Probation Condition OK in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Supreme Court unanimously agreed that remaining drug-free is an acceptable term of probation. Though defense attorneys claim that this is a criminalization of drug addiction, the court found that, in light of the opioid crisis and the facts of this case, the punishment fit the crime.

In this case, Julia Eldred, a 29-year-old dog walker, stole $250 worth of jewelry from her client's house in order to buy heroin to feed her addiction. She was put on probation for a year, with the terms being to go to rehab, remain drug-free, and submit to random drug testing. Eldred, though under doctor's rehab care, tested positive for fentanyl just 12 days after receiving probation, and was thrown in jail.

Once 3D printers became a thing, making some things illegal to 3D print became a thing. Clearly there are some dangerous or illegal items you don't want people printing off willy nilly in their basements or garages. And firearms are one of those things.

Soon after Defense Distributed published designs for its "Liberator" -- supposedly the world's first 3D printed handgun -- the U.S. Department of Defense came calling. In the five years since, the two have been battling over the legality of disseminating specs for 3D-printed firearms, and finally reached a settlement that went into effect in June allowed Defense Distributed to publicly release CAD files for the Liberator and other weapons.

The long and winding road of baby powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson took an expensive turn last week, with a St. Louis jury awarding almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families who claimed that asbestos contained in the company's talc-based powder products contributed to their ovarian cancer.

It's the largest of five previous verdicts against Johnson & Johnson involving their Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products. But like those others, it is sure to be challenged, appealed, and may be overturned or reduced.

Drivers License Can't Be Revoked for Being Poor in Tennessee

Recently, a federal judge decided that a person's state driver's license cannot be revoked because of failure to pay court fines. At first blush, it may seem surprising that a federal judge would rule on a state issue. But the issue here is Federal Civil Rights of Due Process and Equal Protection, not state vehicle statutes. Without getting into whether driving is a privilege or a right, the federal judge ruled that revoking a driver's license merely because one cannot afford court fines for issues completely unassociated with driving is senseless and counter-productive, and basically criminalizes poverty.

Over 40 states have laws on their books allowing for driver's licenses to be revoked for failure to pay court fees and traffic fines. Though the judge only ruled on the constitutionality of the Tennessee laws, all similar state laws are now in jeopardy of being declared unconstitutional.

Motel 6 to Settle Lawsuit for Allegedly Giving Latino Guest Info to ICE

Summers in Arizona are brutal, where temperatures exceed 100 almost daily, reaching heights that can fry an egg on a sidewalk. If locals don't have air conditioning, they may be tempted to stay at a local motel to escape the heat. But, if they're staying at a Motel 6, they may be in for another type of heat ...

In yet another Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid targeting Latinos, Motel 6 settled a discrimination and privacy lawsuit in which guests claimed that their location and personal information were shared with ICE.

In that lawsuit, the motels shared with ICE the names and location of eight Latino guests staying in the hotels to escape the summer heat, in violation of the hotel's privacy agreement with guests. This disclosure led to the arrest of seven guests, and at least one was deported. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but this is not the first time Latinos and Motel 6 and ICE have shaken things up.

It's finally over. After more than fifty lawsuits in ten countries, four trials, seven years, jury verdicts that stretched into the billions, and one Supreme Court decision, Apple and Samsung have settled their patent dispute. The undisclosed settlement comes just weeks after Apple won a $539 award after a jury found that Samsung infringed on its design patents.

While it is unclear how much Samsung will ultimately pay out for its patent infringement -- or how much each company racked up in legal fees -- it appears that the pitched battle Steve Jobs once referred to as "thermonuclear war" has now come to an end.

The abortion debate takes place on many different battlefields. Of course, there are legal regulations about when a woman can obtain an abortion, where, and from whom. But there are more subtle skirmishes on the periphery of those laws, regarding notification, consent, and the even kind of information a woman must be shown before electing to terminate a pregnancy.

One of those clashes involved so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" in California -- pro-life and largely Christian belief-based organizations that, while offering a limited range of pregnancy options and counseling, nonetheless "aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions." A state law required these pregnancy centers to notify clients about state-offered services, like abortion, and disclose whether or not the clinic is licensed to provide medical services. But the Supreme Court just revived a First Amendment challenge to the law, ruling the requirement is likely unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump's travel ban has been controversial from the start. The Executive Order, restricting immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, was rewritten twice after several federal courts repeatedly blocked different versions of the ban, citing "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order" that "plainly discriminates based on nationality."

The Supreme Court, however, removed one of those injunctions against the ban this morning, sending the case back to the Ninth Circuit with some forceful language citing federal immigration law that "exudes deference" to the president and allows him "broad discretion to suspend" the entry of noncitizens into the United States.

As those who watched the 'Making a Murderer' documentary saw, Brendan Dassey was railroaded by police officers and his own attorney into confessing to involvement in the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. Dassey, just 16 at the time, was subjected to four separate interrogations in just 48 hours, most of it without a parent or an adult present and all without his legal representation, who had passed on inculpatory, if inaccurate, information to law enforcement.

Despite a federal judge and three-member panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Dassey's confession was involuntary, a full panel of the Seventh Circuit reinstated his conviction last year. And today the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal.