Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

December 2012 Archives

Toyota's $1.1B Recall Settlement Includes No Admission of Fault

Toyota has agreed to a $1.1 billion recall settlement over claims of its vehicles accelerating unintentionally.

The settlement would compensate consumers for economic losses related to any safety defects in their vehicles, but does not cover claims for wrongful death and injuries, Reuters reports.

While the settlement would compensate many car owners, it does not include an admission of fault by the Japanese automaker, nor does it include an acknowledgement that its cars were actually faulty. In fact, Toyota's attorneys continue to maintain that "reliable scientific evidence" and "independent evaluations" have confirmed the safety of its cars.

Judge Posner Ponders 'Wisdom' of Long Prison Sentences

Judge Richard Posner is famous in the legal world for issuing philosophical court opinions. This time, Posner has pontificated about long prison terms that end up being "de facto life sentences."

Poser serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently considered the appeal of David Michael Craig. Craig challenged his sentence which included a 30-year sentence and three concurrent 20-year sentences, to be served after the first 30 years.

That means Craig, 49, will be in prison for 50 years. His crime was heinous, but Posner pondered whether the punishment still fit the crime.

Digital Data on Cell Phones Don't Get Privacy Protections: Court

Be careful what you keep on your cell phone, because digital data will not be given privacy protection under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), according to a federal court.

The SCA prohibits unauthorized access to digital information stored in temporary and back-up storage, but the law doesn't specify what kind of storage is protected from unsanctioned investigation.

That question has been cleared up by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the ruling is not necessarily consumer-friendly.

Court Shoots Down Illinois' Ban on Carrying Guns in Public

A controversial Illinois gun law has been struck down. A federal appeals court ruled that the Illinois law that sought to prohibit people from carrying guns in public violated the Second Amendment.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the Illinois state law "arbitrary" and "unconstitutional." In a 2-1 decision, the court reasoned that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms could not rationally have meant that people could only have the right to bear arms in their own home, reports Reuters.

But the appeals court put its ruling on hold, giving state lawmakers 180 days to amend the gun control measure.

'Choose Life' License Plates Blocked in N.C.

North Carolina's plan to offer "Choose Life" license plates to state residents has been blocked by a federal court.

State legislators approved the pro-life design in June 2011, but rejected specialty plates that would have proclaimed pro-choice slogans such as "Respect Choice." Before the plates could be issued, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit.

On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge James C. Fox issued a permanent injunction against the "Choose Life" plates. The problem, he said, was freedom of speech.

Supreme Court's Dam Decision May Open the Floodgates to Lawsuits

The Supreme Court has found that the federal government may have to compensate property owners who suffer flood damage caused by the government. This dam decision may open the floodgates to litigation.

In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that intentional flooding caused by the Army Corps of Engineers in Missouri may be considered government taking of the property. This would be no different than a government occupation or invasion of property, the court ruled.

As a result, the government may have to compensate the property owners.

Bullied Student to Get $1M for School's 'Deliberate Indifference'

An upstate New York family will receive $1 million in damages for a school district's deliberate indifference to the bullying and racial harassment of their son. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury award, reduced from $1.25 million, on Monday.

Anthony Zeno began attending high school in Pine Plains, New York, midway through the 2004-05 school year. Almost immediately, his parents say the multi-racial child was subjected to "relentless" racial epithets and harassment, reports the Daily Freeman.

His parents claimed Anthony was tormented every day he attended school up until the day he graduated. The bullying included the child receiving death threats, being called the N-word, physical attacks, and even a student bringing a noose to school, according to the paper.