Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

March 2016 Archives

Supreme Court Split on Public Union Fee Case

The Supreme Court this week was split on a challenge by California's non-unionized public school teachers who oppose paying union fees for negotiation representation, saying it is a violation of their free speech rights. An evenly divided court means the lower appellate court's decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will stand.

The ruling comes just after Justice Antonin Scalia's death and there was an expectation, after oral arguments last year, that the conservative justice would side with those who oppose union contributions. The outcome is considered a big win for organized labor, according to The Washington Post. But the case may be heard again when Justice Scalia is replaced ... however long that takes.

The Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit promised to smooth your style and give it a keratin treatment. Instead, hundreds of women suffered hair loss and scalp burns when they tried it. Those hundreds of women joined several class action lawsuits against Unilever, maker of the Suave products, and the Seventh Circuit has upheld a $10 million dollar settlement in the case.

The company will also reimburse thousands of women the $10 it cost to buy a hair product that caused visible bald spots, broken hair, and burned scalps.

Wine Makers Toast Arsenic Case Dismissal

California wine makers are toasting the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming arsenic levels are dangerously high and bottles are improperly labeled. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley dismissed a class-action lawsuit that named five of the state's six largest wine producers, finding that their existing warnings comply with regulations. But the plaintiffs have already said they'll appeal the ruling.

Music streaming service Spotify will pay up to $25 million in royalties and a $5 million penalty to settle a long-standing licensing dispute with the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA). The issue concerned royalties for "unmatched" songs for which Spotify couldn't or didn't identify the original publisher.

So who gets paid what, and what does this mean for other streaming sites?

Los Angeles Okays $30M Gang Injunction Enforcement Lawsuit Settlement

Los Angeles City Council officials this week unanimously agreed to settle a class action lawsuit stemming from enforcement of anti-gang injunctions that restricting the movements and associations of innocent city residents. At the center of the deal is a $30 million dollar settlement that will fund job training for gang members, among other projects.

The deal is seen as a positive compromise by both sides, according to the Los Angeles Times, funding initiatives for positive change without risking putting money in the hands of gang members. But the settlement has not yet been approved by a judge, so the class action isn't over quite yet.

This morning, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland is currently chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and would fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month.

Most thought Sri Srinivasan, who serves on the same court as Garland, would be the President's pick, even hours before the official announcement. So Garland's nomination did catch some off guard. Who is Merrick Garland, and can we guess what kind of Supreme Court justice he might be?

Supreme Court Refuses Review of Apple E-Book Price-Fix Case

It's the end of the line for Apple and five e-book publishers who have been accused of conspiring to increase prices. The Supreme Court this week declined to hear Apple's appeal and the company will have to pay $450 million in damages for engaging in a conspiracy and violating federal antitrust law.

Apple had argued that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would chill innovation and risk-taking, according to Reuters. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that Apple was central in a collaborative effort among publishers to raise prices.

The US Supreme Court this week issued an order granting full faith and credit to a lesbian adoption that took place in Georgia and that the Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize. The unanimous order reversing the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling is considered a big win for same-sex adoption, according to Slate.

The case is called VL v. EL, and it is about VL seeking visitation with children that EL bore and that VL adopted in Georgia. The couple did not marry but raised the children together for 17 years. When they broke up, EL refused to allow VL visitation, and for a long time the Alabama courts agreed.

News Corp Settles Antitrust Suit for $280 Million

After years of legal wrangling with major packaged goods brands over antitrust claims, News Corporation has agreed to pay a $280 million settlement to Dial, Kraft Heinz Company, and others. The plaintiffs were seeking a lot more money -- $674.6 million in damages -- arguing that News Corp quelled competition with exclusionary and illegal practices.

Considering that those damages sought, if proven, could reportedly have tripled to more than $2 billion under federal antitrust law, the announced settlement sounds like a steal for News Corp. The company, headed by Rupert Murdoch, was sued in 2012 for alleged market violations in previous years (pre-Fox split). Let's look at antitrust law briefly and the claims the company faced, according to Business Insider.