Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

November 2016 Archives

In an interesting twist in the 2014 case filed against two Tucson officers for wrongful arrest, an appeals court has upheld the officers' arrest of a man who refused to show the officers his driver's license. A district court had initially ruled that the suit could continue. However, on appeal, the court determined the officers are immune from liability as the arrest was based on probable cause.

What happened in this case is rather complex, and whether this result will be appealed is still undetermined.

Urban Outfitters, the popular clothing store, has finally settled the lawsuit brought against it by the Navajo Nation over the Navajo product line the retailer introduced over five years ago. While the details of the settlement are confidential, the Navajo Nation announced that there will be a future partnership with the retailer to sell real Navajo jewelry.

The lawsuit all started back in 2012 over Navajo panties, and other Navajo branded items, that Urban Outfitters started offering for sale in their stores. When Native American customers started seeing the products, they became offended. One Native American woman demanded the retailer pull the items from their shelves as she believed the items were offensive to Native Americans and disrespectful to the culture, history, and heritage. When the retailer did not pull the items, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit.

The New York Attorney General's office today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with President-elect Donald Trump in a series of lawsuits regarding his eponymous Trump University. According to a statement from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations of fraud after thousands people across the country were duped into paying for Trump University courses, which more often than not left students "worse off financially than they had been before."

It marks a change of heart for the litigious future president, and means he'll carry one fewer legal headache into office next year.

In a decision that was bound to be controversial regardless of the result, a Missouri appeals court ruled that the frozen embryos of a divorced couple are not people, and refused to grant custody of the embryos to either spouse. While this result may seem completely logical, it is seemingly at odds with Missouri law. In Missouri, pretty much any time after conception, an unborn child is considered a human being with protectable rights. The dissenting judge's opinion highlights the decisions conflict with Missouri law.

The case involved a divorce couple that had a few embryos frozen prior to their divorce. After the divorce, the former wife wanted to use the embryos, while the former husband wanted to either donate the embryos to a third party or have them destroyed. The judge basically blocked either from being able to get want they want by ruling that both former spouses had to consent to how and by whom the embryos could be used.

An Illinois judge recently ruled against Dennis Hastert, allowing the victim of the former politician's sexual abuse to proceed with his contract enforcement action. The case stems from a recently entered into oral settlement agreement between Hastert and an unnamed individual whom Hastert abused in the 1970s while the individual was a minor.

In 2010, Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to the unnamed individual in installments over a period of time. When Hastert had neared the half way point, in about 2014, Federal authorities became suspicious of Hastert's banking activity. As a result of the incremental withdraws from his bank account, Hastert was charged with the crime of structuring, which makes it a crime to attempt to hide certain banking transactions. The unnamed victim filed suit back in April of this year.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire re-affirmed the state's rape shield laws and overturned their own decision. The 2014 conviction for the 2012 sexual assault and murder of Lizzi Marriot was appealed, and as part of the appeal, the attorneys for the appellant wanted to include part of the record that had been sealed as it related to Ms. Marriot's sexual history.

Initially, the court granted the defendant's motion to unseal the records for use on appeal, which would put them into the public record. However, after victim's advocates voiced their concerns over what that ruling would mean, and the attorney general's office appealed that ruling, the court actually reversed their own ruling.

Despite nearly four years having passed since the suit was initially filed, the case against Maine West High School has finally settled. While the school district admitted no liability in the settlement, they paid 5 students a total of $1,000,000 to settle their case. Each student will receive $200,000. Since the case took so long, the students are now all adults.

The 2012 case started after high school athletics hazing went too far. One boy was held down, groped, and sodomized with a finger and foreign object. While the coaches and students involved were all cleared of criminal charges, the civil suit included 5 students who all asserted that they had been hazed by upperclassmen.

In a shocking twist, the Utah woman who accidentally killed her husband in a car crash, then sued herself as the representative of her husband's estate as a result of the car crash, won before the Utah Supreme Court last month. The ruling, which seems so absurd, confirms that the legal "absurdity doctrine" did not apply to the situation.

Although the Utah woman was at fault for the accident, her role as the executor of her husband's estate essentially makes her a third party acting on behalf of her husband's estate. So while for the sake of appearances it looks like she is suing herself, it is actually her late husband's estate that is suing her. The estate collects any settlement or verdict, and would distribute the funds with the rest of the late husband's assets.

When a female University of Virginia student came forth with allegations of a brutal sexual assault at a frat party, Rolling Stone thought it had a bombshell on its hands. But the story blew up in its face, as those claims unraveled in the weeks after it was published. After a police investigation found no evidence of the alleged crime and Rolling Stone retracted the story, UVA administrator Nicole Eramo, sued the magazine, its publisher, and the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, for defamation.

Eramo, who oversaw on-campus sexual violence cases when the article was published, won her case last week, with a jury finding Rolling Stone knew or should've known elements of the story relating to Eramo were false.

Airbnb, the popular site for short-term lodging, just had a race discrimination case dismissed because of the arbitration clause buried in the site's terms of service. The case alleged that an African American customer was denied accommodations by various Airbnb hosts when using his normal account, but he was allowed to rent when he used a fake account pretending to be white.

While Airbnb has since revamped its anti-discrimination policies and required the hosts to sign a "community commitment," their lawyers are likely breathing a sigh of relief after the federal court ruling. The ruling requires all user grievances against the company, even civil rights complaints and class actions, to be settled via the arbitration process outlined in the website's terms of service.

In what came as a shock to many, a New York Federal Judge rejected the settlement proposed by the attorneys for the NYPD and the group of Muslim plaintiffs that filed a class action lawsuit. The class action lawsuit stems from the post-9/11 actions of the NYPD in conducting undercover surveillance on Muslim communities.

The order rejecting the settlement was actually part of a 45-year-old case that essentially stopped the NYPD from keeping records when conducting suspicionless surveillance, as well as put investigatory guidelines into place. The half-a-century old case did not concern the Muslim community, but rather focused on the NYPD's undercover surveillance of political activities. However, counsel in the old case joined forces with counsel on the new case, and sought to resolve problems with the NYPD together.

After a decade of fighting it out in court, Warner Bros. won the latest appeal confirming that the merchandising of various works, including Gone with the Wind, Tom & Jerry, and the Wizard of Oz, by a company that made figurines, snow globes and t-shirts, violated copyright and trademark law. The case, initially filed in 2006, was appealed twice, after each time the District Court ruled in favor of Warner Bros.

At issue in the most recent appeal was whether the District Court's monetary awards, dispositive ruling and granting of a permanent injunction were proper. The Appeals Court upheld the entire ruling of the lower court in favor of Warner Bros.

In what is being hailed as a historic settlement for workers at franchised McDonald's restaurants, the fast food behemoth agreed to settle labor violation claims asserted by franchise employees. The settlement is being reported as a first of its kind against the burger maker, as it holds McDonald's, as the franchisor, responsible for the acts of its franchisees.

While McDonald's corporate adamantly asserts that they are not the employers of the franchisee's employees, there is a pending National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) action to decide this exact issue.

For 41 days in January and February, armed militants seized and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. The occupation became a news-cycle and social media circus, as the occupiers broadcasted video from inside the refuge and made no secret about their goals. As one of the occupier's attorneys told the Los Angeles Times, "His point in this case was to be convicted. His point was to go to the Court of Appeals and make legal arguments about the United States' ability to own land .The notion of being acquitted never entered his mind."

But that plan hit a bit of a snag last Thursday when seven of the occupiers, including infamous ringleaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were acquitted on conspiracy and weapons charges. So how did they get off, after admitted to the crimes and wanting to be convicted?