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6 posts from November 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Faking a disability? Don’t post it on Facebook.

Unfortunately, it occurs all too often: a plaintiff overstates, inflates, or fabricates an injury altogether after an auto accident and seeks compensation. 

And then she posts photos of herself completing a 5k on Facebook

Defendants are beginning to fight back, asking courts for permission to introduce a plaintiff’s Facebook content if it appears to contradict statements made in court about the scope of their injuries. 

In a recent Pennsylvania case, Largent v. Reed, Jennifer Largent claimed that an automobile accident caused by the defendant, Jennifer Rosko, left her and her husband with “serious and permanent physical and mental injuries.”  Largent’s injuries were so extensive that she needed to walk with a cane, she told the Court.

All it took was a search of the plaintiff’s public profile to see Largent’s status updates about going to the gym and “enjoying life with her family.”  Judge Richard Walsh was satisfied that the defendants met relevancy standard needed to probe the rest of her page.  Noting Facebook’s motto – “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” – Walsh wrote:

[No court has ever] recognized a ‘general privacy privilege’ for Facebook information, and neither will we… only the uninitiated or foolish could believe that Facebook is an online lockbox of secrets.”

Ben Present, writing for the Legal Intelligencer, notes that this is the third Pennsylvania civil court to decide that a party’s Facebook page falls within the scope of discovery if posted information appears to contradict statements in discovery or testimony.  Let’s hope that plaintiffs and attorneys will begin to think twice before crowding our courts with bogus claims- that’s something honest Pennsylvanians can ‘like.’

Monday, November 21, 2011

Atlantic City gets slammed (again)

Casino chips This time, it’s a man-made disaster: lawsuits.

The best odds in Atlantic City may be in the Courtroom - not its casinos.  The Press of Atlantic City reports that until very recently, the City paid out an average of $2.5 million annually in legal settlements.   

“…a shocking number of the plaintiffs suing Atlantic City are current or former employees of the resort. It verges on sport, a local tradition as popular as strolling the Boardwalk.” - Press of Atlantic City, 11/20/11

NJLRA has underscored the amount of money the Atlantic City school district must budget each year for lawsuits in previous posts.  But the Press of Atlantic City’s editorial in Sunday’s paper draws attention to the high price of slip-and-falls – for the city’s taxpayers. 

“Former firefighter Ricky Williams settled a suit with the city after claiming he had been the subject of racist threats by his supervisor. The city then fired the supervisor, Capt. Edmund Mawhinney, who subsequently sued for wrongful termination and got a six-figure settlement.

It would almost be comical - if these lawsuits and settlements weren't taking money out of taxpayers' pockets.

Why is the city sued so often? Hard to say. The resort has a long history of not carefully following its own policies and procedures - that has certainly led to plenty of lawsuits from disgruntled employees.

And, of course, plenty of plaintiffs sue the city simply because it appears to work.

One thing is for certain: wasting precious taxpayer dollars on excessive litigation in an era of budget cuts and economic downturn is no laughing matter- except, perhaps, to the lawyers and plaintiffs they represent. 

Click here to read the editorial.  

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

It’s Election Day in New Jersey. Go vote.

People often say that they sit out “off year” elections like this one because they’re not as important as Presidential or gubernatorial elections.   

This notion is entirely false.  Only a handful of us will ever meet the President or require an intervention from the White House.  For substantive help, government begins from the bottom up. 

It is the level of government closest to you – your mayor, town council, and state senators and assembly members – who decide the best use for the empty lot across the street from your house, how frequently your trash will be collected, and by how much your property taxes will rise.  These are the elected officials best equipped to make changes when you can’t get through to the state unemployment office, experience problems at the MVC, or need to raise awareness about an issue that’s important to your community.  This is why it’s especially important that we exercise care and concern during “off year” elections –at the very least, that we pay attention to whom we are entrusting with the oath of local office. 

All of New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts are up for grabs today.  Many municipalities have mayoral and town council races as well.  Click here to find your voting location, and visit NJ Spotlight’s voter guide for more information about some of the candidates. 

It’s Election Day.  Make it count. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Teen who made headlines for killing family and suing their estate gets another 15 minutes of fame

Dateline NBC will be airing an interview this evening with Justine Winters, the Montana teenager who made headlines last year for killing a pregnant mom and her 13-year-old son during a failed suicide attempt.  What Dateline does not mention in its teaser (as of now, at least) is that Winters later filed suit against the deceased mother’s estate for, among other things “lack of capacity to enjoy [her] life.”

Winters was driving at a speed of 86 miles per hour, not wearing a seatbelt, and texting her ex-boyfriend of her plans to crash her vehicle when she struck pregnant Erin Thompson and her son Caden. 

“Crossing the Line” airs at 9 p.m. EST. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The iTunes Class Action Lawsuit You’ll Never Hear About

Unless you read about it here, of course. 

If you purchased a $0.99 iTunes giftcard, you could make a 30% return on your investment.

Apparently iTunes raised the price of most of their songs from $0.99 to $1.29 in April 2009. In legalese, this means that if you purchased a $0.99 giftcard before May 2010 (and no, I don’t understand the point of a $0.99 giftcard, either), you may be entitled to a large cash credit of $3.25.

Attorneys William M. Audet, Jonas P. Mann, Audet & Partners, LLP were kind enough to file this class action lawsuit on your behalf.  They are seeking a mere $2.1 million for their trouble.  The named plaintiffs in the suit, Johnson v. Apple Inc., will receive a $2,500 return on their $0.99 investment. 

While Apple maintains that it did nothing wrong, it seems that they’ve preferred to roll over and play dead rather than to risk an even greater financial loss: they are not contesting the $2,500 settlement for each named plaintiff, nor are they contesting the aforementioned attorneys’ fees.  The class’s own attorneys state:

Apple denies all allegations in the Lawsuit and in the Owens Action, and has asserted many defenses. Apple is entering into this settlement to avoid burdensome and costly litigation. The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated.

And yes, if you were one of the folks who used a $0.99 iTunes giftcard during this period, they are representing you as well (unless you choose to opt out of the settlement – which you must do before December 29th). 

Finally, no greediness permitted: the fine print clearly states that you are entitled to one $3.25 credit, no matter how many giftcards you redeemed.  Click here to enlarge and see for yourself:

ITunes Class0001


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Survey: South Jersey Becoming a Lawsuit Mecca

A majority of New Jersey’s small business owners want the Legislature to address legal reform, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton survey

And business owners in the Philly suburbs are the most likely to be taken to court. 

The survey found that the majority of New Jersey’s small business owners aren’t happy with the state’s culture of litigation:

  • 84% of those surveyed rate the state’s business climate as “fair” or “poor,” and an astounding 87% say they want the Legislature to prioritize legal reform. 
  • 24% of businesses statewide have been threatened with litigation in the past five years, but that number jumps to 40% among South Jersey businesses. 
  • Overall, 1-in-4 South Jersey small businesses have actually been brought to court during the past five years.  The chances of courtroom litigation also increase with a business’s longevity and growth.
  • Two-thirds of South Jersey businesses saw an increase in their liability insurance premiums during this time period, even if they haven’t been sued.

Marcus Rayner, NJLRA's executive director, released the following statement:

“It’s clear that New Jersey’s liability laws put the state at a disadvantage,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance.  But that disadvantage is exacerbated if a business happens to operate in the suburbs of Philadelphia.”

“Every time a lawsuit is filed against one of New Jersey’s small businesses, every business’s insurance costs threaten to rise.  Business owners are telling us that even if it’s not their business being sued today, they still might incur costs and will need to make judgments about where to invest their business’s resources."

“This is not the kind of restraint we ought to have in a state with a 9.2% unemployment rate.  When 87% of small business owners in a state want change, it’s time for the Legislature to act.” 

The survey was conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.    Full results can be found our website, http://njlra.org.