Friday, 30 April 2010

Former Scout Awarded $18.5 Million in Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

A jury in Oregon found for the plaintiff in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Boy Scouts of America. The jury awarded the plaintiff a verdict of $18.5 million.

The lawsuit related to abuse that the plaintiff alleged he had suffered more than 25 years ago at the hands of an assistant scoutmaster. At the time of the abuse, the plaintiff had been a 12-year-old boy. He was one among six boys who filed a lawsuit against Boy Scouts of America, alleging sexual abuse.

According to the lawsuit, while the scout master Timothy Dykes was removed from his position as a scout leader, he was allowed to continue to serve the organization as a volunteer. Dykes continued to abuse the boy in this capacity too. In 1983, Dykes admitted to scout leaders that he had abused as many as 17 boys under his watch.

Sexual abuse lawyers in California have watched this lawsuit closely. Much of this was due to the fact that jurors at the trial were allowed a look at thousands of documents that had hitherto been kept sealed at the Boy Scout headquarters in Irving. The documents contained information about abuse cases involving scoutmasters, going back several decades.

Boy Scouts of America has insisted that it only kept the files confidential to protect scout leaders who were not fit to be scout leaders, but had not done anything illegal. The organization insists that it has enhanced its youth protection efforts to block predators. Critics have alleged that the organization has been aware of scoutmasters abusing boys, but simply engaged in transferring the scoutmasters to other lower positions at the organization, instead of bringing the law into the picture.

Supporters of the Boy Scouts organization believe it's futile to hold the iconic organization responsible for abuse cases that occurred more than two decades ago. The Catholic Church was held accountable by the people of California and several states across the country, for alleged abuse that occurred decades ago. Sexual abuse lawyers frankly see no reason why the Boy Scouts organization should be treated differently.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Victim of IRS Plane Crash Sues Pilot's Family

When Shane Hill went to work at the Texas State Comptroller's office inside the Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 18th, he never expected the events that were about to unfold. While making a mid-morning phone call, Hill heard a loud noise over his shoulder, followed by an explosion caused by a small single-engine plane that had flown into the building (which also houses the IRS headquarters for the region). The blast badly burned 25 percent of Shane Hill's body, including his back, ears, hands, neck and parts of his face. The sheer force of the explosion hit Shane Hill from behind and sent him flying. Crashing between the first and second floors of the Echelon building, the plane exploded on impact while fires destroyed the plane. Meanwhile, news of the crash piloted by Andrew Joseph Stack (or Joe as he was commonly known) spread like wildfire. Stack was thought to be a disgruntled man who went ballistic over his issues with the IRS; he was killed in the crash. Just hours before the plane crash, Joe Stack set his family's home on fire.

Now Hill is seeking justice. He filed a lawsuit last week naming Stack's wife and administrator of the pilot's estate, Sheryl, seeking financial damages for the physical and emotional suffering he endured as a result of the airplane crash that made headlines around the country.

According to the lawsuit, Joe Stack's negligence was the sole cause of the crash and his estate should therefore cover the costs of damages and injuries suffered by Hill. It is believed, according to the lawsuit, that Joe Stack had an insurance policy to cover his plane as well as his actions as a plot. Hill's lawyers contend that the policy should not go to Stack's wife but to those he injured as a result of his actions instead.

Documents indicate Hill is seeking recovery of physical pain and mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, medical expenses and loss of earning and earning capacity. Though no financial amount has been disclosed, Hill is looking to recoup lost wages due to the injury as well reimbursement for medical costs. Hill has nearly completely recovered from his injuries and has returned to work.

Monday, 26 April 2010

New Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Targets Pope

Sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church so far have been restricted to church individuals and diocese across the country. A new federal lawsuit that was filed this week, however, names the Pope himself.

The lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee, and alleges that Pope Benedict and senior officials at the Vatican covered up allegations of sexual abuse even after receiving several reports and complaints. The plaintiff is an unidentified man from Illinois who says that he was abused over a number of years in the 90s. According to the plaintiff, he wrote several letters to the Vatican pleading with Cardinals to read out his letter to the Pope and let him know of the abuse.

Whether those letters ever made it even close to the Pope we may never know, considering that the church has built an impenetrable wall of secrecy around it. The sexual abuse lawyers here are trying to get the church to open confidential files that contain reports of clergy sexual abuse, as well as details of settlements that were paid out to victims. The lawsuit is also seeking monetary damages, as well as a jury trial.

Obviously, these lawyers face enormous challenges in trying to hold the church accountable for the actions of its members. The Vatican has thus far escaped any legal action against it on the basis that it is a sovereign state, and therefore, enjoys diplomatic immunity. However, the lawyer in this case plan to argue that the Vatican is a commercial organization that has its business interests spread out throughout the United States, and therefore, can be held liable for the actions of its members. He also plans to argue that the Church engaged in widespread injury of people inside the United States, and therefore can be held liable in a court here.

This is not the first time that the question of holding the pope and the Vatican liable for sexual abuse by clergy members in the United States, has come up before sexual abuse lawyers. Several legal experts have asked why the Catholic Church or the Pope should have special protection from sexual abuse lawsuits, considering that these abuses and crimes were perpetrated by the church's members. No organization enjoys such immunity, and the “sovereign state” argument seems bogus when you consider the size of the Vatican and the limited influence, if any, it enjoys on the world stage.

No other religious organization has that kind of immunity, and neither should the Church.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Nationwide Motorcycle Accident Fatalities Drop by 10%

Preliminary data from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association suggests that for the first time in 11 years, there had been a drop in motorcycle crash fatality rates nationwide.

The GHSA news release uses preliminary crash data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to arrive at those conclusions. The data is for the first nine months of 2009, but according to the GHSA, those numbers are low enough to conclude that 2009 will be the first year in 11 years, that there has been a decline in these rates.

The largest decline has been in California. The state has a projected decline of 29% in motorcycle crash fatality rates. In 2009, there were 321 motorcycle crash deaths in California, down from 454 fatalities the previous year. That is a substantial drop, but California motorcycle accident lawyers believe it may not be time to begin celebrating yet.

The GHSA says that much of the decline can be attributed to the recession. There has been a decline in motorcycling for leisure, and that has contributed to a drop in fatalities. Besides, the number of middle-aged beginner motorcycle riders has also dropped as a result of the economic downturn. The impact of the economic downturn on motorcycle crash fatality rates will only be confirmed over the next two years, when new crash data comes out.

Besides economic factors, the usual factors, including promotion of motorcycle safety training courses and helmet use, have also been mentioned as possible factors for the decline.

According to the GHSA, states need to continue with their motorcycle crash prevention efforts to maintain these low rates. The most important thing that states can do to reduce the number of motorcycle crash fatalities, is to encourage and promote helmet use. States most also do more to prevent speeding-related motorcycle accidents. Approximately 35% of all motorcycle crash fatalities in 2009 were related to speeding. The GHSA also wants more states to encourage beginner riders to undertake safety training programs before they begin riding. The agency is also asking state transportation officials to focus harder on reducing drunk driving among motorcyclists.

Monday, 19 April 2010

More Allegations Emerge in Steven Seagal Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Stephen Seagal by a former assistant is getting more crowded by the day. Details are emerging about other sexual harassment episodes involving others, including Jenny McCarthy, and the plaintiff’s employment lawyers say more women are coming forward to tell their sexual harassment stories involving Mr. Seagal.

The lawsuit is also threatening to turn into something of a freak show, with the plaintiff alleging that she has juicy details about Seagal's physiological reactions to stimulation as proof.

The lawsuit has been filed by a former model who applied for a job as an executive assistant to the action star. Kayden Nguyen says she responded to a Craigslist ad posted by Seagal. According to Nguyen, the harassment began on the very first day on the job when Seagal touched her inappropriately. The harassment quickly turned serious, and finally Nguyen was forced to escape his clutches, quite literally, with him chasing her with a flashlight with gun attached. Her lawsuit is seeking $1 million in damages. The lawsuit, which is seeking $1 million in damages, also alleges that Seagal wanted to add her to his harem of sex slaves, which includes Russian women.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Seagal was filming a reality show in Louisiana. That gig is effectively over as other women have allegedly come forward to speak about sexual harassment by Seagal. Jenny McCarthy claims she went to meet Seagal for a job, and was asked to take her clothes off. According to Nguyen’s sexual harassment lawyer, other women are coming forward to testify against Seagal.

This is where the sexual harassment lawsuit gets really interesting. According to Nguyen, she has proof of intimate relations with Seagal- she knows of a physiological reaction he has to sexual stimulation. She's not saying what it is, and neither is her lawyer, but it's likely that her legal team will use this as a means to separate other genuine victims of Seagal‘s harassment, from the fakes. The logic is that a genuine victim would be aware of this reaction too.

To a California employment lawyer, it isn’t very surprising that the mudslinging at Nguyen has already begun. Special attention is being paid to footage of an appearance she made on the Tyra Banks Show a few years ago, in which she claimed that she could “trick any guy to get what she wanted.” The clip is getting a lot of play, and the aspersions on her character have already begun.

Friday, 16 April 2010

FAA Has Its Plane Safety Priorities Straight

Any California plane crash lawyer would be impressed at the speed with which the Federal Aviation Administration moved to ground a plane that was indulging in silly shenanigans in the skies over the Masters tournament in Augusta. The hasty inspection found a few loose screws, and an outdated seat belt. That was enough for the FAA to immediately ground the plane. What was the plane doing that got the FAA so excited? It was flying aerial banners over the tournament, mocking Tiger Woods who made a much-anticipated return to the course last week. The banners mocked Woods’ insistence that sex addiction was the root cause of his marital infidelities.

According to Jim Miller, who is the owner of the company Air America Arial Ads, he was approached by a third-party to fly certain banners about Woods over the Masters tournament. He had barely finished flying two banners, when the Federal Aviation Administration swooped in for an inspection. The hurried inspection found that a few screws on the plane were either missing or loose, and that the seatbelts came with an outdated certification.

The plane was then grounded, and that was the end of the banner campaign. According to Miller, he had earlier been inundated with requests from tournament authorities, begging him to pull out the banners. Miller is alleging that the federal agency conducted a bogus inspection that was aimed only at ensuring that the banners mocking Woods, were out of sight.

No one really cares at this point in time what the banners said, or what Woods felt about them. However, any California plane crash lawyer would be astounded at the enthusiasm at which the federal agency responded to this situation. It's hard to understand how this constitutes an emergency. The Federal Aviation Administration has no problems dragging its feet over recommendations made by the National Transmission Safety Board about aviation safety. We still continue to have planes run through questionable practices by small regional carriers, and flown by fatigued, underpaid, poorly trained, inexperienced pilots, and the country's premier aviation safety agency is squandering time and resources on flimsy things.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Engineer Group Has Safety Tips for Preventing Construction Work Zone Accidents

Every year, hundreds of people are killed in highway construction work zone accidents around the country. Los Angeles car accident lawyers represent the families of victims which include motorists and truckers killed in accidents caused by unsafe conditions at highway work zones. Victims also include operators, laborers, engineers and supervisors mowed down by motorists. The rate of death and injuries in these accidents has been allowed to climb unimpeded, because of the lack of set guidelines for highway work zone safety.

Now, the American Society of Safety Engineers has released new standards for work zone safety. According to the ASSE, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has very few standards in place that govern work zone safety, and therefore, the ASSE has stepped in to fill this gap. The standards are meant to protect the lives of motorists, truckers as well as construction workers from work zone accidents.

The ASSE has developed a series of safety tips that motorists must follow when they're traveling through a construction zone.

  • Pay attention much before you reach a construction zone. Look out for construction warnings that come in the form of diamond shaped, orange colored warning signs, or electronic signs that inform you of construction work going on ahead.
  • Once you know that there's construction work coming up ahead, pay 100% attention to the road, and remain alert to your surroundings.
  • Turn off all distractions. You should not be driving distracted anyway, but a highway work zone is absolutely no place for you to have your attention diverted elsewhere. Switch of your cell phones and music system. Don't fiddle with the radio channels.
  • Slow down speeds as you travel through the work zone. Pay attention to the posted speed signs at the zone. Don't slow down so much that you block traffic behind you.
  • Pay attention to the vehicle in front of you. Stay a safe distance away from it, and don't tailgate.
  • Watch out for construction equipment and debris. Remember that the man wearing a hard hat operating equipment, is a person.
  • Monitor how traffic is flowing.
  • Be extra careful when you drive through a highway work zone at night.

With construction work on in several states flush with federal stimulus funds, the risk of such accidents has only increased. Los Angeles car accident attorneys would highly recommend that motorists take these steps to prevent injuries to themselves as well as to construction workers.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The US House of Representatives this week passed a resolution designating the month of April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The move is part of efforts to tackle what many federal safety agencies and legislators have recognized as a serious threat to motorist safety. In fact, distracted driving threatens to surpass drunk driving and speeding as the biggest cause of highway fatalities accident fatalities in the US.

The month may be called a generic "distracted driving" month, but there is no doubt that the primary focus of the campaign will be against technological distractions while driving. This includes the use of cell phones and text messaging while driving. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made the campaign against distracted driving a core part of his tenure as the country’s transportation chief.

Also this month, he announced that the federal administration will contribute $400,000 towards the cost of running a year-long anti-distracted driving campaign in Syracuse in New York and Hartford in Connecticut. The campaign will include a high visibility advertising campaign with the slogan "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other." The campaign will also include a four-week long, high-intensity, cell phone law enforcement campaign in these cities.

According to Sec. LaHood, the campaign is a test to judge whether such incentives can substantially impact distracted driving accident rates. Several such campaigns have been carried out to combat drunk driving with great success in the past, and Las Vegas distracted driving accident lawyers hope that this success can be replicated with distracted driving too.

As with the problem of driving under the influence, the problem of distracted driving is a complex to beat. For example, there is still little consensus about what kind of cell phone use is harmful. Is it just text messaging? Are hands-free cell phones safe? If not, then should we simply have a ban on all cell phone use behind the wheel?

Meanwhile, the march against distracted driving continues. On April 30th, television talk show queen Oprah Winfrey will declare "No Phone Zone Day." That day's show will be dedicated to combating distracted driving. The show will end with a pledge by viewers to never use the phone while driving. The Oprah Winfrey show website currently has a campaign on, encouraging people to sign up, pledging that they will avoid using the phone while driving, and so far, there are 160,000 signatures on the website.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Desperate Housewives Star Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit against ABC, Show's Creator

Edie Britt is hoping mad. Enough to hire a California wrongful termination lawyer, it seems. Her alter ego, Nicolette Sheridan, the star of the popular TV show Desperate Housewives, has filed a wrongful termination and assault lawsuit against the creator and producer of the show, Marc Cherry.

In the lawsuit, Sheridan alleges that Cherry assaulted her in September 2008, when she went to ask him about a line that her character was supposed to say. Cherry apparently hit her on the face and head, and when she went off to her trailer in fury, came running back to apologize.

Sheridan reported the matter to ABC, and in retaliation, Cherry killed off Edie Britt, Sheridan’s popular character on the show. According to Sheridan’s lawyers, it is highly unusual for a popular character on a TV show to be killed midseason. That usually happens only when the actor has asked to be released from the show.

The lawsuit names both Mark Cherry and ABC, and seeks $20 million in damages. Cherry is accused of creating a hostile work environment. According to the lawsuit, he constantly behaved aggressively with cast members and writers on the set. But, Edie Britt isn't giving up without a fight.

Wrongful termination lawsuits in California can be complex to negotiate. California employment laws contain the "at will" doctrine. This means that an employer is free to terminate the services of an employee at will. However, that doesn't mean that the employer can fire people at random. There are several exceptions that protect employees from wrongful termination

An employee who wishes to sue for wrongful termination must prove that:
  • His current contract contained a clause that he would not be fired without reason
  • That he was fired for a reason that violates California's statutes and constitution
  • That the employer engaged in defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress
You California employment lawyer must file a wrongful termination lawsuit within one year from the wrongful act.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Safe Hiring Tips from California Employment Lawyers

The recession is beginning to fade, and companies in California are slowly beginning to here again. However, these are still sensitive times, and employers would do well to take care before they hire someone, to ensure that they're not at risk of liability. Employers may place themselves at liability for workplace discrimination based on age, gender, marital status or region and several other factors if they are not careful. California employment discrimination attorneys have the following tips to hire employees safely:

During the interview, avoid asking questions about the applicant's, racial origin, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, or physical or mental disabilities.

When it comes to a job applicant's criminal history, employers often find themselves in a quandary. They need to know as much as possible as they can about the applicant's criminal record, but they cannot discriminate based on this. Typically, it's fair to ask about an applicant’s convictions for past crimes, but employers must avoid the subject of arrests. In fact, protections for employee privacy are so high that employers cannot even use information about sex crimes in the applicant's past to avoid hiring him.

That doesn't mean that employers have no powers while making a hiring decision. Employers in California may be free to turn down an application based on drug use in many situations. You may also disqualify an applicant based on his lack of educational qualifications, but only if this prevents him from performing the job that he's applying for.

Personal appearance and dress can be tricky. For example, employees in fashion apparel stores would be expected to follow certain guidelines for appearance, and this may not be considered discrimination. Again, these are very sensitive matters, and employers must take care not to offend sensibilities while insisting on certain kinds of dress or personal appearance.

It can be permissible to turn away applicants based on factors like age, but only if the job requires a younger person. For instance, turning down a senior citizen for a position that he could perform just as well as a younger person, could amount to discrimination.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Weak Regulatory Policies Expose American Consumers to Deadly Toxins

The numerous product liability lawsuits filed against Glaxo Smith Kline arising from neuropathy caused by the company’s denture adhesive cream, Poligrip show that American consumers are at a risk from toxins in the everyday products they use. According to this New York Times report, far from being a nanny state that strictly regulates the kind of ingredients that make it to your toothpaste and cereal, the US has lax policies that constantly expose citizens to product risks.

Take Poligrip, for instance. The risks from excessive zinc levels in dental adhesives have been studied for decades, but it was only in 2008 that conclusive studies established a strong link between zinc-containing adhesives and a high risk of neuropathy. It was only earlier this year however, that Glaxo Smith Kline pulled off the product from the market. Its closest competitor, Procter & Gamble's Fixodent continues to be on the market, and is used by millions of consumers. Procter & Gamble's excuse for not withdrawing its adhesive from the market is that its product contains half the zinc found in Poligrip.

But is that lower amount of zinc safe enough? The problem is that when it comes to consumer safety concerns, there is still much that citizens and California pharmaceutical liability lawyers don’t know. Companies are notoriously averse to sharing information about the chemicals that are in their products. Federal regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission do not have the powers to withdraw products until they can show that there is a serious defect in it. Proving that the product is dangerous to consumers is easier said than done.

Too much of consumer safety in the US depends on a company's willingness to do the right thing when it comes across proof that its products are harming consumers, and pull it from the market. Unfortunately, as Los Angeles product liability lawyers know, that rarely, if ever, happens. Companies are wired to maximize profits only, and consumer safety ranks second, if it all, on their list of priorities.

However, there could be some changes in the works. The Environment Protection Agency now has a chief who seems to take toxic chemical risks much more seriously than early administrators. This year, Congress will also take up a bill that will enhance protections against toxic contamination.