The Cochran Firm Files Lawsuit Against Daycare Center That Created Viral Video of a Small Child Terrified of a Costumed Easter Bunny

National Trial Lawyers member Scott Leeds with The Cochran Firm announced the filing of a lawsuit in Osceola County Circuit Court against Around the World Learning Center after it reportedly violated a parental privacy agreement by videotaping the terrified reaction of two-year-old Surai Williams during a surprise visit by a costumed Easter Bunny earlier this year. The video was posted on social media and was viewed by millions of people all over the world. It also appeared on television programs such as ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

According to the complaint, when Surai’s mother, Cassandra Bryson, enrolled the child at the Learning Center, she signed a Permission to Photograph form, in which she declined permission for the following:
a) Give photographs possibly containing her child to current clients;
b) Display in facility’s scrapbook or bulletin boards, shown to current and prospective clients;
c) Display still photos on child care website;
d) Post photos on child care’s Facebook page;
e) Give video to current parents; and
f) Display on YouTube® promotional videos.               

“The director of the daycare center also guaranteed that she would provide a safe environment for Surai with adequate supervision,” said Leeds during a media conference. “However, the lawsuit asserts that it didn’t happen in the dramatic video that went viral around the world. We can’t help but emphasize that there are no adults comforting Surai, who is clearly hysterical.”

The lawsuit states the caretaker sent the video to a third party via text message without Bryson’s consent, and subsequently placed on social media where it went viral.

The complaint alleges that the Learning Center’s director, Joan Ryan, was negligent in failing to meet licensing standards that includes giving parents a day plan, failing to consult Bryson regarding the Easter Bunny, failing to take further action against the employee who acted inappropriately.

“As a result of these actions, the lawsuit seeks damages against the daycare center for the severe emotional trauma and mental distress Surai suffered,” said Leeds. “This video continues to be viewed across global social media platforms where some people continue to make derogatory and racist comments.”

The lawsuit demands a judgment against Around the World Learning Center for the full value of the damages and costs sustained by plaintiffs in an amount greater than the Court’s minimal jurisdictional limit of $15,000. 

A PDF of the complaint accompanying this announcement is available at http://resource.globenewswire.com/Resource/Download/9cb524dd-5922-4237-8950-c60ce5e2481c

Video: Woman sued for $1M over Yelp review

legal news for consumersNew York woman is facing a $1 million lawsuit from a gynecologist over a poor review she gave him on Yelp. Dr. Joon Song filed the defamation lawsuit against former patient Michelle Levine over reviews she made on Yelp and other online rating services. Levine claims Dr. Song overbilled her and falsely diagnosed a medical issue. CNN has more on the lawsuit in this video.

ACLU Sues Orange County District Attorney and Sheriff over Secret, Illegal Jail Informant Program

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP today filed a lawsuit against Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, whose departments conducted a secret jailhouse informant operation in violation of the U.S. Constitution, California Constitution, and California state laws.

For more than thirty years, the departments have recruited and placed informants in jail cells with defendants, paying and rewarding informants with sentence reductions for extracting incriminating information from the defendants without their lawyers present. Some informants use threats of violence, including threats of murder, to coerce confessions and other information.

“By running this massive, underground jailhouse informant scheme, the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department are cheating Orange County out of justice,” said Brendan Hamme, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “They have won countless convictions based on unreliable information — the results of jailhouse informants’ coercion of defendants — that they passed off in court as solid, sound, and legal. Hiding the facts of the coercion from the defense is just one of the many ways they broke the law and endangered justice.”

The scheme has existed at least since the 1980s, and it was first exposed in a criminal case four years ago. Since then, the defendants in at least 18 cases in Orange County have shown that the departments’ jailhouse informants were illegally involved in their cases and won sentence reductions or dismissals. The district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department have consistently denied the existence of the jailhouse operation, sometimes under oath.

“District attorney’s offices and sheriff’s departments have the responsibility to pursue justice and uphold the law. Orange County’s jailhouse informant scam does the opposite, and we’re suing to end it,” said Somil Trivedi, Staff Attorney with the ACLU. “We must hold the departments accountable for more than three decades of secrets and lies that continue to undermine the justice system in Orange County.”

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, details several cases in which illegal jailhouse informants were involved, including that of Luis Vega. Vega was 14 when he was arrested in 2009 for attempted murder. Two jail informants paid by the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department produced information without coercion that showed Vega was innocent. By law, the departments were required to relay this information to Vega and his attorney, but they did not, due to the risk of exposing the entire illegal program. Vega remained in prison for nearly two years.

A named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed today, People for the Ethical Operation of Prosecutors and Law Enforcement (P.E.O.P.L.E.), is a nonprofit association based in Orange County.

“Both agencies’ misconduct has devastated the Orange County community and led to a complete loss of faith in their ability to deliver justice,” Tina Jackson, a member of P.E.O.P.L.E. who also is a named plaintiff, said. “They claim to represent the people of Orange County, but we are here to say that, as long as they’re breaking the law, they don’t represent us.”

“The scope and duration of Orange County’s illegal informant program is breathtaking,” said Jacob Kreilkamp, a partner with Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. “The defendants’ efforts to deny its existence — and, when forced to confront reality, to minimize and excuse it — make it clear that this lawsuit is necessary to restore integrity to Orange County’s criminal justice system.”

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system — has launched a new multi-year initiative to make sure that prosecutors who break the law are held accountable for fueling mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, through legislative advocacy, voter education, and litigation. Today’s lawsuit joins Singleton v. Cannizzaro, filed in January by the ACLU and co-counsel over misconduct by the Orleans Parish district attorney, such as issuing fake subpoenas to coerce witnesses into submitting to interrogations.

For the complaint filed today and information about P.E.O.P.L.E. v. Rackauckas, go to:https://www.aclu.org/cases/people-v-rackauckas

For a video about the lawsuit: https://youtu.be/mPXEz0WJbRM

For more information: ACLU of Southern California https://www.aclusocal.org/

ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/smart-justice

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP https://www.mto.com

This press release is available here: https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-sues-orange-county-district-attorney-and-sheriff-over-secret-illegal-jail-informant

 

NTL member wins flooding lawsuit against Army Corps of Engineers

Dan BoulwareA federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled on March 13, 2018 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bears responsibility for causing recurrent flooding and damaging farms and property in four Midwest states along the Missouri River: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The ruling states that the government must compensate farmers, landowners and business owners for the flood damage, which has been estimated to exceed $300 million.  The case, Ideker Farms et al v. United States of America, was brought by 372 plaintiffs comprised of farmers, landowners and business owners, and has been led by Polsinelli in partnership with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. National Trial Lawyers member and Polsinelli shareholder Dan Boulware served as lead counsel.

The mass action lawsuit was originally filed on Mar. 5, 2014 and alleged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ actions have violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment that bars the Government from taking private property without just compensation. Judge Nancy B. Firestone with the United States Court of Federal Claims found in favor of the plaintiffs in five of the six years that the flooding was claimed dating back to 2007, disallowing the flood claims in 2011. The Court found that the Corps’ deprioritized flood control in 2004.

Judge Firestone stated in her Trial Opinion that the evidence established that the Corps’ changes to the river “had the effect of raising the Missouri River’s water surface elevations (“WSEs”) in periods of high flows.” She found that since 2007, the flooding has been among the worst in the history of the river and the Corps’ changes in the management of the river caused or contributed to the flooding. Citing the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts, the Court acknowledged that “recurrent flooding in the Missouri River Basin . . . will continue into the future,” and that increased blocked drainage of farm lands due to higher river levels is a problem.

“As a farmer and landowner who has experienced substantial losses from these floods, I’m extremely pleased with this outcome,” said lead plaintiff Roger Ideker of Ideker Farms in St. Joseph, Mo. “It rightfully recognizes the Government’s responsibility for changing the River and subjecting us to more flooding than ever before.”

“Today is the day the plaintiffs have patiently waited for and have fought for during the past four years. Although we do not concur with the Court’s conclusions regarding the 2011 flood event, we are very pleased with the Court’s conclusions regarding the Corps changes to the river causing flooding, and we are certainly pleased with an outcome that will provide substantial compensation to plaintiffs living along the river who have suffered significant flood damage and losses throughout the past decade,” said Boulware. “It should now be clear that we have a changed river – one that is flood prone. We hope the Corps of Engineers will now do the right thing for our clients and that Congress will also act soon to restore flood control to a higher priority as it was during the last century.”

The ruling also addressed the critical shift in the management of the river by the Corps in 2004 to restore its ecosystem and benefit and create habitat for threatened and endangered species. The court found that the notching of dikes and revetments, as well as the reopening of the historic chutes, which allows the river to meander and erode the bank, created potential flood impacts. These changes to the river, coupled with increased reservoir storage and threatened and endangered species releases from the dams during high river stages below the dams, served to cause or contribute to cause flooding in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and since.

“For nearly a decade, these individuals have suffered not only serious flood damage, but more critically, threats to their fundamental livelihood,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Benjamin Brown, Partner and Co-Chair of the Antitrust Practice Group at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. “Today’s decision reflects what we have been saying since the outset of this litigation – all Americans should share the costs of protecting threatened and endangered species and the entirety of this burden should not be foisted on those who happen to live and work on the river.”

The Ideker Farms, Inc. et al v. United States of America case has two phases. This ruling marks the end of phase one, which began on Mar. 6, 2017, focusing on liability and the cause of the flooding. The trial in the Federal Claims Court began in Kansas City, Mo. before moving to Washington, D.C. It involved 44 plaintiff “bellwether” tracts and more than 90 witness testimonies over the course of the 63-day trial. Closing arguments were held in November and concluded in December. In total, over 100 depositions were taken and in excess of 20 million documents were produced throughout phase one.

The case will next proceed to phase two, where the Court will determine the extent of losses due to the taking.

The plaintiffs are represented by Am Law 100 firm Polsinelli, led by Boulware, who is recognized by his peers as among the top 1 percent of all trial attorneys in the country, Edwin Smith, Seth Wright, Todd Ehlert and Sharon Kennedy. Brown and Laura Alexander of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, one of the nation’s leading plaintiffs’ firm based in Washington, D.C., also supported plaintiffs in this case.

For more information, including historical background, on this case, please visit http://www.missouririverflooding.com.

Potential parents prepare legal action against fertility clinics

A wave of would-be parents is heading to court after a Ohio fertility clinic notified 700 patients last week that their frozen eggs or embryos may have been damaged after a storage tank lost liquid nitrogen that was critical to maintaining the correct temperature. The fertility center at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center is the second facility in two weeks to inform patients of a freezing failure. Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco also suffered a malfunction in a storage tank that held hundreds of frozen embryos and eggs. Attorneys told The Washington Post they’ve been inundated with calls from fertility clinic patients and hope the court will certify a class action.

Days in the Dallas Co. Jail raising money for bail

Dallas County, Texas is being sued over the constitutionality of its bail system by the ACLU, Civil Rights Corps, the Texas Fair Defense Project, the Texas Organizing Project, Faith in Texas, and six plaintiffs. The county’s cash bail system is unconstitutional, they claim in Daves vs. Dallas County, because it forces less affluent people to remain in custody while they raise money for bail. D magazine reports that about 70 percent of the 5,000 people in the Dallas County Jail are there because they can’t afford to post bail. This article has more on what’s it like for the people who have to stay in jail because they don’t have bail money.

CA man awarded $5M in disability discrimination lawsuit

disability actA former employee of a cellular company won $5 million in a disability discrimination lawsuit against his former employer in California. Stephen Colucci was a T-Mobile retail store manager for seven years.  In July 2014, Colucci’s new regional manager told him that he was being transferred to another work location – a T-Mobile kiosk located inside the Ontario Mills Mall.  Colucci suffers from agoraphobia, PTSD, and panic disorder based on witnessing a stabbing incident when he was a teenager.  Colucci disclosed his disability to his new supervisor, and to Human Resources and offered to transfer to a different location or to remain in the store he was managing.  He was not transferred to the kiosk but he was thereafter verbally harassed and mocked by the new supervisor.  Colucci lodged a harassment complaint to T-Mobile’s integrity line hotline and confronted his new supervisor about the harassment.  Within hours of learning about Colucci’s complaint, the new supervisor terminated his employment, allegedly based on a violation of the company’s conflict of interest policy.  Colucci established that the stated reason was pretextual and that the real reason he was terminated was based on retaliatory motives. T-Mobile retaliated against Colucci by terminating him within hours of making complaints about his new supervisor.  T-Mobile’s Human Resources Department did not investigate the complaints and supported the new supervisor’s decision to terminate Colucci. T-Mobile’s internal paperwork indicated that “litigation was probable” at the time of termination.   In addition, T-Mobile’s loss prevention team discussed the termination decision on a recorded conference call and a loss prevention manager reported on the call that Colucci was terminated for making complaints. National Trial Lawyers member Pat Barrera of Barrera and Associates in El Segundo represented Colucci. The Superior Court awarded Colucci $5,020,042.00 in damages in October 2017.  The court also denied T-Mobile’s post-trial motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in December 2017.  Plaintiff’s motion for fees and costs is pending.

 

NTL member files 3rd opioid lawsuit

Beasley Allen has filed the third lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors on behalf of a city or county government. The complaint, filed on behalf of Barbour County, Alabama, alleges the marketing of these drugs contributed to the creation of the opioid epidemic, a public health and safety crisis. Responding to the opioid crisis has required Barbour County to sustain economic damages and to continue to bear a significant financial burden. In December, Beasley Allen filed two similar lawsuits on behalf of the City of Greenville, Alabama and Houston County, Alabama. Barbour County is represented by Beasley Allen lawyers Rhon E. Jones, who is head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section and a member of The National Trial Lawyers, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Ryan Kral, along with Eufaula lawyer Walter B. Calton.

“Decisions made in the pharmaceutical companies’ board rooms regarding prescription opiates have devastated so many lives and communities,” Jones said. “Choosing to turn a blind eye to suspicious orders was simply a way to quench their insatiable greed. Such callous disregard for human life and dignity, not to mention the enormous and needless cost to taxpayers, must be met with equally severe and deliberate consequences.”

Economic damages resulting from the opioid epidemic include costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; costs for providing counseling and rehabilitation services; costs for treating infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; public safety and law enforcement expenses; and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.

“Barbour county residents, like many in communities across our state and country, have watched friends and family suffer incredible pain because of opioid addiction and taxpayers have been forced to clean up the mess caused by negligent and greedy pharmaceutical companies,” said Calton. “We seek to recover the profits drug companies devoured after knowingly pedaling the highly addictive prescription drugs to our unsuspecting residents.”

Defendants include Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, LTD.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Noramco, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLS; Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Actavis, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis, LLC; Actavis Pharm a, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc.; Mallinckrodt plc; Mallinckrodt LLC; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation.

The complaint is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Family of Construction Worker Killed in Fall from Balcony Recovers $7.5 Million

law news, legal news, verdict, settlementThe family an Illinois electrician obtained a $7.5 million settlement after he was killed while installing lighting on a balcony at an apartment complex, and fell after another worker left a guardrail unsecured.

Scott Liszkiewicz, age 50, was installing light fixtures on a second-floor balcony of a maintenance building of the Prairie View Apartments in Bellwood, Illinois, which were undergoing renovations on Nov. 18, 2014, when another construction worker removed the balcony’s rail in order to install siding.  The worker went to lunch instead of immediately reattaching the rail, which appeared to be secured.  

Liszkiewicz suffered head and spinal cord injuries in the two-story fall and died three weeks later.

“It was obvious from the beginning that Scott’s wife Angie was determined to do what she could do to ease his excruciating pain of his catastrophic injuries all the while knowing it was only matter of time until he would pass in the hospital and not in his home.  My heart went out to her and their son Nicholas. We were determined to make sure the two of them would be taken care of to the best of our abilities,” said Philip Corboy, Jr., a Partner at Corboy & Demetrio in Chicago, which represents the estate.

The lawsuit named as defendants, CRG Residential, LLC, a Carmel, Indiana subcontractor; and CRG’s subcontractor RC Schwartz, which was hired to remove and replace siding.  In addition, Urban Innovations owned the project site and retained CRG Residential as its general contractor.

“This senseless tragedy, exemplified by a triad of construction site blunders, took away the life of a loving husband, father and breadwinner.  Miscommunications and sloppy work practices between the two defendants produced this fatality, which was clearly avoidable,” said Corboy & Demetrio Partner Edward G. Willer, who along with William T. Gibbs, also represented the estate.

The case is Angela Liszkiewicz, Administrator of Estate of Scott Liszkiewicz v. CRG Residential, LLC, Chris R.C. Schwartz doing business as RC Construction, Case No. 15C4088, in U.S. Northern District Court. Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. approved the settlement on Dec. 12, 2017.

Beasley Allen files 2nd opioid lawsuit

Beasley Allen has filed the second lawsuit in as many days against opioid manufacturers and distributors. The complaint filed on behalf of Houston County, Alabama, alleges the marketing of these drugs contributed to the creation of the opioid epidemic, a public health and safety crisis. Responding to the opioid crisis has required Houston County to sustain economic damages and to continue to bear a significant financial burden. On Dec. 13, Beasley Allen filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of the City of Greenville, Alabama. Houston County is represented by Beasley Allen lawyers and National Trial Lawyers member Rhon E. Jones, who is head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Ryan Kral.

“These lawsuits demonstrate how communities are struggling under the burden of the opioid epidemic,” Jones said. “This is a crisis created by the pharmaceutical industry, which instead of investigating suspicious orders of prescription opiates, turned a blind eye in favor of making a profit. They intentionally misled doctors and the public about the risks of these dangerous drugs, and municipal governments are left struggling to cope with the consequences.”

Economic damages resulting from the opioid epidemic include costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; costs for providing counseling and rehabilitation services; costs for treating infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; public safety and law enforcement expenses; and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.

Defendants include Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, LTD.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Noramco, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Allergan PLC f/k/a Actavis PLS; Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. n/k/a Actavis, Inc.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis, LLC; Actavis Pharm a, Inc. f/k/a Watson Pharma, Inc.; Mallinckrodt plc; Mallinckrodt LLC; McKesson Corporation; Cardinal Health, Inc.; and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation.

The complaint is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.