TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, November 17, 2017

PA: State Senator Introduces Bill Banning Non-disclosure Agreements in Sexual Assault and Harassment Cases

Sen. Judy Schwank introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate designed to prevent sexual offenders from settling cases without exposure:

Schwank's proposal, rolled out at a Capitol press conference Wednesday, would bar any contract or out-of-court settlement from containing provisions that:

* Prohibit disclosure of the name of any person suspected of sexual misconduct or any information relevant to a claim.

* Would block reports of such claims to an "appropriate person."

* Requires the destruction or expungement of related evidence.

The bill would, however, grant a shield of confidentiality to victims making allegations of abuse, giving them rights similar to juveniles in a child welfare case who can have cases brought through their initials or other identifiers.

California is the only state with such a law.  Opponents argue the bill would discourage defendants from settling these cases.

Pennlive has details.

November 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2 Women Sue Uber for Sexual Assault; Allege Inadequate Background Screening

One woman from Florida and one from California filed suit against Uber on Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco.  The women alleged they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers and the cause was inadequate background screening and monitoring by Uber.  The suit seeks class action status, and:

It asks the court for unspecified damages to compensate the women, and also seeks court-ordered safety measures including fingerprint background checks for drivers and a panic button on the Uber app that would alert the company and authorities to safety problems.

The lawsuit was filed by the New York firm Wigdor LLP, which is suing Uber in a separate case on behalf of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India. The firm also is suing Fox News on behalf of employees who allege race discrimination and sexual harassment.

The New York Post has the story.

November 16, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 10, 2017

PA: Can the Commonwealth Use a Med Mal Insurer's Surplus to Balance the Budget?

The Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) was created by state law in 1975, but the entity is not a part of state government.  The JUA was founded as a last-ditch insurer for doctors at a time when malpractice insurance was in the first of several cyclical crises.  It has a surplus of $268M.  Pennsylvania, trying to balance its budget, passed a law requiring the JUA to turn over $200M of the surplus by December 1.  If it fails to comply, the law abolishes the JUA and transfers its money to the Department of Insurance.  The JUA has sued Governor Tom Wolf in federal court, asserting the seizure is an unconstitutional deprivation of property without due process of law.  The Inquirer has details.

November 10, 2017 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Culhane on the Texas Shooting Victims Suing the Federal Government

At Politico, John Culhane analyzes the potential case against the federal government for the failure to enter the shooter's domestic violence conviction in a national database that would have prevented him from legally purchasing a gun.

November 9, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Should Facebook Notify People Who Saw Fake Russian Posts?

This issue was debated on Capitol Hill and beyond last week, and included analogies to tort law such as the "post-sale duty to warn" in products liability. Reuters has details

November 7, 2017 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

KY: Judge Declares Med Mal Panels Unconstitutional

Earlier this year, the Kentucky legislature passed a law requiring med mal cases to go through a panel of doctors prior to going to trial.  A state judge ruled Monday the law was unconstitutional and issued an order banning the state from enforcing the law.  The state has announced it will appeal the ruling.

WKMS has details

November 1, 2017 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Maniloff on Haunted House Suits

Randy Maniloff of White and Williams in Philly has this column in USA Today about tort suits against haunted houses.  Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 27, 2017

OK: Med Mal Certificate of Merit Requirement Ruled Unconstitutional

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled the state's med mal certificate of merit requirement unconstitutional.  This is the third time the court has rejected a certificate of merit requirement, striking down laws in 2006 and 2013.

The court says the statute created "a costly, meaningless and arbitrary barrier to court access" and infringed on the district court's authority.

U.S. News has the story.

October 27, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Robot Patrols Grocery Store to Prevent Slip-and-Falls

We have heard a lot about technology changing tort law in the form of autonomous vehicles. Now Giant Foods is experimenting with a roving robot in its grocery stores.  "Marty" has a number of skills:  he can check prices and help with stocking.  His main job, however, is to scan the aisles for potential slip hazards on the floor.  If the technology is successful, we may have safer stores and fewer tort cases.  PennLive has the story.  Youtube has video.

October 13, 2017 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Study: Patients Satisfied with Communication-and-Resolution Programs

A study (with a small sample) published in JAMA Internal Medicine found the majority of patients satisfied with communication-and-resolution programs, a more cooperative alternative to litigation in the med mal context.  Only 2 of the 40 patients interviewed felt the process was "unfair".

When it came to compensation, 16 of the 27 patients and family members who received any compensation were satisfied. Those who were not satisfied with the compensation tended to be dissatisfied with the overall communication process.

AJMC.com has more details.

October 12, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Witnesses of Las Vegas Shooting File Suit Against Manufacturers of Bump Stocks

Witnesses to the mass shooting in Las Vegas have filed a would-be class action lawsuit against manufacturers of bump stocks, the device used by shooter Stephen Paddock to accelerate gunfire from his semi-automatic weapon.  Causes of action include negligence, infliction of emotional distress, products liability, and public nuisance.  The suit seeks a court-supervised psychological monitoring program for the class plaintiffs, paid for by defendants, as well as punitive damages.  The ABA Journal has details.

Do bump stocks fall under the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act? Bloomberg

October 11, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

KS: Med Mal Cases Increase

The number of medical malpractice cases filed in Kansas between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 increased to 276 from 248 the prior fiscal year.  The number of cases filed in Kansas in the early 2000s hovered between 300 and 400.  Many jurisdictions have seen years of decreases.  Settlement figures are near a 10-year average.  The Topeka Capital-Journal has details.

October 4, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

WA: Court Retains No-Emotional-Distress-for-Pets Rule

The Washington Supreme Court let stand an appellate court decision rejecting a pet owner's claim to emotional distress damages for witnessing a difficult euthanasia.  The American Veterinary Medical Association News has the story.

September 28, 2017 in Current Affairs, Damages | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 18, 2017

NY: Fans Sue Barclays Center

Steep incline + inebriation = "exceedingly dangerous".  The New York Post has the story.

September 18, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Institute for Legal Reform Ranks the States' Lawsuit Climates

Thursday, September 14, 2017

OH: Dram Shop Act is Sole Avenue to Recovery for Injuries Caused by an Establishment Furnishing Alcohol

At Legally Speaking Ohio, Marianna Brown Bettman analyzes a case handed down by the Ohio Supreme Court last week.  The court held that the state's dram shop act precluded common law negligence liability for serving alcohol that causes injuries.

September 14, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

NC: Heart Balm Torts are Constitutional

The heart balm torts are back in the news.  Almost all states recognized some or all of the 4 heart balm torts (alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction, breach of promise to marry) at one time.  Now, however, only about 7 or 8 states recognize any of them.  Alienation of affections and criminal conversation are the most common.  These are suits against an interloper to a marriage based on the interloper alienating the affections of one spouse (alienation) or having sex with the spouse (criminal conversation).  The North Carolina bar seems the most committed to them.  Approximately 230 cases were filed last year in that jurisdiction.

Recently, a trial judge in Forsyth County (think Winston-Salem) ruled the heart balm torts were unconstitutional.  The judge ruled that state law violates a person's constitutional free speech and free expression rights to engage in intimate sexual activity and expression with other consenting adults.  The Court of Appeals in North Carolina overruled the judge.  Eugene Volokh analyzes the opinion, which he pronounces "generally sound", here.  That makes sense to me.  I still hold, however, the same position I held a decade ago, that the torts don't make sense as a matter of tort theory.

September 7, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Judge Posner Announces Retirement

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin has the story.

September 1, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Two Large Med Mal Verdicts in the Great Lakes & Upper Plains Regions

Two large med mal death verdicts were just handed down in Detroit and Minneapolis.  

In Detroit, a jury awarded $40M for the death of a 26-year-old college student.  The decedent presented in the ER with signs of a pulmonary embolism and was sent home without the benefit of any tests, diagnosed with a virus.  She died the next day.  Michigan has a somewhat variable noneconomic damages cap, but the Detroit Medical Center has not yet asked for it to be applied.  The Detroit News has the story.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, a jury has awarded $20M against a hospital for the death of a 30-year-old woman who had just given birth.  The family alleged an ER nurse ignored lab results showing the decedent had sepsis and sent her home.  The decedent returned to the hospital 12 hours later and died.  Minnesota does not have a cap.  US News has the story

August 31, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

PA: Geisinger Settles Med Mal Case for $4.5M

Geisinger is settling a med mal case, in which one of its patients died, for $4.5 million.  The proceeds will be paid to the patient's wife of 48 years.  Details of the alleged negligence are not available, and no one is commenting about the case:

Court documents say the parties entered into settlement negotiations that lasted several months, ultimately agreeing to the multi-million dollar sum in recent weeks. The settlement, court documents say, will be paid out in two installments: an initial $3.5 million due within 20 days and another $1 million payable by Dec. 31.

[The patient’s] family will receive approximately 2.5 million while [attorneys] will receive approximately 1.8 million. Remaining funds will go toward liens and other miscellaneous fees.

The Wilkes Barre Times-Leader has the story.

August 23, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)