Fertility clinic malfunction spurs Calif. lawsuit

After a tank failed, a California-based fertility clinic was confronted with a class action lawsuit due to damage to the eggs of potentially hundreds of clients.

A San Francisco woman, who was assured that her eggs would remain frozen until she needed them, brought the litigation. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

“In this first suit to be filed after a rare malfunction that remains under investigation, the woman, who remains anonymous for privacy, is seeking compensation for negligence and breach of contract from the Prelude Fertility, where she received treatment in 2016, and Pacific Fertility Center, which stored her eggs,” The Mercury News reported.

The eggs and embryos of hundreds of other patients “were stored in malfunctioning Tank No. 4 at Pacific Fertility Center’s lab on Francisco Street — and are now presumed damaged.”

The  law firm, Sauder Schelkopf of Berwyn, Penn., is seeking a class action certification, “saying that at least 400 individuals may have been harmed by the incident.”

Appeals court upholds Texas ban on ‘sanctuary cities’

Photo credit:  REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz/File Photo, as reported in the article U.S. court upholds most of Texas law to punish 'sanctuary cities' on March 13, 2018.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz/File Photo, as reported in the article U.S. court upholds most of Texas law to punish ‘sanctuary cities’ on March 13, 2018.

A Texas ban on “sanctuary cities,” which threatens sheriffs, police chiefs and other officials with jail time and removal from office if they do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, can take effect while legal challenges proceed, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday, 3/15.

Reuters reported, “The law was the first of its kind since Republican Donald Trump became president in January 2017, promising to crack down on illegal immigration and communities that protect the immigrants.”

While upholding the bulk of the law, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision “to punish local officials who endorse policies running contrary to the law.”

The New York Times explained, “The law in question — Senate Bill 4, passed by the Texas Legislature in May 2017 — requires police chiefs and sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials, and allows the police to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest. It was passed in response to the proliferation of sanctuary cities, which restrict such cooperation and have gained national attention as President Trump pursues stricter immigration policies.”

Remington mum about effects of bankruptcy on settlement

Photo credit: Reuters file photo as reported on 2/8/18.

Photo credit: Reuters file photo as reported on 2/8/18.

The 202-year-old gun manufacturer Remington is not disclosing whether a pending bankruptcy filing will jeopardize a class action settlement involving its Model 700 bolt-action rifle.

“Neither Remington nor its attorneys responded to multiple emails about whether the company intends to abide by the agreement in the event of a bankruptcy filing,” CNBC reported. “While the settlement includes a guarantee that the company will meet its financial obligations under the agreement, it does not address the possibility of a bankruptcy.”

Reuters reported in February, “Remington, which is controlled by buyout firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, was abandoned by some of Cerberus’ private equity fund investors after one of its Bushmaster rifles was used in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut in 2012 that killed 20 children and six adults. … Remington’s sales plunged 27 percent in the first nine months of 2017, resulting in a $28 million operating loss.”

CNBC reported, “Remington has agreed to replace millions of triggers on the 700 and a dozen other models to settle allegations that, for decades, the company covered up a deadly design defect that allowed the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled.”

The company denies any cover-up or the defect, but acknowledged the fix could cost as much as half a billion dollars, CNBC reported. “There are real concerns that with the bankruptcy no guns will be fixed at all.”

Supreme Court strikes down bond hearings for detainees

Supreme_Court2In a major immigration case, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a class action lawsuit challenging the federal government’s practice of jailing immigrants while they litigate their deportation cases. It ruled that detainees held by the government for possible deportation are not entitled to a bond hearing even after months or years of detention. Civil rights advocates, such as the ACLU, question whether it is constitutional to “lock up immigrants indefinitely.”

The Washington Post reported on the Feb. 27 ruling, noting, “In a splintered 5 to 3 decision, the court’s conservatives said that the relevant statute does not even ‘hint,’ as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote, at the broad reading of the right to bail hearings adopted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”

The American Civil Liberties Union argued, “In the appeals court, we fought for and won on the principle that immigrants should be given the opportunity to present their case to a judge, allowing that judge to decide whether the detainee could be released without risk of flight or threat to public safety.”

Criminal records cleared for some Californians convicted on pot charges

Those convicted of marijuana-related infractions could receive a clean slate in California, based on a trend in some jurisdictions.

“Thousands of people with misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession dating back 40 years will have their criminal records cleared, the San Francisco district attorney’s office said Wednesday,” The New York Times reported in January. “San Diego is also forgiving old convictions,”

National Public Radio reported, “Nine states now have laws related to expunging or reducing marijuana convictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures but marijuana is still illegal under federal law. And not everyone in California is high on the idea of legalization. Jill Replogle, of member station KPCC, reported earlier this month that ’73 percent of cities and counties in California currently ban commercial cannabis businesses.’”

But a few communities are seeking to erase criminal records for those convicted on marijuana charges. The New York Times noted, “George Gascón, San Francisco’s district attorney, said his office would automatically erase convictions there, which total about 3,000. An additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges will be examined by prosecutors to determine if they should be retroactively reduced to misdemeanors. San Diego has identified 4,700 cases, both felonies and misdemeanors, that will be cleared or downgraded.”

More civil lawsuits in wake of deadly fires in Oakland, Calif.

Surviving tenants and families of victims sue Oakland, Calif. for inspection flaws at a San Pablo Avenue halfway house. Photo Credit: Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 2/9/18

Surviving tenants and families of victims sue Oakland, Calif. for inspection flaws at a San Pablo Avenue halfway house. Photo Credit: Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 2/9/18

Oakland is facing a lawsuit stemming from a fatal fire that killed four people in a halfway house at 2551 San Pablo Avenue in March 2017, The Mercury News reported.

“Surviving tenants and families of victims who lived at 2551 San Pablo Ave. originally filed suit in April 2017 against building owner Keith Kim and a nonprofit agency that provided services there,” explained The Mercury News. “The city was added to the list of defendants in a master complaint filed last month in Alameda County Superior Court.”

Oakland is already facing a suit for a Dec. 2, 2016 fire in which 36 people perished at an electronic dance party at the “Ghost Ship” warehouse. The Ghost Ship lawsuit helped open the door for the San Pablo fire suit: “In November, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Oakland had a ‘mandatory duty’ to ensure safety at the Ghost Ship warehouse. The tentative ruling pierced through broad immunities protecting California cities from civil lawsuits to protect workers who either botched inspections of a building or failed to perform the inspection at all,” the report stated.

Both the San Pablo and Ghost Ship fires exposed deep flaws in Oakland’s fire inspection system. According to the San Pablo lawsuit, “These people were plunged into darkness and thick, black smoke and tried to exit the unsafe structure. The interior of the three-story, 43-unit building was a known fire hazard which was cluttered with storage, debris, discarded furniture and open piles of garbage.”

Closure of Office for Access to Justice

Photo Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times as reported on 2/1/18.

Photo Credit: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times as reported on 2/1/18.

The ability of the poor to access civil courts suffered a setback with the effective closure of the federal Office for Access to Justice, critics of the move say.

“The Justice Department has effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens, according to two people familiar with the situation,” the New York Times reported.

The Office for Access to Justice began in 2010 under former Attorney General Eric Holder. “Its offices now sit dark on the third floor of the Justice Department building,” the New York Times reported. “The staff of a dozen or so has dwindled and left the department over the past few months, the people said. Maha Jweied, the acting director of the department, left this month to start a consulting business, according to her LinkedIn profile.”

On Feb. 1, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law condemned the move.

“Once again, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is turning his back on the most vulnerable Americans and abdicating his responsibility as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “In shuttering the doors of the Justice Department’s Access to Justice Office, Attorney General Sessions is making crystal clear that his Justice Department has no interest in establishing justice for the poor.”

More lawsuits expected over J&J talcum powder in 2018

Photo credit: Alf van Beem via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Alf van Beem via Wikimedia Commons

Johnson & Johnson returned to the courtroom in January to face more litigation over allegations that its talcum products caused cancer.

The pharmaceutical company’s lawyers entered a Middlesex County, N.J. courtroom for opening statements in a lawsuit “alleging that the company’s talc products caused an Essex County man to develop cancer,” reported NJ.com, which provides content to New Jersey’s leading newspaper, The Star-Ledger.

“A Stephen Lanzo, III, 46, of Verona, alleges that his use of Johnson’s Baby Powder throughout his life exposed him to asbestos, which lead him to develop mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects tissue in the lungs and abdomen. … The plaintiff and defense said they plan to utilize many expert testimonies throughout the trial, which is slated to run through the end of February,” the site reported.

Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs anticipated more litigation.

Distinguished Emeritus Professor Jean Eggen at Widener University Delaware Law School, Wilmington, Del., saw the potential for “large-scale litigation,” he told Bloomberg BNA.

Eggen said that, “because of varying claims, sources of talc, and causation hurdles, this latest wave of talc cases against J&J will be both easier and harder to litigate than both traditional asbestos suits involving insulation materials, and the ovarian cancer cases the company is already fighting. And with several multimillion-dollar verdicts having been handed down against other makers of older talc products recently, the Johnson and Johnson asbestos-in-talc litigation is expected to be both protracted and contentious, drawing in many other plaintiffs. …”

Maryland ruling could open door to asbestos-related death cases

Tens of thousands of cases related to illness and death from asbestos exposure could be adjudicated in Maryland based on an appeal before the state’s highest court.

“Maryland’s highest court is weighing whether to give workers who were sickened by asbestos exposure more time to sue their employers,” the Baltimore Sun reported on Dec. 1, 2017. “State law now allows 20 years for workers or their families to make claims regarding illness or death from exposure to asbestos.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals in Annapolis heard an appeal involving a steamfitter, James F. Piper, “who worked at a Maryland power plant in the 1970s and died more than four decades later from mesothelioma.”

On May 31, 2017, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled against the estate of James F. Piper and in favor of CBS Corp., owner of the company previously known as Westinghouse Electric.

“Piper was diagnosed with mesothelioma on December 26, 2013,” the lower court’s ruling reads. “The primary issue in the instant case is whether Piper’s cause of action against CBS is barred by the statute of repose.”

The “statute of repose,” according to the lower court ruling, “bars Piper’s cause of action against CBS, because Piper’s cause of action accrued when his mesothelioma was diagnosed in December 2013, which was more than twenty years after the turbine generator installed by Westinghouse at Morgantown became operational in July of 1970.”

The Sun reports, “Advocates say that if Piper’s estate wins the case, it could potentially open the door to lawsuits from others in similar situations who did not get sick until after the deadline to sue had passed. A coalition of unions and trade associations says the number could be in the tens of thousands of cases. …”

“The Maryland Defense Counsel, an organization of civil defense attorneys, filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief in support of CBS. The brief states that if the rules for the deadline to file cases are changed, businesses would lose ‘vital’ protections that were put into place ‘to protect businesses from facing construction-related claims like these years after the fact.”

Immigration Court Backlog Tops 650,000 in U.S. with California Leading Nation

Judge Dana Marks, President National Assoc. of Immigration Judges (PHOTO: National Association of Federal Immigration Judges)

Judge Dana Marks, President National Assoc. of Immigration Judges (PHOTO: National Association of Federal Immigration Judges)

According to the latest case-by-case court records, the backlog at the end of November 2017 had reached 658,728, up from 629,051 at the end of September 2017. That number is expected to continue to grow, with the Immigration Court number of pending cases anticipated to climb by an additional 30,000 in the first two months of 2018, outpacing 2017 increases.

California leads the country with the largest Immigration Court backlog of 123,217 cases. Texas is second with 103,384 pending cases as of the end of November 2017, followed by New York with 89,489 cases, reports TRAC. 

“There is no single explanation,” said Susan B. Long, TRAC’s co-director in a recent Newsday report. “These are people before immigration court. These are considered deportation cases, but they could very well be seeking asylum and various forms of relief” to stay in the country legally.

Newsday also reported, “‘The immigration judges feel like we’ve been the canaries in the coal mines, saying that the immigration courts would be overwhelmed with caseloads and backlogs for more than a decade,’ said Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco who is a spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges.”

The immigration backlog findings are based upon current case-by-case court records that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

For further highlights see: http://trac.syr.edu/ phptools/immigration/court_ backlog/apprep_backlog.php.
For full details, go to TRAC’s online backlog tool at: http://trac.syr.edu/ phptools/immigration/court_ backlog/