Due to customer agreements, scooter companies could steer around lawsuits

Photo Credit: Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune as reported in The San Diego Union-Tribune on 11/5/18.

Photo Credit: Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune as reported in The San Diego Union-Tribune on 11/5/18.

Scooter makers face legal action filed on behalf of injured riders, but contracts with customers could shield the companies, according to reporting out of California.

Attorney Catherine Lerer with McGee, Lerer & Associates filed a class action lawsuit against scooter companies Lime and Bird last month “alleging, among other things, ‘products liability and gross negligence, as well as aiding and abetting assault,” The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Nov. 5.

“The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks damages on behalf of nine plaintiffs, including pedestrians hit by scooter riders,” the article noted.

Legal action could face difficult odds, the Union-Tribune reported. “So far scooter companies such as Lime and Bird — now valued in the billions — have avoided having to take legal responsibility for such accidents,” the article noted. “That’s largely because scooter companies require riders to agree to a lengthy legal contract through their smart-phone apps before renting a device.”

DACA program, upheld by 9th Circuit, faces its day in Supreme Court

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

Photo Credit: Darin Moriki/Bay Area News Group as reported by The Mercury News, 11/8/18.

The subject of continued court battles, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could see its fate decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“An Obama-era program granting hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers protection from deportation will live on, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, dealing the Trump administration a significant blow and setting the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court next year,” The Mercury News reported on Nov. 8.

“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the White House from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including 200,000 in California,” The Mercury News reported.

The Atlantic speculated about how the legal battle could play out at the nation’s highest court.

“The Court could do a number of things. It could grant a stay, which would temporarily stop further legal proceedings or the enforcement of orders. If a stay isn’t granted, confusion could reign, with DACA continued in some states and not in others. In any case, at least five justices would have to agree on next steps, and with a split Court a consensus would be difficult to achieve,” The Atlantic noted.

Georgia-Pacific affiliate files for bankruptcy amid asbestos claims

Georgia-Pacific Tower in Atlanta. Photo Credit: Connor.carey  from Wikimedia Commons

Georgia-Pacific Tower in Atlanta. Photo Credit: Connor.carey from Wikimedia Commons

An affiliate of Georgia-Pacific LLC, Bestwall LLC, has announced that it filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief in the Western District of North Carolina.

In a summary, Reuters reported, “Bestwall LLC’s parent company is firing back at allegations that the joint compound maker’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a bad-faith sham aimed at avoiding asbestos claims, instead arguing the case is ‘entirely consistent with both the spirit and the letter of the bankruptcy process.’”

Last year the company announced, “Bestwall intends to seek court authority to establish a trust under Section 524(g) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to ensure that all individuals with current and future asbestos claims are treated fairly.”

Georgia-Pacific states it will continue to operate as usual.

“Today’s filing by Bestwall has no impact on Georgia-Pacific’s business operations, nor does it affect our 35,000 employees and 25,000 vendors who serve more than 15,000 customers globally,” said Tyler Woolson, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Georgia-Pacific.

Georgia-Pacific produces tissue, pulp, paper, packaging and building products.

California shields public sector unions from Supreme Court ruling

California has found itself in a legal standoff against the federal government and Trump administration over a variety of issues, but one could affect union workers who want to decline union membership.

“California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that aims to give public employee unions legal cover from potentially expensive lawsuits demanding that they repay certain fees to workers that the Supreme Court in June determined were unconstitutional,” reports The Fresno Bee.

“The law, which takes effect immediately, says unions and public agencies cannot be held liable for fees that unions collected before the Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME on June 27 of this year.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision ended a 41-year precedent that allowed public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from workers who declined to join a labor organization but were still represented, according to the newspaper.

Commerce secretary ordered to testify about Census citizenship question

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

A Trump administration official will testify out of court about a controversial Census citizenship question, due to a judge’s order.

“A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to make its main official behind the 2020 census citizenship question — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — available to testify out of court for the lawsuits over the hotly contested question,” National Public Radio reports.

Ross will sit for a deposition, per the order of U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan federal court.

“Furman has limited questioning of Ross by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to four hours, noting that the commerce secretary has already testified in Congress and the administration has released a record of internal documents about his decision to add the citizenship question,” according to NPR.

Homelessness lawsuit challenges California’s authority to impound vehicles

Sean Kayode is shown outside the Next Door homeless shelter in San Francisco on July 26, 2018. Photo Credit: David Gorn/CALmatters as reported on 9/13/18.

Sean Kayode is shown outside the Next Door homeless shelter in San Francisco on July 26, 2018. Photo Credit: David Gorn/CALmatters as reported on 9/13/18.

A lawsuit would halt California from impounding vehicles and leaving residents homeless.

“Sean Kayode said he watched his whole world roll away from him at 3 in the morning,” reports KPBS TV. “Kayode had been living in his car in San Francisco about two years. During the early morning March 5, traffic police towed and impounded his black 2005 Mercedes Benz — for having too many overdue parking tickets.”

Jude Pond of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco helped file a lawsuit on Kayode’s behalf “to challenge the California law that allows cities to tow a car away if that car has five or more overdue parking tickets,” the news station reports.

Kayode now lives at Next Door homeless shelter. He said his car wasn’t just a place to sleep, “it was how he earned a living, he said, delivering food through Uber Eats.”

Companies react to Calif. law requiring female board members

Companies will begin complying with a California law requiring female board members while waging a flurry of expected lawsuits, The Union-Bulletin in Walla Walla, Wash., reports.

“California’s new law requiring companies to include women on their boards of directors may not survive widely expected legal challenges but it has already spotlighted the entrenched practices and barriers that have helped keep women out of boardrooms,” the article notes.

By the end of next year, the law requires at least one female director on the board of public corporations headquartered in California.

“Companies with more than six board members would need three female directors by the end of 2021. Those with fewer than six members would need two women. …” the article explains.

“The law imposes a $100,000 fine for a first violation and a $300,000 penalty for subsequent violations, not huge sums for major corporations. Nevertheless, companies will likely begin efforts to comply with the law even as they keep track of — or participate in — legal efforts to block it, said Wendy Patrick, a professor of business ethics at San Diego State University,” the Union-Bulletin reports.

U.S. Appeals Court sides with Uber, denies class action suits

Image: uber.com

Image: uber.com

Drivers who complained that “Uber misclassified them as independent contractors to avoid having to reimburse them for gasoline, vehicle maintenance, and other expenses,” were dealt a legal setback last month, according to a Reuters report in The New York Times.

“Uber Technologies Inc won a legal victory on Tuesday as a federal appeals court said drivers seeking to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors must arbitrate their claims individually, and not pursue class-action lawsuits,” the news report notes.

In a 3-0 decision on September 25, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed a lower court judge’s denial of Uber’s motion to compel arbitration in three lawsuits.

It also overturned the class certification in one of the lawsuits of thousands of California drivers who had driven for the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company since August 2009.

Jurors deadlock in J&J talc powder cancer case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Following a record verdict in a trial in Missouri, litigation against Johnson & Johnson over its talcum powder ended in a mistrial in California.

“A state judge in Pasadena, California, declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deadlocked on Carolyn Weirick’s request for at least $25 million in damages over her mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure,” Bloomberg News reports. “Weirick said she developed the disease from asbestos-laced baby powder.”

Previously, a jury in Missouri awarded a record $4.69 billion in July to more than 20 women who traced the source of their cancer to the company’s baby powder. This verdict is under appeal by Johnson & Johnson.

“The world’s largest health-care products maker faces more than 10,000 other suits claiming its baby powder caused cancer,” Bloomberg reports.

Report: ’Fake dates’ from ICE plague immigration courts

 Photo credit: Dianne Solis/Staff of The Dallas Morning News as reported on 9/16/18: "Raymundo Olmedo, a former Load Trail factory worker, stands outside the Dallas federal courthouse after he reported to immigration court on Sept. 13. Olmedo's name didn't appear on the Sept. 13 court docket, so he was sent away. More than a dozen immigrants caught in the Load Trail raid faced the same situation at the immigration courts."


Photo credit: Dianne Solis/Staff of The Dallas Morning News as reported on 9/16/18: “Raymundo Olmedo, a former Load Trail factory worker, stands outside the Dallas federal courthouse after he reported to immigration court on Sept. 13. Olmedo’s name didn’t appear on the Sept. 13 court docket, so he was sent away. More than a dozen immigrants caught in the Load Trail raid faced the same situation at the immigration courts.”

A lack of coordination between federal immigration officials and the courts is leading to instances where immigrants appear for hearings only to be turned away, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Immigrants ordered to be in court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.arrived for hearings, only for court staff to deem their scheduled times “fake dates,” the news site reports.

“The orders to appear are not fake, but ICE apparently never coordinated or cleared the dates with the immigration courts,” The Dallas Morning News reports. “It’s a phenomenon that appears to be popping up around the nation, with reports of ‘fake dates’ or ‘dummy dates’ in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami.”

The situation is only creating more backlogs in an already overburdened immigration court system, the news site reports.