As our world becomes increasingly digital, we’ve been able to buy more and more things online, and that trend has only increased since everyone has been stuck at home due to COVID-19. One of the last things to make the switch to buying online was cars. Rather than going to a car dealership and test driving a car that who knows how many people have already been in, many people feel safer just ordering a car from a website and having it delivered to their door, but is that legal?

While it is legal for auto dealers to sell cars online (and some dealers have gone that route) electronic vehicle manufacturers have allegedly created a problem by trying to use the internet to sell their cars directly to consumers, rather than going through a licensed auto dealer as required by Illinois law. This direct-to-consumer tactic is the basis of a lawsuit recently filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, as well as other trade associations, and various auto dealers.

The lawsuit was filed against Rivian, a startup that makes electronic trucks and is converting a Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL into a factory for its own electronic trucks and SUVs. The company plans on opening a showroom in Chicago’s Fulton Market district later in 2021, but in the meantime, it has already begun taking advance orders of its electronic vehicles online. Continue reading ›

A Cook County judge recently granted final approval to a $25 million class-action settlement to end a sweeping class-action lawsuit accusing well-known HR technology and service company, ADP, of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in the way it supplied equipment and support to employers requiring employees to scan their fingerprints when punching the clock at work.

According to class counsel, more than 40,000 people filed claims under the settlement. According to the terms of the settlement, these individuals will receive a prorated portion of the settlement fund equal to about $375 each. The judge approved an award of $8.75 million in attorney’s fees for class counsel or one-third of the total settlement funds.

The litigation resulting in this settlement dates back to 2017 when the first lawsuit was filed against ADP. In 2018, two additional class-action lawsuits were filed against ADP, all centered on nearly identical allegations. The three cases were eventually consolidated into one proceeding before Judge Atkins prior to the settlement. Continue reading ›

Fleas and ticks can carry Lyme disease, making them dangerous, and even potentially fatal, to us all, but especially to dogs who spend a lot of time outside and in whose fur fleas and ticks like to burrow. But when it comes to a certain flea and tick collar, could the protection against fleas and ticks be worse than the dangers posed by the bugs themselves?

Elanco Animal Health is an Indiana-based pharmaceutical company that makes medications and vaccines for animals, including Seresto flea and tick collars. After almost 1,700 incidents of pet deaths and about 900 humans harmed, all of which were reported as having been linked to the Seresto flea and tick collars, Elanco is now facing a class action lawsuit filed by consumers who allege their dogs were either harmed or killed by the collars, as well as a congressional investigation. Continue reading ›

Donald J. Trump is no stranger to lawsuits. He has been sued for everything from alleged shady business practices to alleged sexual assault and harassment, but while he was president, he claimed, as have other Presidents, he was protected from legal action as long as he was in office. Two courts had ruled against that argument, and he had appealed their decision to the New York State Court of Appeals, but before that court could decide on the case, Mr. Trump was voted out of office.

While Mr. Trump is currently facing multiple lawsuits across the country, the case in question is a defamation lawsuit filed in New York by Summer Zevos. Ms. Zevos was a contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice”, and she alleges Mr. Trump groped and forcibly kissed her against her will during what she had been led to believe would be a business meeting.

Ms. Zevos came forward with her accusations of sexual assault in 2016 when Mr. Trump was running for president. He denied the accusations and called her a liar, at which point she sued him for defamation in 2017. At that point, he was already in office, and that’s when he claimed the office protected him from legal action. The two sides argued over whether holding the office actually protected the defendant from legal action, with the courts taking Ms. Zevos’s side in the debate and Mr. Trump’s legal team appealing those decisions. Continue reading ›

The Supreme Court recently issued a major ruling in a dispute over free speech on the grounds of a public college. By a vote of 8-1, with Chief Justice Roberts as the lone dissenter, the Court held that a Georgia student’s claims of violations of his First Amendment rights against college officials were not mooted by the school’s decision to abandon the speech restrictions at issue. Specifically, the Court found that the student had standing to proceed with his First Amendment lawsuit even though the student was only seeking nominal damages in the suit. The case had long been on the radar of First Amendment advocates and resulted in a unique confluence of support for the plaintiffs from both ends of the ideological spectrum (and many in between) with numerous liberal and conservative groups submitting a raft of amicus curiae urging the Court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

The case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, was brought by two students at Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Georgia located in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville. The college had a campus policy that restricted public speaking and distribution of written materials to only two designated “free speech expression areas” and required a permit to do so. According to the lawsuit, these speech zones occupied less than 0.0015% of the campus, and are open only 18 hours a week.

One of the plaintiffs, Chike Uzuegbunam, is an evangelical Christian who was handing out religious literature on the campus when a campus police officer told him that he could only distribute literature by reserving one of the two designated free speech areas. The complaint alleges that Uzuegbunam followed the officer’s instructions and obtained a permit, but, within a few minutes of starting to hand out literature and discuss his religious beliefs, another officer told Uzuegbunam that he must stop as his speech was disturbing others and therefore violated the college’s “disorderly conduct” policy which prohibited any speech, even in the free speech zones, that “disturbed the peace and/or comfort of person(s).” Continue reading ›

The right to free speech is the very first Amendment to our Constitution, and it’s one of the most frequently cited amendments, especially when things get heated between two individuals or political parties. The right to free speech, specifically as it relates to public figures, was promised by our founding fathers as a way to protect our democracy. The idea is that free speech encourages an open debate and exchange of information and ideas about candidates before people head to the polls, but is there a difference between what’s legal and what’s ethical?

Because of the importance of being able to exchange information about political candidates and public figures, the law is designed to make it more difficult for public figures to sue for defamation, but what if, instead of suing for defamation, you have a conversation with the employer of the person whose speech you don’t like about whether their speech is ethical?

Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatrist who used to work at Yale University, published a tweet back in January of 2020 when Donald J. Trump was facing an impeachment trial. His attorney, Alan M. Dershowitz, came under fire for his connections to Jeffrey Epstein, who had been accused of sex trafficking. Mr. Dershowitz said he and his wife enjoyed a “perfect sex life,” and Dr. Lee pointed out that the use of the word “perfect” suggested Mr. Dershowitz was under a “shared psychosis” with his client, Mr. Trump, who also likes to use the word “perfect” a lot. Continue reading ›

Insurance company State Farm is breathing a little easier after a Cook County judge recently dismissed a putative class action lawsuit filed against the insurer by the owner of an Evanston restaurant over the insurer’s denial of loss of income claims. In the complaint, the restaurant alleged that it and other restaurants suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income, resulting from state-ordered closures in response to COVID-19. The restaurant alleges that it filed a business interruption claim with State Farm who denied coverage.

Following denial of the claim, the restaurant filed suit against the insurer. In response, State Farm asked the court to dismiss the claims against it. In arguing for dismissal, State Farm asserted two arguments. First, it argued that an “accidental direct physical loss” to the covered property, required for coverage, had not occurred. Second, it argued that coverage was excluded by the “Fungi, Virus or Bacteria” Exclusion to the plaintiff’s policy, which excluded from coverage losses due to “[v]irus, bacteria or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease.”

In arguing that the physical loss trigger to coverage had not been met, State Farm relied on the 2001 Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Eljer Manufacturing Inc. that a “physical” loss must include alterations in “appearance, shape, color or in other material dimension.” As a result, State Farm contended, economic losses from COVID-19 are legally distinct from physical losses and not covered by the plaintiff’s policy. In other words, simply being deprived of physical access to a restaurant building is insufficient to trigger coverage, even if the closure was by order of the Governor. Continue reading ›

“March Madness” is a popular term used to refer to the basketball tournament run by the National College Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) every year in March, but it’s not an accident that everyone thinks of college basketball when they think of March Madness. It’s the result of the N.C.A.A. having trademarked the name, along with strategic branding, and they are very proactive about protecting that brand, even if it means suing a urology practice over the phrase “Vasectomy Mayhem”.

The urology practice, Virginia Urology, registered the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and proceeded to launch an ad campaign linking their practice to the March Madness basketball tournaments. Their ads featured a doctor, in scrubs and with a basketball, claiming if men wanted an excuse to stay home and watch basketball all weekend, they could do so while recovering from their vasectomy.

The N.C.A.A. sued the urology practice, claiming the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” was too similar to “March Madness”, and as a result, might cause confusion and dilute the value of their brand. According to the complaint, the N.C.A.A. believes its brand has already suffered damage from the registration of the term, and will continue to suffer damage if the urology practice is allowed to maintain the registration and continue using the term “Vasectomy Mayhem” in their advertising. Continue reading ›

Can Illinois employers fire employees for their political speech or affiliations? The events of the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots along with the riots and protests across the country throughout the summer of 2020 have led many employers to ask similar questions. And as protests become more commonplace and political debates run rampant on social media, employers and employees alike will be seeking answers to this question more and more frequently as time passes.

As with most questions in employment law, the answer depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, Illinois, as an “at will” state, is more likely to permit a termination over political views than other more worker-rights-focused states such as California. Being an “at will” state means that an employer can fire its employees for any reason that is not prohibited by law or against public policy. Despite having one of the most liberal human rights acts of all the states, however, the Illinois Human Rights Act is silent when it comes to private employer discrimination based on political party affiliation and political speech. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on a specific protected trait or class including race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), citizenship status, familial status, national origin, ancestry, age (40 and over), order of protection status, marital status, sexual orientation (including gender-related identity), physical or mental disability, pregnancy, military status or unfavorable discharge from military service, and, in certain circumstances, arrest record. Notably absent though is political affiliation or speech. Continue reading ›

Recently a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas ruled that copyright infringement claims filed by retired professional wrestler Booker T. Huffman (known as Booker T) against Activision, the developer of the Call of Duty video games, should proceed to trial. The infringement claims revolve around alleged similarities between promotional artwork for the Call of Duty 4 video game and a poster depicting Huffman’s in-ring persona G.I. Bro.

In 2015, Huffman commissioned a poster from the artist, Erwin Arroza, to promote his comic, G.I. Bro and the Dragon of Death. The comic stars a “special operations hero called G.I. Bro,” which bears a striking resemblance to Huffman in his G.I. Bro persona. Following creation of the poster, Huffman distributed copies of the poster at comic conventions and other events.

In 2018, Activision commissioned Petrol Advertising, Inc. to create a series of marketing images of the characters in its Black Ops 4 video game. Black Ops 4, which was released in 2018, was a prequel to the third Black Ops game, and featured many of the same characters as the prior version including the character David “Prophet” Wilkes. The ad agency hired live models and conducted several photoshoots with them in order to create the allegedly infringing marketing images. The ad agency then created a “composite” by adding graphical elements to create the artwork. Activision used this resulting artwork in various promotional posters, billboards, and special edition packaging, some of which included the allegedly infringing “Prophet Image” that is the focus of the lawsuit. Continue reading ›

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