The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy were selected by Super Lawyers as Rising Stars
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The video of Jason Spencer walking backward with his pants down while screaming “America!” was widely viewed and mocked after it aired on Sacha Baron Cohen’s show, “Who Is America?” While it’s certainly embarrassing for Spencer, who later resigned his position as a Georgia state lawmaker, is it worthy of a lawsuit?

Sacha Baron Cohen is no stranger to getting sued by people who appear on screen with him. His movies and TV shows tend to poke fun at people and put them in a less-than-flattering light, so it’s never a surprise when they become upset after seeing themselves on screen. The latest round of lawsuits looks like it might come from several politicians who appeared on Cohen’s show, “Who Is America?” although it’s unclear exactly what their claims will be. Some of them have already made public comments saying they’ll pursue all legal remedies, but no lawsuits have yet been filed.

There are a few problems with these people trying to sue Cohen and/or the show’s producers. The first is the high probability that they all signed release agreements. While one upset politician has admitted to having signed a release, another said he doesn’t remember, but that it’s likely that he did. Continue reading

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In August some major online content distributors, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Apple, started removing Alex Jones’s Infowars content from their platforms for allegedly violating their policies. It made sense for Jones’s staff to delete some of the offensive material in order to get his content back onto those major platforms so he could get back in front of his audience. But because he is also facing a defamation lawsuit, deleting that material could be considered destroying evidence, which is illegal.

Jones and his company, Infowars, have been sued by survivors and family members of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Jones has said on his broadcast that the entire shooting was a hoax planned and sponsored by the government in order to promote an anti-Second Amendment agenda. Jones has accused survivors and family members of being actors and claimed that the supposed deceased never really existed in the first place.

As if losing a child to senseless violence isn’t bad enough, survivors and family members have had to deal with threats and harassment from Jones’s followers. At least one family has moved to a gated community as a result of the threats they received.

Some of the survivors and family members have responded by suing Jones and his company for defamation. Much of that lawsuit depends upon the content published by Infowars, but since some of that content has since been deleted (and Jones is on record admitting he told his staff to delete the content), Jones may have inadvertently dug his hole deeper. Continue reading

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When entering into the employment domain, covenants are imposed on employees restricting what they can and cannot do once they leave the job. Violations and restrictions are what employers often look for when they wish to seek enforceability of a contract that was entered into when employees decide to move elsewhere. Typically, such agreements prohibit competing with an former employer for a certain period after the employee has left the business, or prevents the ex-employee from soliciting or dealing with customers of the business by using knowledge of those customers gained.

Non compete clauses are in often in place for businesses to protect their investments in business and to not have employees turn around and share information that may be valuable in another employment setting.  That is why the wording of non compete agreements is important.  However, more and more businesses are now laying off employees.

It could be speculated that since more and more businesses are now laying off employees, that this is one of the reasons as to why Massachusetts legislature passed a bill that would require companies in the state to give employees some kind of compensation for up to a year after leaving if they decide to enforce a non-compete agreement.  Another reason is that workers could also end up for months without a paycheck from either a previous employer and by not being able to work for a competitor.  At least now, there is some form of relief and compensation until enforceability of the non-compete agreement is made.

When it comes to Massachusetts, the clause known as a “garden leave clause” provides pay for of at least 50% of the employee’s highest base salary over the prior two years, or other mutually-agreed upon consideration. Though the law does give some room for “other mutually-agreed upon consideration” leaving some level of flexibility.

As it stands, Massachusetts has become one of the first states to offer this kind of relief for employees.  This change may encourage others states to enact reforms. Another change of note is allowing employees to review the agreements prior to signature and relieving laid off employees from the non-compete’s restrictions.

An agreement can be deemed null and void or certain provisions within can be.  This is pretty much the same as it was before.  It’s impact and affect is yet to be tested.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/01/15/compromise-may-near-restricting-noncompetes-mass/GWjyz1NOpnZbGA3YXCbWxL/story.html

http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/725264/Contract+of+Employment/Massachusetts+Legislature+Passes+LongAwaited+NonCompete+Law

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A plaintiff’s attorney in New York recently challenged a federal court’s authority to order him to pay a $10,000 fine as a sanction for misconduct under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in a copyright infringement case. Southern District of New York Judge Denise Cote imposed the monetary sanction on attorney Richard L. pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules and the court’s inherent authority to manage its own affairs (Paul Steeger v. JMS Cleaning Services, LLC).

The alleged conduct for which Richard was sanctioned included failure to serve notice to the defense of a pretrial hearing as required by court order, which the judge accused Richard of having done on three other occasions in the southern district, and also failing to respond to the defendant’s settlement offer.

Shortly after the defendant complained of Richard’s conduct to the court, the parties reached a voluntary settlement in the case. As a result of the complaint, the judge issued Richard an order to show cause why he should not be sanctioned.

At issue in Richard’s motion for consideration was what the court is allowed to do under its inherent power and under Rule 11, which requires that no monetary sanction or order may be imposed against a party or its counsel after the litigants have reached a voluntary settlement.

Judge Cote noted, however, that she received the defendant’s complaints about Richard’s misconduct and issued the order prior to the case’s formal dismissal or settlement. Instead, Richard had notified the court only that the parties had reached a settlement “in principle.” The case was not dismissed pursuant to the settlement until four weeks later.

The judge accused Richard of a pattern of omissions and misrepresentations in the case and failing to adhere to standards expected of officers of the court. Continue reading

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As consumers become increasingly aware of the potentially harmful side effects of certain chemicals used to extend the shelf life of prepared foods, the demand for packaged foods that are free of preservatives has gone up and continues to go up. Many consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for foods bearing labels such as “organic” and “all natural,” while others simply refuse to buy any foods they cannot be certain are free from artificial preservatives.

The more scrupulous buyers check the ingredients of everything they buy before taking it to the checkout counter, and over the years, people have come up with a few different rules regarding what to look for in the ingredients label. For example, some say you shouldn’t buy anything containing any ingredients you can’t pronounce, while others claim you simply shouldn’t buy anything with more than five ingredients.

Still others just rely on the product’s label. If the company claims their product is free of artificial preservatives, most customers will take that claim at face value and grab the product without bothering to check the ingredients label. Others rely on labels with terms like “all natural,” even though products don’t need to meet any legal qualifications in order to put that label on their products (as opposed to the term “organic,” which does require the product to be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Continue reading

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For years the NutriBullet blender has been marketed as a small, convenient blender people can use to make single-serving smoothies and other cold drinks, then pop off the cannister and drink. The blender has been marketed as a “nutrition extractor,” implying people can get more nutrition in their diets by drinking their fruits and vegetables with the help of the blender. What the blender’s marketing fails to mention is the allegation that it tends to build up the pressure and explode.

Capital Brands, the company that makes the NutriBullet blenders, advises users of the product to only make cold drinks in the blenders and avoid putting anything hot in it to avoid overheating. They also recommend using it for no more than 60 seconds, at which point a safety mechanism will turn the NutriBullet off in order to avoid any accidents as a result of overheating.

But consumer lawsuits claim the blender has been known to overheat and even explode, even when consumers follow the directions and use it with cold foods for less than 60 seconds. One such lawsuit was brought against the company in North Carolina and is currently pending in court. In California, one consumer rights attorney says he has brought almost two dozen lawsuits against Capital Brands over the alleged defect in their NutriBullet blenders.

Now Deveta White has joined the list of consumers to sue Capital Brands over their allegedly dangerous NutriBullet blenders. The only difference is that White’s consumer lawsuit is the first to seek to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs against Capital Brands. Continue reading

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One of the problems with arbitration is that it’s private, which means the results never make it into the news. This poses a problem for those trying to use lawsuits in order to make a statement.

Rick Pitino recently sued Adidas for allegedly inflicting damage to his reputation after a corruption scandal that eventually resulted in him losing his job at Louisville. The defamation lawsuit sought both compensatory and punitive damages, although the complaint did not specify an amount for either one. According to Steve Pence, Pitino’s attorney, the lawsuit was less about the money than it was about trying to salvage Pitino’s reputation.

But shortly after Pitino filed the lawsuit, Adidas filed a motion to dismiss it, saying the case belonged in private arbitration outside of court. The judge agreed and dismissed the case.

It’s worth noting that the dismissal does not mean that Adidas is innocent of the allegations against it. All it means is that the U.S. court is not the proper jurisdiction to handle the dispute. But since the results of arbitration are never made public, Pitino’s stated main goal of clearing his name cannot be accomplished through arbitration.

In 2017, an FBI investigation linked Pitino with improper recruitment practices, specifically his connection with Brian Bowen, a five-star player who was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit to playing for the University of Louisville.

Pitino was initially placed on administrative leave in September of 2017 after the results of the FBI investigation were made public. He was fired just a few weeks later and Bowen ended up not playing for U of L. Continue reading

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While most companies let people return a product a month or two after purchase if something goes wrong, some companies go above and beyond by offering a lifetime guarantee. The idea is to ensure customers that nothing will go wrong with the product during its lifetime, and if something does go wrong, the company will either replace the item or reimburse them the cost of the item. A lifetime guarantee is a sign that the company believes in the quality of its products and will go to great lengths to make sure their customers remain satisfied.

But some people choose to interpret “lifetime warranty” to mean the product is guaranteed to last for the rest of their lifetime, rather than the standard lifetime of the product. According to Shawn O. Gorman, the Executive Chairman of L.L. Bean, some customers were taking advantage of the company’s lifetime warranty to mean anything they bought from the company would not be subject to wear and tear, and if it were, the company should reimburse them for the item or replace it.

According to an open letter to the public released by the company on February 9th, some people were taking advantage of the lifetime guarantee by trying to get replacements or reimbursements for products several years after they had been purchased. Some had even sought replacements or reimbursements for used L.L. Bean items they had bought at garage sales. As a result, the company recently decided to get rid of its century-old lifetime guarantee and to replace it with a one-year warranty – which can only be used if the customer still has their receipt. The company said it will still work with customers who want to return or get reimbursed for a product more than a year after the date of purchase, but only if the product is defective. Continue reading

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Despite the fact that judges are the ones who set bail, one Cook County court judge, Judge Celia Gamrath, says it is up to lawmakers, rather than judges, to determine how judges are allowed to set bail.

The issue in question is the fact that Cook County judges have been using a cash bail system. The intention behind such a system is to give defendants a reason to appear in court, but a recent class-action lawsuit alleges it has also had the effect of discriminating against minorities and the poor, who are often unable to come up with the cash necessary to pay their own bail.

The lawsuit was filed against five Cook County court judges on behalf of two detainees who sat in jail for almost a year because they couldn’t afford to post their own bail. They both eventually pled guilty to the charges against them.

Alexa Van Brunt, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit against the judges, said they plan to appeal Judge Gamrath’s decision, claiming they hadn’t even had a chance to fully explain their arguments regarding the allegedly unconstitutional nature of the current cash bail system before Judge Gamrath dismissed them.

Van Brunt noted that the lawsuit might feel political to Gamrath because the class action is asking her to make a ruling about other Circuit Court judges. In fact, that’s not what they’re trying to do at all – instead, they are just asking the judge to help make sure the courts follow the law. But Van Brunt claimed the judge chose to get the lawsuit off her desk rather than face the consequences of ruling on a potentially sticky situation. Continue reading

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The Illinois Supreme Court recently adopted a new rule that allows couples going through a divorce to have lawyers work with the parties on a limited-scope to attempt a settlement while avoiding costly litigation.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294 (“Rule 294”) was adopted by the Court on June 8, 2018 and became effective on July 1, 2018. The new Illinois Supreme Court Rule is a result of the new Illinois law allowing for the collaborative process. 750 ILCS 90/1 Collaborative Process Act (“Collaborative Act”) became an effective law in Illinois on January 1, 2018.

The Collaborative Act creates a new way for couples that have a dispute in relation to a: marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, legal separation, or property distribution. Also, the Collaborative Act can be a useful tool for a dispute regarding a: significant decision making and parenting time of children; maintenance and child support; adoption; parentage; and premarital, marital, and post-marital agreements.

The Collaborative Act was put in place to allow couples that have a legitimate dispute about a family issue, to have a quicker and more cost-effective way to resolve these issues. The Collaborative Act saves couples both time and money and allows for a back-and-forth of communication between the parties to reach a better result without the ruling of a judge. The Illinois legislature passed the Collaborative Act to give couples an alternative route from the court system. The Illinois court system has been viewed as slow to resolve family law issues or in some litigant’s opinions unfair to one of the parties. Continue reading