A federal judge reversed himself and reinstated part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann against The Washington Post. The lawsuit alleged that the newspaper libeled the teen in its coverage of his encounter with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial earlier this year.

The federal judge assigned to the case, Judge William O. Bertelsman, originally dismissed the suit back in July on First Amendment grounds. After a request for reconsideration, the Judge reversed himself saying that the libel suit could go forward while narrowing the scope of the suit from 33 published statements to three.

As we previously wrote, the suit alleged that the paper “targeted and bullied” the 16-year-old in articles it published following in the aftermath of an incident involving Nathan Phillips, a Native American advocate, and the teen who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The incident occurred while the teen was on a school trip with classmates from Covington Catholic High School to the National Mall where they encountered Phillips on the memorial’s steps. The original complaint sought $250 million in damages.

The specifics of what occurred between Phillips and the students was disputed and media coverage of the encounter, including by The Washington Post, sparked heated debate around the country. In his July opinion, Judge Bertelsman accepted Sandmann’s version of the encounter as is required when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Despite accepting the plaintiff’s description of the encounter, the judge ruled that none of the 33 statements identified in the complaint were defamatory and most constituted constitutionally protected opinion.

Based on a proposed First Amended Complaint filed in connection with the motion to reconsider, Judge Bertelsman reconsidered his previous ruling and granted the plaintiff the ability to seek discovery from The Washington Post on three of 33 allegedly libelous statements reported by the paper. In a five-page written order, the judge identified the three allegedly defamatory statements identified in the amended complaint being reinstated, specifically statements that Sandmann had “blocked” Phillips as he ascended the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and “would not allow him to retreat.” “Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that ‘justice requires’ that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context,” the judge explained.

The order also found that the proposed amended complaint offered by Sandmann beefed up and clarified its allegations concerning actual malice on the part of The Washington Post. “The Court also notes that the proposed First Amended Complaint makes specific allegations concerning the state of mind of Phillips, the principal source of these statements,” the court wrote. “It alleges in greater detail than the original complaint that Phillips deliberately lied concerning the events at issue, and that he had an unsavory reputation which, but for the defendant’s negligence or malice, would have alerted defendant to this fact.” Continue reading ›

Earlier this year, a federal grand jury indicted pioneer of self-driving car technology and serial entrepreneur, Anthony Levandowski, with trade secret theft. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California charged Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google under 18 U.S.C. § 1832 of the Economic Espionage Act (EEA).

According to the indictment, Levandowski allegedly downloaded more than 14,000 files containing crucial information about Google’s autonomous-vehicle research before leaving the company in 2016. The indictment also alleges that Levandowski then made an unauthorized transfer of the files to his personal laptop. Some of the files that Levandowski allegedly took from Google included private schematics for proprietary circuit boards and designs for light sensor technology, known as Lidar, which is used in self-driving cars.

Levandowski joined Uber in 2016 after leaving Google when Uber bought his new self-driving trucking start-up, “Otto.” Levandowski has repeatedly asserted that he never disclosed the download, nor made use of the information while he was at Uber. If convicted, Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each violation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Levandowski’s attorneys issued a statement on his behalf stating he is innocent of the charges.

“He didn’t steal anything, from anyone,” the statement reads. “This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago. The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google—when he and his team were authorized to use the information. None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company.” Continue reading ›

Earlier this month McDonald’s announced suddenly that the board had voted to terminate CEO Steve Easterbrook due to a consensual relationship with another McDonald’s employee. The day after firing Easterbrook, McDonald’s outlined the terms of Easterbrook’s severance package in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission. Easterbrook will receive 26 weeks of salary as severance, totaling at least $675,000 before benefits. In addition, he will be eligible for a prorated bonus if McDonald’s hits its performance targets for 2019.

The severance agreement also includes several restrictive covenants including a strict non-compete provision prohibiting Easterbrook from working for any fast-food competitor and at least two convenience store chains for the next two years. The agreement provides that:

“You acknowledge and agree that, in performing services for McDonald’s, you were placed in a position of trust with McDonald’s and that, because of the nature of the services provided by you to McDonald’s, Confidential Information will become engrained in you, so much so that you would inevitably or inadvertently disclose such information in the event you were to provide similar services to a competitor of McDonald’s.

“As such, you agree and covenant that for a period of two (2) years following your Termination Date: (a) you shall not either directly or indirectly, alone or in conjunction with any other party or entity, perform any services, work or consulting for one (1) or more Competitive Companies (as defined below) anywhere in the world; and (b) you shall not perform or provide, or assist any third party in performing or providing, Competitive Services anywhere in the world, whether directly or indirectly, as an employer, officer, director, owner, employee, partner or otherwise, of any person, entity, business, or enterprise.” Continue reading ›

Most of us have become accustomed to the idea of saying just about anything on social media without having to face any real consequences for our words, but Elon Musk is about to go to trial over a couple of words he posted on Twitter in the summer of 2018.

You might remember the case of the boys’ soccer team and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand for several days before rescuers were finally able to get them all out. The incident gained international attention and Elon Musk sent a team of engineers from the three companies he leads. The engineers came up with three miniature submarines to help with the rescue, but the head of the rescue operation dismissed the submarines as impractical. Continue reading ›

Netflix released its movie about the Panama Papers on October 18th, and while fictional versions of Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca narrate the story of the movie to “tell their side”, the real-life Mossack and Fonseca are suing Netflix for defamation.

Mossack and Fonseca are the two lawyers who founded and ran the law firm Mossack Fonseca out of Panama. Their law firm controlled the finances for companies for people all over the world. These are known as offshore accounts, and while they are legal, the Panama Papers revealed that some of the companies allegedly held by the law firm existed only on paper and did not produce or sell anything. These are known as shell corporations and they were allegedly used by Mossack Fonseca’s clients to hide illegal dealings, such as fraud and evading international sanctions, as well as evading taxes.

In Netflix’s movie, “The Laundromat”, both Mossack and Fonseca insist their law firm holds so many companies they don’t even know what each of them does, thereby insisting they are innocent of any crimes their clients may have committed. Continue reading ›

As consumers have started to recognize the unhealthy effects of consuming corn syrup, more and more food and beverage manufacturers have removed or limited its use in their products. While beer has never been considered a health food, the battle over corn syrup appears to have made its way to the world of beer, starting with Anheuser-Busch’s Superbowl commercial showing an order of corn syrup being delivered by mistake to the castle of the fictional medieval king of Bud Light. The king then leads a quest to remedy the mistake by personally taking the corn syrup to the fictional king of MillerCoors.

MillerCoors, a brewer based out of Chicago, responded, first with its own ad campaign, then with a lawsuit alleging false advertising.

The legal battle between the two beer giants recently took another turn when Anheuser-Busch sued MillerCoors for allegedly stealing trade secrets. According to the lawsuit, an employee of an Anheuser-Busch brewery allegedly shared recipes with an employee of MillerCoors.

That employee is no longer working for Anheuser-Busch, although if the allegations are true, they might be able to get a job with MillerCoors. Continue reading ›

Jared Pozner, who lost his 6-year-old son, Noah, in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, has had to deal with attacks from everyone from the hosts of radio shows to the authors of books claiming he’s lying about his son’s death. In addition to the HONR Networking, an advocacy group that puts pressure on social media sites like Facebook to remove false or misleading information about the Sandy Hook shooting, Pozner and several other families of the victims have filed defamation lawsuits against their accusers all over the country.

The largest defamation lawsuit is against Alex Jones, the host, and owner of Infowars, a radio show and website that have allegedly been spreading false information about Sandy Hook and other mass shootings and accused the families of lying about their children’s deaths. That lawsuit is still working its way through the court system, but in the meantime, Pozner recently won a smaller lawsuit against James Fetzer. Continue reading ›

While buying a used car might sound like a great way to save money, a new investigation allegedly found that buying from AutoNation could mean the possibility of buying a car that AutoNation knows is defective (or is subject to recall) but never bothered to have repaired or to resolve the recall issue.

There is a federal law that prevents auto dealers from selling new defective automobiles, but there is no such law to prevent anyone from selling used cars with defects. A new federal bill was recently introduced that would close that loophole, but we have yet to see what the fate of that bill will be. In the meantime, some states have local laws against selling defective vehicles (new or otherwise), so if you live in a state with such protections and you recently bought a defective used car, you can sue the dealer that sold you the defective vehicle. Continue reading ›

The Federal Trade Commission is asking the Second Circuit federal appeals court to uphold a finding that 1-800 Contacts violated antitrust law by preventing rivals from using its trademarked name in search ads. Meanwhile, 1-800 Contacts is also defending against a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers centering on the same conduct, but also naming additional retailers as defendants, including National Vision, Vision Direct, Luxxotica and Walgreens. Luxxotica recently agreed to pay $5.9 million to settle the claims against it in the lawsuit and National Vision settled for $7 million in 2017.

The dispute centers on 1-800 Contacts’s business practices dating back to 2004, when it brought or threatened legal action against numerous rivals accusing them of infringing its trademarks by purchasing search ads using the phrase “1-800 Contacts” to trigger a pay-per-click search ad. From 2004 through 2013, the company sued or threatened to sue at least 13 competitors over alleged trademark infringement on various search engines. 1-800 Contacts asserted that the act of purchasing ad words using its registered mark violated its trademark. In most cases, the rival companies responded to these threats or lawsuits by agreeing to enter agreements requiring them to cease bidding on search engine ad words using the 1-800 Contacts mark. Only Lens.com fought back and largely prevailed in the suit. Continue reading ›

As we enter the final quarter of 2019, employers must begin to look ahead and begin preparing for a number of new employment laws that will take effect January 1, 2020. Even though employers have nearly 100 days to review and revise their employment policies, they should start familiarizing themselves now with the new requirements, training management in compliance, and preparing to implement any new procedures come the start of 2020. Continue reading ›

Contact Information