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Civil Justice Law Blog

03/16/2011 - 15:08

Morales v. American Apparel sounds like a 19th-century novel dramatizing the power businesses and employers hold over workers: An 18-year old female worker was allegedly forced into unwanted sexual activity for months, in order to keep her job. She suffered a nervous breakdown but kept coming back because she had financial obligations and couldn’t find other work. She may not be able to sue for damages, however, because the company in question requires all employees to sign away their rights to a jury trial in their at-will employment contract. Arbitration tends to favor employers over employees. You might think that subjecting a worker to effective sex slavery would obviate such an agreement, by crossing...

03/14/2011 - 14:55

Last Thursday, March 10th, we had the pleasure of hosting a reception at our offices for the Attorneys General of New York and California, Eric Schneiderman and Kamala Harris. The event was an opportunity for leaders in New York City to speak with the Attorneys General and discuss policy issues together. Since most New Yorkers are at this point not very familiar with Ms. Harris, the reception also served to introduce her to attorneys and other folks here.

The two Attorneys General share a number of things in common. Schneiderman and Harris were both elected this past November, replacing Attorneys General who ran successful campaigns in their states’ gubernatorial elections (Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown...

03/11/2011 - 10:02

In Washington, D.C. yesterday morning, Congressman Peter King (R-Long Island) led a hearing on what he described as the political radicalization of Muslim Americans. In Oklahoma, state lawmakers recently voted to ban the use of Islamic sharia law in state courts, a juridical issue that it’s safe to say has never arisen in the state. Legislators in Tennessee would like to do the same. But has sharia law come up in other domestic legal contexts?

Jeremy Scahill reported Wednesday that a former inspector general for the Department of Defense, working as general counsel for a military contractor, advanced the idea in...

03/08/2011 - 14:39

In recent years, whistleblowers have taken advantage of the economic incentives offered by the False Claims Act to personally take on cases of fraud committed against taxpayers by government contractors. It’s no surprise that these opportunities exist: Since roughly the Reagan administration, conservative economists and policy-makers have worked to privatize every government function. There is now a one-to-one ratio of private military contractors to U.S. soldiers in America’s wars abroad. While privatization has undoubtedly improved efficiency in some areas, it has also made it harder to oversee work originally carried out by local, state, and federal agencies. Infamously, military contractors have been unable to account...

03/01/2011 - 15:54

The preemption walls are tumbling down in automobile defective design cases. After ruling last week that federal seatbelt regulations did not preempt a state law product liability claim against Mazda, the Supreme Court yesterday ordered the South Carolina Supreme Court to re-examine its finding that state tort claims against Ford over window design were preempted by federal regulation. (H/t Law360 - sub required)

Last week’s decision against Mazda qualified the auto industry’s earlier victory in Honda v. Geier (2000), in which the Supreme Court...

02/28/2011 - 16:14

Watch this video:



H/t Kate Sheppard @ Mother Jones


-Benedict Morelli and David Ratner

[end of post]


02/28/2011 - 14:47

In Flatbush, Brooklyn, hospital workers exposed newborn premature babies to extensive and repeated unnecessary radiation, according to a New York Times exposé published today. As is often the case, a state investigation into the alleged activity at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center was prompted not by self-reporting by the hospital but by the investigate efforts of the press.

In order to practice law, attorneys are required to participate in Continuing Legal Education seminars to keep abreast of developments in their areas of practice. No such requirement exists, however, for radiologists responsible for operating dangerous...

02/24/2011 - 14:57

The Supreme Court yesterday allowed a product safety lawsuit to go forward against automobile maker Mazda. As we wrote in December,

In Williamson, the surviving members of a family involved in a vehicle collision sued Mazda, the maker of their car, over an allegedly faulty seatbelt design, under California state product liability law. Delbert Williamson argues that his wife died from injuries caused by her seatbelt’s design - a waist-only belt - and that she likely would have survived had Mazda installed the type of seatbelt that is now near-universally used in the U.S., the lap-and-shoulder seatbelt. Mazda’s lawyers have argued, however, that because federal regulations at the...

02/23/2011 - 16:03

A few months ago, Professor Marcia Angell picked up her pen to describe the institutional failings of the FDA’s drug approval regime, and to make some suggestions for reform. Academic achievements aside, Angell is known for being a thorn in the pharmaceutical industry’s side, a tireless advocate for drug safety and efficacy. At big pharma’s profit party, Angell is, basically, a major buzzkill.

There is, Angell writes,

growing evidence that the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER, pronounced “cedar”), the part of the agency that regulates prescription drugs, has become the servant of the industry it regulates. This has resulted in the sale of drugs of uncertain...

02/22/2011 - 14:11

In The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, David Remnick chronicles the story of the President’s family roots, his struggles over identity in Hawaii, Indonesia, Kansas, and Kenya, and his steady ascent to political power. The book deftly sketches out the overlapping histories of the civil rights movement, black nationalism, and Chicago politics, all of which Obama engaged as he entered politics and claimed the mantle of earlier leaders.

Obama first received national attention in the early 1990s, when, as law student, he became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. While reporters during the campaign interviewed Obama’s colleagues and students at the University of Chicago...

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