Contribution Bid OK’d
NEWARK — A school district sued under New Jersey’s anti-bullying law may bring contribution claims against the students accused of harassing the plaintiff, a state judge has ruled.
Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone denied a motion to dismiss third-party complaints against 13 students in a suit brought against the Hunterdon Central and Flemington-Raritan school districts under the state law.
The 17-year-old plaintiff, known in court papers as V.B., claimed the school staff failed to address his complaints about being taunted for being overweight and for his perceived homosexuality. Ciccone held that a contribution claim is available to the school districts under the state’s joint tort-feasor contribution law even though the plaintiff brought only statutory claims and no tort claims.
‘Fresh’ Bread Label OK
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal court has dismissed some of the allegations in a putative class action that dispute claims made on the labels of well-known breads by the country’s largest bakery and distributor.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick on March 13 left intact the bulk of the plaintiffs’ claims that Bimbo Bakeries USA falsely labels many of the breads and related products that carry the Sara Lee, Arnold and Thomas’ brands as, variously, containing 100 percent whole wheat or serving as good sources of fiber and whole grains, when they don’t.
But the court dismissed the allegation that the words “fresh” and “baked daily” on packages of Entenmann’s Soft-ees doughnuts were misleading and violated of state and federal laws.
‘Organix’ Label Dropped
Vogue International will eliminate the brand name “Organix” under a class action settlement involving its allegedly false claims that its hair care products are organic. Court documents show the sides have agreed on a $6.5 million award, including $1.6 million in attorney fees.
Vogue International advertised and labeled the products as all organic, but the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that just 10 percent of the ingredients qualify for that designation. The proposed settlement requires Vogue International to pay $6.5 million into a settlement fund, change its product labeling and advertising practices and eliminate the Organix product line and name.
Industrial Plant Fined
BUFFALO (AP) — An industrial plant was fined $12.5 million on March 19 for illegally releasing the carcinogen benzene into the air and improperly handling hazardous sludge.
Tonawanda Coke Corp. was sentenced in federal court in Buffalo, where it was convicted last year of Clean Air Act violations. The plant burns coal to produce coke, used in steelmaking.
A federal judge also ordered Tona­wanda Coke to spend up to $12.2 million on health and environment studies in the community. Company environmental manager Mar Kamholz was convicted of obstruction for moving to hide problems from an inspector.
Hurt Child’s Award Cut
NEWARK — A New Jersey state judge has reduced a $166 million personal injury verdict awarded last year to an infant who was beaten and permanently disabled after state child-protection agents left him with an abusive parent.
Judge James Rothschild Jr. on March 19 cut the award to $102 million against the state Division of Youth and Family Services and found that the jury’s decision to apportion no liability to the father “cannot stand.” The judge reduced the $105 million award for 4-year-old Jadiel Velesquez’s future medical care to $75.9 million. He assigned 25 percent of the fault to the abusive father, which dropped the total recovery to $102 million. He left untouched awards of $57.7 million for pain and suffering, $1.9 million for a relative’s caretaking services, and $1.4 million for future lost wages.
The suit claimed a caseworker recognized the danger but failed to sufficiently investigate or alert law enforcement.
Viacom, Google Agree
NEW YORK — Viacom Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube have agreed to an out-of-court settlement in their copyright fight over video uploads. The settlement, first made public on March 18, resolves allegations by Viacom that YouTube allowed its users to turn the video-sharing website into a haven for copyright infringement. Viacom sought $1 billion in damages from Google, claiming it knowingly turned a blind eye to infringing uploads of Viacom content like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
The Financial Times reported that no money changed hands. The companies said in a joint statement that the deal represents a “growing collaborative dialogue” between them.
No Class Certification
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has defused a privacy class action targeting Google Inc.’s scanning of Gmail messages to help sell ads.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on March 18 rejected the plaintiffs’ bids to certify sweeping classes of email users. Plaintiffs accused Google of intercepting Gmail messages to mine users’ personal information in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and state wiretap laws. They said Google’s uniform practices made their claims perfect for class treatment.
Koh found that the court would have to consider how much each user knew about Google’s practices in order to determine whether they consented to the interceptions.
Poker Lawsuit Falters
A federal judge has dismissed much of an Illinois woman’s putative class action seeking to recover online poker gambling losses. Judge David Herndon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on March 14 dismissed most Kelly Sonnenberg’s amended complaint in which she tried to recoup an unspecified amount of losses suffered by an unnamed relative playing poker on the online site PokerStars.
Herndon’s decision hinged on the definition of “winners,” under the Illinois Loss Protection Act. Sonnenberg sued Rational Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., the parent company of PokerStars, which she alleged was the entity to which the Illinois gamblers lost. Herndon found that Rational Entertainment was the operator of an online card room, not a player and, thus, not a winner.
LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT
Bakery Workers Settle
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal magistrate judge has approved a $2 million settlement in a class action filed by as many as 3,000 California bakery workers who claimed they were denied overtime pay and forced to work through rest breaks.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu ordered Specialty’s Café and Bakery to pay the class members an average of about $1,500 each for working without pay owed to them.
Along with the workers’ back pay, the March 6 settlement also awarded the plaintiffs’ attorneys $600,000 in fees and directs the company to put its general managers through refresher training about proper compensation for their workers.
Lawyer Regains License
COLUMBUS (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court has restored the law license of a lawyer who pleaded guilty to exposing himself to women, then taking photos of their reactions.
Stephen Linnen pleaded guilty in 2004 to 53 misdemeanor counts and served a year in jail. Authorities said he took pictures of 38 women before his identity was discovered in late 2003.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that three mental-health professionals testified at an October reinstatement hearing that the 43-year-old Linnen was effectively rehabilitated with a low chance of relapse.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on March 17 to reinstate Linnen’s license requires him to remain on probation for three years and be monitored by the Columbus Bar Association. The court suspended Linnen’s license in 2006.
Law Firm Suit Lives On
NEW YORK — A judge has refused to dismiss parts of a legal malpractice suit brought by an ex-client of Blank Rome who claims the law firm threw her “under the bus” when it simultaneously represented ex-husband’s employer, Morgan Stanley Co., during her divorce.
Blank Rome partners Norman Heller and Dylan Mitchell represented Kristina Armstrong against her ex-husband, Michael Armstrong.
She claims the firm never told her it was also representing her husband’s then-employer, Morgan Stanley, in lucrative transactions, and the firm did not act in her best interests.
New York state court judge Anil Singh found that Blank Rome and two partners failed to show that the parts of the complaint lacked relevance or necessity.