A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.


Opinion: Background Checks – ‘Ban the Box’ is Not the Answer

Jon Bramnick|The Record

As Americans, we believe in giving people a “second chance.” The proposed “Ban the Box” legislation is not the answer to the problem of a job applicant with a criminal history.


Imagine you are looking to hire someone to care for your elderly mother. That person will be alone with her and will have access to her home and her possessions.


After receiving applications for the job, you discover that one of the applicants has a criminal history of assault and theft. One would presumably be concerned about hiring that person to assist your mother.


You may not have a choice if “Ban the Box” legislation is enacted.

Full Story.



Eli, Giants Ran Fake ‘Game-Worn’ Gear Scam: Lawsuit

Kaja Whitehouse | NY Post

Quarterback Eli Manning and New York Giants brass created bogus “game-worn” football gear to pass off as the real deal — and one of the forgeries is sitting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an explosive new lawsuit claims.

Full Story.



Proposed FDA Rule Could Bring Failure-To-Warn Liability


A rule proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in early November could increase generic drug manufacturers’ exposure to legal liability.


Specifically, the FDA is proposing to amend 21 C.F.R. part 314 — Applications for FDA Approval to Market a New Drug, in order to allow generic drug manufacturers to update labels independently from brand-name manufacturers.

Full Story.



PepsiCo Quietly Rebrands ‘Natural’ Products with ‘Simply’

Candice Choi |AP

PepsiCo has quietly gotten rid of the word “Natural” in some of its products and instead is going with “Simply.”


The company changed its “Simply Natural” line of Frito-Lay chips to simply be called “Simply,” although the ingredients remain the same. Similarly, its “Natural Quaker Granola” got a makeover as “Simply Quaker Granola.”


The food and beverage giant says the name changes, which took place last year, are the result of it updating its marketing. But they come at a time when PepsiCo and other companies face legal challenges over their use of the word “natural.”

Full Story.



Third-Party Financing Is Gaining Steam

Rebekah Mintzer |The National Law Journal

Getting a boost from a third-party investor in litigation is still a relatively new concept for lawyers and businesspeople in the United States, but it appears to be gaining steam, according to a new survey.

Full Story.



U.S. Securities Class-Action Suits Rise, Big Supreme Court Case Looms

Jonathan Stempel |Reuters

Investors are pursuing more lawsuits accusing companies of fraud, according to a new study, but filings may plunge if the U.S. Supreme Court decides soon to remake the legal landscape.


Plaintiffs filed 166 federal securities lawsuits seeking class-action status in 2013, up 9 percent from 152 in 2012, according to data released Tuesday by Cornerstone Research and the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse.


Filings nonetheless were the third fewest over the last 15 years. The study attributed this in part to fewer lawsuits over the financial crisis, mergers and Chinese reverse mergers, and to a drop in potential targets with the number of U.S.-listed companies having slid by nearly half since the late 1990s.


The Supreme Court, in a case involving Halliburton Co to be argued on March 5, could accelerate that decline as it reexamines a 1988 precedent that made it easier to pursue class actions against companies.

Full Story.



Seau Family Objects to NFL’s $765M Concussion Deal


The family of the late NFL star Junior Seau plans to object to the proposed $765 million settlement of player concussion claims because the fund would not pay wrongful death claims to survivors.


Although the players’ lawsuits accused the NFL of concealing known concussion risks, there would be no blame assessed as part of the settlement, and no punitive damages for pain and suffering.

Full Story.



Judge Puts Brakes On Avis Bid To Decertify Manager OT Suit

Alex Lawson | Law360

A New Jersey federal judge refused to decertify an overtime wage collective action brought against Avis Budget Car Rental LLC, rejecting arguments from the rental car company that the shift managers bringing the suit performed job duties that were too dissimilar to maintain collective status.


In a brief unpublished opinion, U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton said that in surveying the factual record as presented by both sides, there were no significant differences in the responsibilities of the various plaintiffs in the case and denied a motion from Avis to extinguish the collective suit.

Full Story.



Rough Patch for Uber Service’s Challenge to Taxis

David Streitfeld |New York Times

It’s Travis Kalanick versus the world, and recently the world seems to be winning.


Mr. Kalanick, who is brash and aggressive even by the standards of Silicon Valley, created Uber four years ago to blow up the traditional taxi business. In more than 60 cities, from San Francisco to Berlin, it is doing just that.


Anyone with a smartphone can use Uber’s software to get a ride. No more standing on the corner in the rain, trying desperately to conjure up something that is not there. For that achievement, Uber is valued at $4 billion.


Suddenly, however, Mr. Kalanick is a bit besieged. Uber is being sued by its drivers, who say it is stealing their tips. Competitors are pressing it from all sides. Celebrity riders like Salman Rushdie and Jessica Seinfeld have had gripes too, usually about pricing.

Full Story.



Doctor’s Lie to Malpractice Carrier Is Found Not To Interrupt Coverage

Michael Booth | New Jersey Law Journal

A medical malpractice carrier must provide the minimum of coverage for a physician being sued, even though he made false statements on his application for a policy, a New Jersey appeals court says in a published ruling.


Requiring the carrier to provide at least the minimum of coverage protects the rights of an injured third party who had nothing to do with the doctor’s misrepresentations to the carrier, Appellate Division Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote Wednesday in DeMarco v. Stoddard.

Full Story.



N.J. Court To Review Process for Invoking Civil Reservation of Rights

Mary Pat Gallagher |New Jersey Law Journal

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a defendant pleading guilty to a municipal court offense must ask on the record to obtain a civil reservation—which prevents the conviction from being used as evidence of liability in a related civil litigation.


The case, Maida v. Kuskin, involving a defendant who pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, has the potential to affect many tort suits over automobile injuries.

Full Story.



False Claims Bill Stirs Debate

Eric Eyre| Charleston Gazette

A bill that would allow people to sue companies that commit fraud against West Virginia state government drew support Tuesday from a nonprofit group funded by whistleblowers and trial lawyers — and sparked opposition from corporate lobbyists.


The legislation (HB4001) would make West Virginia the 30th state with a “false claims act,” allowing whistleblowers to file lawsuits on behalf of the government. The federal government also has a false claims law.

Full Story.



President Calls for Patent Reform in SOTU

Kate Tummarello |The Hill

President Obama repeated his calls for reform patent law during his State of the Union address Tuesday.


He called on Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.”


Critics of the current patent law system say it allows for “patent trolls” to threaten or bring frivolous lawsuits in the hopes of getting defendants to settle.

Full Story.



New York Tort Reform Advocates Launch ‘Frivolous Lawsuit Generator’


Media reports of outlandish or ridiculous lawsuits have become increasingly common, spurring renewed calls for legal reform. To highlight the issue, the nonprofit Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) has launched a new app which allows users to generate their own fictional frivolous lawsuits.

Full Story.