The Issue of Marijuana Legalization

marijuanaMaryland is one of the 23 states (and the District of Columbia) that have most recently relaxed their laws regarding the possession of marijuana, and although Pennsylvania still holds to the old statutes, it is now decriminalized in Philadelphia at least. In other words, you can no longer be arrested for having a certain amount of marijuana i.e. less than 10 grams in Maryland and less than an ounce in Philadelphia. Instead, you are levied a fine i.e. $100 in Maryland and $25 in Philadelphia.

However, the issue of marijuana legalization is still a hot topic among legislators, many of whom believe that decriminalization of the substance creates more issues than it lays to rest. For example, it would require law enforcers to make judgment calls about whether the amount of marijuana they find warrants an arrest or not. It also brings up the specter of racial disparities in doing searches for suspected illegal possession of marijuana.

State law enforcement has a reason to be nervous. Making an unwarranted arrest can cost the state a bundle in lawsuits, especially there seems to be an overrepresentation of a racial group in the books. It may just be safer (and less expensive) to simply look the other way.

Supreme Court Neutral on Gay Marriage

supreme courtThe issue of same-sex marriage has been raging on ever since the first application for a marriage license was denied by a clerk in Hennepin County, Minnesota because the applicants were both male. However, this week the Supreme Court chose to take a neutral attitude towards the issue of gay marriage, allowing the rulings of lower courts to stand.

The states immediately affected by this decision are Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma, which had appealed the lifting of the state bans on same-sex marriages by federal appeal courts. Six other states that are awaiting the ruling of the federal appeals court for the same issue may very well get the same treatment from the Supreme Court.

As of the time of this decision, there are 19 states plus the District of Columbia in which same-sex marriage is legalized. This decision could jumpstart the movement to make same-sex marriages recognized in other states, bringing the total number of states that recognize gay marriage to 30. Nine other states, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, are also in line for denials by federal appeals court, which means that there could soon be 39 states in which same-sex marriage is legal or in which the state ban lifted.

This decision is considered a victory for the gay rights movement, but some advocates criticize the Supreme Court for staying on the sidelines when a definitive ruling would have made the process of nationalizing the legality of same-sex marriages much faster.

Uzi Death at Arizona Gun Range

UziIn a bizarre twist of fate, an Arizona gun instructor was killed by a 9-year-old girl wielding, of all things, a 9-mm submachine gun, popularly known as an Uzi.

The gun range, Bullets and Burgers, catered to tourists who made the one-hour trip from Las Vegas to try out high-powered weapons. There are no age restrictions for discharging a weapon in Arizona when it is done under proper supervision in a gun range. This is supposed to prevent injury to the shooter and bystanders, but in this case the supervisor, Charles Vacca, was killed.

Gun experts criticized the fact that the young girl was allowed to hold the powerful weapon in the first place; the recoil is just too much for even some adults to handle, let alone an inexperienced child. Based on a video tape of the events leading up to the incident, short of the actual shooting, gun instructors speculate that Vacca may have made the fatal mistake of standing to the left of the weapon which effectively put him in the line of fire when the child inevitably loses control. Furthermore, they questioned why the Uzi had a full clip, when it is standard to only load three bullets to restrict the burst of gunfire from the semi-automatic weapon.

No charges are expected to be filed against the girl or her parents, who were present at the time of the shooting. It is so far being considered a workplace accident being investigated by the appropriate state agencies. However, there may be a personal injury case in the offing against the gun range for psychological and emotional damages to the child resulting from the traumatic event.

Ebola Victims May Recover Using Tobacco-Plant Drug

EbolaDeadly biological agent rears its head abroad, and infected U.S. citizens throw caution to the winds by using an experimental drug not yet approved for human testing.

The Ebola virus claimed the lives of more than 900 people in West Africa, while twice that is infected. An American missionary Nancy Writebol was evacuated to medical isolation in Atlanta together with Dr. Kent Brantly for treatment. Dr. Brantly is the physician who exhibited symptoms of the disease after treating Patrick Sawyer, the first American to die of Ebola. Both are undergoing treatment with the use of an experimental drug derived from tobacco plants that has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human applications.

The virus spreads from host to host through contact via bodily fluids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have dispatched 50 infectious disease specialists to contain the outbreak in West Africa.

The spread of disease has become much more a matter of concern because of the ease of air travel. Ebola is fortunately not passed through the air, and has a 55% mortality rate, but experts caution that the virus is tricky and unpredictable. Containment is the best option. There is no confirmed treatment of the virus.

The use of the experimental drug ZMapp on Writebol and Brantly was done so without the sanction of the FDA which is required by law. However, it was first administered in Liberia, thus beyond the jurisdiction of the FDA. Despite the first positive signs of recovery, the efficacy of the drug is not yet confirmed, and the legal ramifications of such a move are also somewhat nebulous, though both patients who received the drug were aware that it was an experimental treatment.

GM Recalls Spark Automaker Liability Scare

car ignitionThe massive brouhaha following the unprecedented recall by automaker General Motors of approximately 18 million vehicles for defects has automakers and suppliers scrambling to beef up on liability avoidance training.

GM has already been slapped with millions in fines by the Department of Transportation and faces criminal charges and civil litigation for problems associated with their vehicles, particularly the ignition switch debacle that has dragged parts manufacturer Delphi Automotive plc and airbag supplier Continental AG into the fray. It is alleged that they kept mum about the defective cars to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The defective ignition switch has been linked to the deaths of 13 people. It is claimed that GM had known that the ignition switches were questionable years before but did nothing about it.

Central to the current attempt to evade liability is proper reporting of any questionable issues that may surface in day-to-day transactions. Suppliers are especially vulnerable to close scrutiny because of the ongoing investigation into the alleged collusion of a group of suppliers to fix prices of auto parts and components. Industry leaders fear that this can lead to isolationist company policies that will prevent effective collaboration.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Corexit Controversy

When BP was tasked with cleaning the crude oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by the millions of gallons in 2010, the company’s main weapon of choice was a dispersant called Corexit. The dispersant worked by breaking up oil slicks into tiny droplets, which could then be better washed away by the motion of the ocean’s waves, or sink to the ocean floor.

However, critics were concerned with the gratuitous use of Corexit because certain ingredients were known to be carcinogenic and to damage DNA. Critics also claimed that mixing Corexit with crude oil made a solution much more toxic than either component was by itself. Two different formulas were used, 9500 and 9527, and the latter was recognized as more dangerous.

BP asserted that “the toxicity of Corexit is about the same as dish soap,” in a statement against the dangers of using Corexit. While the Environmental Protection Agency had no data to support that Corexit significantly impacted wildlife, EPA studies did show that a dozen other dispersants were more effective in dispersing the specific kind of oil in the spill, while also being much less toxic in some cases.

When questioned about not choosing a less toxic dispersant formula, BP cited other companies’ use of Corexit as a sign of reliability. In total, 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were reportedly sprayed into the Gulf, although that figure has been disputed.

Social Network Sites after Death

Over a billion people across the world have created a profile on the social networking site Facebook. Millions of people also use other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and a number of other sites.

Logging on to these sites has become a daily habit like taking a shower or eating a meal, but what happens to someone’s accounts after he or she is no longer living? It is a question that many people think about and has even grabbed the attention of lawmakers in New Hampshire and other states.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Peter Sullivan introduced a bill that would give control over a deceased’s social networking pages to the executor of the estate. This includes one’s Facebook, Twitter, and additional accounts like Gmail to be passed to the executor of one’s estate in the event of death.

Sullivan is proposing such a bill in order to provide a sense of peace and closure to family members that lose a loved one. He said the bill would also prevent any form of bullying on a deceased’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Along with New Hampshire, five other states, including Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Connecticut, have legislation dealing with one’s online and digital presence after death.

Currently, there are online services available such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, and My Webwill, so individuals can pass on digital assets and account information to trusted sources. People can also speak with a probate lawyer.

Contract Disputes At Your Tech Startup

According to the website of Cedar Rapids business lawyers Arenson & Maas, PLC, contracts can be incredibly complex, detailed, and often confusing legal documents that many parties would rather not deal with. However, in a number of business and work relationships, contracts are absolutely essential to make sure that all involved parties’ interests are protected and upheld. Whether looking at a contract between an www.slaterpugh.comemployer and an employee, a business and a vendor, or any other legally binding agreement, the nitty gritty of contracts can be confusing, but is nonetheless incredibly important.

As such, it is important that when you are first establishing a contract with another party, you do everything possible to make sure that it is drafted as clearly and thoroughly as possible, not only to make sure your interests are fully represented and protected, but also to prevent against disruptive and potentially damaging contract disputes down the line.

Contract disputes can occur in a number of ways, and can take place while a contract is being drafted or can occur after a contract has been established and one of the involved parties feels that the contract has been violated in some way.

For tech startup owners, contract disputes in any form can be incredibly damaging, as they have to potential to divert a business owner’s attention away from running and growing their business, at a time when work is hectic and there are few resources to spare towards resolving the dispute. When contract disputes arise, they have the potential to slow, or even bring to a stop, normal business operations, especially if the dispute involves an important client or business partner.

Additionally, depending on the nature of the dispute, they can damage a company’s reputation in their field, regardless of the party at fault for the contract dispute or violation. Because of the seriousness of these situations, most contract disputes cannot be handled without the assistance of an internet lawyer. These professionals can help alleviate some of the burden of managing the dispute and working towards a resolution, and may be able to help settle a problem faster and more efficiently than if a business owner attempted to do so on his or her own. However, even with the availability of professional assistance, businesses should do everything in their power to avoid becoming entangled in a contract dispute of any kind.

The Social Network All Over Again

Pinterest, the social media platform which allows users to create boards on which they can “pin” their favorite online media, has become the subject of a lawsuit leveled against the company and one of its first investors, Brian Cohen. The lawsuit alleges that the concept and technology for Pinterest were not original creations, but rather that Cohen and his business partners stole the idea from another site, RendezVoo, with which Cohen was also connected.

The suit has six total causes of action that it alleges harmed RendezVoo’s founder, Theodore Schroeder, who filed the suit. Overall, Schroeder is seeking an award of more than $75,000 in damages which, in consideration of the considerable success Pinterest has found, seems fairly insignificant in the long run. However, Pinterest’s business attorneys are still planning a defense against the suit, though it’s quite likely that the suit will eventually be settled out of court, much as the strikingly-similar Facebook case eventually was.

Holiday Season Dangers: Dog Bites

Dog BiteDuring the holiday season, visits from friends and family members are a common occurrence. Unfortunately, reports of injuries caused by family pets tend to increase during this time, and in most cases, the injuries could have been avoided.

If a dog owner doesn’t exercise the right safety precautions, they may be unable to stop their dog from attacking another person in the event of an unexpected trigger or uncontrollable provocation. Dogs are supposed to be kept on a leash when in public and, if potentially a danger to others, should be restrained behind a fence. Especially in the case of potentially dangerous breeds, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pet and may be held legally liable if that pet injuries someone.

A dog bite or attack may leave a person with considerable injuries that may require immediate medical care. Depending on the extent of the injuries, a person may need to go through a significant treatment and recovery process that can be physically, emotionally, and financially taxing. However, compensation may be available for these injured individuals through a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner.

Legal Recourse for Dog Bites

Bites and attacks may leave a person with a sizable medical bill to address, as well as other expenses and a lack of income due to time spent away from work recovering. Compensation may be able to address the following financial concerns after a dog bite or attack:

  • Medical treatment expenses, including skin grafts and antibiotics
  • The cost of staying in the hospital while recovering from an attack
  • Long-term care in the event of particularly vicious attacks or falling injuries
  • Emotional damages and psychological therapy
  • Lost wages due to time spend off of work for medical operations and recovery

If an attack is particularly serious and causes life-long disability or disfigurement, a person may be entitled to pursue compensation that will support them for years into the future. While it may be difficult to consider legal recourse following a tragedy like a dog attack, it is advisable to discuss the circumstances of your claim with an experienced personal injury lawyer. This way, you will not be forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical bills, lost wages, and other unforeseen expenses following an avoidable accident like a dog bite.

What Nerds Need To Know About Dialysis

When individuals seek medical attention, they do so in the hopes that said treatment will help them to recover from a condition or ailment that is troubling them and that in the end, they will find themselves better off than they were when they sought treatment. Unfortunately, there are instances in which individuals are harmed by the medical treatment they receive, suffering because of dangerous medical products with damaging side effects.

Dialysis LawsuitWhen an individual is harmed because of a dangerous medical product or device, they should not be the ones left paying for the resulting damage. By taking legal action against the party or entity responsible for a dangerous medical product, victims and their families may be able to recover much needed compensation for their losses.

This is the situation that many families are facing after their loved ones have suffered because of the negative side effects associated with GranuFlo. GranuFlo is a dialysis medication that has recently been recalled by the FDA because of damaging side effects associated with the use of the medication.

Some individuals who have used GranuFlo have experienced a wide variety of health problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, and stroke. This occurs because GranuFlo can increase the number of bicarbonates in the blood, resulting in a compromised health condition for some users of this medication.

In some situations, users of GranuFlo have died as a result of this medication. Fortunately, for victims and their families, it may be possible to take legal action to pursue compensation for the losses resulting from use of GranuFlo. In most cases, affected individuals seek the assistance of a Granuflo lawsuit lawyer to help them pursue the compensation they need. Compensation can be awarded to help cover medical bills, lost income from time spent away from work recovering, and for emotional damages, such as pain and suffering.

Watch Out For Holiday Season DUIs

BeerOver the holiday season, millions of Americans participate in festivities to celebrate this special time of year. Unfortunately, this can put the lives and safety of others at risk as many people choose to drink more often and in larger quantities. As a result, during the holidays accidents caused by drunk drivers spike, often resulting in serious injuries to all those involved in the accident. Fortunately, DUI accident victims may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, pain, suffering, and losses that they suffer at the hands of a drunk driver.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to take legal action against the party or parties who caused your suffering. Because of the high costs that many of the consequences of a DUI accident may cause, laws throughout the country allow accident injury victims to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering.

DUI Accident Injuries

Injuries caused by drunk drivers are often extremely serious. Some of the most common DUI accident injuries include the following:

[ Broken bones
[ Whiplash
[ Internal organ damage
[ Spinal cord injuries
[ Traumatic head injuries

These and other DUI accident injuries can have devastating consequences for those who suffer in them, not to mention their families. However, no one should have to pay for the consequences of a drunk driver’s reckless decisions on their own. Thus, if you have been the victim of a DUI accident, you should contact a good lawyer to discuss the details of your case and learn more about your legal rights and options when a drunk driver has caused you and your family to suffer after an accident. An attorney can help you understand what you may be able to do to get the justice you deserve in this difficult situation.

eTicketbuster Speeds to Front of Legal Tech Revolution

In the past two decades alone, the legal industry has undergone a quiet technological Yearout & Traylor, P.C.revolution that is dramatically reshaping the way in which people have their legal needs served. Lawyers are now more likely to use technology in court to help them with their cases. One example is using iPads to present evidence and take notes.

A great example of this trend is a new company in Washington state, eTicketbuster. This service allows people who have been issued a traffic citation to fill out a few simple forms online, pay a deposit (which is refunded if their case is lost), and have their ticket contested by experienced an criminal defense lawyer. All this without requiring the individual to lose valuable time fighting on their own in court. Obviously, this can be incredibly convenient to anyone facing criminal charges.

This is the type of technology that is beginning to seriously change how lawyers across the country operate. While some of the more traditional legal industries, such as personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, will continue to require much of the same industry structure, more specialized practices, such as traffic offenses and wills and trusts attorneys, are slowly being phased out in favor of user-friendly technology.

When Dogs Attack!

If you are attacked and hurt by a dog, you have the right to take legal action against the dog’s owner and obtain financial compensation from them for your injuries. If you are attacked, the following are some steps you can take to prepare for legal action per the “one bite rule“.

  • Obtain contact information from the dog owner – Whether or not you are thinking about filing suit, it is a good idea to get the name and phone number of the dog in question’s owner. If you discover that you are suffering from anxiety later on, or have an injury you weren’t initially aware of, you may decide to go ahead and pursue compensation.
  • Obtain contact information from witnesses – If you decide to pursue legal action, it will be necessary for you to call on the testimony of any witnesses that saw the attack. A witness may be able to back you up if the dog’s owner tries to claim you provoked their pet. If you don’t know who the owner is, the witnesses may be able to help you or animal control find out who the owner is.
  • Keep documentation of any related medical attention – If you visit a hospital to treat your injuries, make sure to keep a record of your visits, hospital bills, etc. You’ll need to have that information in order to be compensated if you win your case.
  • Report the attack to animal control – If the dog poses a danger to others, it is important to have animal control identify who the owner is and possibly quarantine the dog temporarily. A lot of cities have laws for dog attacks which require owners to have their dog observed by animal control for seven to twenty days to determine if it is rabid.

If you have been attacked by a dog, in addition to these steps, you should contact a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer and begin discussing which course of action is best for you.

Ohio Gets Cracking With Creeper Tracking

In Ohio, a state which currently has more than 19,000 registered sex offenders living within its borders, new technology is helping to monitor the actions of these individuals. The office of Ohio’s attorney general has helped to create an online database through which sex offenders can update their information online, speeding up the reporting process and helping law enforcement agencies better track the movements of registered sex offenders at all times.

Even more intriguing is a new mobile app that allows police officers to identify all registered sex offenders within a quarter-mile radius of a sexual assault or missing person investigation. In combination, these two technological tools should allow Ohio law enforcement agencies to more effectively protect the communities under their care. However, many of these new technologies have been controversial among criminal defense lawyers and other parties, who claim that they unduly punish individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes, making it difficult or in some cases, impossible, for them to secure housing, jobs, and other opportunities, even after they have served their sentences in full.

Patent Infringement: Two Can Tango

A recent decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has set an important precedent for future patent infringement claims relating to information technology. In Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., the Court determined that, while Limelight Networks hadn’t directly infringed on every aspect of Akamai’s patented content delivery technology, it was nevertheless liable for infringement because it had been aware of the patent and had instigated outside companies to do the other procedural moves that led to an infringement on the patent.

Law

This is an important development because, until this point, it was considered necessary for a company to infringe on every step of a patented method in order for an infringement claim to be successful. However, as the Court noted, the nature of these types of technological processes often involve interactions between multiple parties, which can easily be induced to violate portions of another company’s patent rights in fulfilling their obligations. This decision, therefore, could have a substantial impact on future decisions relating to process patents and patent law.

Mobile Technology and Client Portals

For attorneys, communication is a crucial part of success.  Computer services targeting lawyers are not a new concept, but there have been many recent changes to the way that attorneys can use applications, such as cloud storage systems, to better their client relationships.  Advances in mobile technology have allowed people to make the most of these services via mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads, allowing both attorneys and clients to access critical information from anywhere with the simple touch of a screen.

Client portals are unique online storage spaces that give attorneys and their clients access to case-relevant documents from any device with an internet connection.  These secure portals can be used to:

  • Share documents
  • Make travel arrangements
  • Answer questions
  • Pay bills
  • Set reminders
  • Request client feedback

By utilizing client portals, law firms have been able to keep clients up-to-date in real time and include them in important discussions.  While this can make cases easier, it also may help to increase client loyalty by helping them feel connected to what’s happening in their case.  Hopefully , this will allow smaller firms that make the most of client portals to better compete with larger firms and improve their ratings in order to grow their business.

Many personal injury law firms have been able to make the most of technological advances in their practice without encountering problems pertaining to security. However, it is important to ensure that the portal service selected has proper security protections in place to safeguard the sensitive information stored in the cloud system.

Farmville Isn’t Hacking

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently released a decision announcing that employees cannot be subject to criminal sanctions under a federal anti-hacking law simply for violating a website’s terms of use or an organization’s computer use policies. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 was ideally passed to help employers and government agencies prosecute those who steal data from their networks, but lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that the Act could also be used to prosecute those who engage in less clearly criminal conduct, such as abusing computer use policies.

In a blow to the government’s case, the Circuit Court ruled that this use of the law was far too broad. Noting that it could encompass employees who engage in activities such as playing the Facebook game Farmville at work or posting incorrect information about themselves on dating websites, the Court determined that too many unsuspecting individuals may be subjected to legal proceedings for their activities.

Do Not Track: Good or Bad News?

With many people worked up about whether or not Do Not Track will affect the freedom of the internet, it may be time for everyone to decide how it will really affect their searches.  The ad industry, understandably, is arguing adamantly against the use of DNT.  They believe that by ridding the internet of personal data collection, the way that tracking-based advertising works will become ineffectual.  This may be somewhat true, but because there are so many other sources of advertising revenue, it is not going to seriously affect online ad sales.

Most browsers have chosen to move in this direction and Google Chrome—the biggest one to hold out—has announced that by the end of the year, they too will have a Do Not Track option for their users.  At this point I think it is better for readers to consider what the impact will be on their personal life rather than getting wrapped up in the potential complications of ad agencies.  At this point, it appears that no one is going to be hit by this act too seriously, but internet users may be able to retain a bit more privacy than they have experienced in previous months.

Tweets Not Private

Hach & Rose, LLPRecently, Twitter decided to hand over deleted tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protestor’s account to a criminal judge in New York. Prosecutors had subpoenaed the social networking giant to receive access to the tweets, but until recently, Twitter had refused to turn them over. However, after months of pressure, Twitter capitulated and gave prosecutors access to the information they sought.

At issue in the case is whether or not an individual’s tweets should be considered private communications. In this case, the protestor’s tweets are alleged to contradict his claim that police led protestors into the street in order to arrest them for obstructing traffic. According to a New York personal injury lawyer, the “social” nature of tweets and similar communications renders them ineligible for privacy protection, as they are intended to be broadcast to a public audience.

Apple vs. Samsung Decision

Nerd Law recently discussed the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit that was ongoing for several weeks.  Now, we have the results.  Late last Friday night, a jury voted in favor of Apple and awarded the company $1,049,343,540 in damages.  Samsung was not awarded any financial compensation by the jury at this time.

The complex case centered mostly around whether or not Samsung products infringed on Apple patents and vice versa.  The lawsuit included the consideration of over 30 different devices, 12 patents, and the jury was asked to make over 700 decisions about the case in order to come to a decision about the infringement issues.

Samsung is expected to appeal this decision, so the case is far from over.  Apple is now engaging in a legal battle with HTC over similar concerns, and it will be interesting to see how this verdict will affect future patent infringement cases.

Phone Phishing?

While many people have heard of phishing in relation to their emails, a recent trend has shown that many scams now include phishing via text message.  This type of fraud, commonly referred to as SMS phishing or Smishing, may be on the rise because cyber criminals have recognized a lack of spam alerts on mobile devices.  PCs typically alert users to incoming messages that appear risky or potentially dangerous, but texts that link to websites may be more successful at getting users to follow the link.

Analysts at Symantec Security Response have commented that this growing trend is dangerous because it spreads malware throughout the device.  In some situations this virus sends personal information to the cyber criminal that could allow them to access a person’s financial accounts or even listen in on phone calls.

It may be a good idea for users to consider purchasing security software for the phones and carefully analyzing suspicious messages from both known and unknown contacts before following links.  By thinking of your cell phone as a computer, it may be possible to minimize the risks of fraud.  By checking with your bank’s policy on texting consumers, deleting suspicious messages, and enabling a text block feature available on many service plans, it is possible to reduce the dangers associated with phone phishing.

SHIELD Act

The issue of patent trolling, or nonpracticing entities (NPEs) who collect technology patents for the sole purpose of suing legitimate companies while they themselves produce nothing, has long been a limiting factor in American software and technology innovation. According to a study released by James Bessen and Michael Meurer at the Boston University School of Law, defendants suffered $29 billion in direct costs from frivolous lawsuits in 2011, and a previous study indicated that troll lawsuits like this ended up costing tech companies $500 billion in legal fees, out of court settlements, awards, and hits to share value between the years of 1990 and 2010.

New proposed legislation is targeted at forcing the trolls back under the bridge however, as two congressmen have introduced the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act which would require patent lawsuit plaintiffs to pay their defendent’s legal fees should they lose the suit. In the majority of patent lawsuits, NPEs target smaller firms with the objective of forcing a settlement for a few hundred thousand dollars. In cases such as this, the SHIELD Act would be an effective deterrent as the NPE would have more to lose than they had to gain in pursuing a lawsuit. Hopes are high for the bill, but similar legislation such as the America Invents Act was dismantled in Congress by the influence of lobbyists, leaving it largely ineffective.

Wi-Fi Privacy

Recent concerns about the privacy of Wi-Fi networks have many Americans wondering how secure their internet traffic is.  Although Congress amended the wiretap law to protect the privacy of everyone who relied on cellular phones rather than only corded telephones, they have not yet included Wi-Fi traffic.  Password protected networks are likely safe from this potential threat, but open-networks may not be legally protected.

The decisive, long-term ruling on this is currently unclear because this type of technology was not considered in previous amendments to the federal wiretap statute.  A class action lawsuit filed against Google ruled that although the networks were not specifically mentioned in the exclusions of the wiretap law, they should be protected even if they are not encrypted.  This case is currently being appealed, so the final outcome may be changed.  Future weeks will likely present further debate on this type of privacy issue.

Apple vs. Samsung

Tech powerhouses Apple and Samsung are facing off in court in order to determine possible patent breaches between their phone and tablet products.  Apple began the legal battle in 2011 when they filed a lawsuit against Samsung for copying the iPhone and iPad models.  Samsung retaliated with a counter-suit and in turn, Apple pushed for similar patent cases in other countries.

But fortunately, a verdict has been reached!  United States District Court Judge Lucy Koh determined that sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 should be postponed until Samsung can prove innocent in the lawsuit.  Should the infringement claims be found invalid, Apple has agreed to compensate Samsung’s potential losses up to $2.6 million.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed by Samsung, so possible changes to the ruling could go into effect in upcoming weeks.  Cases like this can be complicated and often requires the on-going dedication of legal teams, so it may be a while before we hear a final decision regarding the appeals process.

Dangerous Nerd Toys!!?

Millions of wonderfully nerdy products reach consumer shelves annually in the United States.  With so many products available for purchase, it’s critical that electronics manufacturers ensure that these products are safe to buy and use.  Unfortunately, sometimes the importance of safe product release escapes manufacturers, and consumers are injured or become ill from dangerous products.  When this happens, a manufacturer may be held legally responsible for any injuries or illnesses that their products lead to, and may have to pay out compensation to victims.

Any products have the potential to be dangerous, if they are not handled, packaged, or distributed correctly, but some products are implicated in product liability cases more often than others.  Some of the industries that tend to be involved in more product liability lawsuits include:

  • Child care and toy industries
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Packaging industries
  • Tool and machinery industries

These industries are used by millions of Americans, and it’s critical that their products are not dangerous for consumer purchase and use.  Unfortunately, sometimes their products are released with some kind of defect or flaw, which increase the chances of an unsuspecting consumer to be injured.  Fortunately, a victim of an unsafe product may have the legal ability to hold a manufacturer financially responsible for an unsafe product. If you’re interested, this Urbana personal injury lawyer recently made some good recommendations about the defective products.  In case you’re wondering, Urbana is somewhere in Illinois.

Americans With Disabilities Act

A ruling last week in the case National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. Netflix, Inc. took the unprecedented stance that websites are obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by ruling in favor of the NAD regarding their assertion that Netflix should be required to close-caption its online video library. The key issue in the ruling is the assertion that a website qualifies as a “place of public accommodation” and as such is subject to the ADA just as a brick and mortar shop is required to provide accessibility options such as ramps and handicapped accessible restrooms.

Many lawyers believe that this interpretation of the law could open up a variety of new opportunities for holding companies accountable for discriminatory actions. With this ruling as precedent, plaintiffs could sue websites for failure to make any online property accessible to disabled individuals, requiring significant changes to many websites and other online entities which are currently used by millions of Americans daily but are inaccessible to blind or deaf individuals.

Unfortunately there are many instances where citizens go against the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a person ever experiences this sort of unfair treatment, either in the workplace, or through another service industry, employment and some injury lawyers may be able to take your case.

Dating Just Became A Criminal Offense

State lawmakers in Rhode Island finally realized that having a law on the books that made lying in any form on the internet a crime might not be such a great idea, as the letter of the law made virtually every citizen of the state a criminal. The obscure 1989 law made the “transmission of false data” online a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $500 and even up to a year in prison.

The purpose of the law was to stop fraud, scammers, and con artists, but the law never stipulates that the untrue information must be transmitted with the intent to harm or gain personal profit. The unfortunate result of such a broad law on the books was that listing your build as “athletic” on your dating profile, messaging your spouse that you were “working late” when you were in fact at happy hour with your buddies, or pretending you’ve actually read Dickens on your Facebook profile made you guilty of a misdemeanor in the state.

The repeal is step forward in protecting individual rights and interests on the internet, but it is still possible to be wrongly convicted of internet crimes throughout the country. An attorney may be able to help if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being prosecuted for an internet crime you did not commit.

HIPAA Personal Injury Issues In Southern California

The status of patient information in the healthcare system has evolved rapidly over the last 25 years as new technologies have been created and subsequently applied to the healthcare industry, and a recent brief released by the Consumers Union states that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) do not do enough to address the issue of security and privacy in patient health data.

With the development of extensive marketing techniques targeting potential customers on the basis of any personal information that the marketing engine can get a hold of, HIPAA and CMIA are no longer sufficient to safegaurd the information which should always remain private outside of the healthcare system in which information exchange is freed up in order to facilitate the treatment process. The vast number of companies who now interact in the healthcare system is a large part of the problem, as HIPAA guidelines focus only on the insurer and the healthcare provider, leaving technology companies which provide many of the new means of data transmission to avoid responsibility for security and privacy breaches which they might otherwise prevent.

Many a personal injury lawyer are concerned that their patient’s information is being put in an unsecure position with the proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and various other devices on the market which can easily be breached and used for unintended or even malicious purposes.

Patent Trolls

Non-practicing entities (NPEs) are what we all recognize as patent trolls: individuals and firms who own patent rights to technologies for the sole purpose of suing people with the audacity to actually put said technology to use in innovative ways. These firms do not use the tech which they hold the rights to in any way, but instead rely on the patent rights to generate income by trapping legitimate companies in lengthy and costly lawsuits which siphon resources away from research and development efforts.

In recent years, the litigation costs associated with these types of lawsuits has absolutely skyrocketed, rising from $6.7 billion in 2005 to more than $29.2 billion in 2011. That figure doesn’t even take into account the indirect costs associated with defending against frivolous litigation such as resource diversion, new product delays, and significant losses in market share sustained during the litigation process.

Small businesses are among the most negatively affected by NPE litigation, as they are frequently forced to settle out of court in so-called “nuisance suits” for a few hundred thousand dollars. Small potatoes to bigger tech companies, but these kinds of suits can be absolutely devastating to the viability of a small business. The assistance of a personal injury lawyer can help protect your business against frivolous lawsuits, as a skilled attorney may be able to have baseless claims against your company dismissed.