Archive for News

Repeated violations by Happy Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation

Happy Valley LLC, which operates out of Malvern Arkansas under the provider name Happy Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation, has repeatedly mishandled sexual harassment complaints brought forward by its female employees. Federal officials at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the company in which it alleged that Happy Valley violated federal law by firing victims that came forward with claims of sexual harassment.

Based on the details outlined in the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, employees within the Happy Valley organization were aware of the culture of victim blame and punishment, in which those who were sexually harassed and came forward were terminated, with no action taken against their accused.

These sexual allegations within the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which considers sexual harassment a form of sexual discrimination. Happy Valley further broke anti-discrimination laws which prohibit retaliation against individuals reporting discrimination, or opposing company actions they believe discriminates against individuals.

The Lawsuit further states that the company had knowledge of the harassment of its female employees for a number of years, receiving reports back in May of 2016 and as recent as May of 2018. Authorities within the company, upon receiving reports, would continuously promise the victimized women that the issue would be addressed, but failed to ever do so. This inaction by management created a predatory environment in which other harassment went unchecked, with subsequent victims fearing to come forward.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the laws against discrimination and violations of employee rights, such as those committed at Happy Valley. The agency first took action to address these violations and find a resolution by trying to utilize its conciliation process to reach a pre-litigation settlement. After this proved to be unfruitful, the EEOC went on to file suit against Happy Valley in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas Hot Springs Division, Civil Action No. 6:18-cv-06089. The suit comes with an injunction against future discrimination and violations and seeks monetary relief for the victims.

From DC to Hollywood to companies across the country, sexual harassment and discrimination violations are being dragged into the light and are being further highlighted on social media through movements such as the #metoo campaign. Victims are now finding it much easier to come forward with this social support, and the EEOC is doing a good job at combating the violations reported to them.

EEOC v. Safeway, Inc. – Lawsuit for Disability Discrimination During Hiring Process

In a lawsuit filed against Safeway, Inc. today, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims that the grocery chain store acted contrary to federal law. EEOC accuses Safeway of refusing to assist and employ a competent deaf applicant for a number of store jobs in Seattle, Washington.

According to the commission, Joel Silbert made an online application in July 2017. Through the application, he sought food, courtesy, produce and Starbucks clerk jobs at a Safeway store located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Silbert was shortlisted for an interview based on his qualifications and experience working similar jobs. Things took a different turn when Silbert revealed that he would need an interpreter for the interview since he was deaf. The in-store hiring recruiter responded to this, saying that she had no idea about providing interpreters. The recruiter declined Silbert’s offer when he provided names and contact details of some interpreters that Safeway could engage for purposes of the interview, saying that she would respond to him. EEOC says that since Silbert did not hear from them, he decided to place several calls to the store over the following week. He was either placed on hold or told that nobody was available.

The act of turning down a qualified applicant based on disability runs contrary to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Before filing suit in US District Court for the Western District of Washington the EEOC had tried to use their conciliation process to negotiate a pre-litigation settlement. Apart from monetary damages for Silbert, the EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including but not limited to training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the workplace and compliance reporting.

Nancy Sienko, EEOC Seattle Field Director, said that it is important to ensure that fears and stereotypes do not hamper objectivity while evaluating an individual’s potential at the workplace during the hiring process.

Sienko pointed out that in its 2017 – 2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), the Commission had identified six national priorities. Among these priorities was the elimination of barriers in hiring, particularly hiring practices that discriminate against people living with disabilities.

Teri Healy, the Senior Trial Attorney for EEOC, made it clear that this particular applicant not only had the requisite qualifications but was also worthy of being considered for a job at the grocery store. He went on to note that the supervisors he previously worked under were satisfied with his performance and that customers were fond of him. Healy argued that were it not for the disability discrimination that frustrated his efforts to get hired, there was no reason why he would not have done equally well at Safeway.

Claims of Sexual Molestation of Children by Catholic Clergy

There is a recent case in Pennsylvania where a Catholic clergy is accused of sexual abuse. This has led to prosecution from three individuals seeking justice for the affected victims. The lawsuit was filed at the court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County, with the hope of getting justice and also protecting the children who are currently attending Catholic schools. The plaintiffs hope that the jury will compel the Catholic diocese to release the names of those who committed these heinous acts.

The lead plaintiff Ryan O’Connor, who was sexually abused at a young age, has two children enrolled in a Catholic school. According to him, the healing process of sexual abuse survivors is excruciating especially if done by religious leaders. At a point, one may be forced to choose between their recovery and religion. O’Connor says that the main aim of filing the lawsuit is to ensure that the children currently attending Catholic schools don’t have to face similar ordeals as their parents did.

The plaintiff claims that until the church agrees to reveal the names of these sexual predators, their children are still not safe. It will continue being treated as a Church cover-up until it owns up to its mistakes and allows the offenders to face the law. Each diocese is to release the names of all their suspected sexual predators and satisfactorily convince the court that they have done so.

Six Catholic dioceses are targeted in this lawsuit which includes Allentown, Greensburg, Pittsburg, Scranton, Erie, and Harrisburg. According to the grand jury in charge of the investigation, the church has continually protected the priest who faces accusations of sexual abuse of children. These dioceses are accused of failing to report priests who molest children, only 10 out of the 301 accused priest are currently listed in Pennsylvania’s Megan Law Database. Notably, the Pennsylvania mandatory reporting law requires every clergy who is aware of child abuse to report to a law enforcement agency.

According to Hancock, it is shameful that the church has lost its values and common sense no longer prevails. Worse still, it is disgraceful to learn that the respected Catholic Church can go to the extent of controlling the information that reaches the public. People deserve to know what happens to their children and the church should not withhold such information.

Jail Officials’ Negligence Leads to Death of a Woman in A Nevada County Jail

Three days after she was arrested and jailed for driving with a suspended license and unpaid tickets, Kelly Coltrain died in her jail cell. According to the family of the deceased woman, before her death, Kelly Coltrain pleaded with the guards to be taken to the doctor but her pleas fell on deaf ears. She was struggling with drug addiction and had a history of seizures, a condition she revealed to the guards at the Mineral County Jail moments after she was arrested.

 

At one point she asked to be taken to a doctor but the guard told her that she wouldn’t be taken to the doctor just to get her ‘fix.’ According to Terri Keyser-Cooper, the family attorney, Kelly Coltrain suffered painful withdrawals hours before her death, and the guards didn’t do anything to help her. According to the lawyer, there’s hospital right across the street, it could have taken the guards about two minutes to get her to a doctor and yet they just left her to die.

 

Deliberate Indifference

 

CCTV footage shows the 27-year old throwing up and convulsing in her jail cell the day she succumbed to the effects of withdrawal. The disturbing footage even captured a guard ordering her to mop up her own vomit in her agonizing final hours. She appears to pass on about an hour later, which was around half past six in the evening. A guard checked on her at around midnight and found her cold and unresponsive. Her body was removed from the cell at around 5:30 am, about 11 hours after she died.

 

According to Keyser-Cooper, the attorney, Coltrain’s death was as a result of deliberate indifference to a serious medical needs on the part of the Mineral County Jail. Last week, the Coltrain family (through their lawyer) filed a federal lawsuit against the jail officials. In the lawsuit, the family accuses the officials of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on Kelly Coltrain and violating her rights. The guards captured in the CCTV footage have since been dismissed by the county jail.

 

Wrongful Death lawsuit of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn settled out of court

A 2016 Wrongful Death lawsuit concerning Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has reached a settlement this week.

Gwynn’s family filed a Wrongful Death lawsuit after years of chewing tobacco led him to develop salivary gland cancer. He died in 2014 at age 54 as a result.

Gwynn’s smokeless tobacco addiction began about ten years prior to when health warnings about smokeless tobacco were required to appear on all products. by then, he was “hopelessly addicted” and continued using it for over 30 years. Smokeless tobacco was historically a staple in baseball, with its use on the field only forbidden for players who make their debut in 2016 and onward. The process of eliminating it from the sport is still ongoing.

Two years after the filing of the Wrongful Death suit by Gwynn’s family, they and the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company have reached a settlement over Gwynn’s death.

Originally, Gwynn’s family sued for an amount meant to cover funeral costs, inheritance and loss of financial support. Though the settlement was handled privately, it was said to have been to the satisfaction of both parties involved.

Though the settlement amount remains undisclosed and the terms of the deal are to remain confidential, a similar case in 2010 resulted in the company agreeing to pay $5 million to the family of a deceased North Carolina man who died battling mouth cancer. It’s expected that this lawsuit was settled for a similar dollar amount

Settling the lawsuit instead of taking it to court benefits both parties in the long run. The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company eliminates the negative press that comes with a lawsuit, while Gwynn’s family can avoid the years of litigation sure to follow. The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, having more resources than the Gwynn’s, would be able to extend the court case for a significant period of time should the have made it into the courtroom. The company also would have struggled, as San Diego holds much love for Gwynn, and winning a court case there would have proven to be a challenge.

The original case was set to have a trial date in Sept. 2019.

 

Was This Theme Park Liable for an Incident Involving a Teenage Girl Injured on a Ride?

A Theme Park owner in Joliet, Illinois is being sued by a riding passenger who was allegedly injured on one of the park’s haunted teacup rides.

Theme park liability can seem like murky legal territory. Indeed, there are many different state statutes and legal jurisdictions as well as federal regulation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to SafeParks, who holds a database of states and agencies.

Frank Sikora is the owner of the Haunted Trails Theme Park in Joliet. The business was passed down by his father. He disputes the claim that his park and the rides within them were responsible for a teenage girl’s injuries, which were sustained while participating in riding them. The girl, according to local media, was ejected from the Bone Shaker ride in the Haunted Trails theme park.

The passenger was Ashley Brouk, of Farmington, Missouri. At the time of the incident, she was 14 years old. A lawsuit filed against Haunted Trails claims that there are no warning signs for the speed of the ride’s cars and no restraint systems. The girl was reportedly hit by another teacup car once ejected from the one she was riding. The lawsuit alleges that the ride’s operator refused to stop the Bone Shaker ride while the situation was taking place. John Kolb is Brouk’s attorney in the case. According to Brouk’s attorney, John Kolb, the girl suffered a variety of ailments including scars on her head on two sides, memory loss, head injury, and migraines.

Residents and the park’s owner agree that the Bone Shaker is wildly popular. It consists of several teacup cars adorned with Skulls, bones, and skeletons. There is a ghost in the center of the ride for decoration. Signs posted, according to reports, read “Ride at your own risk” or require small children younger than 5 years old to be with an adult. Sikora said the ride is safe and many children have ridden the ride over the years and never been injured. He also argued that Brouk was standing up on the ride and told to sit down by an operator. Sikora also said Brouk’s uncle, with her on the ride, said he was at fault for the incident. Sikora also said his insurance company investigated and found the park had no liability.

Kolb argues that an insurance company has a financial interest in the avoidance of liability in the matter, so they are not properly fit to make such a judgment the way a jury could. However, Sikora said there is a witness that saw Brouk standing up and told to sit. Once ejected, Brouk’s stepfather claims he told the operator to stop the ride and the operator refused.

In this case, the facts amount to one or even both party’s honesty about really happened. Did the ride operator refuse to stop the ride? Could he stop the ride and stop it safely? Was Brouk standing and were posted signs at the park sufficient for patrons of the rides to understand appropriate conduct on the ride? Was safety a priority at the park and were safety guidelines clear enough for the average rider to interpret? Kolb said Brouk seeks in excess of $50,000 plus court costs and attorney fees.

 

The Tucson Pollution

After pollution was discovered in Tucson, immediate shut down of the wells was done. There were toxic chemical compounds found in dangerous concentrations of water in wells at the north of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The two compounds that were discovered in the well were PFOS and PFOA. These compounds are commonly used in the manufacture of carpets, stain resistant fabrics for furniture, clothing, and as part of a firefighting foam at Air Force Base. The two wells that were contaminated near Davis-Monthan were used for a short period, during the hottest time of the year which was around one to two months, and the other one was used as a spare well to pump water for 20 to 40 minutes after several months.

According to records, D-M used the firefighting form compound for four decades. These compounds are said to be linked with the study to form kidney and testicular cancer, and reproductive and developmental problems. The Air Force replaced these compounds with Aqueous Film Forming Foam, which is an environmentally friendly substance. It is the most efficient method of extinguishing petroleum fires. Since the pollution was discovered in 2016, it registered a rise in 2017 which raised a lot of concerns to the officials.

These issues lead to the Tucson council taking legal actions against chemical giants 3M and other companies that manufacture PFOS and PFOA. Drastic times call for drastic measures. According to councilman Kozachik, 3M knew about the health risks that the particular compound could cause. The purpose of taking legal action was to make the companies pay for the construction of a regional water treatment plan to remove the toxic chemicals and new wells to offset the city’s capacity to produce clean edible water. Tucson medical center was the first medical institution in Arizona to sue large distributors and pharmaceutical companies in the United States of America.

These wells have not been used for quite some time, and most were failing before they were even shut down. The city water council hope that they will get a clear picture on how far the contamination has spread; this will help them determine when the problem will be solved.

 

Family of Off-Road Racer Sues Race Track for Wrongful Death of Race Driver

A Florida family is suing Score International for the 2016 wrongful death of Mark Luthala in an off-road race driving death that happened in the Score Baja 1000 race, an off-road motorsports race that takes place annually in Mexico on the Baja California Peninsula.

While racing in the event, Luthala was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle while pulling into his pit stop at mile 598 of the 854-mile race track. He was crushed in the car and suffered extensive blood loss and injury to his legs, remaining trapped for several hours after the collision. Though the majority of the racetrack was uni-directional, mile 598 was deemed impassable by racetrack officials prior to the start of the event, and they relegated the stretch of track as bi-directional, making use of left-side pit stops for drivers.

The accident required Luthala to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he received a partial leg amputation to treat his injuries. Luthala died four days later after a heart attack brought on by complications from the amputation.

Luthala’s surviving family has filed a Wrongful Death complaint in Washoe County state court, alleging that the section of the course where Luthala died was not adequately marked as being bi-directional and required dangerous left-side pit stops that ultimately lead to Luthala’s death. Additionally, the complaint continues, Luthala did not receive medical treatment for over six hours after the crash, remaining trapped in his car where he bled out and suffered severe strain to his body. The delayed medical treatment is suspected to have played a role in Luthala’s death.

The named defendants in the case are Score International and Promote Mexico LLC, the parent company of Score International in Mexico. Wife Holly Luthala is being represented by attorneys Peter Mazzeo and Craig Goldenfarb of Reno and West Palm Beach.

Luthala was an airplane mechanic and pilot, said to have enjoyed airplane refurbishment and racing in his free time. He is survived by his wife, Holly Luthala, and their two children.

 

Drunk driving civil law suit against two Jefferson city bars

If you have been a victim of alcohol-related crashes and collisions, you probably understand civil cases that involve car accidents which are governed by the laws of negligence. Civil car accidents cases, unlike criminal cases, can be filed at any time within the act of restrictions by the person that was injured.

In the case of such a civil suit, the family of a New Haven man who was killed in a two-vehicle wreck in August 2016 in Moniteau County filed a civil suit asking for damages where Two Jefferson City bars were named. The suit filed by James Lovelace, the father of the victim in the crash, Graden Lovelace included both The Mission and spectators located on East High Street. According to Missouri Highway Patrol reports, Joshua F. Blankenship of Sedalia who was driving westbound east of the business 50 West junction crossed the center line and hit Lovelace head on.
Both cars caught fire after impact and unfortunately, Lovelace was pronounced dead at the scene while Blankenship was taken to the University Hospital with severe injuries. Blankenship was later charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in linking to the crash with the case scheduled for hearing in December in Morgan County.

In addition, Blankenship was also named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in February in Moniteau County by Lovelace’s family where they asked the court to approve a settlement of $100,000 which the court has yet to make a ruling.

Serving alcohol to Blankenship who was already visibly intoxicated as earlier claimed by the lawsuit was the reason why the suit was filed against the bars. In the lawsuit, it is also claimed that Blankenship became visibly intoxicated and inebriated to an extent where it caused him visual impairment by and significantly uncoordinated physical action or substantial physical dysfunction. The suit further states the actions to serve Blankenship bars showed a complete indifference or conscious disregard for the safety of Lovelace and others, justifying an award of punitive damages which total to serve punishment to the bars and deter them and other establishments from such conducts in future.
An excess of $25,000 in punitive damages was charged for each bar.

To date, The Mission has not been served with the claim whilst Mr. Lovelace asking for answers and choosing to inquire through legal action.

Judge Kimball Dismisses Claims Based on The Statute of Limitations

In a lawsuit where a Colorado woman had claimed that she was raped while working as a missionary 34 years ago, a federal judge threw out all but one claim. The woman had sued LDS Church and a former president of the Missionary Training Center at the church, whom she accused of raping her.

According to US District Judge Dale Kimball, the fraud, sexual assault, and emotional distress charges that McKenna Denson brought against Joseph Bishop had expired under the statute of limitations in Utah. Kimball, on the same grounds, dismissed claims of sexual assault and emotional distress against the charge. He also refused to issue an injunction that would force the church to review its policies on sexual assault and abuse.

The judge further found that the statute of limitations on Denson’s claims that the church had hidden Bishop’s behavior only began in December 2017, when she confronted him. Denson had reported the case to Elder Carlos E. Asay, who had been an authority at the church from 1976 until he died in 1999.

Although Asay had assured Denson that he would investigate the matter and get back to her, he never did. This means that, despite her efforts, she never proved that the church knew that Bishop was a sexual predator.

Craig Vernon, Denson’s attorney, expressed his disappointment at the case being dismissed on the grounds of the statute of limitations. However, he said he respects the decision and looked forward to the next phase where fraud claims against the church will continue.

On his part, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins pointed out that judge Kimball had terminated three of the four claims made against the church. He said that the claim had remained to give room for further investigations, saying that they had faith in the legal system and were out to find the truth since the church does not tolerate abuse.

Although Bishop has denied the accusations, Denson, 55, alleges that Bishop, of Arizona, raped her in 1984 while she was a missionary. She sued both Bishop and the Church for sexual assault, battery, fraud, infliction of emotional stress and fraudulent concealment.

According to the lawsuit, Denson had reported the incident to various LDS leaders at least 10 times. When she did not learn of any effort to conduct investigations, she posed as a reporter, getting Bishop to reveal his sexual history and addiction. This taped conversation was later made public through a website.

Both the accused parties asked Denson to drop the charges since the statute of limitation on some of them had expired in 1985 and 1988, after the alleged rape.

David Jordan, the church attorney, and Andrew Deiss, Bishop’s attorney both argued that after the alleged rape, Denson had known that Bishop was not “honorable, safe, trustworthy or a godly man”. Deiss said that the rights of the accused have to be protected despite the statute of limitations appearing to be harsh. He said Bishop, 85, was now old and the main witness in the case was dead. He went on to say that documents were not available and memories change or fade over time.

Vernon, however, argued that both Bishop and Denson were alive, and so was Elder Robert E. Wells, an authority of the church to whom he claimed Bishop had confessed his sexual behavior in 1977.