$58M Judgment for NYC Chemistry Class Injuries

A jury in New York awarded $58 million to a former student injured by a dangerous chemistry class experiment in January 2014.

The New York City Dept. of Education and the Board of Education are defendants ordered to pay the sum. The city education department and board intend to appeal the judgment amount to levels more commonly awarded in similar cases.

Alonzo Yanes was a sophomore at New York’s Beacon High School when he attempted an experiment called the “rainbow demonstration.” The experiment involves combusting various chemicals and salt, which let off multi-colored smoke.

Instead of creating smoke, the experiment caused an explosion and fire. The mishap caused chemical burns to Yanes’ upper torso, neck and face. Yanes still receives autografts for his injuries and said he continues to endure pain and suffering. Yanes argued the city education department and board did not alert the school and its teachers about potential dangers involving the rainbow experiment. That caused Yanes to unknowingly face a high-risk of suffering injury, and he said the resulting explosion ensured his injuries would be severe and produce enduring pain.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in December 2013 warned about dangers involving the rainbow demonstration. At the time, the experiment was relatively common in high school chemistry classes. It uses a flammable solvent to create combustion and colorful smoke. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, though, warned the demonstration was “high-risk” when carried out on an open bench.

Yanes said his high school chemistry teacher completely controlled the demonstration and was responsible for his and other students’ safety. He now is disfigured and has permanent scarring.

Shortly after Yanes’ mishap, the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical safety recommended schools stop using the experiment. New York City schools no longer use the demonstration.

A jury awarded Yanes $29 million for pain and suffering. It also awarded $29 million to pay for future rehabilitation. That money will pay for plastic surgery, but Yanes said he suffered life-changing injuries and endures ongoing pain.

The New York City Dept. of Education and the Board of Education intend to seek a reduction in damage amounts. They say they want the amount reduced to those paid in judgments for similar accidents.

The Case Against Roundup – Now with Lighter Consequences

Bayer AG, the company behind the popular weed control product Roundup, has made top headlines throughout the news this week with their poor management practices and shocking number of personal injury lawsuits.

As of 2019, Bayer was found to knowingly include the controversial active ingredient glyphosate, an agricultural chemical that some health officials find harbor known carcinogenic properties. The Roundup product has undergone continuous production since the 1970s, holding its place as one of the most popular weed control products on the market. A study done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 found that the active chemical glyphosate was indeed a cancerous product, but this didn’t stop the new owners of the Monsanto Corporation from marketing their product in stores across the country. After thousands of personal injury cases surfaced citing Roundup as the cause for their disease, Bayer faced nearly $75 million in punitive damages.

This all changed on June 29 when San Franciscan District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that the $75 million verdict was not legal due to previous case precedents. Punitive damages, which chastise willful, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent, or reckless behavior, must not be more than four times larger than listed compensatory damages. Reduced by Judge Chhabria to $20 million, this significant update has cut Bayer’s award amount by more than 69%.

The Judge still had scathing words for the agricultural giant, writing in a statement that trial evidence had proven Bayer’s marketing of Roundup “was indeed reprehensible.” To him, the agricultural control company seemed to almost be “focused on attacking or undermining the people who raised concerns, to the exclusion of being an objective arbiter of Roundup’s safety.” Bayer AG declined to comment on the accusation, instead welcoming the lowered award amount and assuring stakeholders that all would be well.

Even after the barrage of allegations and legal ramifications, the German-owned company has continuously assured the public that their popular weed killer is safe for use. Losing three trials in California based courts as of last year, the company is more desperate than ever to restore their image and smooth over dropping stock shares. Only time will tell how much damage both Bayer and its victims will suffer.

Woman Charged $185,000 to Fight Her Sexual Harassment Case

Karen Ward was sexual harassed by her boss and then later faced retaliation when she spoke up. Ward, a former Ernst & Young employee, was then later fired. Ward is now fighting back but the case is costing her a surprising amount of money in order to bring the case to court.

So far she has paid $185,000 to have judges hear the discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against her former employer. This firm makes billions of dollars in revenue yearly, according to the complaint Ward filed in federal court. In the court filing, Ward asks about how many victims can afford to pay this much money in order to have their claims heard.

The costs have added up because her case is in arbitration, which means it’s in a private court and not a part of the public justice system. These cases are heard by retired lawyers or judges who will bill the parties as much as $1,000 an hour to hear the cases. A panel of three different arbitrators is hearing Ward’s specific case. The reason she has to go through with arbitration is because her employment contract contained a forced arbitration clause. Many companies include this to prevent allegations from any former employees from going public. If she were able to file the harassment claims publicly in the state of New York, where the company is based, the costs would only be about $450.

Ward is arguing that the high costs of arbitration mean the employment agreement is unenforceable and she wants the right to take the suit to open court. The fight against the high fees isn’t just about her. She is able to pay these fees with her savings but believes that discrimination and retaliation are wrong and shouldn’t be ignored. Lawyers say the company knows that these high fees can cause other women to never bring these claims. If Ward is able to get her case before a jury, she could win millions.

This case helps to shine a light on arbitration, which is a process that will usually advantage larger employers over the workers. Companies have a lot of advantages in arbitration since it discourages employees from filing a case and it’s usually private. If an employee does win, the payouts are usually much lower than in a public case.

Amazon Ignored Hoverboard Fires

A Nashville family is suing Amazon.com. Inc after they say a hoverboard caught on fire and destroyed their $1 million home – and Amazon knew about the fire hazard.

Stacey Barchenger at Knox News first reported on the story.

Steve Anderson, from the law firm Anderson & Reynolds, said that the Fox family “…contends that Amazon and its various subsidiaries had information about the danger of this product well in advance [of the fire], and on top of that, they had notice, they should have known the product was being misrepresented on their website.”

The Fox family is a family of six. The father, Brian Fox, had to rescue two of his children from the burning home, according to fire officials quoted in the lawsuit.

Almost every single possession of the family was destroyed in a matter of minutes due to the blaze.

The family is alleging that they were sold a counterfeit hoverboard from China, not the hoverboards with Samsung lithium-ion batteries they were under the impression they were purchasing from Amazon.

Hoverboards are similar to skateboards, but are powered by a battery pack. The listing claimed the hoverboards had Samsung batteries, but were actually powered by counterfeit batteries from China.

In Tennessee, product liability laws state that the seller is responsible for damages if the manufacturer of the product cannot be found. The hoverboard in question was listed online to an organization that is registered to a New York City apartment. No one at the residence has responded to lawyers’ requests.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon knew the hoverboards were exploding. Amazon quietly stopped the sale of the hoverboards after an investigation showed proof of the potential for the boards to catch on fire.

The online shopping behemoth did not warn 250,000 buyers of the products that the hoverboards posed a fire hazard – instead, the shopping retailer sent out a mass email that vaguely reported that there were “news reports of safety issues” with products containing a similar lithium-ion battery.

The lawsuit from the Fox family is seeking $30 million in damages, as well as additional penalties against Amazon. The family is looking to recoup the loss of their home, personal possessions, and to be compensated for the emotional distress and physical injuries they have sustained.

photo courtesy of Nashville Fire Dept.

Johnson & Johnson Optimistic Despite Facing Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson, one of the most-trusted names in baby care, is facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-based baby powder of the same name caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma. However, the company’s problems do not end there, as a separate lawsuit states that Johnson & Johnson helped fuel the State of Oklahoma’s opioid crisis.

More than 14,000 lawsuits have been filed regarding the company’s talc-based baby powder of the same name. Subpoenas from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have also been filed. However, Johnson & Johnson Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk remains optimistic. On a phone call discussing the company’s earnings he told analysts that the talc-based powder is “safe” and the company acted “responsibly.”

“We’ll continue to pursue the defense of the company’s actions, as well as the product going forward,” he said.

Beginning July 22, a federal judge will evaluate expert witnesses from both Johnson & Johnson and the plaintiffs. US District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton, New Jersey will review studies and other evidence legal teams plan on submitting to decide what juries will hear. This process will help to ensure that expert witness testimonies are based on sound science.

Johnson & Johnson says it is challenging plaintiffs’ witnesses scientific principles, arguing that it cannot be proven that its baby powder causes cancer. It wants all 22 witnesses dismissed, along with all cases. The federal judge review could provide Johnson & Johnson with a possible way out of more than three-quarters of all outstanding baby powder suits, should she throw out expert witnesses or studies provided by the plaintiffs.

Previous concluded trials have had mixed results for Johnson & Johnson. Last year, a Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.6 billion to 22 women who alleged the company’s talc-based baby powders contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

In a separate lawsuit, the State of Oklahoma is suing Johnson & Johnson for allegedly fueling the state’s opioid crisis. Oklahoma is accusing Johnson & Johnson of acting as the “kingpin” because it sold painkillers and grew and imported raw materials that other opioid manufacturers used.

In response to the lawsuit, Wolk said, “We agree that there’s an epidemic with opiate addiction. However, it’s going to be multiple factorial in terms of the solution set and it’s going to require many sophisticated parties to make sure that we’ve got the right remedies in place for people who suffer from that.”

Supreme Court Rules That Tough Gun Law Is Unconstitutionally Vague

The Supreme Court ruled in June that a law that would require more prison time for criminals using a gun during a violent crime is unconstitutionally vague. The law in the case was written too vaguely and since it was vague, it violated the guarantee of due process provided by the U.S. Constitution.

Congress passed the most recent version of this law in 1986 and it gave additional penalties for those who committed certain violent crimes while possessing a firearm.

With this ruling, the court nullified the convictions of two different men prosecuted in the state of Texas with charges for their roles in a number of gas station robberies in the state in 2014. Maurice Davis and Andrew Glover, the two defendants, were convicted of multiple robbery charges, two counts of brandishing a shotgun during a violent crime, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. Davis was sentenced to 41 years originally and Glover was sentenced to 50 years. Both are now likely to have shorter sentences but the decision doesn’t affect other convictions.

The Supreme Court was divided on the issue, including President Trump’s two nominees. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the majority with the four liberal justices and helped write the decision. The other Trump appointee, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, had a dissent for the court’s conservatives.

The Justice Department said that if the law was struck down then the courts will be inundated with collateral review petitions by some of the most dangerous prisoners in the federal prison system. It can also frustrate efforts to prosecute any future and current violent criminals. Kavanaugh also touched on this argument in his dissent, in which he labeled this ruling “an extraordinary event.” Part of what he said was that the decision of the court makes it harder to prosecute any violent gun crimes. It also means that inmates who have committed these types of crimes will have earlier release dates.

Gorsuch wrote that laws passed by Congress need to give ordinary people notice of the kind of conduct that can land them in prison. He said that a vague law isn’t a law at all. He added that Congress could pass a law that is more specific to address the issue.

Solo Hacker Orchestrates Large Scale Data Breach – Capital One Faces Class Action Lawsuit

Considering Capital One’s ranking as one of the five largest credit card issuers in the U.S., a data breach potentially compromising the information of 106 million customers (roughly 100 million U.S. and 6 million Canadian) is cause for alarm. The fact that it was orchestrated by a solo hacker in Seattle, Paige Thompson, (a former Amazon Web Services employee) is even more disconcerting given the scope of the breach. Thompson could not resist bragging online about her grandiose feat which led to her arrest; she is currently facing fraud charges as well as computer abuse.

Capital One initially revealed the breach’s occurrence on July 19, 2019. The company’s chairman and chief executive, Richard D. Fairbank, issued the following statement: “ I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right.” The potential cost of this investigation (an estimated amount between $100-$150 million) coupled with the myriad of class action lawsuits will undoubtedly gouge profits from this lucrative company.

In fact, a Capital One customer named Kevin Zosiak of Stamford, CT, filed a class action lawsuit in Washington D.C. almost immediately after the announcement of the data breach. According to Bloomberg LP, Zosiak’s exasperation with Capital One stems from its negligence to protect its customers despite “ample warnings and risks to its systems” through multiple breaches in the past.

The exorbitant cost of this data breach may seem outrageous because the information had allegedly not been distributed yet; however, the damage that may be inflicted on Capital One customers is that it leaves them vulnerable to criminals applying for credit using their personal data. In addition to having access to full names, phone numbers, self-reported income and other sensitive information, criminals could feasibly have access to 140,000 social security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers. This form of identity theft would wreak havoc on customers, harming their credit and causing, at the very least, a major inconvenience in their daily lives.

Whatever the outcome of the class action lawsuit may be, hopefully the sheer effort involved in rectifying such a crime will make these large companies consider prioritizing the privacy and security of their customers in the future.

Five Ways You Can Prepare For A Personal Injury Lawsuit

Seeking monetary compensation resulting from a personal injury is often the case. If you are involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you are seeking out accountability on the person who caused you harm. Personal injuries can become costly very quickly, so you’ll want to prepare for your case so you’ll be awarded settlement you’re entitled to have. Here are five ways you can get ready for your lawsuit.

Ask Questions To Your Legal Team

Knowledge is power when it comes to your legal proceedings. To begin, make sure you understand the necessary paperwork that needs to be filed to make the process go smoothly. If the defendant offers a settlement, you’ll need to know how you’re going to handle it. Keeping active during the whole process will give you the confidence that you’re on the way for a successful outcome.

Come Prepared With Evidence

If you are making a strong claim against another person, you’ll need to be prepared with as much evidence as possible. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, you’ll need the other driver’s license details and insurance identification. Gather a copy of the police report and your medical reports from the injuries you suffered. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be.

Communicate With Your Attorney

It’s essential to have a clear line of communication with your attorney, so small details aren’t forgotten. If you get injured and you’ve needed to take an extended leave of absence from work, this is something your attorney needs to know. Similarly, it’s always good to make sure all your concerns, questions, and challenges get answered. A personal injury claim can be stressful, but having an attorney you’re comfortable with can make all the difference.

Be Smart With Your Actions

You are claiming that you are hurt, so it’s probably not the best idea to post images online of you engaging in activities that would question your injury. Also, your injury doesn’t have to be disclosed to anyone who might have the ability to compromise your case. Become diligent about removing anything that could dismiss your claim.

Know Your Minimum Settlement

Discuss the lowest amount you’re willing to receive for your injury claim. Remember that going to trial will cost you more money, but you still need enough to handle your injuries or lost compensation from not being able to go to work.

Woman Injured In Prince Philip Crash May Sue

Emma Fairweather, 46, was injured in a recent crash involving the 97-year old Prince Philip’s Land Rover. The vehicle in which she was a passenger crashing into Prince Philip’s vehicle, leaving her with a broken wrist. Doctors say that Fairweather may be forced to miss as much as two months of work, which has reportedly lead her to consider filing a personal injury claim against the Prince.

Complicating matters further is the Royal Family’s alleged lack of concern for Fairweather’s injury. She claims that she was told only to keep quiet, and that she has not received an apology or even a message wishing her well. Fairweather is reportedly distressed at the Royal Family’s conduct in this matter.

The accident was allegedly caused by the Prince’s failure to yield as he entered the A149 from a side road. The incident occurred in Norfolk, just a few miles from the city of King’s Lynn. The Kia in which Fairweather was a passenger was already on the A149 heading south when the Prince’s Land Rover allegedly pulled out directly in front of Fairweather’s vehicle, which could not stop in time. The Kia broadsided the Prince’s Land Rover, sending it tumbling across the A149 and off the road. The Land Rover ended up resting on the driver’s side, and the Prince, who was not seriously hurt in the accident, had to be pulled out through the sunroof by Fairweather’s husband.

Immediately after the crash, the Prince allegedly told a witness that he couldn’t see Fairweather’s vehicle because he was blinded by the sun. Fairweather disputes this, as she says that the accident occurred on an overcast day. Whatever the cause, police and royal aids quickly swarmed the scene. They spirited Prince Philip away and allegedly told Fairweather multiple times to keep quiet about the incident.

The stretch of the A149 where the accident occurred had apparently been considered dangerous for some time by local residents. The speed limit on the stretch of road was lowered to 50 miles per hour in the aftermath of Prince Philip’s crash. The local council are reportedly considering further action to ensure road safety.

Three Ways To Find The Best Personal Attorney For You

If you’ve have had a personal injury, you might require an attorney. Sometimes trying to find a reasonable attorney can seem worse than the actual damage you’ve had. When you get injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve a chance to get back on your feet, which includes receiving a monetary settlement. For many, embarking the legal system alone can be a challenging and confusing task, so they opt out of the help they are justified to receive. Not taking action or going at it alone will set you up for failure, so it’s best to arm yourself with the right individual who will go to battle for you when you need it. Here are three ways to find the best personal attorney.

Get Out And About

If you have nowhere to start, begin by asking other family members and friends. Most of the time, a personal referral can be a great way to go because they’ll give you an honest review of their experiences. It might be challenging to find someone who has been in a similar situation such as yourself, so using networking will benefit. The state of Washington is full of natural beauty, state parks, and activities to do outside. More people out can allow you the opportunity to interact to see if you can gather any information on a reputable lawyer. You’ll be surprised what you can find out with reaching out to others this way.

If you’re still having trouble, think about other people you would encounter throughout your week. Asking your doctor or grocery clerk could prove to point you in the right direction. If you need a lifeline, consider asking another attorney with a different practice. Attorneys often work with each other to receive referrals.

Do Your Homework

Going with the first thing that comes across your face might be the worst thing to do when searching for an excellent attorney. Understandably, you’ll want to resolve your situation as quickly as possible, but having patience is the key. Take the time to pull up their information on the internet to look at their website. Don’t assume that a well-crafted website means excellent service. See how they are ranking on Google in regards to their competitors. Do they have a lot of positive reviews? According to Forbes, about 90% of individuals will look at reviews before considering services with them. If you’ve taken the time to get a recommendation, their website looks professional, and they have a good number of Google reviews, you’ve likely found the right person for the job. You might want to take it a step further to call the office to feel them out. Most of the time, you can get a good feeling within the first few moments of speaking to someone.

It Doesn’t Hurt To Grill Them

We aren’t talking about having them for a cookout, but you should ask many questions to get a better understanding of how they can serve you. Start by asking them how long they’ve been in practice. For your situation, you want someone who has had experience in severe cases. Someone who will battle for you to get the compensation you deserve. Inquire about their team to see if they had experience as well.

Establish a clear line of communication. You’ll want to ask how to contact them at all times, even if you need to call their personal secretary first. One of the most frustrating aspects of your case could be that you have no idea what is going on. Set the parameters from the beginning. If you feel contacting your attorney is going to be a headache, you might want to search elsewhere.

Finally, make sure the attorney who is working with you will handle your case. Try to get a sense of how they will conduct themselves so you can have the best chance to be awarded a settlement.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Certain attorneys mesh well with people and don’t work well with others. When you require a personal injury attorney, it’s crucial to find one that makes you feel comfortable. You shouldn’t feel wrong about interviewing several attorneys until you find the best fit for you. When it’s time to handle something to help yourself out, you need the best person to assist.