An Ex-Trooper Is Ordered to Pay $6 Million for A DUI Death

A Common Pleas Court judge in Bucks County has ordered an ex-trooper to pay over $6million in damages to Robin T. Williams, a 21-year-old woman in Philadelphia who was killed when her car was hit by a truck in 2012. This pickup was driven by a Pennsylvanian trooper who was already off-duty. The ex-trooper later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence.
This ruling was provided on Wednesday by Judge James M. McMaster asking Barry Searfoss to pay a total sum of $6.26 million for compensatory damages, including compensation for punitive damages totaling to $100,000 to Robin T. Williams estate.
The defense attorney who represented Searfoss during the case, Athena Pappas, refused to say if Searfoss would consider appealing this ruling.
The former ex-trooper Searfoss of Coatesville was sentenced to 6-23 months in prison in 2014. The 46-year-old had served 5 months when he was released for good behavior as stated by Raymond Bily Williams’s estate lawyer. Searfoss was off duty when he became intoxicated after attending a charity event on May 18, 2012, at the municipal golf course in Warminster. After a blood test, it was concluded that Searfoss’ blood had 0.08 percent of alcohol content which was twice the set legal limit for driving. The event was held in memory of a woman who was slain by a drunk driver.
On that fateful night, Mr. Searfoss was driving his Toyota pickup truck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s westbound side at Willow Grove. His truck crashed into a Lincoln Town Car’s rear, a car that Williams was driving. The Town Car, which was manufactured in 1997, had suffered an engine failure and Williams was driving it at about 11mph on the left lane. Williams died of burns, smoke inhalation, and blunt-force injuries. Searfoss was driving the truck at 71 mph.
Williams was a college student who offered services as a caregiver in a retirement home in Warminster at the time of her demise. Even though Warminster was also sued, it was removed as the case’s defendant due to an immunity statute.

 

Betty Lozano’s Family receives a $1.9million Settlement from San Bernardino County after Her In-County Death

San Bernardino County recently awarded an Adelanto woman’s family a $1.9million settlement. Betty Lozano died while in the High Desert Detention Centre. She didn’t receive proper health care after experiencing a medical emergency.

Counsels representing Betty’s mother, Maria Stofflet and two young children sued the San Bernardino County Sherriff Department for negligence. Also, they accused the department of denying Betty vital medical attention while in the detention center. The lawyers filed a civil rights case in Riverside, last February.

A federal court agreed on the settlement on March 6 and later dismissed the case. Betty’s family lawyers, Dale Galipo, Sharon Brunner and James Terrell termed Betty’s case as being tragic. James accused the sheriff department of failing to learn from past lawsuits that other people had filed against it. He said that the deputy sheriff had low regard for life hence allowing Betty to die in her cell.

Also, Terrell emphasized the need to reform the department. Christina Montes, Betty’s sister, explained her mixed emotions regarding the settlement. She stated that a person’s life can’t be compared with any amount of money. However, she assured the court that the family would use the settlement to take care of Betty’s children. Christina pledged to push for a transformation on how the sheriff treats people.

She explained how many inmates in various correctional and detention centers need quality healthcare due to their mental health and health complications. Instead, the detention officers ignore their needs. Christina emphasized the need to hold people accountable for the department’s transformation. Moreover, Christina intends to mobilize other people who have lost their loved ones in detention centers.

Betty Lozano, 34, had a bipolar disorder. Police officers arrested her on July 26, 2017, at 4:27 p.m.The sheriff’s deputies thought she had taken drugs. As they were transporting her at the back of their patrol car, Betty fainted. The officers abandoned her in a cell for several hours until her demise that night.

According to the suit, there was a video record at the facility which was vital in confirming Betty’s health condition and its decline after her detention. She passed out at 8:50p.m.the detention officers took her to Victor Global Medical Centre where she died at 11:11 pm.

Sharon thanked the county court for the settlement. She said that although it wouldn’t make up for the loss of Betty, it will support her children. Also, she is eager to witness a transformation in jail policies and how the facilities will implement them. Sharon stated that she still receives numerous complaints from families whose loved ones have died in several San Bernardino County detention centers.

Oakland SRO Lawsuit Settled for $1 Million

In 2015, an investor named Green Group LP purchased a single room occupancy (SRO) building at 524 Eight Street in Oakland’s Chinatown district. SROs are small, one-room rentals where tenants share bathrooms and kitchens as common areas. The rent is generally inexpensive, making SROs a popular option for low-income individuals and families.

The tenants of the Oakland hotel filed a lawsuit in June 2016, claiming that the new owners were attempting to force them to vacate the property by making the building uninhabitable. According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, the owners of the building publicly announced that the building would be renovated to attract higher-income tenants who would be charged higher rents. The suit claims that Green Group LP started renovating the building by demolishing common areas, including kitchens and bathrooms, leaving them unusable for tenants. Some of the renovations lasted for months, with little to no notice for residents. The suit also claims that, though the residents are almost exclusively Chinese, demolition notices were in English and the tenants could not read what the notices said. Residents were also without hot water for long periods of time.

In addition, the residents claim the owners threw out private property, including clothing, children’s toys, Chinese New Year decorations, and other personal items.

The case has been settled for $1 million. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman approved the settlement. The 14 tenants who filed the suit will receive $795,000, while the remaining $205,000 is awarded to the city of Oakland for their legal expenses.

In addition to the settlement, Judge Seligman approved a permanent injunction that requires Green Group LP to provide adequate bathroom facilities for tenants, provide a standard policy for personal belongings within common areas of the building, and notify the city of Oakland in the event of future rent adjustments or evictions.

The city’s attorney, Barbara Parker, stated,“This lawsuit puts unscrupulous property owners on notice that Oakland will hold them accountable for violations of tenants’ rights and will not tolerate owners who make living conditions so miserable that tenants are compelled to move out. Displacing tenants from their homes frequently plunge families into poverty and homelessness and uproots them from the community. Every family that pays rent in Oakland is entitled to decent housing free from harassment and exploitation.”

Oil Companies Move to Squash New York City Lawsuit

In a response to a lawsuit brought by the City of New York, five of the world’s largest oil companies have jointly responded with a request that U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan reject the suit.

New York’s suit, which names BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell as defendants, states that the oil companies are knowingly responsible for climate change and that the damages from emissions include but are not limited to sea level rise, extreme storms, and heat waves.

According to the suit, these ongoing conditions are causing severe economic difficulties and personal suffering. In the complaint, filed January 9, 2018, in New York City, states:

“This lawsuit is based upon the fundamental principle that a corporation that makes a product causing severe harm when used exactly as intended should shoulder the costs of abating that harm. Defendants here produced, marketed, and sold massive quantities of fossil fuels […]despite knowing that the combustion and use of fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases […]”

New York v. BP P.L.C., 18-cv-182, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

The five oil companies named in the suit, three of whom were served on January 30th, counter that a District Court is not an appropriate venue for such a case. In a motion to dismiss, filed on February 5th, the companies jointly state:

“The Complaint puts squarely at issue federal statutory, regulatory, and constitutional issues; aims to upset bedrock federal-state divisions of responsibility; and has profound implications for the global economy, international relations, and America’s national security […] cases asserting nearly identical claims […] have been universally rejected by U.S. courts.”

Ad[d]ressing Common Grounds in Support of Their Motions to Dismiss Case No. 18 Civ. 182 (JFK)

The move to dismiss cites over 50 legal precedents, 23 statutes and 7 regulations which are provided as evidence of legal precedence for the dismissal of such cases.

Similar cases are being brought against oil companies, notably in California. The California case, which was initiated earlier in 2017, has recently been answered with a similar motion to dismiss. This motion will be considered on May 24th.

As per the New York City Case, Judge John F. Keenan will consider arguments in a hearing scheduled for June 13th, 2018.

A Popular Ex-San Jose Cop Gets Fired For Filing a Lawsuit for Sexually Harassed Women

San Jose tech firm was sued recently after one of its security managers, harassed his female colleague. It all started when he talked about his genitalia at a company party. Due to fear of retaliation, his female workmates didn’t report him to the human resource manager despite being uncomfortable with his utterances.

Robert Lobach, a security contractor at the firm and an ex-San Jose policeman, urged the aggrieved employees to file their complaints with the HR. However, they hesitated, a move that prompted Robert to file the complaint on their behalf. According to the lawsuit, the workers gave Robert the green light which eventually got him fired.

Before approaching the Xilinx HR department, Robert personally met with each employee to get explicit details of what transpired in December 2017. Chris Ward, who heads the firm’s security operations, was in attendance.

The court heard that during the celebration, Ward narrated a story concerning a man who intended to cut off his private parts. He further praised his genitalia and declared his intense desire to protect his organs from assailants.

Many women, near Ward at that moment, were contractors from Allied Universal Security Services. The company provides vital services to Xilinx. When Ward noticed that his colleagues were uncomfortable with his utterances, he said he had the right to opine. After all, he was the client.

Xilinx disputed Robert’s claim that he got fired. Through their lawyer, the company said that Allied Services had re-hired him after he filed the complaint. One of its spokespersons said that the firm doesn’t want to harbor harassment of employees at their workplace. Furthermore, the company stated that their Code of Conduct explicitly discourages such behaviors.

The spokesperson claimed that the firm is committed to creating a comfortable workplace for all its workers and contractors. It also takes any violation concerns seriously. Also, Xilinx gives strict punishment to those found culpable of sexual harassment.

At the time the court issued the new lawsuit, #MeToo movement had established a foundation in Silicon Valley. It fights against sexual harassment of women employees in venture capital and tech firms.

A week after the party, Robert approached the firm’s HR and explained female contractors’ concerns. Consequentially, the company fired him the following day. Robert filed his case on Tuesday at the Santa Clara County court where he is asking for unspecified damages.

Roberts’ name might be familiar to most readers of the Mercury News. Back in 2015, while working as Branham high school’s security guard, some assailants stabbed him in the back. He was dispersing individuals drinking alcohol and smoking bang. The knife’s blade hit his spine protecting him from serious injury.

A Split Pa. Court Voids a $35m Damage Award

Two years ago, Allegheny County court gave Eugene Straw’s family a $35m damage award for the death of their six years old son in a fatal road accident. The court found 41 years old, Kirk Fair responsible for the crash.

Recently, a Split Pa. court voided the award and sent the lawsuit to Allegheny court for another trial. The court stated that Senior Judge Paul F. Lutty Jr erroneously freed some defendants like Straw’s father, Thomas, from the suit. Judge Judith Ference summarized the court’s majority opinion.

The accident occurred after the Straw’s family vehicle’s hood opened while cruising in Allegheny County on Route 28. Upon noticing, Thomas Straw quickly stopped the automobile in the middle of the highway’s lane. He lit his flashers to alert oncoming motorists.

Kirk Fair, from North Buffalo, was driving a pickup on the same highway at the same time. The truck belonged to Golon Masonry Restoration Inc. investigators discovered that Fair leaned to collect some folders which had drooped to the vehicle’s floor. He bumped into Thomas Straw’s car cruising at 17mph.

During his prosecution, Fair pleaded guilty to homicide charges. He also admitted having endangering lives by driving recklessly and over speeding. In 2014, the county court sentenced him to 23 months imprisonment.

In 2015, the court heard Thomas Straw’s lawsuit against Golon and Fair. By then, judge Lutty had removed some co-defendants who Kirk and Golon wanted to be included in the trial. They included two service stations and an auto parts shop that repaired Straw’s car. Kirk and Golon accused Thomas Straw of driving an automobile with a faulty hood latch. However, Lutty dismissed the defendant’s claim.

While ordering a new trial, Judge Olson deemed it appropriate for the second jury to determine whether the parts store, Thomas Straw, and the two service stations should be held responsible for the grisly accident. Judge Victor Stabile had a dissenting opinion. He opposed granting the case a new trial. He stated that Fair’s negligence was overwhelming rendering the actions of other defendants irrelevant.

Stabile noted that the accident occurred at around 7:30 pm. Besides, it was on a bright day, and the particular road has a 55mph maximum speed limit. He noted that apart from over speeding, Kirk wasn’t attentive. He delayed applying his emergency brakes hitting Eugene and killing him instantly.

Judge Stabile wrote that if Fair were prudent while driving, he would have seen Thomas Straw’s vehicle. He had clear visibility of over 2,000 feet and would have avoided the collision.

Family of Golfer Killed by Tree Branch Sues Resort for Wrongful Death

Golf is a passion for many and a great way to get exercise in a relaxed atmosphere. While it is possible to get injured while playing, this usually consists of a pulled muscle from overswinging or being struck by a ball when someone fails to yell “Fore!”

But there are many hazards on a golf course that few people think about. Unfortunately, a 71-year-old golfer in Palm Springs, CA, found this out the hard way, and his family is suing the golf course for wrongful death.

On March 30, 2017, David Hamaker had finished most of a round of golf at the luxury Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort in Palm Springs. While relaxing in his golf cart near the 17th hole, he was struck by a falling tree branch. The Black Butte Ranch, Oregon resident was rushed to nearby Desert Regional Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a severe fracture dislocation of the cervical spine. Although he underwent surgery to repair the injury, he passed away a week after the incident occurred, on April 7th. The cause of death, as stated on his death certificate, was “sequelae (damage or trauma caused to the site of a previous injury or condition) of blunt impact injury of the neck.”

The family of Mr. Hamaker is suing Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort for unspecified damages, alleging negligence on the part of the course’s owners. The suit declares that the owner’s inattention to the upkeep of trees on the property allowed them to fall into a state of disrepair. Citing recent windy weather, which may have exacerbated the situation, the suit further alleges that the owners abdicated their duty to warn golfers of the peril caused by the damaged trees. The suit seeks to remove the concept of “An Act of God” from the proceedings by placing the blame squarely on the owners of the course. The Hamaker family is also suing the City of Palm Springs for unspecified damages. The specifics of the suit against the city are unknown at this time.

Representatives for Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort and the City of Palm Springs have yet to respond to the lawsuit.

Former Employee Files Lawsuit Against Rio Arriba County School Official for Assaulting a 12-Year-Old Girl

Deana Gallegos, a former employee of a small school in Espanola, New Mexico, is accusing an education official of Rio Arriba County for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. The alleged incident happened last August, and she claims that she was fired because they wanted to retaliate against her for making the complaint. Vernon Jaramillo has been working with the County for a long time, and he’s one of the school’s top administrators. Jaramillo serves as the chancellor for the Carinos Charter School, and he was the superintendent of the Mesa Vista School District. He has also denied the allegations that have been made against him.

The lawsuit was filed last week, making him and Principal Bernice Life the defendants. The eighth-grade girl told Gallegos that he made sexual advances toward her last August. Her teacher reported it to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department as well as the local police department. Aside from making sexual comments, she claims that Jaramillo hugged and kissed her (along with grabbing her buttocks) and that she was meeting with him in his office alone.

A complaint was also filed with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, and the spokeswoman for the Education Department confirmed that an email was sent to the agency regarding the complaint. A detective for the Espanola Police Department “decided not to pursue the case or send it to the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.” He stated that the alleged victim didn’t give a consistent account of what happened, but the allegations came in the middle of some management changes that resulted in some confusion at the police department. Jaramillo claims that he has not been placed on leave. But according to the suit, he hasn’t been working at the school for a couple of weeks.

The detective who decided not to pursue the investigation was fired in March by the mayor who had just been elected, and it was because of a series of lawsuits that had been filed under his watch – one of which was the case in question. It claims that Romero tried to stop the investigation, and there was a video that showed evidence of misconduct by other officers. The principal and the other administrators at the school became hostile toward Gallegos after she made the complaint, and they started giving her more job responsibilities. She received a termination letter from the school last September. She’s looking for lost wages, attorney’s fees, court costs, and punitive damages.

Boy Decapitated on Water Slide

In an effort to get the record for having the world’s largest waterslide, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City rushed through the building of a ride that was as structurally complex as it was dangerous. They ignored all the “red flags” with regard to safety, and they used crude methods instead of performing proper calculations. This act of negligence resulted in the death of a 10-year-old boy and more than a dozen injuries. The boy was decapitated while riding the 170-foot-tall slide. A year and a half after his death, the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Kansas has announced the filing of criminal charges against the company and one of its employees.

Both Schlitterbahn and Tyler Austin Miles (the former director of operations) are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter as well as several counts of battery, child endangerment, and interference with law enforcement. They claim that the company knew the slide wasn’t safe as there had been several injuries that had been reported before the boy’s death. The spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn denied that the company and Miles withheld any information or evidence. She said the boy’s death was the result of an accident – not a crime.

The 47-page indictment has detailed evidence that has been gathered from emails, memos, blueprints, videos, photos, and accounts from witnesses. It paints a different picture than what she and the company described. It proves that the company took little to no consideration for people’s safety, and they were only concerned about breaking a world record. The ride is a cross between a roller-coaster and a waterslide, and it was a spur-of-the-moment proposal that was meant to impress the producers of Travel Channel’s Extreme Waterparks series. Since the ride was opened in July of 2014, and before the boy’s death approximately two years later, 13 people have been injured because a raft went airborne and hit both the net and the suspended hoops. The boy was decapitated when the raft hit one of the hoops.

The indictment suggests that the company was aware of the dangers, and they knew that the ride could possibly kill people. Yet, despite the warnings, they rushed for a faster completion date. Investigations also revealed that the company hired an engineering firm to perform tests on the ride a week before it was officially opened, but they decided to ignore the results (which showed that a raft carrying 400-500 pounds of weight could go airborne).

 

Oklahoma Teachers Rally at Capitol for More Funds

For a second day, public school teachers rallied at the State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City. Citing the need for higher pay and better funding for schools, the large crowd entered the capitol rotunda seeking an audience with lawmakers to support a tax bill that would provide an additional $200 million for Oklahoma Schools.

In addition to the protest at the capitol, some 30,000 other teachers left their jobs on Monday and Tuesday. These walkouts interrupted school in 70 school districts, suspending classes for 500,000 students in a state with a student population of 700,000. However, many students, parents, and teachers around the state organized events to support the striking teachers.

The Oklahoma teachers are following the pattern set in a by a successful teacher strike in West Virginia and another taking place in Kentucky. Like those states, Oklahoma does provide schools with funding well below the national average. Oklahoma ranks 47th in the U.S. in terms of dollars spent per student, and 48th in the nation in teacher salary average, according to data collected in 2016 by the National Educational Association. This works out to a mean annual average salary of $42,460, with new teachers starting at a wage of $31,600 minimum.

Oklahoma lawmakers tried to diffuse the strike before it happened by passing a $450 million tax bill, which included an average increase of $6,100 to teacher salaries. However, the focus of the package would have forced some school districts to cut back to just four school days a week. Teachers saw this as unacceptable and have requested that the spending bill is revoked and replaced by a package that would provide better funding for both teachers and school districts.

Governor Mary Fallin (R) has shown little sympathy for the striking teachers, suggesting they are acting like teenagers who want better cars. She also implied that the strike was not a product of local frustrated teachers but being led by outside groups, such as the anti-fascist movement, ANTIFA. Claims at which teachers and the local media both scoffed.

With both sides unwilling to budge, it seems a lengthy strike may be in order.