News

Stan Lee's Daughter Sues Ex-assistant Over Elder Abuse Allegations

The daughter of comic book legend Stan Lee is suing her father’s former personal assistant and a podcast host for allegations of elder abuse made against her, People reports. Lee filed the slander suit regarding comments made by the ex-assistant, Bradley Herman, on the Stan Lee’s World podcast saying that she had become physically abusive with her father, and in one case "grabbed his neck and slammed his head back into the wood portion of (a) chair.” Lee says that the allegations are in retaliation for the firing of Herman, whom she claims would steal from her father and forge his signature to obtain loans. The host and creator of the podcast, Alan Duke, is also named as a defendant in the suit. View the complaint here.

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Jeffrey Epstein's Estate Seeks to Establish 'Claims Resolution Program' as Alternative to Litigation

Attorneys managing the estate of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein last week filed papers in the Superior Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands — where Epstein’s will is in probate — seeking to establish a "claims resolution program" that would allow victims to pursue claims without litigation, CNN reports. Executors have hired several prominent lawyers to manage claims for Epstein's alleged victims, including the former deputy special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund who will act as administrator, and attorneys who oversee a fund for sexual abuse victims in 23 dioceses of the Catholic Church. There are currently at least 11 active lawsuits against the Epstein estate.

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Supreme Court Won’t Block Lawsuit Against Gun Maker

A lawsuit filed by the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims is moving forward at the state level after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block it, NPR reports. Originally filed in 2014, the suit says the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, the same kind used by a gunman to kill 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook, should never have been sold to the public because it is a military-style weapon. It also accuses Remington of violating Connecticut’s unfair trade practices law by marketing and promoting use of the rifle in “assaults against human beings.” Since the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Remington’s appeal of the suit, it will return to lower court in Connecticut where it will hinge on how Remington marketed the gun.

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Ethics Roadshow Coming to a City Near You

The TBA is bringing its Ethics Roadshow to a city near you on multiple days in December. The program will be in Knoxville on Dec. 4, Chattanooga on Dec. 5, Memphis on Dec. 9, Nashville on Dec. 10, Jackson on Dec. 16, and Johnson City on Dec. 18. Sign up today to reserve your spot for this annual event, guaranteed to meet your ethics requirements for the year and enhance your knowledge of crucial changes in the legal profession. The course also is always full of surprises and humor. Earn up to three hours of dual CLE credit. See the list of all courses.

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Judge Rejects Ketron's Request to Dismiss Fraud Case

Administrative Judge Phillip R. Hilliard has rejected Kelsey Ketron's request to dismiss a fraud case against her that alleges she acted as an unlicensed insurance agent, the Daily News Journal reports. Ketron, who is the daughter of Rutherford County mayor Bill Ketron, also faces complaints of impersonating a licensed professional and committing theft while serving as a vice president of her father’s insurance company. She has since resigned from that position. Ketron’s attorney Trey Harwell said the decision does not speak to the merit of the case and that “The court seems to recognize this, in its ruling, by stating that we raised 'legitimate arguments about possible shortcomings.”

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Chattanooga Police Officer Charged With Sexual Battery Faces Civil Suit

The Chattanooga police officer charged with sexual battery regarding an incident that occurred as he was working at an off­-the-clock security job is now facing a lawsuit alleging Fourth Amendment rights violations, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Benjamin Dessalines was working a security detail at a Food City grocery store where the plaintiff’s mother was caught shoplifting. The plaintiff alleges that she was held for about five hours before being released, and that Dessalines offered to give her a ride home after a family member was unable to pick her up. Afterwards, she claims that to off-duty officer took her to his apartment saying he was meeting a friend, then touched her "breasts, crotch and inner thighs against her will and without her consent." The suit maintains that the police department "had notice" of at least one other allegation of sexual assault, but that complaint could not be verified.

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Workers’ Comp Court Expands Reach

The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims is expanding its service area to reach portions of the state it says have been underserved. In addition to the eight standing locations where the court hears cases and approves settlements, it is now using local courtrooms in Hamblen, Maury, Montgomery and Weakley counties to provide greater accessibility for injured workers and lawyers involved in their cases. Get detailed scheduling information about these new sites on the court’s website.

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Comcast Exec. Files Federal Lawsuit Over Title VII Protections

A senior executive at Comcast Corp. recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was routinely discriminated against because of his sexual orientation, NBC News reports. Plaintiff Klayton Fennell claims that while employed with the company he was denied equal pay, passed over for promotions, was subjected to slurs from employees and retaliated against after he filed a discrimination complaint. Comcast claims that it was supportive of Fennell’s participation in LGBTQ initiatives both inside and outside of the company, and that it has a “longstanding commitment to the LGBTQ community and has been widely recognized for its inclusive culture.” Fennell is seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, emotional upset, mental anguish, humiliation, loss of life’s pleasures and any other remedies provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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St. Louis Police Sergeant Awarded Nearly $20 Million for Discrimination Based on Sexual Identity

A jury in St. Louis last week awarded a gay police sergeant nearly $20 million regarding claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation, The New York Times reports. Plaintiff Keith Wildhaber filed the complaint after he applied for a move from sergeant to lieutenant at the St. Louis County Police Department and was allegedly told he was “way too out there with his gayness” and “needed to tone it down” if he wanted the promotion. Wildhaber said that this was not the only instance of discrimination, claiming he was turned down for 23 promotions over the course of five and a half years. The jury foreman said of the judgment: “We wanted to send a message…If you discriminate, you are going to pay a big price.”

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Ford Motor Co. Was Aware of Faulty Transmissions, Sold Cars Anyway

Ford Motor Co. is facing significant liability in lawsuits regarding defective transmissions in two entry level car models, the Detroit Free Press reports. Internal documents show that the company was aware of faulty DPS6 transmissions in its 2011 to 2016 Fiesta and Focus models but let them be sold instead of issuing a recall. A Los Angeles jury last year awarded a plaintiff $554,000 in punitive damages over the controversy, and the company is facing nearly 13,000 lawsuits nationwide for the sale of affected vehicles.

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Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against Vape Manufacturer

Two Kentucky residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against an e-cigarette manufacturer alleging the company marketed its products to children and deceived customers into believing its products were safe, the Courier Journal reports. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that the San Francisco based company Juul used flavored vape pods and unlawful marketing to mislead the public about the potency of its products and safety concerns from use. The plaintiffs’ attorneys say they are working with up to 100 more potential clients who could file their own suits or join others under current adjudication.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Motion to Remand Climate Change Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected motions by multinational energy companies to halt a lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore seeking relief for the companies’ roles regarding climate change, The New York Times reports. The move comes after a request by the Counsel for National Association of Manufacturers — which represents the 26 companies named as defendants — to block the state court lawsuit and have it moved to federal court. The companies maintain that the current venue will subject them to needless litigation expenses, and that the plaintiffs will have an advantage in state court. The city responded that associated costs do not amount to an irreparable injury that would warrant a stay of proceedings. The Supreme Court’s brief order shows no reason for the denial.

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Vanderbilt Settles Suit Challenging Retirement Plan Fees

A federal judge has approved a $14.5 million settlement between Vanderbilt University and plaintiffs over claims they were charged excessive fees to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Roughly 20 universities have been sued, but this settlement is the largest to date, according to the National Association of Plan Advisors. The judge’s approval came after Vanderbilt University Law School Professor Michael B. Bressman withdrew his objections to the settlement.

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This Week: TBA Court of Appeals Boot Camp

The Court of Appeals is unfamiliar territory for most lawyers and success in this court requires not only thorough preparation but mastery of oral and written advocacy as well. This boot camp allows lawyers to observe oral arguments in real cases being presented to the court, followed by analysis and discussion on preparation, tips and considerations for deciding to seek review in the Supreme Court. Lunch will be provided, allowing networking opportunities with colleagues who share this focus. Do not miss this unique learning opportunity!

When: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Supreme Court, 401 Seventh Ave. N. Nashville — Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N, Nashville
 
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Woman Involved in Kroger Shooting Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against the Suspect, Retailer

A woman who was inside a Louisville Kroger last year when a gunman opened fire killing two shoppers has filed a class-action lawsuit against the suspect and supermarket chain, the Courier Journal reports. Plaintiff Denise Clark claims that she suffered "physical, mental and/or emotional injuries" as a result of the shooting, and was only offered a $10 gift card as compensation. Clark's attorney said that more than two dozen shootings have taken place at Kroger stores around the country since 1991, and despite knowing about these issues the company took no actions to provide safety measures for its customers. The gunman, Gregory Bush, is facing murder and hate crime charges in state and federal court.

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Opinion: Pro Bono Work Addresses Constant Need

Former TBA president and Nashville lawyer Jacqueline B. Dixon wrote in the Dickson Post last week about the pro bono legal services provided by lawyers across the state throughout the year. Dixon, who is a shareholder with Weatherly McNally & Dixon, reflected on her experience handling pro bono cases as well as statistics that show Tennessee lawyers in 2016 provided 652,555 hours of pro bono service, contributing an estimated $130 million in value. She also encouraged lawyers to continue serving those unable to afford an attorney.

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Charlottesville Lawsuit Could Shape Courts' Handling of Cases Involving Extremism

A lawsuit against promoters of the Charlottesville protests centering around removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, which left one woman dead and several others injured, could frame how courts handle future cases of violent extremism, The New York Times reports. Lawyers for the plaintiffs maintain that online chats by organizers of the rally discussing attire, recruitment, the legality  of using certain weapons along with racist remarks against African Americans, Jews and others constitutes a conspiracy to commit violence against racial minorities. Lawyers for many of the defendants deny the allegations, arguing their First Amendment rights cover the online conversations. Karen L. Dunn, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, says that participants planned the violence beforehand, and “there is no First Amendment protection for violence.” Federal Judge Norman K. Moon previously rejected the defendant’s attempts to have the suit dismissed, citing Griffin v. Breckenridge, and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as precedents.

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City of Chattanooga Settles Lawsuit Regarding Traffic Stop Beating

The city of Chattanooga has settled a lawsuit regarding the beating of a man by police during a traffic stop, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Fredrico Wolfe maintains that Chattanooga police officer Benjamin Piazza assaulted him despite his compliance, which body camera evidence appears to support. Footage shows the officer approaching Wolfe’s car, gun drawn, while ordering him out of the vehicle. Wolfe then exited the car appearing to obey but fell as he was being handcuffed. The officer is then seen on the video punching Wolfe 10 times. A spokesman for Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston said that the office has not yet decided whether it will file criminal charges against Piazza.

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Attorneys Needed for High School Law Workshop

Attorney volunteers are needed to help with the iLead Law & Leadership Conference, a free one-day workshop focusing on law and leadership skills for high school students. The Nov. 8 event will be held at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville. Volunteers may choose from three time slots: 10:30 a.m. to noon, 1 to 2 p.m., and 3 to 4 p.m. and may sign up online. During the day, students will participate in leadership and negotiation workshops and networking opportunities. The iLead Conference is hosted by Just The Beginning-A Pipeline Organization. See an agenda for the day or contact Missy O. Jeje at 312-661-5374 for more information.

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UT Law Looking for Alumni Input on Dean Search

The University of Tennessee College of Law will be hiring a new dean this spring, and the Search Committee needs the input of the college’s alumni. Please contact Search Committee alumna member Beth Ford, 865-765-1879, to have a conversation about the process or to give input.

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AG Announces $116.9M Surgical Mesh Settlement

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III recently announced a multistate settlement, along with 40 states and the District of Columbia, requiring Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon Inc. to pay nearly $116.9 million for deceptive marketing of transvaginal surgical mesh devices. A multistate investigation found that the companies misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of the devices and failed to sufficiently disclose the risks associated with their use. Tennessee will receive $2.6 million under the settlement, according to the attorney general’s office. Download the consent judgment here.

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Court Grants Review in 9 Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently granted review in nine cases. Civil cases include property deed amendments, attorneys fees, the Health Care Liability Act, non-economic damages caps, wrongful termination and property tax appeals. Criminal cases include ineffective assistance of counsel, bail bonds and delayed appeals. The Raybin Supreme Court Hot List reviews the cases.

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Court: Insurance and Insured Only Parties Necessary to Determine Coverage

The Tennessee Supreme Court today held that a trial court had authority to decide coverage issues in a declaratory judgment action between an insurance company and its insured without considering the case of another party who was involved. This case arose out of an automobile accident on Interstate 24 in Hamilton County. The decision reversed an earlier Court of Appeals ruling.

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Blind Man Free to Sue Over Web, App Accessibility

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear Domino’s Pizza Inc.’s appeal over whether its website and mobile app must comply with federal disabilities law, the ABA Journal reports. The company had argued that only physical facilities are covered by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In refusing to hear the case, the court let stand a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed a blind man to sue the pizza chain to ensure its website and mobile app work with common screen-reading software. The ADA does not explicitly address the Internet or mobile apps, leaving courts around the country to determine how the law applies.

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AG Sues Opioid Distributor AmerisourceBergen

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced today that his office has sued AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation for unlawful distribution of pharmaceutical narcotics and generating and prolonging the ongoing opioid epidemic in Tennessee. Though the state previously brought suit against drug manufacturers, Amerisource is the first distributor to be sued. The lawsuit was filed in Knox County Circuit Court and alleges that Amerisource violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act as well as the Tennessee Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

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