Friday Links

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If you’ve not seen the legal comedy, From The Hip, you need to do so immediately. A fun relic of the 1980’s, it was written, in part, by David E. Kelley, who would go on to create TV’s “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.” Let’s just say that the protagonist, played by Judd Nelson, could not get away with most of his antics in a real courtroom.

Claims the writer Jesse Singal: “You’ll Be Less Stressed If You Check Your Email Less Frequently.” Is that supposed to be a good thing? How can one check email less frequently? Is that even possible? Why would one want to venture out into the world when one might risk missing an email?

Vinyl alert: If you’re in South Carolina tomorrow, you may want to visit the Greenville Record Fair.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t alert you to the fact that the Greenville County Bar Association has now joined Twitter. Behold:

WestlawNext: The Reason It Was Time For Westlaw Classic To Go

Recently, we here at Abnormal Use mourned the passing of Westlaw Classic. While our editor lamented a world sans Classic, many of us do not share that same sentiment. There is a good reason why Thomson Reuters bid farewell to the foundational online legal research tool. It gave birth to something better. Something superior to Westlaw Classic in every way imaginable. Something that will make your life as a lawyer significantly easier: WestlawNext.

If you want to compare Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, think original iPhone to iPhone 3G. The comparisons stop with the name with the latter improving significantly on the former.  Unlike Classic’s archaic search methods, WestlawNext’s algorithm-based “WestSearch” (think Google) makes research a breeze. No more confusing Boolean or connector searches.  Just tell Next what is on your mind. It is that easy.

If that is not enough to bid adieu to Westlaw Classic, wait until you see WestSearch’s comprehensive search capabilities. A simple search instantly reveals not only case law but also statutes, regulations, secondary sources, briefs, and trial court documents. No more having to painfully select three or four databases. Now, you can search them all. At once.  In a seamless, well-organized fashion.  And, if that search doesn’t seem to be working, just click on that trial court document tab to get a lead from your colleagues who have drafted that memo in support of motion for summary judgment before you.

Aside from the drastically improved search functions, WestlawNext offers many more features than Westlaw Classic ever did.  Want to highlight excerpts from cases on-screen?  You can do that. Want to copy text complete with Bluebook citations?  You can do that, too. Want to organize your research in folders so you can access it later?  Yep, not a problem with WestlawNext. In other words, WestlawNext makes Westlaw Classic look like a stack of volumes in an old library.

As a pioneer in its field, Westlaw Classic will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who have ever had to Shepardize cases the old fashioned way.  But, let’s face it.  Westlaw Classic was a dinosaur when compared to the advancements made by Thomson Reuters.  While we have no qualms about taking a moment to mourn Westlaw Classic’s passing, it is time to move on.  WestlawNext welcomes you with open arms.

Bud Light Lime-A-Rita: Light Beer or Light Margarita?

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Since bourbon and vodka have recently found themselves on the wrong side of a lawsuit, beer has decided to join in on the action.  A proposed class action has been filed against Anheuser-Busch (“AB”) alleging that the American brewer deceptively marketed its light beer products.  Specifically, the named plaintiff, Sheila Cruz, alleges that AB claims that the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (and each of its five flavor varieties) is “light” and low in calories when, in fact, it contains more calories than any other AB beer.  An 8-ounce Lime-A-Rita contains 220 calories whereas 12-ounce cans of Bud Light and Budweiser contain 110 and 145 calories, respectively.  The suit was originally filed in state court in Los Angeles, but as defendants often do, it has been removed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

On the surface, it appears that this suit could have some teeth with the Lime-A-Rita containing 50 percent more calories in two-thirds the quantity of a Budweiser, its notoriously heavy cousin.  However, is comparing the Lime-A-Rita to Budweiser or Bud Light a proper comparison?  The Lime-A-Rita’s calorie count arguably isn’t “light” by beer standards.  But, is the Lime-A-Rita really a beer?  Is it a margarita? Or, it is some kind of beer-margarita hybrid?  AB claims the following on its website:

Bud Light Lime-A-Rita has the great taste of a lime margarita with a twist of Bud Light Lime for a delightfully refreshing finish. With Bud Light Lime-Ritas, there’s no need to spend time mixing and blending to prepare a lime-flavored beer margarita. Just pop open, pour over ice and enjoy!

Beer is not something enjoyed over ice. This product sounds like a margarita-in-a-can with the joys of a Bud Light lime twist only AB could create.  While the drink may not be an actual margarita, comparing the Lime-A-Rita’s calorie count to its purebred brethren lends more credence to the “light” label than with beer comparisons.  When a standard margarita on the rocks boasts 455 calories, the Lime-A-Rita’s 220 definitely feels light by comparison.

Of course, once AB takes the position that the Lime-A-Rita is actually a margarita, it will probably face false advertisement claims from another front.

Lawyers Should Be Aware Of Eulerian Video Magnification

Most people have probably not seen this fascinating TED talk on Eulerian Video Magnfication, since it currently boasts only approximately 600,000 views. However, everyone should watch it, or at least read one of the articles about it written by the New York Times Blog or Huffington Post.  In short, this technology, developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, magnifies subtle movements and color changes in humans and objects.

For example, as explained by Dr. William Freeman in the above-referenced TED talk, the technology can detect the changes in someone’s skin color as a result of blood being pumped under the skin, which allows someone to actually see someone else’s pulse.

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Dr. Freeman cites baby monitors as a potential application for the technology.  Videos played during his talk show that the technology magnifies normally visually undetectable breathing motions in infants so that parents can actually see the infant breathing. At first glance, this technology might not have tremendous impact on the legal field considering the fact that we rarely have the opportunity to view events at issue in real time. However, the technology does not require watching an event through a special lens.  Dr. Freeman explains in his speech that one can upload a video and the technology can amplify subtle movements, color changes, et cetera. in the underlying video itself.

So, is there a new market for lie detecting experts armed with Eulerian Video Magnification to analyze pulse changes and other “tells” during recorded video testimony?  Can the technology be used to magnify subtle changes in a structure prior to its collapse to identify exact point that the structure began to give way?

In this author’s opinion, lawyers have the opportunity to do incredible things with this technology.

Mourning The Death of Westlaw Classic

Woe is me! We come here to praise Westlaw Classic, not to bury it! Thomson Reuters has slain the version of Westlaw that we all knew so well for so long. For several years now, Thomson Reuters has been encouraging its users to utilize its new Westlaw Next platform, a newer and less archaic version of Westlaw with search features more like those employed by Internet users. Yes, it’s handy, but it is not Westlaw Classic (which, we still refer to as Westlaw, just as we still refer to Coca-Cola Classic as Coke. Of course, by that analogy, Westlaw Next is the New Coke of legal research products, a jarring fact which requires further analysis).

More than a decade and a half ago, the more senior members of Abnormal Use first began to use Westlaw. Although its functionality may become somewhat dated, and although the utility of its successor might be easier for the modern user, we here at Abnormal Use cling to our older, more familiar software. Indeed, we will miss the research methodology we employed for so long. In this respect, we are not unlike the preverbal mumpsimus, the stubborn adherent to ways long ago superseded or otherwise discredited. But, in the end, as we age, we know that we know what we know, and on this issue, we know how to utilize Westlaw Classic quite well. But now it belongs to the ages.

As of this past weekend, Westlaw Classic is no more. In fact, as we logged into Westlaw Classic these past few months, Thompson Reuters prompted us with an ominous digital reminder that its days were numbered:

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Thus, for some time, we knew the end was near, and we have not been this melancholy about an imminent demise since the last days of “Breaking Bad.”

What will we do? We suppose we must learn to adapt to Westlaw Next. But not before we mourn Westlaw Classic one last time.

Requiescat in pace, Westlaw Classic.

Friday Links

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Well, we’ve got one more holiday themed comic book cover for you, and that’s Mickey Mouse Magazine #28 which, as you can see, celebrates the new year. How curious to think that this comic book is nearly 80 years old. We wonder what readers will think of this blog eight decades from now. Hopefully, there will be throngs of graduate students poring over our prose. We’ll wait see if that comes to be. Surely it will, right?

By the way, we ran our very first edition of “Friday Links” five years ago yesterday. See how far we’ve come by clicking here.

And back in 2013, we posted this list of songs related to the new year.

In case you missed it, here are the “Top 10 Legal Grounds Stories of 2014” as recounted by Daniel Taylor of Findlaw’s Legal Grounds blog.

FYI: Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court published its annual order on Interest Rate on Money Decrees and Judgments. For the full order, please see here.

Family Sues Bob Evans Restaurants Over West Virginia Food Poisoning Incident

We here at Abnormal Use have never been to a Bob Evans restaurant.  However, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month in West Virginia federal court, two elderly West Virginians became ill and died as a result of eating meatloaf at a Bob Evans restaurant. (Source). According to the complaint, Virginia “Ginny” and Punk Starcher fell violently ill nine hours after eating meatloaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and a roll.  The decedents called 911, and they were allegedly told by emergency room workers that they had suffered food poisoning from consuming tainted meat from Bob Evans.  Two months later, Ginny died in hospice care and Punk passed away sometime thereafter in intensive care. Their children, Mark and Ann Starcher, sued Bob Evans Restaurants for $250,000 in medical bills and for pain, suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and the loss of ability to enjoy life.

As you might suspect, Bob Evans Resturants normally does not comment on pending litigation, but through, Scott Taggart, a spokesperson for the company, said that this was “an appropriate and important exception” to that rule.  While Bob Evans sympathized with the family for their loss, Taggart provided that the company had made “a thorough review of the alleged claims in this matter, and [had found] quite simply, there is no basis to the allegations contained in the complaint and the suit is entirely without merit.” We’ll be keeping our eyes on this one.

More Semantics In Half-Baked, “Store-Baked” Lawsuit

The field of “semantics law” is growing at a rapid pace.  We recently reported on two lawsuits revolving around the use of the term “handmade” with respect to bourbon and vodka.  Here’s another to add to the list.  Whole Foods and two other grocers (Wegman’s and Acme) in New Jersey have been hit with a lawsuit alleging deceptive use of the term “store-baked.”

So what heinous crime have these grocers committed? It’s nothing as dastardly as trying to pass day-old bagels as fresh. Rather, the lawsuit contends some of the bread sold as “store-baked” is being made off site and only being heated on the store’s premises.  Apparently, the Plaintiffs’ sensitive palates require that baked goods be made from scratch on the premises. The Plaintiffs contend that these grocers’ alleged evil deeds violate the New Jersey Consumer Protection Act, and in bringing the suit, they purport to represent a class of approximately 10,000 customers of each chain. Further, they seek damages of at least $100 per customer.  That’s a lot of dough.

Whole Foods declined to comment on the matter, but Wegman’s and Acme denied any deceptive practices. If these types of cases are allowed to move forward, expect a lot more Plaintiffs bringing cases that pivot on semantics.

CPSC Recall’s Keurig Coffee Makers: Not Another Stella Liebeck Case

If you follow the storied history of hot coffee in product liability litigation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s decision to recall certain Keurig home coffee makers last week probably grabbed your attention.  Certain reports have already surfaced (like this one from Forbes) attempting to compare this CPSC move to the infamous Stella Liebeck case and to use the recall as another example of hot coffee being an unreasonably dangerous product.  Before making such comparisons, we need to take a better look at the substance of the CPSC’s decision.

According to the CPSC report, the Keurig MINI Plus Brewing System, model number K10, is being recalled after 90 burn-related injuries were reported.  Here is the kicker:  the burn injuries were not the result of people drinking or spilling hot coffee as was the case with Stella Liebeck but rather the result of hot liquid spewing out of the coffee maker during the brewing process.  Nothing about this recall speaks to the Keurig’s brewing or serving temperature being too hot.  Nor does this recall dispel the notion that people like their coffee to be served hot.  Rather, the recall speaks for exactly what it says – people don’t like to get sprayed with hot water while their coffee is brewing.

We here at Abnormal Use understand the call to compare every bit of hot coffee-related news to the Liebeck case.  In fact, we are guilty of doing it often ourselves.  This CPSC recall and the corresponding reports is just another example of how a single cup of coffee served 20 years ago in a New Mexico McDonald’s has fundamentally altered how the general public perceives the beverage and our legal system. So, again, we appreciate the notion.  Nonetheless, before we make these comparisons, let’s at least make sure we are comparing apples to apples.

U.S. District Court For The Western District of North Carolina Dissolves Bryson City Division

If you practice in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, we have some news for you. According to an email sent from the court late last month, the Bryson City division is no more:

Please be advised that the Bryson City Division and case number will be dissolved effective 01/01/2015.

All new cases filed that fall within the counties that were before covered by the BC division: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain now are incorporated into the Asheville Division and will be assigned a “1” at the beginning of the case number. (Example: 1:15-cv-00001)

Update your files accordingly.