Friday Links

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We can’t bring ourselves to see the new Fantastic Four movie, but its release did inspire us to investigate old Fantastic Four comic book covers. Take a look at the cover of Fantastic Four #9, published way, way back in 1962. Okay, so it appears from the cover of this issue that the members of the team have been evicted. Who brought that proceeding against them? Which firm felt comfortable litigating against The Thing? Were they defendants in their individual capacities? Did they sign the lease as individuals? It appears that they are attempting to avoid publicity as they vacate the premises. If so, why are Reed Richards and Sue Storm in costume? Why has the human torch activated his powers to carry his suitcases from the building? Are those suitcases not flammable?

If Westlaw Next is truly akin to New Coke, won’t they be bringing back Westlaw Classic? We can only hope.

Here’s some news: Kyle White’s recent post on the memory issues of asbestos plaintiffs was linked on Overlawyered!

Our favorite tweet of late comes come related to the ABA Journal’s next hackathon, which is coming to North Carolina. Behold:

Sasquatch And Lizard Man Home In The Carolinas

A couple years ago, we here at Abnormal Use reported upon a Bigfoot sighting right here in our Western Carolina backyard. Well, guess what? Sasquatch is back! And, this time, he has been caught on video! According to a report from USA Today, a man vacationing in Henderson County, North Carolina spotted the creature while walking his dog. Thankfully, he had foresight and wherewithal to utilize his cell phone camera. This video serves as the first empirical evidence that the real life Sasquatch looks like the doppelganger of a blurry man in a gorilla suit.

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One would think that the Sasquatch discovery is the greatest discovery in the Carolinas since sweet tea. The truth is that the Sasquatch video footage is not even the top achievement of late. Earlier this month, “Lizard Man” was photographed in Bishopville, South Carolina. The seven-foot tall Lizard Man had been in hiding since he infamously took a bite out of a man’s car parked near the Scape Ore Swamp way, way back in 1988. By the looks of the photograph, Lizard Man has found plenty of other sources of food over the last 27 years.

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So what does this breaking news have to do with the law?  Back in 2013, we raised these questions in regards to Sasquatch:

Indeed, we are concerned about the ramifications that a population of sasquatch creatures may have on the legal system of the Carolinas.

Many bigfoot encounters take place when the creature is caught stealing chickens from a chicken coop or messing with other small animals. Had this conduct been that of a coyote or other wild animal, the property owner may have no legal recourse. But, what if the tortfeasor is a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid? The creature may be too human-like to be considered an animal, but is it also too non-human to be subject to suit in a Carolina court? Questions like these must quickly be addressed by the North Carolina legislature.

Even if Sasquatch could be sued, he is likely uninsured and judgment proof. Nonetheless, assuming suit is inevitable, he will need legal counsel. We will look forward to that opportunity. After all, Sasquatch has to make for a great witness with that beautiful hair and all.

Now, that the Lizard Man has reared his head in these parts, our legal system may just explode.

Another Milestone – 1,500 Posts

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This, dear readers, is our 1,500th post. Can you believe that? It all started back on the first business day of January of 2010. And here we are, more than five and a half years later, reaching yet another milestone here on Abnormal Use. Of course, we could not have done it without all of the assistance of our firm, Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A., and our talented crew of writers and contributors. If you’ve not noticed before today, take a look at the right hand column on the blog. There, you’ll see a list of all of our writers, and you can click on the appropriate link in order to view their past posts (some of which date back to the beginning).

We also thank you, our dear readers and supporters, for everything you have done to keep this site alive and thriving for the past five and half years.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

By the way, above, you’ll find the cover of Whiz Comics #100, published way, way back in 1948. Sure, Captain Marvel is only celebrating 100 issues (not 1,500 posts), but we thought the cover was sufficiently celebratory for our purposes here today.

Welcome to the Space . . . Ham.

Close enough. Number 23, Michael Jordan, best known for defeating The Nerdlucks in the 1996 American Classic Space Jam. Jordan is also known to some for being one of the best basketball players ever, for scoring 38 against the Utah Jazz with the flu, for being the first athlete billionaire, or for owning the Charlotte Hornets. Between 2009 and 2010, MJ made approximately $55 million dollars from various endorsements, including Gatorade, Nike, and Hanes. However, they were not the only ones using his image. Dominick’s supermarket, a Chicago-based supermarket chain that closed in 2013, also was using MJ’s name and number to sell steaks with this ad, and now MJ wants his cut.  According to the Chicago Tribune, MJ has already won the lawsuit against the now defunct Dominick’s, and he seeks $10 million dollars in damages.  We shall see how it turns out, but we here at Abnormal Use would be flattered if a steakhouse or steak sales person wanted to use our likeness.

The Perils of Autonomous Cars

Technology and innovation in the automotive industry have been constantly advancing at an extraordinary rate. As technology grows and vehicles become more advanced, we will face new legal challenges, and we will need to adapt our laws and policies to address these changes. Autonomous vehicle technology has been the most recent development in the automotive industry, and it’s been grabbing news headlines across the country. An autonomous vehicle is a self-guided vehicle that requires no steering wheel or gas/brake pedals. These vehicles require no driver and the passengers can just enter a location and sit back let the car do the rest.

Google has been working on autonomous vehicle technology for years, and one of its driverless vehicles made the news last month for being involved in the first accident with reported injuries. Google’s vehicle was rear-ended at approximately 17 mph by another vehicle being operated by a distracted driver. There were no serious injuries as a result of this accident. However, the occupants of both vehicles complained of neck and back pain. Also, it appears that the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended Google’s car was at-fault in this accident. According to several reports, Google’s autonomous vehicle was waiting at a stoplight when the other vehicle ran into the back of Google’s car.  This is also consistent with the data produced by Google’s vehicle that shows where other vehicles were at the time of the accident, what color the light was, the speed the other vehicle was traveling at the moment of impact, and other information about the conditions at the relevant time.

It seems clear that the driver that rear-ended Google’s car is liable for the damages in this accident. Nevertheless, the accident still raises questions about how our legal system will respond to this emerging technology and how it will be perceived by the public not to mention the impact that this may have on liability standards. For example, Google has reported issues with its technology being confused by certain unpredictable activity, such as when one of their vehicles encountered a woman in a wheelchair chasing a duck with a broom. Google’s vehicle stopped and waited because it was unsure of what to expect from the unusual object on its radar. What if one of Google’s driverless cars is confused by a situation and is involved in an accident?  What if in its confusion the car is being too cautious by not proceeding and another vehicle hits the autonomous vehicle? Will a jury favor the too-cautious technology of the autonomous vehicle, or will they prefer to side with a human-driver that encountered the same situation yet had a different appreciation of the possible dangers and expected a different outcome?  To what extent will the programmers and creators of this technology be held liable?  These are situations and questions that we will soon be faced with and will most definitely impact how we assess and analyze liability in automotive industry.

Friday Links

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Above, you’ll find the cover of Whiz Comics #64, published way, way back in 1945. We chanced across it this past week and felt compelled to share it here due to its reference to an attorney. “Attorney Killed In Home / Capt. Marvel Suspected of Murder !!,” the newspaper headline proclaims. We wonder how Captain Marvel found himself in this dilemma. Surely he was framed!

Goodbye, Jon Stewart.

Are you following Abnormal Use on Facebook? You can do so by clicking here!

Guess what? Our own Kyle White was linked this week by the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. How about that? Click here for more.

Our favorite legal tweet of late is a couple of weeks old, but it’s a good one:

Facebook Lacks Standing To Challenge Subpoenas For User Info, Says New York Appellate Court

Here we go again. Another privacy-related Facebook legal issue has arisen.

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In a disability fraud case in New York, in which “more than 130 police officers and other public workers in New York City whose disability claims allegedly conflicted with information about life activities on their Facebook accounts,” Facebook has reportedly been told by a New York appellate court that it lacks standing to challenge subpoenas for the users’ personal information. Although Facebook has produced the information as ordered, it does not plan to give up on the issue. In fact, according to Bloomberg, Facebook released the following statement:

We continue to believe that overly broad search warrants—granting the government the ability to keep hundreds of people’s account information indefinitely—are unconstitutional and raise important concerns about the privacy of people’s online information.

Apparently, Facebook has not decided whether to appeal the ruling further.

How much information does Facebook maintain on its users, anyway?  According to a Forbes article from several years ago, the answer is A LOT. The personal data stored by Facebook includes everything from “every person who has ever poked you” to “a list of the machines that [the user] has used Facebook from, how often [the user] has signed in from the machine, as well as a list of all the other Facebookers who have logged in on that machine.” An exemplar full report discussed by the Forbes article was over 800 pages long.

If you are curious about how to download all of your Facebook data, Facebook tells you how to do so here:

Download facebook data

This information, of course, can be helpful to lawyers when fashioning interrogatories and requests for production of documents pertaining to Facebook data. As you may recall, we at Abnormal Use have covered many Facebook-related legal topics in the past, which can be accessed here.

Juror’s Outside Research Leads to New Trial in Tylenol Death Case

Reportedly, California federal judge John A. Kronstadt has signed an order setting aside a November Jury verdict in favor of Defendant McNeil-PPC Inc. in light of some funny business by a member of the jury.  The substance of the Plaintiff’s claim was as follows:

Kindra Robertson filed the suit against McNeil in 2011 after her 11-year-old son Tyler died of sepsis caused by pneumonia several days after ingesting Children’s Tylenol from a batch allegedly included in a voluntary recall in September 2009, according to the complaint. Robertson had the bottle tested for contamination, which was found to be positive for bacteria.

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The juror in question “initially said in a declaration presented in support of the motion for a new trial that she told other jurors that the Tylenol given to Robertson’s son hadn’t been recalled.” Apparently, this research “helped change [the juror’s] vote to the defense.” The Judge was apparently concerned because the verdict needed to be unanimous, and thus, the juror at issue being influenced by the verdict was important on its own.  There was also concern that the juror communicating this information to other jurors may have influenced the other jurors to whom the juror communicated the information.

It is fairly common knowledge at this point that juror’s perform outside research despite being instructed by the Court not to do so.  Though it is all too familiar, it remains improper, and when it influences the outcome of the trial, it may give everyone the opportunity to try the case again in front of a new group of jurors, as it did in this case.

(Hat Tip: Law360).

No Monkey Business . . . Court Rules Chimps Don’t Have Human Rights

A New York Judge recently heard a case brought by an activist claiming that chimpanzees should be afforded the same legal rights as humans. Although Judge Barbara Jaffe ruled that they don’t possess any such rights, the opinion was a strange one, and it seems that she was initially inclined to grant them such rights but felt constrained by some pesky legal precedent to the contrary.

The case involved two research chimpanzees named Hercules and Leo. Lawyers for the Nonhuman Rights Project alleged that the chimps were entitled to rights that the legal system has previously recognized as applying only to humans. The lawyers asked for a writ of habeas corpus authorizing the transfer of the animals from captivity at a state university to an animal sanctuary in Florida. They argued that “because chimpanzees possess fundamental attributes of personhood in that they are demonstrably autonomous, self-aware, and self-determining and otherwise are very much like humans, ‘justice demands’ that they be granted fundamental rights of liberty and equality afforded to humans.”

Such a grant of rights would have marked a first for a court in the United States. Ultimately, the judge concluded that she was bound by an earlier ruling by a New York appellate court that held that chimps are not entitled to legal person status because of their inability to take on duties or responsibilities. However, Judge Jaffe suggested that the legal system was evolving on the issue just as it did in the debate over gay marriage.  In so doing, she cited a handful of cases granting narrowly expanded rights to animals and stated that this was ultimately question of public policy.

CPSC To Go Interstellar Against Space Buckyballs?

Over the last several years, we here at Abnormal Use have chronicled the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s storied fight to ban the spherical desktop magnets known as Buckyballs.  While we often find the CPSC to take draconian measures, its persistent efforts to rid the globe of Buckyballs were way over-the-top. However, the CPSC may have to push its fight to new limits.  As reported by Space.com, Buckyballs are allegedly stirring up some trouble in the Milky Way!  For nearly 100 years, astronomers have been perplexed by absorption bands associated with the interstellar gas and dust of the Milky Way. Now, researchers have discovered the first unambiguous evidence through laboratory testing that the bands may be the fingerprints of Buckyballs.  That’s right. Buckyballs!

To be fair, these space Buckyballs are not exactly the desktop magnets we have come to love. Rather, these Buckyballs are soccer ball-shaped carbon molecules otherwise known as fullerenes. They got their name after their resemblance to the geodesic domes created by architect Buckminster Fuller (see Disney’s Epcot). While technically we may be dealing with two different Buckyballs, we imagine the hearts of the CPSC officials’ skipped a beat when they learned Buckyballs of any type had surfaced in outer space. In any event, we fully expect the CPSC to cite the space Buckyballs for failing to warn that they may cause absorption bands in our galaxy.

Perhaps we read too much science fiction, but can you imagine the CPSC war room if Buckyball CEO Craig Zucker had managed to deposit large quantities of Buckyballs in space? The CPSC would certainly issue recalls from all sales of Buckyballs to extra-terrestrial life forms. Zucker would respond by mocking the CPSC’s efforts with some clever propaganda regarding alien tolerance for digesting magnets. Thereafter, the CPSC would fight back by ordering nuclear strikes on the Milky Way. Of course, we would write about each stop in the process.

Sounds about right.