To Sit, Or To Stand?

There has been a recent movement involving the introduction of standing desks into traditionally sedentary work environments such as offices. In fact, you may have heard of a new, popular saying that “sitting is the new smoking.” This standing desk trend is gaining popularity based on medical studies correlating obesity, heart disease, and other physical ailments to sedentary lifestyles. As the aforementioned saying suggests, some of these studies have found that sitting for eight hours a day at a desk is physically more harmful for a person over the course of their life than smoking.

There have also been recent studies suggesting that standing at a desk compared to sitting is negligibly beneficial, if at all. So it appears that the jury is, arguably, still out on this issue. At this time, the best advice may be for a person to do what feels best and most beneficial for them.

Additional medical research on this issue appears inevitable.  Likewise, litigation may also be inevitable. Maybe a potential workers’ compensation claim will arise from an employer’s alleged refusal to provide employees standing desks. Perhaps a consumer will suffer an injury while using a standing desk that could have arguably been avoided by sitting. Only time will tell. In the meantime, enjoy this chair-related clip from “Seinfeld.” (This clip doesn’t really address the concerns discussed above, but we really like “Seinfeld,” and we like to incorporate it herein wherever possible).

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Abnormal Use On Pokemon Go

As many of you are now aware, the Pokémon Go app was unveiled last week in the United States. Although the app has only been officially released in limited areas, the app has had more than a significant impact on Nintendo’s (the parent company) worth. In just a matter of days after the release of the new Pokémon Go app, Nintendo’s value increased by more than $10 billion.

The popular app has also stirred up quite a few entertaining stories, and there are more to come. One particularly interesting anecdote was shared by a gentleman named Boon Sheridan via his Twitter account. Mr. Sheridan reported that his home (which was previously the location of a church over 40 years ago) was designated as a gym by the app. So over the past few days, scores of Pokémon Go participants have appeared outside of Mr. Sheridan’s home to “train” their Pokémon characters in this virtual gym. Initially, Mr. Sheridan seemed amused that his home was identified as a gym; however, he may not have realized the app’s popularity and his amusement soon turned to irritation as people continued to loiter outside of his home for 10-15 minutes and then leave. Mr. Sheridan complained of constant traffic and even the possibility of decreasing property values. Recently, there was also a motor vehicle accident reported in Auburn where a driver went off the road and struck a tree while playing the Pokémon Go game.

With so many interesting stories surfacing every day, it seems inevitable that at some point someone will bring a claim against the Nintendo Co. I believe it will be unlikely that a driver distracted by the game will have success in bringing a claim, but maybe an unsuspecting pedestrian chasing a Squirtle into a precarious situation, or a player going to the wrong gym at the wrong time, will be the first to take a shot at Nintendo. I think this may be the most likely scenario judging from the reports of extremely odd locations of some of the Pokémon landmarks and strange encounters that have occurred while playing the game.

In any event, it will be interesting to see if the app will maintain its popularity and player enthusiasm, and if so, what stories will we hear next.

Reflections on the Super Bowl

Super Bowl 50 has come and gone, here are a few takeaways from the Abnormal Use sports department.

It wasn’t a boring game, it was just unappreciated. There are countless news articles and commentaries calling Super Bowl 50 “boring” or “underwhelming.” But spectators and fans of the game should have appreciated the dominate performance of Von Miller and the rest of the Denver Broncos’ defensive line. Denver won in the trenches and that was the difference in the game. Seeing Demarcus Ware wreaking havoc in the backfield and the rest of Denver’s defensive line constantly getting pressure on one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the NFL was quite a sight. Hats off to Denver’s defense

Peyton Manning was unquestionably one of the greatest QBs of all time. Peyton Manning is the winningest QB of all time with 200 career wins. He is also the first QB to win Super Bowls with two different teams (as the starting QB). He holds the record for career passing touchdowns, single season touchdowns, passing yards in a single season, and a host of other accolades. Now it is time to retire. I love the “Sheriff” and have the utmost respect for his impact on the game, but this should be the end of the line for the ol’ gunslinger. It has been difficult at times to watch the Sheriff struggle to throw a ball beyond 10 yards. It’s time for him to saddle up and ride off into the horizon.

Marshawn Lynch took a very Marshawn Lynch approach to his retirement announcement (or at least what appeared to be his retirement announcement). Marshawn Lynch was a violent RB who would punish opposing tacklers. He is also well-known for his refusal to hold press conferences and/or attempts to answer questions in as few words as possible. During the Super Bowl, Mr. Lynch tweeted out a picture of neon green cleats hanging from a powerline and a “peace out” emoji in the caption. It is unfortunate that “Beastmode” will be leaving the game, but this may have been the greatest retirement announcement of all time.

Revisiting Hoverboards

Recently, we here at Abnormal Use visited the topic of hoverboards, and since our previous post on this topic, more has been uncovered regarding these spontaneously combusting machines. Hoverboards have captured the public’s interest not only due to the entertainment value brought from others’ failures, but more recently, for fire-related dangers associated with these devices. There have been numerous news segments and testimonials from consumers that have implied that hoverboards have a tendency to combust and catch fire. The general sentiment is that consumers are willing to accept the risk of injuries resulting from falling off of these devices but do not wish to be suddenly confronted with a two-wheeled fire chariot. Certain experts have commented after conducting further research as to the origin of these hoverboard fires, and some have linked it back to damage to the Lithium Ion batteries that are often used in these machines (and possibly abuse of the product). These scientists outline the dangers that could result from puncturing and/or abusing these batteries. Due to the high costs of the top of the line hoverboards, there has been an increase in “knock-off” and cheaper versions of them. These knock-offs (fauxverboards?) are likely using lower quality lithium ion batteries to save on the cost of production; we may see an increase in both patent infringement cases and product liability suits. It’s probably too early to try to gauge the impact these devices and the related litigation will have on products/innovation going forward, but we suspect that this will not be the last we will hear about these machines and their benefits/risks.

Steve Spurrier’s Mid-Season Resignation

On October 12, 2015, news broke that Steve Spurrier was voluntarily resigning from his position as the University of South Carolina’s head football coach, effective immediately. And just as soon as this announcement was made, every social media outlet was full of Gamecock fans sharing their glowing endorsements of their beloved “Head Ball Coach.” Nothing but praise for the coach that took the Gamecock program out of the ditch and made them contenders in their tough division in the South Eastern Conference.

Initially, there was nothing but love and admiration for the HBC from Gamecock fans; however, some fans have now gone in another direction after analyzing their former head coach’s actions in the wake of his announcement and their conclusion that Spurrier doesn’t care about USC. It’s not only an intriguing topic, but also plausible.

In a recent article posted on a Gamecock fan website, a disgruntled USC fan wrote an article discussing his/her recent epiphany about Spurrier’s departure. The fan’s ultimate conclusion is that Spurrier doesn’t care about USC or the Gamecock fan base. In defense of this heartbroken fan, he/she makes a compelling argument and supports that position with some good evidence. This fan first pointed out that the Spurrier quickly shot down any discussions of him serving in some type of advisory position at USC and the HBC never said anything about how much he enjoyed his time at USC or anything about cherishing his memories at the university.

Further, when Spurrier was asked a direct question about a message he would like to share with the Gamecock fan base, he responded “with absolutely no emotion and classic shrug of the shoulders, he said, ‘I’m no longer the head coach, so I’d just thank them for all they’ve done. I don’t really have a message.’ He thanked the fans for ‘receiving’ him and his family. And with that, he abruptly concluded the press conference, ‘Okay let’s get moving, I’ve had enough here.’”

This fan concluded “that Steve Spurrier doesn’t adore South Carolina like he adores Florida and Duke. But more disappointing was the realization that the Head Ball Coach doesn’t care for the Gamecocks as much as Gamecock nation cares for him. I wonder if he cared at all.”

Another interesting aspect of this relationship is that Spurrier will also continue to be paid his full salary throughout the remainder of the year. As stated in a recent article published by The State, Spurrier is situated to receive more than $920,000 through the end of the year. Not too shabby of a deal for the “Former Head Ball Coach.” A tip of the hat to Mr. Spurrier who will surely go down in the history books as a legendary college football coach, and he was able to make his exit (from a program that could potentially finish the season with a losing record) in nothing but praise and glory.

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.

The Golf Channel-Ponzi Scheme

The Golf Channel recently received some bad news after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unfavorable decision in Ralph Janvey, as Receiver for Stanford International Bank Limited, et al., v. The Golf Channel Incorporated, Case No. 13-11305, potentially costing The Golf Channel millions of dollars.  The Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision and ordered The Golf Channel to pay approximately $5.9 million dollars to the Receiver for Stanford International.  As one would suspect, The Golf Channel was not pleased with this decision; further, this decision raises many questions about all the companies and individuals that could potentially be exposed to the same risks that The Golf Channel was exposed to.

This order to refund money previously paid to The Golf Channel came as a result of the uncovering of a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that had been orchestrated by Stanford International Bank (“Stanford”) for nearly two decades.  The Golf Channel became involved with Stanford in 2006 when it contracted to provide advertising and other promotional services for Stanford over the course of a two-year period.  Before the expiration of that two year period, the parties agreed to a four year extension.  In 2009, the SEC uncovered Stanford’s Ponzi scheme and subsequently filed suit against Stanford.  Ralph Janey was appointed to serve as the Receiver, tasked with the responsibility of taking custody of assets owned or traceable to the receivership estate which included “recovering any voidable transfers made by Stanford before going into receivership.”  That’s when the receiver pulled out his driver, let the big dog eat, and went for the green, all $5.9 million of it.

The receiver filed this suit to recover the money under Texas’ unfair trade practices act which allows creditors to void previous transactions that were fraudulent and forces the transferee to return the funds received as a result of that transaction.  However, transferees cannot be forced to return a transfer when it can be shown that: (1) the transferee took the transfer in good faith; and (2) that, in return for the transfer, it gave the debtor something of ‘reasonably equivalent value.’  Ultimately, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that The Golf Channel failed to show that its advertising services provided reasonably equivalent value from the standpoint of Stanford’s creditors.  Rather, the advertising services only served to further Stanford’s fraudulent purposes.

What’s interesting about this case is that The Golf Channel had no knowledge of the fraud being perpetrated by Stanford.  The Golf Channel was described by the district court as being “more like an innocent trade creditor than a salesman perpetrating and extending the Stanford Ponzi scheme.”  Now The Golf Channel is taking quite the hit for agreeing to provide an otherwise legitimate service for another party that turned out to have orchestrated a large scale fraud.

The question now is how far could this decision reach?  Apparently, commercial time and promotional services are not considered reasonably equivalent in value to the creditors’ money, but what else would also be tossed into this category?  Furthermore, what kind of responsibility does this decision place on companies to investigate other parties before agreeing to provide potential services?  How much will one party need to know about the party’s business practices and procedures before agreeing to a contract?  Only time will tell.