The Lawletter Blog

WORKERS' COMPENSATION: Compensability—Employment-Related Travel in Employer-Provided Vehicle

Posted by Matthew T. McDavitt on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 12:11 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10

Matt McDavitt, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     It is well settled under workers' compensation law nationally that, generally, worker injuries occurring coming to, or going from, work are not compensable in nature. However, an important exception to this rule exists regarding accidents in which workers are traveling in employer-supplied vehicles, where the worker is off duty but remains on call. For example, given that city police departments receive a benefit by having their police officers on call for duty at a moment's notice while driving their police cruisers, so long as the travel has some relation to employment, injuries received during such travel are compensable.

[W]e are satisfied that the City enjoyed sufficient benefits from Ms. Ross's participation in the take-a-car-home program to affirm the Commission's determination of eligibility. The City does not dispute the Commission's conclusion that the City benefitted from the program by having more officers available for immediate response, from better care of patrol cars, and from increased police visibility. Officers with take-home cars were prepared to respond to emergency calls at any time. These officers always had at hand those items required to be kept in the take-home patrol cars, including their service gun, police radio, identification, flashlight, ticket book, report forms, and flares.

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Topics: Matthew T. McDavitt, workers' compensation, compensability, employment-related travel, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10

PERSONAL INJURY: Nuisance Claims—Recovery for Emotional Distress

Posted by Alfred C. Shackelford III on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 11:11 AM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10

Fred Shackelford, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     Can damages for emotional distress be recovered in a nuisance claim in the absence of physical injury? That was one of three issues of first impression that were recently addressed by the Nevada Supreme Court. In Land Baron Investments, Inc. v. Bonnie Springs Family LP, 356 P.3d 511 (Nev. 2015), a purchaser (Land Baron) contracted to buy land on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The land was largely undeveloped, and the buyer intended to construct a subdivision there. Land Baron conducted no due diligence to investigate the availability of water and access rights, and these issues were not addressed in the contract.

     Before the closing occurred, it became apparent that Land Baron would be unable to acquire sufficient water and access rights for the proposed project. Land Baron stopped making payments to extend the escrow period, thereby breaching the contract. Land Baron then filed a complaint with the Clark County Commissioner's office, alleging that there were multiple code violations on the property. The Commissioner and other state and local authorities conducted a large-scale investigation on the premises at a time when guests and children were present.

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Topics: Fred Shackelford, personal injury, no physical injury, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10, nuisance claim, recovery for emotional distress

CIVIL RIGHTS: Intracorporate Conspiracy Doctrine

Posted by Dora S. Vivaz on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 @ 11:11 AM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10

Dora Vivaz—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

      The intracorporate conspiracy doctrine was created to shield corporations and their employees from liability for routine, collaborative business decisions that are later alleged to be discriminatory. E.g., Tabb v. District of Columbia, 477 F. Supp. 2d 185 (D.D.C. 2007). Although the doctrine was initially crafted in the context of the Sherman Act, the courts have extended its reach to many other contexts, including claims brought under civil rights and other antidiscrimination laws. See, e.g., Blades v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., No. CIVA1:06CV1000LG-JMR, 2007 WL 2746678 (S.D. Miss. Sept. 18, 2007) (available on WL and Pacer). The courts have not necessarily agreed on just how far the doctrine should be extended, however. See id. (and cases cited).

      In a recent case, for example, the federal district court noted that while the doctrine applies in the Sixth Circuit to conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, it is unclear whether it also applies to claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Engle v. City of Cuyahoga Falls, No. 5:14-CV-1161, 2015 WL 3852143 (N.D. Ohio June 22, 2015). In fact, it appears that the district courts within the Sixth Circuit continue to disagree on whether the doctrine should apply to § 1983 cases. Id.

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Topics: civil rights, Dora S. Vivaz, civil rights statutes, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 10, intracorporate conspiracy doctrine

LABOR LAW: More on Deflategate

Posted by Suzanne L. Bailey on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 @ 11:10 AM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9

Suzanne Bailey, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     Whether you believe that quarterback Tom Brady was aware that the New England Patriots were using allegedly deflated footballs during the January 18, 2015 AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts or whether you are unsure what sport the Patriots and Colts play or whether they play the same sport, the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in National Football League Management Council v. National Football League Players Ass'n, Nos. 15 Civ. 5916 RMB JCF, 15 Civ. 5982 RMB JCF, 2015 WL 5148739 (S.D.N.Y. signed Sept. 3, 2015), appeal filed, No. 15-2805 (2d Cir. Sept. 3, 2105), vacating the arbitration award in favor of the National Football League ("NFL"), provides a valuable primer on basic notice and hearing requirements under the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA").

     As has been well publicized, shortly after the conclusion of the January 18, 2015 game, the NFL retained Theodore V. Wells Jr. and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison ("Paul, Weiss"), to conduct an independent investigation—along with NFL Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash—into the use of underinflated balls. The source of authority for the investigation was the NFL Policy on Integrity of the Game and Enforcement of Competitive Rules ("Competitive Integrity Policy").

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Topics: labor law, Suzanne Bailey, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9, deflated football, Tom Brady

CIVIL RIGHTS: A Civil Rights Civil War: Religious Observance and Educational Rights of the Disabled

Posted by Steven G. Friedman on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 @ 17:10 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9

Steve Friedman, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     One of the bedrock principles of American jurisprudence is the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. See U.S. Const. amend. I. More recently, the law had mandated that disabled students are to receive certain minimum educational benefits at public expense. See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400–1491o (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA")); 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("RA")). At times, these two distinct rights may overlap and conflict with one another. As illustrated by two fairly recent cases, however, public schools need not accommodate the student's (or the parents') religious beliefs in providing a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") as required by the IDEA and the RA.

      In M.L. ex rel. Leiman v. Starr, No. PWG-14-1679, 2015 WL 4639569 (D. Md. filed Aug. 3, 2015), appeal filed, No. 15-1977 (4th Cir. Aug. 27, 2015), the parents of a child with an intellectual disability brought suit against Maryland's Montgomery County Board of Education, alleging that the Board had failed to provide the student with a FAPE as required by the IDEA. The student is part of the Orthodox Jewish community, and, thus, it is very important to his parents that he learn the rules and customs of Orthodox Jewish life. Consequently, the parents sought an individualized education program ("IEP") that placed the student at a private school where the basics of Orthodox Jewish life are a part of the curriculum. Instead, the school district proposed an IEP that placed the student at a public school that did not include instruction on Orthodox Jewish life.

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Topics: civil rights, Steven G. Friedman, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9, religious observance, educational rights

CIVIL PROCEDURE: Filing of Postjudgment Motion Tolls Deadline to Move for Attorney's Fees

Posted by Charlene J. Hicks on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 @ 17:10 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9

Charlene Hicks, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     For a prevailing party in a civil lawsuit to obtain attorney's fees, he or she must file a motion requesting fees by a statutory deadline. Problematically, however, many state statutes do not specify whether this deadline is tolled by the filing of a postjudgment motion. As a result, counsel may be placed in the awkward position of deciding whether to move for attorney's fees while the losing party's postjudgment motion is pending before the court.

      The effect of a postjudgment motion on the time in which a prevailing party must move for attorney's fees was recently addressed in Barbara Ann Hollier Trust v. Shack, Nos. 63308, 64047, 2015 WL 4656697 (Nev. Aug. 6, 2015). There, the court noted that Rule 54(d) of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure requires a prevailing party to move for attorney's fees within 20 days after service of notice of entry of judgment. However, in the case before the court, the losing party filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial before the prevailing party moved for attorney's fees. The prevailing party did not file any motion for attorney's fees until after the court denied the losing party's postjudgment motions.

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Topics: civil procedure, tolling, Charlene J. Hicks, motion for attorney's fees, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 9

PROPERTY: Enforceability of Clause in Residential Property Lease Seeking to Shield Landlord from Liability for Injuries Caused by Mold or Fungus

Posted by D. Bradley Pettit on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

Brad Pettit, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     In 2014, an Indiana appellate court considered the issue of whether a landlord can enforce a provision in a residential lease contract that seeks to protect it from liability for personal injuries caused by fungus or mold on the leased premises. In Hi-Tec Properties, LLC v. Murphy, 14 N.E.3d 767 (Ind. Ct. App.), transfer denied, 20 N.E.3d 851 (Ind. 2014), a tenant who leased an apartment that was below ground level brought suit against her landlord, alleging, inter alia, that mold in the apartment had aggravated her preexisting asthma and caused other injuries. The landlord defended against the tenant's claim by pointing to a clause in the parties' lease agreement that read in pertinent part as follows:

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Topics: Brad Pettit, property law, residential lease, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8, landlord liability

FAMILY LAW: Delegation of Power to Decide Custody and Visitation

Posted by Brett R. Turner on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

Brett Turner, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     In In re Marriage of Iqbal & Khan, 2014 IL App (2d) 131306, 11 N.E.3d 1, the two parties, of the Islamic faith, signed a separation agreement ("PNA"). The PNA named a prominent member of the local Islamic community as Counselor. It then provided:

     Husband and Wife agree that an unreasonable divorce (without Counselor's express written approval) is a violation and contrary to the purposes and intents of this agreement, and an unreasonable divorce sought by either party will forfeit their rights to custody of the children and any rights conveyed in this agreement. If either party seeks an unreasonable divorce, they hereby agree to surrender full custody rights to the other, and agree to only reasonable visitation rights to the Children.

Id. ¶ 28, 11 N.E.3d at 10 (quoting PNA).

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Topics: family law, Brett R. Turner, custody, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

TAX: Carly Fiorina, Multistate Income Taxation, and the Dormant Commerce Clause

Posted by James P. Witt on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 @ 13:09 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

Jim Witt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     A feature of recent U.S. presidential campaigns has been the interest of the press and the public (not to mention the requirements of the law) regarding the finances of those competing for the nomination and, ultimately, for the office itself. A key element of those finances has, of course, been the income tax returns of the various candidates. In this connection, one of the present candidates for the Republican nomination, Carly Fiorina, recently offered reporters who came in person to her campaign headquarters in Virginia the opportunity to review her state income tax returns.

     Ms. Fiorina and her husband had already put their federal income tax returns for 2012 and 2013 online, but it is her state income tax returns that are of special interest. She and her husband were required to file such returns in no fewer than 17 states in 2013, with the couple's connection with some of those states so insubstantial that their tax liability in 11 of the states was less than $250.

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Topics: tax law, James P. Witt, dormant Commerce Clause, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

CRIMINAL LAW: Search and Seizure—Warrantless Procurement of Cell Site Location Information

Posted by Mark Rieber on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 @ 12:09 PM

The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8

Mark Rieber—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     The Fourth Circuit recently held that the Government's warrantless procurement of historical cell site location information ("CSLI"), for an extended period of time, recorded by the defendant's cell phone service provider, was an unreasonable search in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, even though the CSLI records were kept by cell phone companies in the ordinary course of business. United States v. Graham, Nos. 12-4659 & 12-4825, 2015 WL 4637931 (4th Cir. Aug. 5, 2015). The court stated that the examination of a person's historical CSLI can enable the Government to trace the movements of the cell phone and its user across public and private spaces and thereby discover the private activities and personal habits of the user. Id. at *8.

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Topics: Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, criminal law, Mark V. Rieber, The Lawletter Vol 40 No 8, cell site location