The Atlanta Injury News Blog

December 2010 Archives

International soccer star David Beckham filed a defamation lawsuit against high-priced prostitute Irma Nici, according to the UK Daily Mail. The exclusive escort said David Beckham paid $10,000 to have sex with her and another woman in an interview with In Touch magazine; in fact, she claims he paid her for sex on five different occasions.

The 35-year-old LA Galaxy star, perhaps the world's best-known current soccer player, accused the Bosnian-born prostitute of fabricating the story and said he'd never met her before.

An as-of-yet unnamed Fulton County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a dog, claiming self-defense, while trying to serve a lawsuit, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. County Marshal Antonio Johnson said the deputy was "very remorseful about the very unfortunate situation," telling reporters that the dog allegedly charged at him and was not on a leash.

The incident is under investigation and Antonio Johnson said the couple whose dog was shot were free to file a complaint of their own against the county.

Frank Samuelson, who coaches a suburban Atlanta youth football team, is taking plenty of heat for racially charged comments he posted on his Facebook social network profile, WSBTV reported. Ironically, he said he's considering filing a defamation lawsuit against upset parents who he claims are spreading the contents of his remarks.

The Brookwood Football Association coach admitted to reporters that he posted comments that some might find distasteful but tried to defend his apparent insensitivity by saying they were made in conversations with other minorities.

But even if that were a valid excuse, the comments can't easily be overlooked.

Texas-based distributor J&D Produce Inc. has expanded its recall of produce after a salmonella outbreak linked to its products was reported, according to CNN. What began as a recall of parsley and cilantro has been expanded to include 19 other types of produce over fears of cross-contamination at its processing facility.

This is one of two cases, thought to be unrelated, that have sickened almost 100 people in the U.S. and Canada. The first recall of 7,000 cases of cilantro and parsley came after samples tested positive for the bacteria.

The "precautionary, voluntary" recall effects produce packed between November 30 and December 6 with the brand name Little Bear. J&D advises customers to take the affected products to retailers for a full refund.

A $4.5 million defamation suit filed by the SPCA of Upstate New York against the American Working Collies Association (AWCA) for its criticism of the animal shelter may help shape how internet defamation litigation is handled in the future, according to The Post-Star.

The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) appealed the dismissal of its lawsuit to New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which agreed to hear its case. The New York Supreme Court is actually the state's lower court.

The SPCA chapter sued the AWCA and its president, Jean Levitt, over comments made by Jean Levitt that were critical of care the SPCA provided to rescued collies. The suit was dismissed for jurisdiction reasons; AWCA is based in Ohio and Jean Levitt lives in Vermont.

A new study from University of Iowa Health Care concludes that doctors remain fearful of being sued for malpractice, according to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. But the study also concluded that their fears are greatly exaggerated.

Senior study author Dr. David Katz said this holds true even in states where the risk of being sued is the lowest. He said it may have more to do with perception than reality:

"One likely explanation is that physicians' concerns about malpractice are driven more by their perception that the malpractice tort process is unfair and arbitrary and less by their actual risk of getting sued."

Accused Troopers Sue For Defamation

Five of the nine Washington State Troopers who were accused of buying fake college diplomas for pay raises have sued the Washington Patrol for defamation, Portland TV station KATU reported. Eight of the nine who were accused of buying fake diplomas were suspended last year; but the plaintiffs in the case insist the diplomas meet the agency's allegedly vague standards for pay increases.

The State Patrol began investigating its staff after federal agents shut down a Spokane-based diploma mill in 2008. The incentive is clear, since Washington State troopers get a 2 percent pay raise with a 2-year degree and a 4 percent pay raise with a 4-year degree.

The dangers of football are well known, particularly as the NFL tightened enforcement against helmet-to-helmet hits and several lawsuits accusing youth football organizations of negligence have cropped up. One such case involves California teenager Scotty Eveland, who was left in a mostly vegetative state after collapsing on a football field, Sign On San Diego reported.

A senior at Mission Hills High School at the time (September 2007), Scotty Eveland collapsed about 45 minutes into a game. He was left with serious brain damage and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Football is a dangerous sport, no doubt. But the young man's parents claim the coach ignored his complaints of severe headaches and his having collapsed on two prior occasions. They also claim the San Marcos Unified School District is involved in a cover-up.

Rutgers University said it should not be held liable for the suicide of 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington bridge after he found out a hidden web cam recorded his sexual encounter with another man, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. His family had reportedly threatened to sue the school for wrongful death.

An attorney hired by Joseph and Jane Clementi reportedly filed a notice of tort claim in regard to the matter, prompting university officials to issue a statement that they, "share the family's sense of loss," adding:

"We also recognize that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son's death. While the university understands this reaction, [Rutgers] is not responsible for Tyler Clementi's suicide."

Multiple recalls of drop-side baby cribs, blamed on at least 32 infant deaths and countless injuries, have been triggered by manufacturers in the last few years. But an unanimous vote by the Consumer Product Safety Commission has effectively banned drop-side cribs and sets a mandate for the design of sturdier, safer cribs, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported.

Also, U.S. child care providers and hotels will have to replace all drop-side baby cribs with safer models. Commercial providers may end up paying $467.5 million to replace 935,000 units, according to CPSC estimates.

Nonprofit investigative reporting organization ProPublica wrote about how the Atlanta-based charity Project Share is helping brain-damaged war veterans who are unable to get similar care through the Veteran's Administration. Former Home Depot magnate Bernie Marcus founded Project Share in order to fill in the gaps through which countless returning vets have fallen.

Military and veterans hospitals often lack the staffing and expertise needed for extensive cognitive rehabilitation therapy, Bernie Marcus said. Such therapy also is very time consuming and difficult, he added:

"Isn't this worthwhile? Isn't this something we should all be concerned about? Whatever it takes is what we should give them."

Spalding County firefighter Terrance Reid was fired last month after admitting to videotaping deceased motorist Dayna Kempson-Schacht after her car crashed into a tree. He shared the cell phone video and it eventually made its way to the internet and finally to the 23-year-old victim's parents, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Now six of his coworkers have been disciplined for not stopping him or reporting his actions.

New York's highest court opined in its affirmation of a lower court's dismissal that errant golf shots are common hazards and that golfers can't expect to get a "Fore!" warning each time a shot heads in their direction in a golf lawsuit, according to the Associated Press.

Dr. Azad Anand was blinded after an extremely errant ball hit by his friend and fellow physician Dr. Anoop Kapoor struck him in the head. Azad Anand sued, claiming his friend was reckless by not shouting "Fore!" ahead of his shot.

Westlaw News & Insight reported that Japanese auto maker Toyota Motor agreed to pay the maximum fine of $32.4 million in the wake of two U.S. government probes into how the company handled its recent run of recalls. Toyota already suffered financially when its safety recalls hurt sales and diminished its once-sterling reputation.

Toyota recalled roughly 11 million vehicles in the U.S. related to problems safety advocates claim resulted in hundreds of collisions and dozens of deaths.

Kroger Co., one of the nation's largest grocery chains, has issued a recall of 10 varieties of pet food sold in 19 states including Georgia, according to a CNN article. Some of the recalled products are feared to contain aflatoxin, a toxic chemical byproduct known to cause illness in animals that comes from a fungus on corn and other crops.

Kroger urged customers to immediately stop feeding their pets the affected food. Customers whose animals show signs of lethargy, reluctance to eat, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums or severe diarrhea are encouraged to take their pets to the veterinarian for possible contamination.

It may have seemed like an innocent lark at the time. But Seattle Seahawks fan Robert Larson claims he was injured both physically and emotionally after professional football player Shaun Ellis of the New York Jets tossed a large chunk of snow at him on Dec. 21, 2008, as reported by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

That the defensive end threw the massive snow ball at the opposing team's fan is not in dispute, since it was captured on video (via YouTube):

The Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of insurance companies in a pair of cases concerning the amount of money people injured by uninsured motorists should receive, the Insurance Journal reported.

At issue was whether those injured could receive more money under their uninsured motorist coverage to cover unpaid medical bills, or if the insurers were entitled to reduce coverage. The 5-2 ruling took the latter position.

Tainted drywall from China made headlines a few years ago after several homeowners reported corrosion of wiring, headaches, nosebleeds and other health effects from its sulfur content. But according to a report cited by USA Today, homeowners say U.S.-made drywall is causing similar problems.

Nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica released the report, which noted that 97 homeowners in four states have joined lawsuits against U.S.-based drywall companies.

Fired employees of California frozen-food company Overhill Farms protested outside the company's plants, calling management racist and accusing the company of using a "supposed discrepancy" to fire older and minority workers, Courthouse News Service reported.

A total of 230 employees were fired for having provided false Social Security Numbers, usually an indication that they are not legally eligible to work in the US.

Two men who claimed they suffered the indignity of "exploding" escargot were served a decisive court ruling recently, as the San Jose Mercury News reported. Their lawsuit, which claimed the French snail delicacy scalded them after the snails exploded, has been dismissed with prejudice.

California diners Chadwick St. O'Harra and Steve Righetti filed a negligence lawsuit against San Rafael restaurant Seafood Peddler last summer after their snails allegedly ruptured and splattered their faces and clothing with hot garlic butter.

Self-described party and event planner Dillon Jordan claims Hollywood celebrity blogger Mark Ebner defamed him, allegedly calling him a pimp and a pornographer on his website, according to the Courthouse News Service. Dillon Jordan also named private detective Danno Hanks as a defendant in the suit.

In his complaint, he claims Mark Ebner published libelous information on his website, HollywoodInterrupted.com, precisely because his book publisher refused to publish the allegedly false portions.

The Wall Street Journal reported on two separate recalls by automakers Chrysler Group LLC and Volkswagen AG. The recalls are in no way related but have been reported together because they were announced on the same day. Chrysler is recalling 367,350 minivans for a water leak, while Volkswagen recalled 228,236 cars for a fuel leak.

The Chrysler recall affects 2008 model year Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans. Company officials said the vehicles are prone to inadvertent deployment of airbags and illumination of the airbag warning light as a result of the water leak.

Celebrity gossip website TMZ reported that local comedian Katt Williams was ordered to pay $577,929 to Atlanta record producer Merion Joseph Powers for a dog attack. Merion Powers claimed in a lawsuit that Katt Williams owed him $28,000 but refused to pay, and then brought his dog with him next time he paid a visit to the producer's studio.

The plaintiff claims Katt Williams was attempting to intimidate him and that he gave his dog a "verbal attack signal." The dog then attacked Merion Powers' dog, allegedly resulting in "substantial and nearly life-threatening injuries."

Family members of two Cleveland women who were brutally raped and murdered, allegedly by Anthony Sowell, have sued Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department and the City of Cleveland, according to the Courthouse News Service.

They claim the victims may have been spared if the City of Cleveland had not adopted a "straight release and indict later" policy, according to their civil complaint. They are seeking damages for extreme emotional distress, wrongful death, breach of duty and negligence.

Is it merely a coincidence or does former Pfizer employee Randall Sloan have an axe to grind with his former place of employment? It's up to the court to decide, but BNET reported on the unusual case of the former drug maker employee's claim that one of its anti-smoking products made him "psychotic."

The drug in question is Chantix, which Randall Sloan claims caused depression, mania and psychosis leading up to his hospitalization in March 2008. The case was filed last March in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (PDF).

The manufacturer of Skoal and Copenhagen brand smokeless tobacco products, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died of tongue cancer in 2005, according to the Hartford Business Journal. It's the first such settlement of a lawsuit claiming injury from smokeless tobacco.

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. is a division of Altria, which also owns cigarette giant Philip Morris (Marlboro, etc.).

Rolaids Recall: Wood And Metal Bits Found

How do you spell relief? If you were unfortunate enough to chew on a Rolaids tablet containing bits of wood and/or metal, you probably wouldn't agree with the popular antacid's jingle. There is a Rolaids recall in effect.

Embattled drug maker Johnson & Johnson is recalling 13 million packages of Rolaids after making the unsettling discovery, according to ABC News. J&J has been in the spotlight for its numerous recalls of over-the-counter medications in the past year, mostly related to the manufacturing process.

Reuters published a special report on the oil spill liability costs associated with BP's devastating oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico last spring, suggesting its legal costs could double. BP increased its financial commitment to paying for the cleanup and for civil claims by $8 billion and now has earmarked a total of $40 billion.

Investors suggested it was right on target and one in particular, Paul Mumford of Cavendish Asset Management, even suggested the bill may end up being lower.

However, there are plenty of skeptics who believe it actually will go up quite a bit. Reporters pointed out that BP has so far consistently underestimated the scope of the oil leak and that it has a history of "low-balling" disasters.

Although it hasn't been substantiated elsewhere, the Beaufort Motherhood Examiner reported that embattled Atlanta-area pastor Bishop Eddie Long is about to settle lawsuits filed against him for sexual coercion.

What we do know is that both sides were open to a quick resolution of the suits, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article quoting Judge Johnny Panos:

"Both sides seemed to be pretty open to discussion of a quick resolution of the case whether through trial or negotiation settlements."

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens, plus some engineering and construction companies, were named as defendants in a lawsuit by former worker Johnathan Scott, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. He's claiming damages for injuries he sustained while working on an elevated walkway, which collapsed.

The Canopy Walk through the tree tops collapsed nearly two years ago, killing one and injuring 18. Seven workers suffered brain, spinal and other serious injuries.

North Fulton County resident Joshua Stallworth was served with a civil complaint for allegedly causing a rear-end collision that resulted in a motorist's injuries, WSBTV reported. Only trouble is, this particular Joshua Stallworth was only 13 years old at the time and his mother said he was home sick on the day of the reported accident.

The boy's mother, Alicia Pritchett of Sandy Springs, recounted her disbelief when a Fulton County marshal served her (now) 15-year-old son with the lawsuit claiming he caused a wreck on Georgia 400 in April 2009:

"When he named my son, Joshua, I was in complete shock. It's just ridiculous, absurd."

The Polk County Sheriff's Office obtained a total of seven subpoenas for the internet (IP) addresses and identities of bloggers on a Cedartown discussion forum who are involved in an investigation into possible defamation, as reported by the Rome News-Tribune.

Not surprisingly, Topix CEO Chris Tolles was not overjoyed with the court orders and insists they infringe upon the free speech of the bloggers in question:

"I think what the sheriff's office did was criminal and, at the very least, violated rights to freedom of speech."

Former kindergarten teacher Tonya Craft, who was charged with multiple counts of child molestation but was exonerated in court, has now decided to drop ex-husband Joal Henke and his current wife from her federal civil lawsuit, the Chattanoogan reported. Tonya Craft and Joal Henke jointly appeared on a recent episode of NBC's Today Show to make the announcement.

She told Today Show Matt Lauer that the dismissal was "with prejudice," which means it can't be refiled.

It used to be that restaurants, all of which waste untold amounts of perfectly edible food, couldn't donate prepared food because of liability concerns. If a donated bagel sickened a recipient, that person could sue the restaurant for his or her illness.

That changed when the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed into law in 1996, as explained at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's web site. Basically, it's designed to encourage institutions such as restaurants, grocers, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and churches to provide food to the need without fear of being sued.

Sheri Schooley filed an injury lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant in suburban Detroit after she allegedly injured her hand on a toilet paper dispenser, according to an Associated Press article published on the web site of Fort Wayne television station WANE.

Most recently, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to allow the lawsuit to proceed. The 58-year-old plaintiff acknowledged to reporters that her case revolves around the "bizarre story" of she and her husband's dinner date on New Year's Eve 2007.

Kaiser Health News republished a story by National Public Radio about a settlement reached between the family of deceased 14-year-old Sarah Crider and the state of Georgia. State officials will spend $77 million in the next two years to move hundreds (maybe even thousands) of patients from state hospitals.

Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, announced the details of the settlement after describing the girl's death:

"This was an absolutely tragic and preventable death. She didn't need to be in that institution. She could have thrived as an outpatient."

Embattled drug maker Johnson & Johnson has added about a dozen varieties of Mylanta antacid and one type of AlternaGel antacid to its growing list of recalled products, according to ABC News. The company claims the drugs don't cause "adverse effects," but said they failed to note the alcohol content of some of the flavorings.

J&J attempted to reassure consumers that there is no risk of harm from the products at its Mylanta web site:

"Certain flavoring agents contribute small (less than 1%) amounts of alcohol. It is unlikely that use of these products will cause either alcohol absorption or alcohol sensitivity related adverse events."

The grandmother of one of the stars of MTV's reality television show "16 and Pregnant" told celebrity gossip site TMZ.com that she's planning to sue the show's producers for defamation.

Kathleen Green, grandmother of father Isaiah Green, claims MTV defamed her family because, she said, "nothing that aired is what happened" in real life. She said MTV's "set up" shots and heavy editing warped one particular episode that focuses on Isaiah Green, teenage mother Christinna Robinson, and the birth of their daughter.

A Los Angeles County judge ruled that Dole Food Co. acted in bad faith when it filed a defamation lawsuit against a Swedish filmmaker whose documentary "Bananas!" accused the company of mistreating its Nicaraguan workers, the Los Angeles Times reported. Specifically, Judge Ralph Dau said Dole tried to stifle free speech, ordering Dole to pay the filmmaker $200,000 (PDF).

Dole sued defendant Fredrik Gertten for defamation in July 2009, accusing him of unfairly maligning the company in his film.

The film covers the 2007 trial for a lawsuit filed by Nicaraguan plaintiffs who claimed they were left sterile by a pesticide used by Dole at its banana plantations. The chemical, DBCP, was banned in the U.S. prior to Dole's use in the Central American nation.

Professional athletes (especially football players) often don't know the extent of their brain injuries until well after retirement. By that time, of course, it's usually too late. In fact, the only way to know for sure if a player has suffered from too many hits to the head is by performing an autopsy after death, according to Fox News.

But an experimental new imaging technology holds a lot of promise as an early diagnosis tool that might one day help diagnose and treat brain injuries before they get too debilitating. A study of the new technique involving three retired football players, a boxer and a wrestler showed that it helped doctors identify chemical changes in the brain caused by repeated hits.

Former Henry County high school teacher and onetime Republican candidate for governor Ray McBerry filed a defamation suit against a woman who claimed he molested her teenage daughter, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The ordeal began in 2003, when Ray McBerry quite his teaching job after Linda Pittman accused him of having an improper relationship with her (then) 16-year-old daughter, Rachel Gandee, who attended a neighboring school. He was later sanctioned by the school board after he admitted to lying about meeting her.

Actor John Travolta's attorney, Marty Singer, sent a five-page letter to the owners of celebrity gossip web site Gawker.com threatening legal action for allegedly defamatory claims that he has a secret gay sex life, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The letter was sent just hours before wife Kelly Preston gave birth to baby Benjamin.

Gawker.com published claims by author Robert Randolph that he personally witnessed the Hollywood star having sex with men in various Los Angeles spas. He's set to publish his account of the alleged secret sex lives of John Travolta and other alleged closeted gay celebrities, "You'll Never Spa in This Town Again."

Senators passed landmark food safety legislation yesterday that makes it easier to recall dangerous foods, increases the volume of food inspections, gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more regulatory muscle and helps trace contaminations, CBS News reported.

The bill was in response to the seemingly greater frequency of food recalls that critics blamed on lax oversight. Passing 73 to 25, the $1.4 billion bill aims to reduce the number of recalls by conducting more regular inspections, among other measures.

Recently retired football player Eric Shelton filed a lawsuit earlier this week against the National Football League, claiming the league's disability plan failed to properly compensate him for a spinal injury, The New York Times reported.

The former running back last played as a regular for the Carolina Panthers in 2006. He suffered a neck injury after a helmet-to-helmet collision during a 2008 Washington Redskins training camp and was awarded benefits for "degenerative" impairments.