Archive for the 'Personal Injury' Category

Could Rolling Stone Magazine Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

If Sued, Will Rolling Stone Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled, “A Rape on Campus,” describing the brutal gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a Phi Kappa Psi party at the University of Virginia. As a result of the story, Greek activities on the UVA campus were suspended. Multiple protests of Greek life were held on the UVA campus criticizing the initiation and pledging process of its fraternities.

Rolling SInvestigations into the case have found that the Rolling Stone story was, in fact, not truthful. Rolling Stone has since issued an apology for the story, stating that their trust in Jackie was “misplaced.”

In recent months, many have raised the question whether Phi Kappa Psi or any other fraternity with a UVA chapter could sue Rolling Stone for defamation based on the false story.

What’s Required for a Libel Lawsuit against Rolling Stone?

In order to be found liable, it must be proven that Rolling Stone had actual malice. In other words, it must be established that Rolling Stone knew that the story was materially false. Also, it must be found that the story damaged the fraternity chapter and its members.

Damages include material damages such as being displaced for the period that their fraternity house was closed resulting in hotel costs. Fraternity members could also claim damages in less tangible ways such as emotional distress.

As a result of the story, there were multiple protests throughout the campus. Protests were aimed at a “fight against this victim blaming, slut-shaming culture we have that sexualizes women, yet shames them for being sexual,” as stated in the UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily. Fraternity members could argue that they were wrongfully demonized as a result of the article.

While the issue of sexual assaults at fraternity parties remain the subject of intense focus, UVA fraternity members could argue that the focus switched to them specifically, as they were named in the article. The University Phi Kappa Psi President said they will consider all options, though they have not come to a decision as to whether or not they will sue.

When it comes to whether the University of Virginia could possibly sue, the answer is clear. Government entities, such as the University of Virginia, cannot sue for defamation, regardless of whether it can be proven that Rolling Stone knew the article was false when it was published.

 

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A Teacher Was Raped and the State’s Response Is Unacceptable

A female teacher was raped in an Eyman Prison in Florence, Arizona on January 30 2014. She was administering a pre-GED exam to seven convicted sex-offenders and mentally handicapped prisoners. The convicts arrived unescorted, and the classroom was in a remote location without security cameras or in the view of security guards. After the test, all inmates left with the exception of 21 year old Jacob Harvey. Harvey was convicted of a day-time home invasion where he brutally raped and beat a woman while her toddler watched. He was sentenced to 30 years in March 2013.

Jacob HarveyHow can an unarmed woman who is not trained in self-defense protect herself when in a classroom of convicted sex offenders? Should the state be held liable for her injuries? After all, she is an employee, isn’t it their job to protect her? According to Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic, the attorney general’s reasoning was essentially “The woman knew she was in a prison, so what did she expect?”

The only communication device she was given was a radio to reach prison guards if an incident occurred. When the inmate attacked the teacher, she tried using the radio, but it was tuned to a channel the guards didn’t even use. She also tried screaming, as Harvey threw her to the ground and stabbed her with pencils, choking her and slamming her head into the floor all at the same time. No guard came to help. The teacher has accused the state of negligence, false imprisonment, and violation of her civil rights.

The state of Arizona has requested that the teacher’s negligence lawsuit be thrown out. But, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton stated that the suit “contains sufficient allegations” and is letting the civil suit go forward. She stated the teacher “faced an unusually serious risk of harm” and the defendants “acted with deliberate indifference in failing to take steps to address that danger”.

The Attorney General’s Office stated the teacher “has attempted to recast absolutely routine prison events”. So an employee being raped by a prisoner is a routine prison event?

Scott Zwillinger, the teacher’s attorney, believes this is a classic case of victim-blaming. On top of physical injuries, he stated “the emotional part of this has tore my client’s life up” and it’s like we’re back in 1952 because “Absolutely, it’s blaming the victim”.

Who is at fault, is yet to be decided. The pretrial conference is set for February 23rd. To me, if an employee is subjected to physical harm with a clear lack of protection that is expected from a prison, the state is at fault and should pay the highest amount of restitution. Victim blaming is not the answer.

Should Parents Be Liable for Their Child’s Creation of a Defamatory Facebook Page?

In Georgia, two seventh graders posted defamatory remarks about a classmate on a fake Facebook page that they created under her name. Their parents may be held liable for their actions once the parents learned of the account, and did not take measures to remove it. This is an unprecedented case that will decide whether parents should be held liable for their children’s activity on the internet.

cyberbullying parent liabilityThe students used a “Fat Face” app to twist the girl’s features out of shape, and made derogatory remarks about her. Per the court document, both students added material to the profile that mentioned that the girl held racist views and was a homosexual. They also had the fake Facebook page send invitations to the girl’s friends, teachers, and relatives. According to the court, the material on the fake Facebook page was “graphically sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive.”

When the girl’s parents found out about the fake Facebook page in the name of their daughter, they discussed the matter with the principal of the school. The two students responsible for creating the page admitted their involvement. They were then suspended from school for two days.

Even after the students’ parents were informed in writing of their children’s behavior, the fake Facebook page could be viewed for an additional 11 months, after which Facebook made the account inactive. It is the opinion of the court that during that time, the fake persona kept extending or accepting requests to become Facebook friends with more users, and that other users saw the page, and posted on it.

The judge ruled that the parents may be held liable for not compelling their son to remove the fake Facebook page that made possibly libelous remarks about the girl. According to the opinion of the judge, “Given that the false and offensive statements remained on display, and continued to reach readers, for an additional 11 months, we conclude that a jury could find that the [parents’] negligence proximately caused some part of the injury [the girl] sustained from [the boy’s] actions (and inactions).”

The case is now going to be tried in the lower court. Hopefully, the trial court will decide in the girl’s favor and hold the parents liable, thereby setting a new precedent that will deter other students from engaging in the same type of bullying behavior.

How to Avoid Internet Scams during Holiday Shopping Season

With October now behind us, the calendar switches to everyone’s favorite time of year—Holiday Shopping Season. Holiday shopping officially kicks off on November 28, which is Black Friday. In recent years, retailers have extended their door busting deals to the online marketplace, with the Monday after Thanksgiving serving as the launch date. However, with the increased attention on “Cyber Monday,” Internet scam artists have begun targeting unsuspecting shoppers in attempts to gain their personal information.

cyber monday internet shopping scamsBelow are some common tactics cyber criminals use and some tips to avoid falling victim to their schemes.

Fake Advertisements and Hyperlinks in Emails

The most common tactic employed by Internet scam artists is the fake advertisement or hyperlink. These ads and links will usually appear in your email inbox, or as sidebar ads on other websites. Often, these advertisements will contain the branding of major retailers and claim to offer early Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. However, once a shopper clicks on the link, he or she will be directed to a 3rd party website which is not affiliated with the major retailer in any way.

Once the shopper arrives at the fake website, their computer may become infected with phishing or malware viruses. These viruses are used to gain access to the shopper’s sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. Given the rising popularity of Cyber Monday and online holiday shopping, these scams tend to increase their frequency beginning in late November.

How to Shop Safely This Holiday Season

In light of the all the online shopping scams used by cyber criminals, many retailers have sophisticated software and security to ensure that your information and purchases are safe. However, there are still a few tips that you should practice while shopping online.

  • Avoid suspicious websites. Be careful to avoid websites that seem poorly designed or full of pop-up ads—these are the first clues that a website is more focused on gaining your personal information than providing you with goods.
  • Use trusted websites. If you are shopping for a specific brand of item, buy that item directly through the brand’s website or another reputable online retailer (like Amazon). There are also a number of wholesale online retailers that are safe to use. As mentioned above, just be sure the website is made with care and free of obnoxious or frequent advertisements.
  • Do not click hyperlinks in emails from businesses or people you don’t recognize. Simply put, if you receive an email from a person that you do not personally know, or a company that you do not recognize, don’t follow any links in that email no matter how enticing the deal might seem. Also, be wary of an email that appears to be from a large retailer—oftentimes, the suspicious email will contain the branding of nationally known companies in order to seem more legitimate. If you have received emails from this retailer before, double check to confirm that the layout and fine print matches with the suspicious email.
  • Never reveal your social security number. This should be obvious, but it is alarming how many people give up this information willingly. While there are rare instances when you might provide your social security number online, holiday shopping is not one of them!
  • Use strong passwords. It is important to use strong passwords containing numbers, symbols, and both lower case and capital letters. You should also vary your passwords across your different online store accounts, especially making sure they are distinct from any password you use for online banking. If you use the same password across all websites and for all banking matters, it only takes one mistake and your accounts will be vulnerable to attack.

Overall, the online marketplace is a convenient and safe place to shop. As with any real world purchase, it makes sense to practice smart shopping tactics to ensure you are receiving a fair deal while also protecting your personal information.

Here at LegalMatch, we hope you have a safe and successful holiday shopping season!

Will Eating Sushi Give You Tapeworms?

I love sushi. Between the neat compact shapes, the bright colors, and odd yet creative names restaurants give their sushi, it’s easily one of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, sushi, like most foods, can be dangerous if prepared incorrectly.

SushiThere’s a story circulating on the Internet about a man in China named Tain Liao who eats a lot of sushi. One day, he experiences some stomach pains and goes to the doctor. The doctor takes a few x-rays and discovers the man’s body is full of tapeworms.

For anyone not familiar with tapeworms, their larva and eggs are often found in undercooked food, including fish. Tapeworms are parasites that can live in their hosts for almost a quarter of a century, feeding as the human it inhabits eats. The worm can cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and/or loss of appetite. Usually tapeworms aren’t life threatening, but if the parasite starts moving around the body, it can obstruct intestines. If the worm finds its way into the brain, fatal seizures may occur.

Fortunately for sushi lovers like myself, there is reason to doubt whether this story is true. First, the x-rays took pictures of muscle tissue when tapeworms typically live in intestines (that’s where all the food is of course). Second, most doctors would start with a feces test because tapeworms leave evidence behind, which the intestines will flush out along with regular waste.

But before you breathe a sigh of relief, there’s another story in the United States that might be true. In Southern California, Farmer’s Rice Cooperative is being sued for selling tainted rice. Sushi restaurant owners claim, through a class-action suit, that they thought they were buying U.S. No. 1 Extra Fancy rice. The restaurants assert that the rice they received had extra things in it, but it wasn’t fancy. The rice allegedly contains rodent feces, black mold, and other things that shouldn’t be eaten. Farmer’s Rice is denying all accusations that they defrauded restaurants into buying tainted rice for sushi production.

Should I Still Eat Sushi?

Regardless of the horror stories, I still plan on eating sushi. Bad things could happen if I eat the wrong undercooked fish, but bad things could happen if I eat the wrong hamburger. The question is not whether I should still eat, but whether there are enough rules to ensure that the food I buy is what I paid for.

Chefs must follow rules and guidelines created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state laws that they work in. Indeed, California passed a law this year required sushi chefs to work with plastic gloves when handling undercooked food, barring certain exceptions.

Restaurants and chefs aren’t fond of the new rule because they prefer to work with their hands. Chefs might protest that using gloves wouldn’t stop customers from eating a tapeworm or mold in rice. However, the gloves lessen the danger that the chef might contaminate the food with their hands. This would bolster any case against food manufactures like Farmer’s Rice Cooperative because an alternative cause of food contamination, the chefs, would not be a factor. More importantly, this would help courts determine who is actually liable for bad food.

So sushi lovers rejoice. Even if you find tapeworms and rat feces in your food, you might be able to get compensation without shutting down your favorite Japanese restaurant.