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Skycaps File National Class Action
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/16 16:19
Employers are cheating airport skycaps nationwide by paying them less than minimum wage and discouraging tipping by charging a $2 per bag "baggage fee," which customers falsely believe will be given to the skycaps, the skycaps say in a federal class action.

The skycaps say the baggage fee, imposed in 2005, has seriously impaired their earnings, which were heavily dependent on tips, and that they often end up working for less than minimum wage.

The skycaps say this unfair system has been imposed at major airline counters, including United, US Airways, JetBlue and American, at airports around the country, including O'Hare in Chicago, Logan in Boston, Philadelphia International, Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International in Florida.

They demand restitution and damages. Their lead counsel is Pyle, Rome, Lichten of Boston.

Here are the defendants: Huntleigh Corp., Prime Flight Aviation Services, Flight Services & Systems, American Sales Management Organization, and Prospect Airport Services.


Avandia Securities Class Action Dismissed
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/15 15:55
A federal judge dismissed a shareholders' class-action complaint that accused GlaxoSmithKline of violating securities laws by withholding or manipulating information about its heart drug Avandia. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton dismissed for failure to state a claim, without leave to replead.

After discussing the studies and meta-analyses (studies of studies) of the drug, Judge Stanton bought Glaxo's arguments: "Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the amended complaint because plaintiffs have not established that defendants have made a material misrepresentation or omission, plaintiffs do not sufficiently plead scienter, and the statements plaintiffs identify as false and misleading are forward-looking statements and thus are not actionable."


Class Claims MetLife Cheats By Assuming Kids Will Smoke
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/13 16:44
Metropolitan Life Insurance defrauds customers by illicitly and secretively applying smokers' rates to children who don't smoke, claiming that by the time they are adults the kids will be smokers, a class action claims in Middlesex County Court.

Plaintiffs claim MetLife conceals this deceitful policy, which violates underwriting guidelines.

They claim MetLife's "'juvenile standard' or 'standard' rate and/or risk class is a blend of smoking and nonsmoking mortality experience. MetLife never disclosed this information to policyholders, defendant's own sales agents, or persons other than those MetLife actuaries and home office personnel involved in pricing MetLife's insurance policies."

Represented by Bruce Greenberg with Lite DePalma Greenberg & Rivas, plaintiffs demand treble damages for consumer fraud.


Inventor Of Secret Goggles Can't Sue Government
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/12 16:01
The inventor of color-compatible night-vision goggles lacks standing to sue the government for compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act, after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office withheld his patent for 14 years on "national security" grounds, the Court of Federal Claims ruled.

Richard Cohen, an inventor with Honeywell International, filed a patent application in 1985 for "night vision goggles compatible with full color display." The PTO forwarded his application to defense agencies, and the Department of the Navy requested a secrecy order to keep his application under wraps.

When the order was lifted in 2000, Honeywell experienced rejection after rejection of its original and new patent applications.  The company blamed the rejection of a related 2002 patent application on the 14-year delay, and sought compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act.

But Honeywell's newer patent was not based on the original patent, so Honeywell failed to establish a causal link between the secrecy order and the company's alleged damages.


Talk About A Jury Of Peers ...
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/09 16:08
A woman in the jury pool for a marijuana trial failed to return from a break because she was arrested for allegedly smoking a joint outside the courthouse, the judge told the Houston Chronicle.

Criminal Court at Law Judge Sherman Ross told the newspaper he was preparing to file a bench warrant for missing Juror No. 2 when his bailiff got a call from police, who said Cornelia Mayo was being booked on a charge of smoking pot outside the courthouse.

"I've had prospective jurors get lost before, but it never occurred to me that they might be getting ready for a marijuana trial by, allegedly, smoking marijuana," Ross told the Chronicle. Mayo, who spent the night in jail, will be arraigned next week in the court across the hall from Judge Ross's courtroom.


Vallejo, CA Declares Itself Bankrupt
Legal Topics | 2008/05/08 15:52

The Vallejo City Council has voted unanimously to declare the city bankrupt. The council cited falling property values and tax receipts and a $16 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins in July. Residents of Vallejo, a town of 120,000 in Santa Clara County, have a median income of $56,505.

    Vallejo, 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, is the largest city in California to declare itself bankrupt, and the first major metropolitan area to do so since Orange County filed for bankruptcy in 1994 after a series of bungled investments.

    "With Orange County there were identifiable bad guys," John Quigley, an economics profession at UC-Berkeley, told The New York Times. "This is different. Near as one can tell, this is more of a low-level infection everywhere."

    Proposition 13 caps property taxes in California, and the Vallejo City Council was unable to wring salary concessions from its public employees, whose salaries account for 80 percent of the city budget.



Taxpayers Challenge $7.4 Billion Prison Bond
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/07 16:02
The State of California illegally approved issuance of $7.4 billion in "lease-revenue bonds" to build facilities for 53,000 more state and county prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget claims in Superior Court.

Plaintiffs CURB and individual taxpayers claim AB 900, signed into law in 2007, violates the state constitution because it was not approved by voters and is deceptively and illegally described as a revenue bond.

The lawsuit comes as California faces an annual budget deficit of nearly $20 billion. A similar budget deficit led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and his replacement by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a defendant in this case.

"Article XVI, Section 1 of the California Constitution requires voter approval for all long-term debts greater than $300,000. However, the state contends that the AB 900 bonds do not require voter approval because they are secured only by 'lease' payments. This lawsuit contends the opposite: namely, that the $7.4 billion in lease-revenue bonds in AB 900 are actual debts that will further impair the credit of the state, and that require voter approval before they can be incurred," the complaint states.

"A revenue bond is backed by the future revenue stream created by a given construction project. For example, a revenue bond allows a cit or the state to build a tool bridge or a convention center and then to repay the debt with user fees generated by the project. ... Prisons, however, do not generate revenue. ... Under the lease-revenue bond transactions at issue here, the state will not receive any funds from the operation of the new prison facilities financed by the bonds, but will instead incur substantial additional costs - in excess of $1.4 billion each year. ...

"In the past, the state itself clearly recognized that bonds used to finance prison construction had to satisfy the constitutional requirement of voter approval. Until 1996, the state routinely used general obligation bonds to finance prisons and submitted proposed prison expansion projects to the voters. However, the last two times that state did so, in 1990 and again in 1996, the voters rejected the prison bonds. The state has not submitted any of its prison expansion plans to the voters since 1996."


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