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Archive for the ‘U.S. Court System’ Category

Hudson Crash Survivors, thinking Lawsuits!!

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Big surprise: Lawsuits could be on the horizon in US Airways flight 1549 accident

Today marks one month since the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson,” when US Airways flight 1549 ditched into the New York river and narrowly avoided catastrophe after colliding with a flock of birds and losing both engines shortly after take off from LaGuardia.

The flight’s captain, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, has become a national hero, but the incident itself has largely faded from the spotlight, helped in no small part by this past week’s plane crash in Buffalo.

A week after the US Airways accident, Tom posted about the airline being prompt in its efforts to financially compensate every passenger on board the plane that day — to the tune of $5,000 each, plus a fare refund. A Gadling reader named Bill commented, “I’m guessing those $5,000 checks won’t stop any lawsuits.”

Bill might be right.

I was sifting through some of last month’s coverage of the accident this afternoon when I stumbled upon this story in USA Today. The story, among other things, reports that a New York law firm called Kreindler & Kreindler is already — surprise, surprise — sniffing around the fringes of the accident to see what lawsuits can be filed. Specifically, a partner at the firm named Noah Kushlefsky tells the newspaper that several passengers have contacted the firm since the accident and that right now lawyers are looking into what injuries and emotional distress passengers might have suffered and whether they are actionable.

Two things are important to point out. First, according to various accounts, most passengers say they’ve been very satisfied with how US Airways has handled the accident’s aftermath. They say the compensation is generous and claim to have no plans to sue. Second, most of those who say they are not happy insist the $5,000 check from the airline simply isn’t enough to cover all they lost in the accident. (US Airways says that it will cover claims above $5,000 if passengers indeed lost more.)

That doesn’t seem good enough for at least one passenger, Joe Hart, a salesman from Charlotte.

Mr. Hart says he lost more than $5,000 worth of personal belongings. But it appears he’s thinking beyond just straight compensation. He tells USA Today that he has talked to a lawyer in Charlotte and is waiting “to see how things play out with US Airways. I’m hopeful US Airways understands the significance of the incident.”

Gail Dunham, the director of the National Air Disaster Alliance & Foundation, says $5,000 is not enough from US Airways because, among other things, passengers experienced a “terrific ordeal” (Read: mental anguish, post traumatic stress, etc…)

That’s what Mr. Hart is citing: He tells USA Today that flying for him has become “progressively more difficult” during the six flights he’s made since the accident. On a LA-Philadelphia run recently, he said he was sweaty and nervous and “felt every bid of turbulence.”

So, what do you think? To me, it sounds like Mr. Hart is already laying the groundwork for a lawsuit based on emotional distress.

I am all for passengers recovering what they lost in the accident, and if it is indeed more than $5,000 that’s fine.

However, it seems outright laughable, given the pretty much universal conclusion that the crew of Flight 1549, including Capt. Sullenberger, performed their jobs to the highest standards and saved 150 lives, that anyone would be considering suing the airline for something like negligence or mental anguish. Hell, did you hear Capt. Sullenberger on 60 Minutes? He said he couldn’t sleep for three days after the accident! Can he sue?

And let’s not even get into the ambulance-chasing element of a law firm like Kreindler & Kreindler, which, one can safely assume, is at least telling those who have called the firm that they may truly have a case. After all, they have lawyers looking into things — though what, exactly, is hard to know: The airplane struck a flock of birds.

I don’t want to get too down about this before any legal action is actually taken, but I was sort of hoping that this whole thing would pass without the utterance of that most sacred of American traditions: the lawsuit. Weren’t you?

Spend any significant amount of time outside the United States and you gradually come to understand that people are less curious about our politics than they are about our fixation on punishment and resolution, and our ultimate faith in the judicial system as the chief instrument to meet those ends.

That America is a litigious society is undeniable, and outsiders want to know why this is so. They see a country of overcrowded jails, a country where legal redress is a warm blanket against the cold, a country where people probably won’t be all that surprised if someone sued the very airline that actually saved his life.

Anymore, they see a country where the words “land of the free” never ring quite as loudly as “see you in court.”

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God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie

Justice Department Attorneys in Contempt!

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Judge Holds Stevens Prosecutors in Contempt

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said it was “outrageous” that government attorneys would ignore his deadline for turning over documents to former Sen. Ted Stevens’ legal team.

A federal judge held Justice Department attorneys in contempt Friday for failing to deliver documents to former Sen. Ted Stevens’ legal team.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said it was “outrageous” that government attorneys would ignore his deadline for turning over documents.

Last month, Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to turn over all the agency’s internal communications regarding a whistleblower complaint against the FBI agent leading the investigation into the former Alaska senator.

The agent, Chad Joy, bitterly complained about some Justice Department tactics during the trial, including not turning over evidence and an “inappropriate relationship” between another agent working the case and the prosecutor’s star witness.

Stevens was convicted in October of lying on Senate disclosure documents about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from an Alaska businessman. In November, Stevens lost his bid for re-election to the Senate seat he had held since 1968.

Stevens and his lawyers complained during the trial about prosecutors withholding information. In December, they asked for his conviction to be tossed out. As part of their request, they asked for the documents related to Joy.

During Friday’s hearing, Sullivan repeatedly asked three Justice Department attorneys sitting at the prosecution’s table whether they had some reason not to turn over the documents. They finally acknowledged they did not, and Sullivan exploded into anger.

“That was a court order,” he bellowed. “That wasn’t a request. I didn’t ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. … Isn’t the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?”

He said he didn’t want to get “sidetracked” by deciding a sanction immediately and would deal with their punishment later. But he ordered them to produce the material by the end of the day.

“That’s outrageous for the Department of Justice — the largest law firm on the planet,” he said. “That is not acceptable in this court.”

Sullivan held all three attorneys sitting at the table in contempt and demanded repeatedly to know who else was involved in withholding the information. Another government attorney sitting in the back of the courtroom stood up and gave her name.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie

Passengers Can be Frisked!!!!

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US Supreme Court says Passenger Stopped for Traffic Violation Can Be Frisked

Washington (AP) – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court on Monday unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.

The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.

The justices accepted Arizona’s argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

The pat-down is allowed if the police “harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie

Will You Think Twice About Being a Good Samaritan

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This goes so far beyond a frivilous lawsuit!  What is happening to our court systems?  Are the individuals we put in there learning from the Politicians that so many people vote in?

I just don’t get how a court could rule this way.  I mean next thing we’ll see is that someone can be charged with murder if they are at an accident scene, but don’t want to take the risk of being a Good Samaritan.

Maybe someone can explain this logic to me, because I can’t figure it out.

Via (FoxNews)

Calif. Court: Would-be Good Samaritan can be sued

LOS ANGELES —  Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, the state’s high court on Thursday said a would-be Good Samaritan accused of rendering her friend paraplegic by pulling her from a wrecked car “like a rag doll” can be sued.

California’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Good Samaritan law only protects people from liability if the are administering emergency medical care, and that Lisa Torti’s attempted rescue of her friend didn’t qualify.

Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for a unanimous court that a person is not obligated to come to someone’s aid.

“If, however, a person elects to come to someone’s aid, he or she has a duty to exercise due care,” he wrote.

Torti had argued that she should still be protected from a lawsuit because she was giving “medical care” when she pulled her friend from a car wreck.

Alexandra Van Horn was in the front passenger seat of a car that slammed into a light pole at 45 mph on Nov. 1, 2004, according to her negligence lawsuit.

Torti was a passenger in a car that was following behind the vehicle and stopped after the crash. Torti said when she came across the wreck she feared the car was going to explode and pulled Van Horn out. Van Horn testified that Torti pulled her out of the wreckage “like a rag doll.” Van Horn blamed her friend for her paralysis.

Whether Torti is ultimately liable is still to be determined, but Van Horn’s lawsuit can go forward, the Supreme Court ruled.

Beverly Hills lawyer Robert Hutchinson, who represented Van Horn, said he’s pleased with the ruling.

Torti’s attorney, Ronald Kent, of Los Angeles didn’t immediately return a telephone call.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie