By Lina Khan
Late last year a massive data hack at Target exposed as many as 110 million consumers around the country to identity theft and fraud. As details of its lax computer security oversight came to light, customers whose passwords and credit card numbers had been stolen banded together to file dozens of class-action lawsuits against the mega-chain-store company. A judge presiding over a consolidated suit will now sort out how much damage was done and how much Target may owe the victims of its negligence. As the case proceeds, documents and testimony pertaining to how the breach occurred will become part of the public record.
All this may seem like an archetypical story of our times, combining corporate misconduct, cyber-crime, and high-stakes litigation. But for those who follow the cutting edge of corporate law, a central part of this saga is almost antiquarian: the part where Target must actually face its accusers in court and the public gets to know what went awry and whether justice gets done.
Two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings—AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors—have deeply undercut these centuries-old public rights, by empowering businesses to avoid any threat of private lawsuits or class actions. The decisions culminate a thirty-year trend during which the judiciary, including initially some prominent liberal jurists, has moved to eliminate courts as a means for ordinary Americans to uphold their rights against companies. The result is a world where corporations can evade accountability and effectively skirt swaths of law, pushing their growing power over their consumers and employees past a tipping point.
How corporations became people you can’t sue.
By Adam Sege, Tribune reporter
The mother of a Southern Illinois University student found dead in February alleges in a lawsuit that the 19-year-old was beaten to death by someone who had given him a ride after a party.
Pravin Varughese was found dead in a wooded area near Carbondale on Feb. 18, six days after he was last seen leaving the party about three miles away, according to authorities.
An autopsy by the Jackson County coroner’s office concluded that Varughese died of hypothermia, with no evidence of foul play. But in a second autopsy commissioned by the student’s family, an independent forensic pathologist found evidence of four different blows to the face and head.
According to the lawsuit filed today, on the night Varughese went missing, an Illinois State Police trooper stopped to talk with a driver in the area where the student’s body was later found.
Lawsuit says SIU student killed by someone who gave him ride
Mount Prospect has agreed to a $6.5 million settlement that will end an unusual lawsuit filed by a restaurant owner who sued the village using a federal law more commonly used to bust organized crime.
The village board on Tuesday night approved the settlement with the owner of Ye Olde Town Inn, Tod Curtis, who has run the pizzeria for more than 40 years, said one of his lawyers, Riccardo DiMonte. Under the agreement, the village and its insurer will pay $6.5 million, $2 million of which will go toward attorney fees and legal costs. The village will pay $439,002 and an insurer will cover the rest, according to the agreement.
Curtis’ lawsuit was noteworthy because he cited federal civil racketeering law in 2008 as he accused village officials and a local developer of trying to force him out of his downtown business to make way for a new development project. The lawsuit alleged the village and Oz Development LLC collaborated to try to push him out, violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, known as RICO.
Pizzeria owner wins millions in unusual lawsuit against village
By Steve Schmadeke
A Chicago aviation lawyer who made international news when she filed the first court action shortly after a Malaysia Airlines jet vanished earlier this year now faces sanctions from Illinois’ attorney disciplinary agency for filing the allegedly frivolous case.
Monica Kelly held a heavily publicized news conference in Kuala Lumpur in March to announce she’d filed a petition alleging that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure before plunging into the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 passengers and crew on board.
A complaint made public Tuesday by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission alleged that the claims “had no basis in fact and were frivolous” because Kelly had no evidence of a mechanical malfunction on the still-missing Boeing 777.
Chicago lawyer faces sanctions for suit against Malaysia Airlines
Retired Chicago Police Sgt. Lawrence C. Knasiak was twice commended by the city council for his “dedication, professionalism and personal sacrifice” during a nearly 30-year career with the department.
Apparently that sense of civic duty didn’t extend to cops he supervised, including a Jewish officer Knasiak allegedly called a “bloodsucking parasite,” the Sun-Times is reporting.
On Monday, a federal jury awarded $540,000 to that officer, who was supervised by Knasiak in a Southwest Side police district from 2000 to 2007.
Chicago cop wins $540K suit against sergeant accused of taunting him
The woman seen on a now-viral video being repeatedly punched by a California Highway Patrol officer said her dress was violently ripped to expose her bare buttocks as she told the officer “I didn’t do anything to you,” according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week and amended Friday.
Marlene Pinnock, 51, said in the lawsuit that she had dealt with the officer in the past, and that he called her by name as she walked in the area of the 10 Freeway west of downtown Los Angeles July 1. When she began to leave the area the lawsuit alleges she was “violently thrown to the ground” by the officer.
“He was bamming me in my temples with all the strength he had,” Pinnock said in the lawsuit. Pinnock said she told the officer, “stop, I didn’t do anything to you.”
CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow told the Sacramento Bee newspaper last week that “the need for more (training) has been exposed,” in reference to the video and how the law enforcement agency deals with the mentally ill.
CHP Officer Hit Woman in Now-Viral Video With “All the Strength He Had”: Lawsuit
Public health advocates are fuming over a new court ruling that they say could hasten the coming of the next pandemic.
In a 2-1 decision released Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration need not consider banning the use of antibiotics in healthy food-producing animals.
“We believe that this decision allows dangerous practices known to threaten human health to continue,” said Avinash Kar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Adding antibiotics to farm animals’ feed, day after day, is not what we should be doing. It’s not what the doctor ordered and it should not be allowed.”
In March 2012, a federal court ruled that the FDA must act on scientific knowledge that the overuse of antibiotics in animals raised for food has contributed to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. That decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the NRDC concerning findings made by the FDA back in 1977. Feeding livestock low doses of penicillin and most tetracyclines, the agency had concluded, might pose a risk to human health. The FDA never acted on or retracted those findings.
Feds Failing To Act On Antibiotic Resistance Despite Grave Threat, Health Advocates Warn
By Christy Gutowski Tribune reporter 6:40 p.m. CDT, July 24, 2014
It was supposed to be a workplace exercise to build mutual respect, understanding and empathy between co-workers of an Addison fire safety company.
Instead, according to a DuPage County lawsuit, one employee experienced “pain and suffering in body and mind” when he fell to the floor after being “propelled” into the air during what was supposed to be a team-building event.
Antonio Gonzalez filed the suit earlier this month against Guardian Quest, an Aurora business management consulting firm that held the “diversity inclusion” training workshop two summers ago in an Oakbrook Terrace hotel.
Man injured during team-building drill: lawsuit
Michael Muskal Los Angeles Times 1:35 p.m. CDT, July 25, 2014
In the second recent scandal to cloud a nationally acclaimed marching band, the director of the Ohio State University band has been dismissed after investigators found a sexualized culture of rituals in the group that bills itself as the “Best Damn Band in the Land.”
Band director Jonathan Waters was fired by the school after an investigation prompted by a parental complaint found the band’s “culture facilitated acts of sexual harassment, creating a hostile environment for students.” The lawyer representing Waters said the band leader will fight to clear his name.
According to the report, musicians were pressured to march through the stadium in their underwear, sing school anthems that had been massaged with bawdy and culturally inappropriate lyrics and force rookies to endure hazing.
Ohio State band director fired after report finds sexualized culture
By David Ovalle
During a Hialeah Gardens school “Spirit Day,” a teen girl dressed in an inflatable sumo wrestler suit for what was supposed to be a goofy match with a classmate.
But a lawsuit claims the sumo fun went horribly wrong, leaving the teen with severe brain damage after her head repeatedly struck the floor.
The girl, 15-year-old freshman Celaida Lissabet, and her mother late last week sued charter school Mater Academy and Mega Party Events, the company that supplied the inflatable suits, which the lawsuit contends are designed for use in “violent recreational sumo wrestling games.”
Adrian De La Rosa, owner of Mega Party Events, said the girl was outfitted according to instructions from the suit’s manufacturer.
Lawsuit: Inflatable sumo wrestling led to brain injury at Miami-Dade charter school