This seems to be Congress’ position on the issue. Because in the past year, they have decided to weaken a number of important safety measures despite the fact that the death toll in truck-involved crashes has risen 17 percent from 2009 to 2013 (which is the most current data) and despite the estimated cost of tractor-trailer and bus accidents is roughly $99 billion dollars a year. Yes, that is billion with a B. And, that is just economic cost.  It does not reflect the emotional suffering the victims and their families suffer as a result of these accidents. So, let’s take a look at just a few steps that Congress has taken in favor of the trucking industry and against the rest of the motoring public. Continue reading

sports photo

Whether your kid is involved in softball, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, football, cheerleading or other type of sport, the registration process almost certainly included a sports or liability waiver.   Typically, the parent or guardian is asked to release the organization, coaches, etc. from any claims arising from their child’s participation. And, because the waivers are presented as a take-it or leave-it, negotiation is not an option.  So, you sign it.  And then, the worst happens: your child gets injured. What do you do next? Continue reading

prison pic

Yesterday, Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison for conspiracy, fraud and other federal charges that related to knowingly shipping out salmonella-tainted peanut butter that sickened and killed people. And all I can say is: it is about time. It is about time that corporate executives who make reckless or knowing decisions that ultimately kill people receive jail time.

“Just ship it.” That was Mr. Parnell’s response when notified of the problem by a plant manager.   To be clear, this was not a case in which a company was unaware of a problem with their product. To the contrary, Parnell and Peanut Corp. of America knew the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella. In fact, they covered up positive lab tests and shipped it out anyway. The result: 9 people were killed and 714 were sickened. Perhaps, Parnell’s sentence will send a message to corporate executives across the country that public safety comes before profits. Continue reading

newspaper photo

The last two posts have been about the John Jay High School incident in which two players purposefully hit a referee from behind and then while he was lying prone on the ground. The first post examined Tennessee civil (not criminal) law on assault and battery. The second post reviewed the defense of provocation because the players claimed they were provoked by the referee’s use of racial slurs against them. On our final post on this incident, we will discuss Tennessee’s law on defamation. The referee has insinuated he might take legal action against the players for falsely stating he made racist remarks to, in what he believes, justify their battery of him.   And yes, this all really did start as part of a high school football game.

Under Tennessee law, defamation can take two forms: slander and libel. Libel is a written defamatory statement and slander is a spoken defamatory statement.   If someone has slandered you, then you have 6 months to bring suit. If someone has committed libel against you, you have one year to bring suit. To prove a case for defamation, you must show:  Continue reading

Our last post was about whether the John Jay High School football players who intentionally hit a referee during a game could be found liable for the torts of assault and battery. As promised, we will now take up the racial slur issue and the defense of provocation.

Provocation is a defense to battery, but it is not a complete defense. Instead, it can be used to minimize the damages and it stems from the idea that a person should not be entitled to benefit from their own wrongful conduct. Or, in schoolyard terms: you started it. Continue reading

Football photo

You have probably seen it: the video of the two defensive backs targeting and intentionally hitting a referee. While an investigation is underway and criminal charges may be brought, let’s look at the incident from a tort perspective under Tennessee law.  A tort is a legal claim for personal injury or wrongful death in which money damages are sought.

While many news outlets are indicating the local District Attorney is considering assault charges, the referee probably does NOT have a civil claim for assault, but he clearly does have a claim for battery. Let me explain why I say that. Under Tennessee law, a battery is an intentional act that causes an unpermitted, harmful or offensive bodily contact. In the video, the referee has his back to the two players and immediately after the play starts the players attack him. The hits are clearly a battery upon the referee. On the other hand, an assault is better explained as the threat and apprehension of a battery. In other words, a person is not guilty of assault unless the victim has a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm. Continue reading

daycare photo

This morning, I saw two troubling articles about daycare incidences. The first was a toddler who was covered in broken-skin wounds from being scratched multiple times and bitten 10 times in a single day. It is tough to look at the pictures. Look, I understand: kids bite. And if your kid attends daycare, do not be surprised if at some point they are either the biter or the bitten. But the pictures of this child go way beyond the norm and clearly indicate a lack of supervision by the staff.

The second story that riled me up this morning was about two daycare workers who instigated fights between children and then filmed it calling it a “fight club” like the popular movie. They even shared the videos on Snapchat. I would like to send those two daycare workers to a fight club with Ronda Rousey. But, I digress.

Since these two stories were about daycare fails and because September is baby safety month, here are 5 things you can do to help keep your child safe while at daycare. Continue reading

Lady Justice photo

I have been following the prep school rape trial involving Owen Labrie. Mr. Labrie stands accused of raping a 15 year-old girl as part of a ritual known as Senior Salute at St Paul’s School. Mr. Labrie claims he had consensual sexual contact with the accuser but denies having sexual intercourse. The accuser claims she twice told Mr. Labrie “no” but he persisted and ultimately raped her.

Throughout the trial, and especially in closing arguments, the credibility of the accused and accuser were front and center. While there was some other evidence including texts, Facebook messages, lists of girls Mr. Labrie was pursuing, etc., the reality is, like so many cases, this trial is largely a “he said” v. “she said”.   In litigation, as in life, there are some key things you can do to maintain your credibility. So here are 5 crediblity boosters for life and litgation. Continue reading

Pina colada pic

Remember the old song? Escape by Rupert Holmes. The guy is lounging in bed with his significant other and reading the personal columns. He notices one that catches his eye and, because he is in a rut in his relationship, he responds. A meeting is set up, and when he shows up at the appointed time, it turns out that it was his girlfriend who he intended to cheat on had actually placed the ad. She appears at the rendezvous not knowing it was her lover who had responded and is equally, but happily, surprised: “they laugh for a moment and I said I never knew that you like Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain . . .” A happy ending; all is well.

Today, most folks looking to cheat in their relationship apparently don’t use the personal columns but instead 32 million of them turned to Ashley Madison. And after the hack of the company’s website, spouses around the globe are checking to see if their spouse was a user of the site. Doubtful there will be any happy endings. In fact, divorce lawyers are seeing an uptick in business. Continue reading

School bus photo

School is officially underway. In Williamson County, today was the first full day for kindergarteners. In surrounding area schools, it is the first day of school for students. Time to be on the lookout for the littles as they wait at the bus stop, enter and exit the bus and walk to and from school. Here are a few things you can do to help keep children safe this school year. Continue reading