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Can Victims of a Mass Shooting Sue the Government?

The best answer is, it's unlikely. True, litigants sue the government every day, over alleged civil rights violations, controversial laws, run-of-the-mill personal injury claims against government agencies and employees, and more. The real question is usually less about whether you can you sue the government, and more about the likelihood of success. Suing the Government Is an American Tradition Overall it's fairly common to sue the government. Special needs students may challenge a school district's educational offerings. People deprived of their rights by government policies may challenge those policies in court. Even ordinary claims for money damages -- arising out of personal injury, death, or property damage -- can be litigated before an administrative agency or judge. What's less certain is what happens in exceptional cases. Most (successful) lawsuits against the government rely on recognizable claims, alleging violations of well-accepted rights or duties, seeking relief for identifiable injuries or losses. Suing the postal service after a mail carrier crashes their mail truck into your house, for example, is pretty routine. But lawsuits based on novel legal theories, expanded notions of rights, or for damages that are difficult to ascertain are a different matter. They're not impossible. Some of the most celebrated cases in legal history were filed on a prayer. Mass shooting lawsuits fall into that bucket. What About Mass Shootings? The obvious person(s) to sue is the person(s) responsible for resulting injuries. The reality is that they're often judgment proof. And it's unusual for courts to find someone else -- even governments -- legally liable for their crimes. Maintaining safe premises in schools or office buildings is one thing. Responsibility for someone else's intentional, criminal acts enters into a different realm. Related Resources Find a Civil Rights Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can A School Be Sued for a Shooting? (FindLaw's Injured) Injury Claims Against the Government (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Kids Around the World are Suing Their Governments for Ruining the Planet (Quartz)
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How the Gig Economy Is Impacting Child Support

Each state has its own formula to determine what amount of child support the noncustodial parent will pay. But, even when an amount is determined, it's not always easy actually getting child support payments. Sometimes the parent may feel that the money is going to his or her ex-spouse and not actually to the child. Other times, a parent may have a new family and feel that he or she can't afford to make child support payments and support the new family.Regardless of the reason, a parent is obligated to pay child support, and if he or she doesn't pay, there are ways to force payment. However, forcing someone to pay child support has become increasingly difficult with the new gig economy, where people are working in temporary positions as independent contractors. Why Would the Gig Economy Affect Child Support? If a noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support, there are a few options for enforcing the payment of child support. One option is wage garnishment, which is when a portion of a person's wages are withheld by the employer and sent to the agency in charge of enforcing child support. While this seems simple in theory, it's not always easy to implement in reality.It has become harder to collect child support in the gig economy because the income from "gig" positions aren't always disclosed or easy to uncover. Thus, there isn't a true accounting for the parent's income. In addition, certain employers may not feel obligated to deal with garnishing wages for workers who are independent contractors and not regular employees.Making Child Support Payments It's important to make child support payments -- both legally and for the well-being of your child. Whether you're finding it difficult to make child support payments, or you're having a hard time getting child support payments, an attorney can help you. Related Resources: Find Child Support Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Support (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) How Is Post-Secondary Child Support Determined? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Common Myths About Child Custody Disputes (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Man Pleads Guilty to Harassing LA Islamic Center on Social Media

Mark Feigin wasn't shy about his views. According to CNN, the real estate agent and Uber driver admittedly has 'a big mouth' and strong views on Islam, telling investigators that he wasn't 'really a fan of Islam. I don't like their views.' He freely posted those views on the Facebook page of the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles back in September of 2016. Those comments, along with a mysterious, threatening phone call, launched a hate crimes investigation that pleaded out last week. It's a tale with some intrigue offering a look at social media harassment and the law. Facebook Threats and Felony Charges The case arose after a call placed to the Islamic Center purportedly threatened to "annihilate Muslims." When an employee reported the threat to police, it didn't take long for them to suspect Feigin based on comments he'd left on the center's Facebook page. The California Attorney General's Office charged Feigin with felony criminal threats; but while investigation confirmed Feigin's views, connecting him to the threatening phone call proved elusive. Feigin pleaded guilty to making harassing electronic communications and another misdemeanor, avoiding a more serious felony charge of making criminal threats. By pleading guilty, Fagan's conviction for harassment rests on his admission. When Is Social Media Harassment a Crime? There's a line to be crossed online, just as there is in person or over the phone. California law prohibits a person from "willfully threaten[ing] to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person by means of an electronic communication device." That includes your phone, tablet, or computer. While opinions can spark a social media firestorm, mere opinions (even reprehensible ones) are different from threatening a person with harm. Contact law enforcement if you believe the line's been crossed and a threat made against you. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cyber Crimes (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Teens Arrested for Facebook Death Threats (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Can You Be Fired for Having Your Period at Work?

'Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them,' said Alisha Coleman, 'but I never thought I could be fired for it.' It's not a legal question often asked, but Coleman should know better than most. She was fired from a 911 call center in Georgia, allegedly after experiencing heavy menstrual symptoms related to the onset of menopause while at work. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, she is now suing her former employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, for gender discrimination. "I don't want any woman to have to go through what I did," Coleman stated. Working Woman According to her suit, Coleman was experiencing symptoms of premenopause at the time of her firing, which can include "irregular and unpredictable sudden onset menstrual periods, which could be heavy at times." In August of 2015, Coleman "unexpectedly experienced a sudden onset of her menstrual period that resulted in her accidentally leaking menstrual fluid on her office chair." She reported the event to her supervisor, who advised her to leave the premises to change clothing. Soon after her supervisor and HR Director warned her "that she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow." In April of 2016, some menstrual fluid unexpectedly leaked onto the carpet when Coleman got up to walk to the bathroom. Despite immediately cleaning the spot with bleach and disinfectant, Coleman was terminated, allegedly for her failure to "practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty." Workplace Legal Protections Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination of "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." The question Coleman's lawsuit raises is whether either or both laws apply to women undergoing menopause. The Bobby Dodd Institute argued against that proposition in its motion to dismiss the suit, and said Coleman wasn't targeted for being female. A district court judge agreed and dismissed her case in June, ruling it was not clear that Coleman's treatment for "excessive menstruation was treated less favorably than similar conditions affecting both sexes," or that "male employees who soiled themselves and company property due to a medical condition, such as incontinence, would have been treated more favorably." The ACLU took up her case, filing an appeal on her behalf. "Employers have no business policing women's bodies or their menstrual cycles," said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director in a statement. "Firing a woman for getting her period at work is offensive and an insult to every woman in the workplace ... That's wrong and illegal under federal law. We're fighting back." Related Resources: Find an Employment Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Pregnancy Discrimination Warning Signs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons You Can't Be Fired From Your Job (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Can I Sue for a Heatstroke Injury?

Heatstroke is one of the more common causes for injuries over the summer. It occurs when a person's body temperature rises above 104 degrees due to sun/heat exposure. A person suffering from heatstroke requires immediate medical care. If left untreated, it can damage a person's brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Fortunately, individuals can usually prevent heatstroke by finding ways to cool down before it's too late, such as finding some shade, hydrating, even jumping in a pool, or just taking a shower. However, it is not always possible to prevent heatstroke, and sometimes, another person, or business entity, could even be liable for it. Below, you'll find three examples of when a person might be able to sue due to a heatstroke injury. 1. Employees Without Climate Control In the employment context, employers are required to maintain safe working conditions for their employees. In non-climate control environments, this requires ensuring employees have sun protection, the ability to stay hydrated, and are able to get relief from the heat. Even when an employer makes every effort to prevent employees from suffering a heatstroke, if it happens on the job, the employee will likely be able to qualify for workers' compensation. 2. Kids and Supervision When children play outdoors during the summertime, generally, whoever is supervising the children could potentially be liable if a child is injured due to overheating in the sun. This is due to the fact that preventing it is as easy as making sure kids drink water and don't stay in the sun too long. During heat waves, schools will often hold recess indoors to mitigate this risk. Day care facilities, after school programs, recreational sports coaches, schools, and even individual babysitters and other parents can be held liable if a child in their care is injured. 3. Outdoor Activities and Events Businesses and event organizers can also face liability to individuals that suffer heatstroke at their events or on their premises. Generally, if there are outdoor features, or it is an outdoor event or business, consumer safety is important. Events need to make sure that there are heat relief areas that can help cool people down and help people hydrate. Businesses need to be cautious with outdoor activities and ensure they monitor, or minimally warn, consumers for heat injury. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How to Avoid Heat Stroke: Elderly at Risk With Temperatures Soaring (FindLaw's Common Law) Fan Sues Dallas Cowboys for Burned Butt (FindLaw's Injured) NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Hot Jail Cell: Report (FindLaw's Injured)
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Teen Dies After Gym Teacher Refuses Asthma Inhaler Request

'When a child is in the school district, from the time they get there, the school is responsible for their safety.' So said attorney Jay Dorsey, who is representing the family of a 14-year-old girl who collapsed and died after a gym teacher refused repeated requests to retrieve her inhaler from her locker. The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the county board of education, the high school where it happened, and the unnamed gym teacher, charging them with civil rights violations, wrongful death, gross negligence, and negligence in hiring and supervising employees. Asthma Attack The incident happened in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Washington's NBC4 first reported on the lawsuit. According to the suit, Taylor Walton began having an asthma attack during gym class in November 2015, and asked the teacher twice to leave class and get her inhaler: A third time, Taylor again approached the John Doe Gym Teacher and stated that she was still having severe problems breathing and that she (was) leaving class to get her inhaler ... Thereafter, Taylor left the gym class. As Taylor was observed leaving the gymnasium, there were no efforts by Defendant Gym Teacher or other members of the gym staff to accompany her to her locker to help her get her inhaler or to secure her safety. Taylor was found by another school employee, collapsed on the steps outside the gym. Efforts to revive her by school staff and emergency responders were unsuccessful. School Board Breach According to the lawsuit, Taylor had suffered a prior asthma attack in the same gym teacher's class before, school officials we aware she suffered from asthma, and were required to distribute an "emergency treatment plan" to her teachers. Taylor's family is seeking $10 million from the Montgomery County Public School district. "The actions or omissions of the Defendant Board and its staff ... breached the duty owed Taylor," the lawsuit alleges. "Each individual breach by the Board and staff, or in concert with each other, was a substantial factor in proximately causing injury and then death of Taylor." Related Resources: Find Wrongful Death Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) When Are Schools Liable for Student Injuries? (FindLaw's Injured) How Do You Sue a School District? (FindLaw's Injured) Max Gilpin School Football Death Suit Settles (FindLaw's Injured)
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Suing for Injuries at Walmart and Other Big Box Stores

If you are injured by someone else’s negligence while shopping at a Walmart, or any big box store, you may be wondering what you need to do in order to recover. Depending on how the injury happened, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with a claims representative. If your claim is against Walmart itself, you’ll likely need to file a lawsuit against the store (as Walmart has a bad reputation for not settling injury claims). What might come as a shock to many is that Walmart tops the charts when it comes to the number of lawsuits they face annually. While recent statistics are difficult to track down, at one point, the goliath faced approximately 5,000 new cases per year, or nearly 13 lawsuits every single day. In and Around the Big Box Big box stores like Walmart, Target, and Costco typically will have internal procedures that they will want to follow to document an injury that occurs on their premises. Usually, the internal procedures require the store management to gather information about how the injury occurred, as well as collecting witness information. If the injury is severe, sometimes a store may require a person be transported via ambulance, or be treated by paramedics on-site. While it may be helpful for your legal case to cooperate when injured, focusing on your health and safety should be your first priority. Lawsuits from slip and fall injuries in stores are fairly common. Depending on your state’s laws, and how your injury occurred, the complexity of your case can vary drastically. Not all injuries are the result of negligence, or the fault of another. In some states, slip and fall injuries put a much higher burden of proof on the plaintiff than in others. Typical personal injury claims while shopping at a retail store will be for negligence or premises liability. Product and Delivery Driver Liability In addition to all the lawsuits Walmart faces for in-store injuries by customers and employees, lawsuits also occur over delivery drivers accidents and dangerous products. Most prominently, comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a fatal bus accident caused by a Walmart truck, which resulted in a rare high value settlement from Walmart, rumored to be close to $100 million. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Disabled Woman’s Parents Sue Walmart Over Shoplifting Arrest (FindLaw’s Injured) Walmart Dress Caused Sexless Marriage, Lawsuit Claims (FindLaw’s Legally Weird) Long-Haired Woman Sues Walmart Over Shampoo-Related ‘Suffering’ (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)
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Fair Housing Act Protects LGBT Couples

The Fair Housing Act, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, protects renters and home buyers from a variety of discrimination based on everything from sex, race, and national origin to religion, marriage status, and pregnancy. But until Wednesday of this week, no court had extended those protections to include lesbian, gay, or transgender people. That all changed when a federal court in Denver ruled that sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, including discrimination motivated by outdated stereotypes about how men and women should act and with whom they should romantically partner. Judicial Protection Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and her wife Tonya Smith attempted to rent a townhouse for themselves and their two children in Boulder, Colorado, but were denied, according to their lawsuit, because the landlord did not approve of their "unique relationship." In a ruling their lawyer believes is the first of its kind, the court found that LGBT renters are protected from such discrimination under federal law. "This is the first case under the Fair Housing Act dealing with gender identity where there's been liability found for discrimination based on stereotypes," Omar Gonzalez-Pagan told the Washington Post. "It demonstrates the importance of bringing these cases. Housing discrimination is a significant unreported problem" for LGBT people. Judicial Reasoning The district court's ruling mirrored one issued a day earlier by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. There, the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both courts found that sexual stereotyping is a form of sex discrimination, and therefore illegal under federal statutes that bar discrimination based on "sex." In doing so, the courts relied on a 1989 Supreme Court case holding that male partners and managers discriminated against a female employee when they said she needed to "walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry" in order to advance. In the Smith's case, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore wrote, "Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping." Such sexual stereotyping is illegal under federal law, and therefore the landlord's refusal to rent to the Smith's based on their relationship violated the Fair Housing Act. Related Resources: Find Landlord-Tenant Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can Landlords Discriminate Against Unmarried Couples? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Housing Discrimination for LGBT Couples (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Understanding Your Rights: Housing Discrimination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Can You Sue a Gym for Faulty Equipment?

Americans love the gym. Whether we miss the activity and exercise from recess and gym class in school or we're wistful for the waistline from our younger days, millions of us are spending millions of hours in the gym and millions of dollars on gym memberships. And we expect that gyms will show the same dedication to their equipment -- buying the best and maintaining equipment in the best condition. But what happens when that doesn't happen? Are gyms liable for injuries caused by faulty equipment? Waive Goodbye? Like any other business, gyms have a duty to keep their patrons safe. But, when it comes to lawsuits regarding a gym's equipment, that liability can be complicated by a couple of factors. The first hurdle to a lawsuit may be a liability waiver, if you signed one. Many, if not all gyms require members to waive injury liability, and whether that waiver will prevent you from filing an injury lawsuit will depend on the terms of the agreement. Some liability waivers only bar lawsuits based on gym or employee negligence, and are generally upheld in court. Other waivers attempt to provide total immunity for gyms, but can be found unenforceable if they're too broad. A gym's waiver may attempt to limit liability for equipment-related injuries, but may not cover instances where the gym failed to maintain the equipment properly, or knew the equipment was faulty and failed to fix it. Gym Defects Certain equipment, like treadmills, can be inherently dangerous. And some equipment may have been designed or manufactured poorly or lack adequate warnings regarding its proper use. Gym equipment manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe, and may be strictly liable if a person is injured using on their product. Product liability claims against gym equipment manufacturers can be based on: Defects in Design: The gym equipment's design is flawed making it unreasonably dangerous to users; Defects in Manufacturing: The equipment was improperly manufactured, dangerously departing from the intended design; or Defects in Warnings: The equipment lacks adequate instructions or warnings, rendering the product unreasonably dangerous. While equipment manufacturers can be liable for defects in their products, gyms may also be liable if they knew the equipment was dangerous and did not fix or remove it. If you've been injured at the gym and think a faulty piece of equipment was to blame, contact an experienced personal injury attorney near you. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Top 5 Legal Tips for Gym Injuries (FindLaw's Injured) Treadmill Accident Leads to Brain Injury Lawsuit (FindLaw's Injured) Gym-aholics Be Warned: LA Fitness Wins Injury Lawsuit With Liability Waiver (FindLaw's Injured)
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Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Protects Gay, Lesbian Workers From Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Because it was enacted in 1964, many have wondered whether gay and lesbian workers were also protected under the law. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question this week, ruling that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court reasoned that the statute's ban on sex discrimination also prohibited sexual orientation discrimination because, among other reasons, the discrimination is based on outdated gender stereotypes. Here's a look: Stereotypical Discrimination The plaintiff in the case, Kimberly Hively, contends that she was passed over for full-time employment at Ivy Tech Community College because she is lesbian. Her central claim, as it pertains to Title VII, is that this discrimination was based on her sex or gender -- that, had she been a man, she would not have been discriminated against for being sexually attracted to women. And the majority found it persuasive: Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual ... Hively's claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction, and policing. The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man). Essentially, Hivey was still discriminated against based on her sex in that she did not conform to stereotypes about female sexual orientation. A Definitive Decision? The court's decision is groundbreaking. Until now, the majority of courts interpreting Title VII have held that it did not cover discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. While the Second Circuit found that sexual-orientation discrimination wasn't explicitly prohibited by Title VII, it recently found that gay workers who were subject to gender stereotyping still had the right bring sex discrimination claims. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue, but may need to soon, giving the disagreement between circuits. For now, the Seventh Circuit's ruling applies only to its own jurisdiction: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Related Resources: Find Employment Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Seventh Circuit Holds That Title VII Forbids Anti-Gay Job Discrimination (The Washington Post) LGBT Worker Protections Missing in Mississippi and Most States (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Signs of Employment Discrimination (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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