(844) 815-9632

EPA

Los Angeles Settles Cyclist’s Pothole Injury Lawsuit for $6.5M

Peter Godefroy was riding his bicycle on Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California two years ago when struck a pothole, crashed his bike, and suffered "severe traumatic brain injury and numerous broken or fractured bones throughout his body." Godefroy sued the City of Los Angeles, claiming poor lighting and even worse maintenance led to a simple pothole becoming a "concealed trap for bicyclists." The L.A. City Council settled that lawsuit last week, voting 11-0 to approve granting Godefroy $6.5 million in damages. It's the second such settlement this year, after the council also awarded $4.5 million to the family of a man killed after he was thrown from his bike when he hit uneven pavement in the city. Bike Suits Bicycle accidents are sadly more common than you would hope. And if you don't have cycling insurance (yes, those policies do exist), you may be wondering about your legal options. In a crash scenario, hopefully the other party -- whether it be a driver in their car, a business-owned vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian -- will be insured and that will cover your injuries. If not, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recoup medical bills and lost wages. Most cycling accidents can be treated just like car accidents: exchange insurance information with the other party or parties, document the accident and any injuries as thoroughly as possible, and consider contacting the police if there are serious injuries or property damage. And the work doesn't stop the day after an accident -- make sure to track initial ambulance or hospital bills, additional or ongoing medical expenses, and lost work or wages as well as future income. City Liability It may sound daunting, but you can sue city hall. You may have to file a claim of injury with the city before filing a civil lawsuit to give the city a chance to compensate you or respond to the claim, and you'll have to do so within specific statutes of limitation. If the city fails to respond or denies your claim, you can move on to a full-blown lawsuit. As a general rule, municipalities are responsible for maintaining roadways (including bike lanes and sidewalks) so that they're safe for cyclists, and can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on public roadways. If a city or municipal entity fails to exercise reasonable care in keeping the roadways in good repair, they can be found liable for injuries that occur. However, in order to prove a city was negligent in repairing the road, you would also need to prove the city had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it. If you're considering a bike injury lawsuit against a city, talk to an experienced attorney first. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Severely Injured Cyclist Settles Broken Sidewalk 'Launch Ramp' Case for $4.84M (FindLaw's Injured) San Diego Cyclist Injured by Pothole Gets $235K Settlement From City (FindLaw's Injured) NYPD Accused of 'Hit and Lie' on Cyclist (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

DeVos Plans to Dismantle Standards for Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations? Out With the Old In 2011, Obama's Department of Education issued what is known as a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the requirements of colleges and universities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in regards to sexual violence on campus. Schools must "take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence," including a prompt investigation of any incident the school knows of or reasonably should know of, and apply a "preponderance of evidence" standard to determinations based on sexual harassment allegations. According to DeVos, this system "has failed too many students." "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved," she said, adding, "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." In With What Now? What the new approach will be, however, isn't immediately clear. DeVos announced plans to "launch a transparent notice-and-comment process" to formulate new guidance on sexual assault investigations, presumably to standardize procedural elements and protections across all schools. One of the issues that many, including the American Bar Association, have highlighted in prior critiques is the lack of due process protections for both victims and accusers in on-campus hearings, along with the lack of uniformity in schools' reporting, investigating, punishment, and appeals processes. "We can do a better job of making sure the handling of complaints is fair and accurate," DeVos promised, but how that job will be done remains to be seen. Related Resources: DeVos Announces Plan to Revamp Obama Administration Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations (ABA Journal) Columbia Settles Title IX Lawsuit Filed by Student Accused of Rape (FindLaw's Decided) University May Raise Tuition to Fund Sexual Assault Investigations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are Schools Using Student Privacy Laws to Cover up Crimes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Judge to Allow Jury to Decide If ‘Brain Dead’ Teen Is Alive

Jahi McMath was thirteen years old when a routine tonsillectomy went wrong and left the teen brain dead. After the surgery in 2013, she was pronounced dead, and the county coroner even signed a death certificate a month later. However, Jahi was never taken off life support. Her parents insist that she is still alive, based upon their Christian faith, regardless of the fact that she has been declared brain dead. While Jahi has been kept on life support, her parents have pursued a medical malpractice claim against the hospital as a result of the surgery. But, unlike typical medical malpractice claims where the plaintiff is either alive and injured, or dead, the court is sending that issue to the jury to decide. What's Life Anyway? Jahi's mother believes that it is her duty to keep fighting for her daughter. Despite knowing that her daughter has a severe and irreparable brain injury, she sees her daughters fingers twitch, and sees her react to unpleasant smells, and this clearly give her hope for the future. In short, whether Jahi is deemed to be alive or dead by the jury will impact the size of the potential jury verdict. If Jahi is found to still be alive, her parents will be able to seek damages for future medical care, and other damages that they would not be entitled to seek on behalf of a deceased child.State of Life California doctors were able to secure an order from the court to withdraw life support, however, before that could happen, Jahi was moved to New Jersey. The state of New Jersey is the only state where religious beliefs that do not accept brain death as actual death will prevail over medical opinion. Jahi's current doctor testified that not only has her body not started deteriorating, but that she has started puberty and even began menstruation. He testified that she is in a "minimally responsive state." Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Jahi McMath Case: What Is Brain Death? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman's Husband Sues Hospital (FindLaw's Injured) Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Taken Off Life Support (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

Here’s the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts

It's not untrue to say that Donald Trump has had a 'busy' presidency -- the Twitterer-in-Chief has been as active on social media as he has been with executive orders. But many of those orders have been met with litigation and currently stand somewhere in legal limbo between lawsuits filed and Supreme Court review. One of Trump's most active areas of executive authority has been immigration. Here's the latest on Trump's immigration reform efforts, where they stand (legally speaking), and what they could mean. 1. Trump's Travel Ban Headed to Supreme Court Perhaps Trump's most infamous executive order on immigration, and certainly his most litigated one, is the attempted ban on immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries. Blocked by federal circuit courts, rewritten, then blocked again, the Muslim ban is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, although many of the main legal issues may be moot by the time the Court hears oral arguments. 2. 3 Important Facts About Sanctuary Cities for Immigrants and Opponents Trump has also threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions -- cities and states that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. It's a legally touchy subject, since immigration is largely a federal matter and there are constitutional protections against federal departments controlling state and local law enforcement, and many of those jurisdictions have sued in response. 3. How Would a 'Merit-Based' System Change Immigration? While battling illegal immigration, Trump also wants to shift the focus of legal immigration from birthplace and family considerations to employment and education qualifications. The president-supported RAISE Act would also slash the number of refugees and visa applicants allowed into the country every year. 4. Mixed Immigration Messages? Trump Administration's Latest on DAPA, Dreamers Trump rescinded Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, last June. But the new president has yet to decide on the old president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, leaving many apprehensive about their immigration status. 5. Can Undocumented Immigrants Attend Public School? In the meantime, immigrants must go on with their daily lives even though their legal status is uncertain. The Supreme Court has said that public schools can't bar undocumented immigrant children from K-12 education, or charge them extra to attend. If you're unsure about your immigration status or need legal help, contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area. Related Resources: Find Immigration Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Top 7 Immigration Laws for Families (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's Executive Order on Immigration: What Does It Mean When a Judge Issues a 'Stay'? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

NY DMV Busts 4k Fraudsters With Facial Recognition Tech

Identity theft often involves multiple pieces of identification. That means multiple driver's licenses, all with the same face. So in 2010, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles began using facial recognition software to flag the same face applying for multiple licenses. Turns out it pays off. The New York Post reports the DMV's facial recognition technology has led to 4,000 arrests and ID'd a total of 21,000 cases of identity theft or fraud. Hey, You Look Familiar The facial recognition program looks for the same faces applying for driver's licenses under different names. Yes, in rare instances, the software can uncover identical twins put up for adoption and raised in different parts of the state. But more often than not, as the Post reports, the tech is tracking identity thieves: Among those ensnared in the new high-tech net was Randolph Robinson who tried to obtain a New York driver's license of a man he moved furniture for, authorities said. When the state system flagged him and he realized his license wasn't mailed in a matter of days, Robinson flew to Florida, where he could get a license immediately at a DMV counter, officials said. State investigators tracked him down and busted him after they say he used the Florida identification to withdraw $50,000 from the victim's bank accounts and buy a new Honda. Numbers Game "The use of this facial recognition technology has allowed law enforcement to crack down on fraud, identity theft, and other offenses - taking criminals and dangerous drivers off our streets and increasing the safety of New York's roadways," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "We will continue to do everything we can to hold fraudsters accountable and protect the safety and security of all New Yorkers." Along with those 4,000 arrests, another 16,000 people are facing administrative action as a result of the technology. A DMV investigation discovered that half of those flagged as having multiple license records were trying to get a second license after their original one had been suspended or revoked. "New York has a simple policy: one driver, one record," Terri Egan, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner, added. "If your license is suspended or revoked, the days of getting a second one to try to keep driving are over." Related Resources: Driver's License Facial Recognition Tech Leads to 4,000 New York Arrests (Ars Technica) How Are Police Using Facial Recognition Software? And Is It Accurate? (FindLaw Blotter) Legal for Cops to Use iPhone Facial Recognition? (FindLaw Blotter) Can I Get Arrested for Not Having ID? (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

What Happens If You Falsify Divorce Documents?

You don't always have to tell the truth. And you generally can't be sued for little white lies, like telling your spouse you'd do the dishes without following through, or saying you're "just going out for some cigarettes." But court is one of those places where lying will get you into serious trouble. And even if you're not appearing in court, filing false documents or claims with the court can be just as bad. As tempting as you might be to embellish or exaggerate your situation, especially in a divorce case, telling the truth in court, and in court documents, is the only way to go. Perjury We normally think of perjury as lying on the witness stand, but it can include signing any legal document you know to be false or misleading. Most perjury laws include documents, records, recordings, or other materials a person knows to contain a false material declaration, and apply to ancillary court proceedings like affidavits and depositions. In the context of divorce documents, perjury statutes could apply to the divorce filing itself (if it contains misstatements regarding the parties, the length of the marriage, or the reasons for separation) or any of the supporting documents. Lies about marital property when deciding who gets what, misrepresentations about income when deciding alimony, or false accusations in child custody determinations can all be considered perjury if they are contained in documents filed with the court and the person filing them knows they are false. Penalties Perjury is considered a crime against justice, and courts take it very seriously. Falsifying legal documents undermines the credibility of courts, and compromises the authority of their decisions. There are both state and federal statutes criminalizing perjury, many that include prison time. Beyond losing your divorce case, you could lose your freedom and your livelihood. To avoid any needless false statements or misleading documents in your divorce case, work with an experienced attorney. Related Resources: Find Divorce Lawyers Near You (FindLaw Directory) What Happens If You Don't Respond to Divorce Papers? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Serve Divorce Papers Myself? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Seal My Divorce Filings? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Tips for Handling a Child Care Notice of Action

For low-income families, access to child care can be crucial. After all, if you can't trust that your child will be cared for while you're at work, you're probably not going to work. But as many parents know, finding affordable child care is a challenge. So there are local, state, and even federal programs in place to help working parents afford day care for their children. While these services can change the lives of low-income families, the subsidies themselves are subject to change. When that happens, parents will often receive what is known as a "Notice of Action," advising them of the change. This can be a scary process, so here is some information on the notices and how to handle them. Don't Panic Subsidy programs may be complicated, with overlapping rules, regulations, and requirements, all of which seem like they can change at any moment. Many parents can become overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of it all, or get lost in a program's details. Just know that a Notice of Action doesn't necessarily mean the end of your child care subsidy, and that you can navigate the subsidy process. Do Appeal You have the right to appeal any change in your child care services. But beware -- the time is short. In most cases, you will only have 14 days to file an appeal, and must do so through a local agency, either a child care provider or a city or county entity. There are generally two levels to the appeals process: a hearing at your local agency, or a letter to the state department of education. Contact information for your local agency to request a hearing can be found on the Notice of Action. Don't Ignore It Not all changes to the child care subsidy require a Notice of Action, so even if you didn't receive a notice, your subsidy could change. If you didn't receive a Notice of Action -- if you were notified regarding a change in your subsidy by phone, for instance -- you can request a notice. Don't wait on a formal document, or think that because you didn't get a notice, your subsidy can't change. Be proactive in the appeals process. Do Seek Help If you have questions about the subsidy appeals process or want help appealing a change to your child care subsidy, there are organizations that can help. And you may want to contact an experienced family law attorney as well. Related Resources: Find Family Law Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Power of Attorney for Child Care (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Be Tax Savvy! Deduct Daycare Expenses (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Legal Tips for Choosing a New Daycare (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

ACLU Settles Lawsuit Against CIA Torture Psychologists

Much was made of the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed by the U.S. military and contractors in terrorism investigations. Often considered torture, the interrogation program was at the center of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against the alleged architects of that program, on behalf two men subjected to those techniques and the family of one man who froze to death in a CIA prison. In what the ACLU says is a first for lawsuits involving CIA torture, the two defendants in the case, psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, have agreed to settle the lawsuit, for an undisclosed amount. Enhanced Interrogation "Government officials and contractors are on notice that they cannot hide from accountability for torture," said director of the ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi in the wake of the settlement. "Our clients' groundbreaking case has changed the legal landscape. It showed that the courts are fully capable of handling lawsuits involving abuses committed in the name of national security." Due to issues of immunity and fears of classified information being made public, the case was set to be the first of its kind to go to trial, perhaps because the Justice Department did not try to block it. Although both Mitchell and Jessen continue to claim that the abuse suffered by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, and Rahman's death, all occurred without their knowledge. But in an earlier ruling in the case, the court found "The evidence would support a finding Defendants designed the [enhanced interrogation techniques] to be used on detainees, and thus they clearly had knowledge they would be so used." Brutal and Ineffective Those techniques embodied an effort to a state of "learned helplessness" in captives that would remove any resistance to interrogation. According to Dr. Jessen's deposition in the case, he and Dr. Mitchell were tasked with coming up with those techniques, which included sensory and sleep deprivation, shackling for hours in uncomfortable positions, and waterboarding. "Jim and I went into a cubicle," he said. "He sat down at a typewriter and together we wrote out a list." The interrogation techniques developed by the doctors were ultimately found to be brutal and ineffective, but caused lasting pain and suffering to those subjected to them. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police and School Sued After Interrogated Teen Commits Suicide (FindLaw's Injured) What You Need to Know About Suing the Police (FindLaw's Injured) Chiquita Terrorism Lawsuit: Murder, Torture (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

Criminal Charges Following Violence, Death in Charlottesville

Much of the country was shocked to see white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, and horrified at the images of one of those men driving a car through a crowd, killing one woman and wounding 19 others. There were clashes throughout the city between protestors (ostensibly there in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee) and counter-protestors, and surely there will be criminal charges and repercussions as well. Here's a roundup of the criminal charges that have been filed so far in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, and a few that may yet be. James Fields, Jr. The worst of the violence was James Fields, Jr.'s attack on a group of counter-protestors, when he drove his car through a peaceful crowd. Fields injured 19 people and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The incident was caught on video and Fields was quickly arrested and initially charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop after a crash that resulted in a death. Late last week, the Charlottesville Police Department announced it would be adding five more felonies to Fields' ticket: three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and two of malicious wounding. Thus far, Fields has not been charged with a hate crime or terrorism. Deandre Harris The other high-profile attack was the beating of 20-year-old Deandre Harris, whose assault at the hands of white supremacists was also caught on camera. "The beating happened right beside the police department," Harris said, "and no police were there to help me at all." No charges or arrest warrants have been filed in the case, despite concerted efforts -- some successful -- to identify his attackers. Other Charges Along with Fields, six other people were arrested following the violence, most charged with misdemeanors ranging from assault and battery to carrying a concealed weapon. Jacob Leigh Smith was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after allegedly hitting a reporter; Troy Dunigan was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, for throwing objects at "Nazi protesters"; James M. O'Brien was charged with misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon; David Parrot was charged with failure to disperse a riot; Steven C. Balcaitis was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery; and Robert K. Litzenberger was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after a Virginia State Trooper allegedly saw him spit on rally organizer Jason Kessler. Additional charges could be filed as investigations progress. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Increased Access to Hate Content Online Leads to More Crime in Real Life, Study Says (FindLaw Blotter) Top Legal Questions on Hate Crimes (FindLaw Blotter) 5 More Tips for Protesting (Legally) (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading