Friday, April 25, 2014


Original Story:

DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was a dream the teen girls who met and fell in love at an Iowa high school 18 years ago never thought they'd realize: to one day legally marry and have a family.

Rachel and Heidi McFarland say they didn't allow themselves to dream that big. But they dreamed nonetheless and had agreed in high school that if they ever had a son, they would name him Gabriel.

The McFarlands, both 34, got their wishes. But a happy ending is still elusive.

Five years ago, when same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa, they wed. Last September, they began the process of adopting a baby from a pregnant teenager. The boy, whom they named Gabriel, was born Dec. 28.

About 10 weeks later, they lost the infant when Gabriel's birth mother, Markeya Atkins, took him back.

This week, all three mothers felt a loss when the 4-month-old infant was found dead in a Des Moines apartment.

"This was our worst nightmare that something was going to happen, and then something happened," Heidi McFarland said.

Police have charged the boy's father, Drew James Weehler-Smith, 17, with neglect after he left Gabriel alone in the apartment. The investigation is ongoing, and more charges may be filed, police said.

Finding out about Gabriel's death on the news Wednesday was the culmination of weeks of anguish for the Ankeny couple. Since giving Gabriel back to his 16-year-old birth mother March 13, both women said they have stayed awake nights worrying if the infant was being fed, changed and properly cared for.

It was a long way from a few months earlier, when they had met the pregnant teen and everything "seemed perfect."

A co-worker of Rachel McFarland's had overheard a conversation about Rachel and her spouse wanting to have children. The woman, Felicia West, approached Rachel McFarland and told her that her 15-year-old daughter was pregnant and wanted to give the baby up for adoption. After some discussion and retaining a lawyer, the McFarlands agreed to adopt the child.

The McFarlands say they spent thousands of dollars providing transportation to medical visits and buying groceries for Atkins. They also paid the legal fees for her, the birth father and Gabriel, they said. They said they coached Atkins through her labor, and Rachel cut the umbilical cord.

But over time, the couple's relationship with Atkins became "strained at best," and after the birth, it had completely deteriorated. The McFarlands said they felt manipulated by the biological family and wondered if they were being used to support Atkins during her pregnancy.

They hadn't heard from the birth mother for weeks when, on March 13, their attorney told them Atkins had changed her mind. She wanted the baby back.

"I thought I was going to be sick," Heidi McFarland said.

The McFarlands felt powerless. Typically, a birth parent releases custody 72 hours after the baby's birth. Under Iowa law, the birth parent then has four days to change their mind about the adoption. After that window, the birth parent must show "great cause" to go back on the agreement within 30 days.

But some families' timelines vary due to other factors, and the McFarlands were not scheduled to get custody until March 24. Atkins hadn't yet given up her rights to him when she decided she wanted him back.

The McFarlands went home from their attorney's office and spent a final, devastating few hours with Gabriel before giving up the curly-haired boy they had bonded with during evening bath time, dancing in the living room with the baby all wrapped up in his towel.

"Terrible," Heidi McFarland said, through tears. "I had a feeling I was never going to see him again."

"I honestly didn't know that I could physically hurt that badly," Rachel McFarland said.

Atkins said she changed her mind about giving the baby up for adoption because the adoptive mothers became distant after his birth. She told The Des Moines Register that she feared that after she signed the paperwork, they would cut him out of her life completely.

"It's like after I gave the baby to them, they didn't care," she said.

And Atkins said she believed she could raise the infant. A depression that had set in when she learned she was pregnant and intensified after she gave birth had lifted, and she decided to turn her life around, moving into a new apartment and buying a car, she said.

Tuesday night was the first time Weehler-Smith watched the infant alone, but Atkins said she felt comfortable leaving the baby in his care while she ran errands.

When Siobhan Williams, Atkins' friend, came by the apartment Tuesday night to get a phone charger, Williams said Weehler-Smith seemed "weird" and "socially awkward." She called Atkins and asked if she trusted him alone with the baby. Atkins said yes, but then asked Williams to go back to the apartment.

When Williams got there, Weehler-Smith was driving away, without the baby. She said she called Atkins and got her to hurry back to the apartment.

When Atkins arrived and they got into the apartment, they found the baby.

"He was foaming out of his nose and his mouth and he was kind of pale," Williams said. "His clothes were wet when you touched them. Markeya started screaming asking him to wake up."

Williams said she called 911, and the operator told her to do CPR.

"We laid him on the ground," Williams said through tears. "I did the compressions and the breaths till the paramedics got here and they took him."

Atkins said her son's short life makes her regret ever giving him up in the first place.

"God, I can't even describe how much I loved him," she said.

Police eventually located Weehler-Smith and charged him with neglect of a dependent person for leaving the baby alone in the apartment. An autopsy and additional investigation are pending, officials said.

The McFarlands said they too loved the infant.

After giving the baby back, the McFarlands could only see him through photos on his birth mother's Facebook page. Then on Wednesday, they found out Gabriel was dead.

The McFarlands said they want to make sure this doesn't happen to other adoptive parents. They are looking into what laws could better help protect children. "I have to believe that he came into our life for a reason," Heidi McFarland said.

Gabriel's bedroom remains as it was in the McFarlands' home. In his crib, a deflated balloon announces "It's a Boy" and an ink-stained certificate from Mercy Medical Center shows the baby's tiny footprints.

The McFarlands still dream another child will one day live in that room. They're still hoping for their happy ending.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Original Story:

A U.S. marshal shot and killed a Pacific Islander gang member Monday when the defendant tried to attack a witness with a pen inside the new federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Siale Angilau, 25, a member of the Tongan Crip Gang, was shot several times in the chest about 9:25 a.m. MT after charging the witness in an "aggressive, threatening manner," the FBI said. He died several hours later later at a hospital.

The witness, a Utah prison inmate, was testifying about the gang and how it worked.

"During the trial this morning the defendant went after, engaged the witness stand, and when he engaged the witness at the witness stand, he was shot by the U.S. Marshals Service," said FBI spokesman Mark Dressen. "From what I understand, the defendant may have grabbed a pen or a pencil and charged the witness stand at that time."

Angilau was on trial on racketeering charges in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell. Along with a string of robberies and assaults of local store clerks, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Angilau was also accused of shooting two U.S. marshals in 2007 and brandishing a firearm.

He had been in Utah state prison from September 2007 until being handed over to the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday after the jury had been selected, the Utah Department of Corrections said. He was not restrained in the courtroom.
A spectator told the Salt Lake Tribune that the marshal fired eight shots after Angilau jumped up from the defense table, charged the witness stand and tried to punch the witness, who was wearing a prison jump suit.

The witness was 31-year-old Vaiola Mataele Tenifa, his attorney, Steven Killpack, told the newspaper. He is serving up to 30 years at the Utah State Prison on 2001 convictions for robbery and aggravated assault.

The shooting prompted Campbell to declare a mistrial. She said in a brief order that U.S. marshals had continued to hold Angilau at gunpoint near the jury box while jurors were still in the courtroom.

"The court has met with the jury and and observed that most of the jury members are visibly shaken and upset by this episode,'' the judge wrote. "The court finds that this occurrence in the courtroom would so prejudice Mr. Angilau as to deprive him of a fair trial."

Angilau's lawyer, Michael Langford, was not immediately available for comment. His office said the lawyer was "a bit shaken up but okay.''

The federal courthouse, which opened last week with upgraded security, was placed on lockdown.

The Angilau case was the last in a series of Tongan Crip-related trials that have been going on since 2007.

In 2011, a jury convicted six members of the gang for robbery, assault and use of firearms during crimes of violence committed in support of an ongoing criminal organization. Five others agreed to plea deals, and two were acquitted.

The newspaper says some jurors at the time feared retaliation from gang members and wanted assurances from the judge that they would be safe.


Original Story:

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — A man who has accused X-Men director Bryan Singer of sexually abusing him when he was a teen sued three more entertainment industry figures on Monday claiming they also molested him.

The allegations in the latest lawsuits filed by Michael Egan III are substantially similar to his legal action against Singer. That lawsuit accuses the director of abusing him between the ages of 15 and 17 in Los Angeles and Hawaii.

Monday's lawsuits were filed in federal court in Hawaii against former Fox television executive Garth Ancier, theater producer Gary Wayne Goddard, and David A. Neuman, a former television executive with Current TV and Disney. Ancier and Goddard did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Neuman could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers associated with him have been disconnected, and he did not immediately respond to a message sent through the social networking site LinkedIn.

The lawsuits were filed in Hawaii under a law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations in civil sex abuse cases.

Singer's attorney Marty Singer has denied the director abused Egan, calling the allegations defamatory. He has said the director was not in Hawaii when Egan says he was abused and was instead working on production for the first X-Men film.

None of the men have been criminally charged and the statute of limitations for any such charges has passed.

Ancier was the founding programmer at the Fox network, later going on to create programming for The WB, and was a top executive at NBC Entertainment.

Egan, 31, appeared at a press conference Monday alongside his mother, who tearfully described her efforts to report alleged abuses to the FBI in 1999 and 2000.

 Bonnie Mound said she wrote several letters to FBI agents in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., urging them to take action. She questioned why those letters and information her son provided in interviews with an agent did not result in criminal charges.

The FBI has said it could not discuss specifically what Egan told them, However, the agency denied last week that it had ignored any information about Singer.

"The suggestion that the FBI ignored a minor victim, or evidence involving the sexual victimization of a child, is ludicrous," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a statement. She reiterated the statement after Egan's press conference Monday.

Mound denied her son's lawsuits were motivated by anything other than holding the defendants accountable.

"It's not about money," Mound said, breaking down in tears.

Egan said he spent several years masking his pain by drinking. He stopped drinking within the past year, entered therapy and sought out a lawyer who would pursue a case.

The AP does not typically name victims of sex abuse but is naming Egan because he is speaking publicly about his allegations.

Egan's attorney, Jeff Herman, said he had spent six months investigating before filing the lawsuits but acknowledged he didn't have all the investigative files or Singer's records that might show the director wasn't in Hawaii during the timeframe. Herman said he has asked Singer's lawyers for those records.

Egan claims he was lured into a sex ring run by a former digital entertainment company executive, Marc Collins-Rector, with promises of auditions for acting, modeling and commercial jobs. He was put on the company's payroll as an actor and forced to have sex with adult men at parties within Hollywood's entertainment industry, the lawsuit said.

Collins-Rector pleaded guilty in 2004 to transporting five minors across state lines to have sex.

Phone numbers listed for Collins-Rector have been disconnected and attempts to reach him for comment last week were unsuccessful. Records maintained in Florida, where Collins-Rector is required to register as a sex offender, show that in 2008 his last known address was in the Dominican Republic.

Keystone Route Ruling Should Be Overturned, Nebraska Says

Original Story: Bloomberg News

A court challenge holding up TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline should be dismissed, Nebraska’s governor said, urging his state’s high court to allow the project to move forward.
The case is delaying the Obama administration’s review of the project, the president said April 18. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman yesterday asked the state’s top court to throw out a trial judge’s ruling that the route for the pipeline was approved without proper authority. The court may not hear the case until at least September and may not rule until after mid-presidential term congressional elections in November.A Tulsa Oil and Gas Lawyer said he has had not had a case quite like this before.
TransCanada is awaiting a U.S. permit to build the northern leg of Keystone XL, which would supply U.S. Gulf Coast refineries with crude from Alberta’s oil sands. Because it crosses an international boundary, the proposal requires U.S. State Department approval.
Based in Calgary, TransCanada is seeking to build the 830,000 barrel-a-day, 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) conduit running from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing network.
Backers of the project say it will create jobs. Opponents have countered it will contribute to global warming. If the Nebraska Supreme Court upholds the trial outcome, Keystone will need to apply to the state’s Public Service Commission for approval. Under law the commission has seven months to review such applications.
Judge’s Ruling
Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lincoln ruled on Feb. 19 that legislation enabling Heineman and TransCanada to bypass the commission when planning the pipeline route violated the state’s constitution.
Stacy erred in allowing a challenge by three property owners to move forward because they hadn’t shown they had been injured as taxpayers by the state’s plan, Heineman, a Republican, said in a filing yesterday with the supreme court.
State Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican running to succeed Heineman as governor, argued in the filing that the trial judge set too low a threshold for taxpayers to bring court challenges to state legislation.
Bruning also argued the not all crude oil pipelines qualified as “common carriers” falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.
U.S. Senate
David Domina, a lawyer for the landowners, is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run for U.S. Senate in the state, where he would follow Republican Mike Johanns, who is retiring after a single term.
Domina didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the governor’s arguments yesterday’s filing. A San Antonio Oil and Gas Lawyer would not comment on the case.
He argued in the trial court that the challenged legislation, which took effect in 2012, improperly divested the constitutionally-created Public Service Commission of jurisdiction over pipeline routing, placing it with the governor and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
Stacy rejected the state’s contention that pipeline routing was outside the PSC’s purview.
In her Feb. 19 decision, Stacy agreed with the landowners that the shift in authority effected by the legislation was improper.
“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which such provisions could be constitutional,” she said. Addressing the state’s argument that its outlay of funds under the law, later recouped when TransCanada paid it $5.15 million, didn’t deprive the three plaintiffs of standing to sue.
“While private reimbursement of public expenditures may be good fiscal policy, it should not be used as a legislative tool to insulate allegedly unconstitutional laws from taxpayer challenge,” she said.
The case is Thompson v. Heineman, S-14-000158, Nebraska Supreme Court (Lincoln).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Original Story: ABCNews.Go.Com

An 85-year-old woman with dementia had a male stripper gyrate in front of her against her will at her suburban New York nursing home, according to a lawsuit filed by her family but the facility's lawyer said Tuesday the performance had been requested by its residents.  The stripper may also need an Overtime Lawyer if he was not paid properly.

John Ray, the attorney for Bernice Youngblood and her family, said the woman's son found a photograph of a man in white briefs dancing in front of his mother when he visited her in January 2013 at East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The photo, which Ray distributed to reporters, shows Youngblood putting money into the dancer's waistband. Ray said Youngblood had been urged to participate and did so against her will.

Franklin Youngblood, who attended the news conference outside the Long Island facility, said he immediately went to a nursing supervisor for an explanation. The lawsuit claims the nurse attempted to grab the photo from him.

Ray said Bernice Youngblood, who herself had worked as a health aide for the elderly when she was younger, had her dignity taken away when "nursing home employees subjected her to this disgraceful sexual perversion." An ESOP Lawyer could not believe how the employees acted.

Bernice Youngblood, who attended the news conference in a wheelchair with some of her relatives at her side, mumbled in a barely audible voice that she felt "terrible" and "ashamed" about what happened, but had no specific recollection of the details of the incident.

Ray said he has yet to determine who took the photograph, or how it got in the woman's bedroom drawer.

Howard Fensterman, an attorney representing the facility, said a 16-member resident committee had requested the September 2012 performance and the nursing home paid the $250 fee.

Fensterman said the facility's management reserves the right to reject a request by the residents' committee, particularly if the activity were deemed detrimental.

"But in this instance these are adults who wanted to have this activity, they requested it, they voted on it and the nursing home approved of it," he said.

The claims and counter-claims came during a sequence of heated news conferences outside the facility in West Babylon. Reporters and cameramen jostled in a large scrum around Fensterman and Ray when they briefly became embroiled in an argument after Ray presented his counterpart with a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Fensterman said the girlfriend of one of Youngblood's sons had taken her to the stripper show, and not nursing home employees.  One of the employees was considering getting an Architectural and Sustainability Degree to avoid nursing home jobs.

Ray said Youngblood's son disputed that claim and, in any case, that does not mean Bernice Youngblood was not harmed by what she saw.

Fensterman also chided Ray for claiming that Bernice Youngblood was suffering from dementia, while at the same time noting the woman signed a power of attorney document claiming she was competent to sign it.

"Ms. Youngblood suffers from partial dementia," Ray said. "She has moments of partial lucidity."


Original Story:

After Wendy Lamond-Broughton had her first child, she joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds. She was so proud of losing her baby weight that she applied for a job at the weight-loss company in Farmington Hills. An Austin Employment Lawyer has seen similar situations.

But when Weight Watchers personnel called her for an interview, she says she was told she couldn’t apply for the job — because she was pregnant again.

The WW Group Inc. has agreed to pay Lamond-Broughton $45,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed against it in U.S. District Court.

“It was a very blatant case of discrimination,” said Lamond-Broughton, 40, of Rochester Hills. “I haven’t been back since. I am still shocked and hurt by their treatment of me, and I don’t think I will ever go back.” A Hudson Valley Employment Lawyer said that this type of discrimination is still common.

On Tuesday, local Weight Watchers officials issued a statement.

“For over 40 years, The WW Group has been proud to employ a workforce of primarily women,” said Sheryl Fellows, spokeswoman for The WW Group in Farmington Hills. “There have been many pregnant women employed by our organization throughout the years.”

The case began in September 2009, after Lamond-Broughton, a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, was on a telephone interview with an area manager for a part-time job as a group leader in Troy, court records show.

At the time, she was five months pregnant with her second child. The 5-foot-9-inch woman weighed 169 pounds — about five pounds more than her Weight Watchers goal weight of 164 pounds.

The company requires a goal weight to be at least five pounds less than the joining weight and fall within its healthy weight ranges or one recommended by a health care professional. A Brooklyn DWI Lawyer is watching the case closely.

During the interview, Lamond-Broughton mentioned she was pregnant. The area manager then said Weight Watchers did not hire pregnant group leaders, according to the lawsuit.

“They are a company that markets themselves to women,” said Lamond-Broughton, a stay-at-home mom and part-time actress who does extra work in commercials. “It was shocking to me.”

Lamond-Broughton filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which tried to settle the case. After the EEOC investigated, Weight Watchers said she was disqualified for being above her goal weight. A Binghamton Employment Lawyer said this is absurd.

When settlement efforts failed, Detroit branch officials sued Weight Watchers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, bars discrimination against pregnant applicants and employees.

“Under the PDA, pregnant applicants have the right to fair and equal consideration for employment,” said Omar Weaver, senior trial attorney for the EEOC’s Detroit Field Office. “The EEOC is committed to ensuring that employers understand that a pregnant applicant’s ability or inability to perform the job is the only factor that may be considered.” An Albany Employment Lawyer agreed to this statement.

The WW Group Inc. denied allegations of pregnancy discrimination and made no admission of liability, court records show.

The consent decree included provisions for training personnel on unlawful employment practices; posting of anti-discrimination notices; and revising the goal weight policy to comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Lamond-Broughton appreciates the monetary settlement but said she is even more grateful for the intangible outcome. “It’s a positive step for the rights of women everywhere,” she said.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Divorce is on the rise, and it’s the baby boomers’ fault

Orignal Story:

WASHINGTON — The wisdom about divorce in America goes something like this: the sexual revolution sparked a sharp rise in the divorce rate from 1950 until about 1980, leading to the famous formulation that half of all American marriages would end in an uncoupling, conscious or otherwise. But in the 1980s, the divorce rate began to decline. Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers summed it up thusly in 2011: "Couples marrying after the 1970s were better calibrated about how their family life would play out and were likely better matched for a life together based upon modern gender roles. As such, they were likely in a better position to have their marriages survive than were those marrying in the 1970s." In Michigan a Novi Divorce Lawyer is closely following this trend.

But a new paper out this month from demographers at the University of Minnesota challenges the traditional narrative. Sheela Kennedy and Stephen Ruggles have found that the divorce rate hasn't declined since 1980, it has only flattened. And when they controlled for changes in the age composition of the married population (the U.S. population was younger in 1980, and younger couples have a higher risk for divorce), they found that the age-standardized divorce rate has actually risen by an astonishing 40 percent since then. A Newark Family Lawyer is not surprised by these statistics.

To make a long methodology short, the United States has done an uneven and often inadequate job collecting divorce data over the decades. The Census Bureau, noting this "long-standing void in data on marriages and divorces," added a battery of marriage and divorce-related questions to the American Community Survey in 2008. This paper is part of a first wave of research capitalizing on the new data and the new methods of analysis it allows.  An Oklahoma City Family Lawyer questions the accuracy of the data pulled.

A key point is that the rise of divorce has not occurred evenly across all age groups. A chart, "As they age, Boomers continue to get divorced," included in the study looked at what the authors call the prevalence of marital instability, which they define as "the percentage of ever-married persons who have ever been divorced or separated." The line for 1970 is comparatively flat—there wasn't much of a difference in the prevalence of divorce between young people and older people. But starting with the 1980 line you can see a bulge forming at the younger end of the age spectrum as the baby boomers started divorcing. Looking at the lines for 1995 and 2010, you can watch this bulge shift rightward as the boomers age: "The same people who had unprecedented divorce incidence in 1980 and 1990 when they were in their 20s and 30s are now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970. They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues."  A Canadian County Family Lawyer has been observing these same trends.

The flipside of this finding is the relative rarity of divorce among younger Americans today. This is likely due to a variety of reasons: people are waiting longer to get married, and cohabitation is on the rise. In the 1970s, a couple might get married at 25 and be divorced by 30. But today, that same couple would be more likely to simply live together for a few years and then head their separate ways when things go south.  A Dearborn Family Lawyer is also monitoring this trend.

As an assessment of the health of American marriages, these findings cut two ways. On one hand, a divorce is a far more disruptive and messy life event than simply moving out of your partner's apartment. In that sense you have to applaud the wisdom of today's twenty- and thirty-somethings for taking their time before tying the knot. But as Reihan Salam notes at the National Review, cohabitating relationships sometimes produce children. And whether they happen via cohabitation or divorce, split-ups are bad for kids, studies have shown.  A Calhoun County Divorce Lawyer agrees that divorce is hard on everyone.

Suspect in drunken driving death asks for a trial after getting 'no offer' for plea

Original story:

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – For a man accused of a drunken driving crash that killed a mother of five, the best deal prosecutors will offer for his plea is that they won’t tell the judge how harsh a sentence he should impose. A Lansing DUI Lawyer is analyzing the case.

And that deal wasn't good enough for Jay Charles Hobbs, who is charged with drunken driving causing death and leaving the scene of a fatal crash in the Feb. 15 death of Tonya Beha.

Hobbs, a Lowell resident, was in Kent County Circuit Court on Wednesday, April 2, and heard Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Kevin Bramble's offer that authorities would not take a position on the sentencing if the suspect pleaded guilty to the charges that carry a 15-year maximum sentence.

Bramble said the prosecution would still argue against any reduction in sentencing guideline calculations and also would demand the opportunity for a victim impact statement.

“We view that, essentially, as no offer so we would respectfully request a trial date,” defense attorney John Grace said.

Police say 48-year-old Hobbs was driving a Chevrolet truck that struck Beha while she pushed a van that ran out of gas on Feb. 15. Beha was pushing the van on Alden Nash Road SE on the bridge over I-96 when she was struck, according to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. A Shiawassee County DUI Lawyer is also investigating this matter.

Beha, a 36-year-old mother of five children, died at the scene. She lived in Lake Odessa.

Police say Hobbs got out of his truck and ran away from the crash site, but was quickly captured in a wooded area to the south. Hobbs has a previous drunk driving conviction from 2011.

No date has been set for the trial.

Hobbs is free on a $30,000 bond.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cancer victims win $190 million in asbestos case — the ‘largest ever’ judgment of its kind in New York City

Story originally appeared in

Five cancer victims won a whopping $190 million verdict in an asbestos case against two boiler companies.

Unfortunately, only two of the five plaintiffs lived to see their victory. The three other tradesmen died from mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

The law firm that represented the men, says the judgment is the largest ever of its type in New York City. A San Francisco Asbestos Lawyer may be called into the case for expert testimony.

After an 11-week trial, a Manhattan Supreme Court jury came to the verdict Tuesday, having found the national companies — Burnham and Cleaver-Brooks — acted with reckless disregard for human life.

The men toiled as steamfitters, plumbers and construction workers, but were not warned of the dangers related to the exposure to the deadly material.

“These tragedies shouldn’t have happened,” said their attorney, Daniel Kraft Jr. “I hope this verdict sends a message that corporations’ recklessness has a very real impact on people’s lives.”

One of the surviving victims, Paul Levy, of New Jersey, was exposed to asbestos while fitting pipes on aircraft carriers like the USS Constellation in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He and his wife Roslyn Levy won a $60 million portion of the verdict.

The same amount went to Cesar Serna of Howard Beach, Queens. Families of the three deceased workers—Robert Brunk, Santos Assenzio and Raymond Vincent — were awarded between $20 and $30 million.

Kraft’s firm gets 30 percent of the verdict as a fee.

Lawyers and reps for the companies did not return messages for comment.

Tina Fey hit with $79,000 judgment for failing to pay workers compensation insurance: court docs

Story originally appeared in

 Television star Tina Fey was hit with a $79,000 judgment by the New York State Workers Compensation Board in court documents posted this week in Manhattan court, but the “Bossypants” author insisted Friday that she is up to date with her payments to the state. Tina may need the services of a San Francisco Workers Compensation Lawyer that specializes in workers comp claims in California.

Court papers show that the state sent Fey a bill in February indicating that she owed the $79,000 for a period covering Nov. 20, 2012 through Feb. 2, 2014.

The bill was sent to 125 W. 55 St.

An aide said that is the address of Fey’s accountant, who moved out of those offices six years ago.

Fey’s spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio said the “30 Rock” star “has proper and current insurance covering all employees and at no time has worker's compensation payment lapsed.

“The confusion seems to be a result of a clerical error with the NYS WC Board,” she said.

“They have been sending notifications to an old address for an accountant that moved offices almost six years ago.”

Tripicchio said state officials could have “avoided this unnecessary situation,” if they had just requested “verification of paperwork, that does exist and is readily available” to prove Fey has a current insurance policy on her employees.

There was no immediate response to Fey's claim from the governor's press office.

EM Orr admits missteps on road to Detroit bankruptcy

Story originally appeared on

Detroit— Kevyn Orr had a quick comeback recently when a disgruntled banker abruptly approached him at a New York City restaurant.

“We’re going to punish you,” Orr said the man told him, referring to Detroit’s increasingly hard line on banks and bondholders in its historic bankruptcy. A Tulsa Bankruptcy Lawyer is watching the case closely.

But the high-profile Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney responded with a story about life in the city he was tapped to run as emergency manager one year ago Friday.

Orr, 55, told the banker standing over his table about a little girl he saw on Seven Mile one evening in November, waiting for a bus ride home from school that would likely take her to a blighted neighborhood with broken streetlights.

“None of us would let our children live that way — and that is the life of the children in this city,” Orr, a father of two, recalled telling the speechless banker, whom he declined to identify.

In a wide-ranging interview this week with The Detroit News, Orr said the conversation speaks to the enormity of the task before him: fixing the finances of a city mired in poverty, crime, blight and a dwindling populace that can’t pay its bills while juggling demands from creditors that they be paid in full.

But Orr acknowledged for the first time that he miscalculated the willingness of Detroit’s creditors to take enormous losses for the good of the city’s future.

“How can you drive through the city and not see the needs?” Orr asked. “I’m still surprised. ... I should probably have been a little bit more skeptical about the ability of the stakeholders to see things the way I see things. Their prism is different than my prism.”

After 12 months at the helm during one the most tumultuous periods in Detroit’s 208-year history, Orr acknowledges he didn’t move fast enough last spring to tackle city services, such as outsourcing trash pickup to private firms.

Orr says he spent too much time analyzing the city’s finances — which teams of consultants had already done for then-Mayor Dave Bing — during the lead-up to his decision to take the city into bankruptcy in July.

“Looking back on it, I probably should have accepted what I was reading with more confidence,” said Orr, who is working for Gov. Rick Snyder under an appointment that will presumably end in September.
Dealing with opposition

After a year of living in the Book Cadillac hotel and flying home to see his family in Maryland on weekends, Orr is poised to deliver major changes to the way city government works — or doesn’t — for the 700,000 citizens of Michigan’s largest city.

Orr’s plan to shed billions of dollars in debt asks U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to approve what was once unthinkable in municipal bankruptcy: Reduce monthly pension checks to retirees and walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars owed on general obligation bonds that were used, in part, to mask annual budget deficits.

“We are going to receive violent opposition to our plan at a confirmation hearing by the creditor corps,” Orr said of opposition from bond insurers.

Orr’s proposed cures for city government — including a $1.5 billion, 10-year reinvestment plan — remain largely tied up in his bankruptcy reorganization plan that goes on trial this summer.

James Spiotto, a Chicago bankruptcy attorney and municipal financial adviser, said Orr made a misstep last summer by pushing the city’s pension funds and bondholders to accept as little as 10 cents for every dollar owed before he sought to generate support for fixing city services.

Orr wants to cut debt to free up cash to tear down abandoned homes, upgrade archaic city computer systems and buy trucks and equipment for police, fire and emergency services. But he should have focused on that before laying out devastating options for creditors, Spiotto said.

“I think he used more of a corporate bankruptcy approach than a municipal bankruptcy approach, where you need to bring buy-in,” Spiotto said. “Generally from past experiences, you start with a recovery plan and try to get buy-in. It’s sometimes a far better way than announcing a plan and telling people, ‘you’re going to get 10 cents on the dollar.’”

Orr admits he wrongly assumed the city’s creditors would be much more willing to reach agreements.

But he remains optimistic city retirees will accept a $815 million rescue package of state and private pledges to limit the reductions in future pensions for some 23,000 retirees and 10,000 current workers.

In exchange for settling now, police and firefighters would get a 4 percent cut in their monthly pensions and non-uniform general employees would get a 26 percent reduction — with no cost-of-living increases for at least a decade.

The deal on the table for retirees is far better than the 20 cents on the dollar Orr was offering the city’s pension funds last June. Orr said that’s a result of political, legal and judicial pressures the city faced to find a way to avoid a protracted court battle over pensions.

“We got pressure from a lot of fronts … and we listened to it,” Orr said.

'Public enemy No. 1'

Orr’s strategy for fast-tracking Detroit’s bankruptcy has faced setbacks in recent months. He acknowledges he’s a “little bit off schedule,” largely due to “push back” from the judge. Rhodes has twice rejected early settlements Orr hatched with two banks.

In a message that appeared aimed at Orr, Rhodes ruled from the bench Jan. 16 that he would not “perpetuate hasty and imprudent financial decision-making.”

“It just seems to me like this has not been a fun exercise for Kevyn Orr, and Judge Rhodes has not followed what people would have scripted to have been the playbook for this case,” said David Tawil, a New York hedge fund manager and former bankruptcy attorney who studied under Rhodes at the University of Michigan.

The city recently cut a third deal with UBS AG and Bank of America to settle a troubled pension debt for $85 million — about $145 million less than Orr originally agreed to last summer. Rhodes will consider the new deal at an April 3 hearing.

But the latest settlement came after Rhodes encouraged the city to bring him a lawsuit challenging the legality of the complex interest rate swaps debt. Orr said he made a legal calculation to settle the debt and avoid an expensive courtroom battle with the banks, while freeing up access to $15 million in monthly casino tax revenues that the banks have a lien on. The tax implications of the municipal bankruptcy is also being followed closely by a Tulsa Tax Lawyer.

But Orr’s preference to settle the debt continues to baffle some financial experts and inflames community activists who say it shows he’s more friendly with the banks than he publicly portrays.

“What’s hard to reconcile for a city that doesn’t have any money is that plaintiffs with good legal cases don’t typically write eight-figure checks to settle,” said Patrick O’Keefe, a Bloomfield Hills financial consultant.

Jerome Goldberg, an attorney representing a single city retiree, David Sole, said “it’s still an outrage” that Orr has declined to confront the banks in court.

“If you’re really serious about bringing the city back, let’s go after those who hurt the city,” Goldberg said.

But based on the vitriol being lobbed at him from Wall Street and the random banker in New York, Orr says “I don’t feel like a friend of the banks in any fashion.”

“Apparently I guess I’m on the walls of bathrooms or public enemy No. 1 over there (on Wall Street),” Orr said. “I’ve developed some callus at this point to criticism. But I’m still a little frustrated with folks who don’t realize the needs of the city.”

McDonald's stole wages, workers' lawsuits say

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NEW YORK — McDonald's workers in three states filed lawsuits against the fast-food chain this week, saying the company engages in a variety of practices to avoid paying them what they're owed.

The suits in California, Michigan and New York against McDonald's Corp. and its franchisees come amid growing attention on the country's widening wealth gap and pay practices in low-wage sectors. While the labor violations outlined in the suit aren't specific to McDonald's, lawyers said they targeted the company because it's an industry leader.  A Hudson Valley Employment Lawyer said this is a huge problem.

Taken together, the suits seeking class action status could affect roughly 30,000 workers, lawyers said in a conference call arranged by organizers of the recent fast-food protests. The suits seek back pay and other damages.

The suits were announced the same day President Obama was expected to call for stricter rules on overtime pay. The White House, Democratic lawmakers and labor organizers have also been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which translates to roughly $21,000 a year for full-time work. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year. A Texas Employment Lawyer is watching the case closely.

McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., said in a statement that it is investigating the allegations and will take any necessary actions.

"McDonald's and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald's restaurants," the company said.

The lawsuits detail a range of violations, including the use of software that monitors the ratio of labor costs as a percentage of revenue. When that ratio climbs above a target, attorneys say workers are forced to wait around before they can clock in. In Michigan, lawyers said workers have to pay for their own uniforms, which further eats into their already low wages.  A Corpus Christi Employment Lawyer said this is not a fair.

The six lawsuits and one amended lawsuit announced Thursday include both franchise-owned and company-owned restaurants. McDonald's Corp. is named in all the suits, however, because lawyers say the company exerts control over staffing at all its locations.

"There are a number of ways the two seem to work together," said Joseph Sellers, one of the attorneys representing workers, in reference to the relationship between the company and its franchisees.

The vast majority of the more than 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. are owned by franchisees.

Workers named in the suits were referred to attorneys by the group behind the recent fast-food protests that have popped up around the country. The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational support to the push.  A McAllen Employment Lawyer said the employees definitly have a good case.

A representative for BerlinRosen, the public relations agency coordinating media efforts for both the fast-food protests and the lawsuits, said the timing of the announcement on the same day as Obama's overtime proposals was coincidental.

One of the suits was filed in New York, two were filed in Michigan and three were filed in California. An amendment to an existing lawsuit in California was expected to be filed Thursday.

Teacher Fired For Pregnancy Outside of Marriage

Story originally appeared on

More than 20,000 people from across the U.S. are rallying behind a Montana middle school teacher who was fired for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

"Shaela Evenson says Butte Central Catholic School fired her last month. Yesterday Catholics delivered petitions with more than 20,000 signatures to the Helena Diocese." (Via KBZK)

Social justice group Faithful America started the petition to get Evenson her job back, saying, "Firing an unmarried teacher for becoming pregnant is cruel and hypocritical." The group has already surpassed its goal of 15,000 signatures.

The petition was sent to Bishop George Leo Thomas, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, on Feb 27. But a parishioner told USA Today she doesn't think it will cause the diocese to change its decision.

"The only way that change could be made is if (Pope) Francis himself came and asked for that change to be made, and I doubt that would happen."

The school's superintendent told The Montana Standard that the Catholic Diocese of Helena was in the right to fire Evenson, saying:

"[Evenson] 'made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,' which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life..."

According to New York Daily News, teachers at Butte Central have morality clauses in their contracts. Behavior that goes against church teachings like having same-sex relationships, getting an abortion or becoming pregnant outside of marriage is not allowed.

But if Evenson were to ever take her firing to court, she might have a leg to stand on. A Montana law protects people from discrimination on the basis of marital status. (Via Montana Department of Labor & Industry)

A similar case occurred back in 2010. The Huffington Post says unwed Catholic school teacher Christa Dias used artificial insemination to get pregnant. 

"She was fired by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but took it to court. And a jury found that she'd been discriminated against. Dias ended up with $170,000 when the case was finished."? (Via KECI)

KECI reports Evenson, who is eight months pregnant, has hired the same law firm that represented Dias. Evenson's attorney says her client will file a discrimination charge against her employer.

One Florida teen's Facebook post cost her dad $80,000

Story originally appeared on

Dana Snay's fatther, Patrick Snay, had settled an age discrimination case with his former emmployer for that exact amount, after which his daughter posted to Facebook:  "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver.  Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT."
Patrick Snay had been the headmaster at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami for years unitl the school decided not to renew his contract back in 2010.  The Miami Herald reports Partrik Snay, now 69, claimed age discrimination and retaliation involving his daughter in a subsequent lawsuit against the school.

The school settled with Patrick Snay for $80,000 with the stipulation that he and his wife not discuss the  suit with anyone.  Clearly his daughter didn't get the memo about confidentiality.  Her post made the rounds among her friends, who are current and former students at the school, before reaching the school's attorneys, who then told the family they violated the deal.
Patrick Snay's defense - he says he had to tell his daughter because she suffered "psychological scars" from undisclosed issues shed's had at the school.  Despite Snay winning another ruling enforcing the settlement, the school appealed and won.  Patrick Sany has the option to appeal that ruling, but an attorney tells Yahoo! he likely won't be getting any of the money back.  And about that European vacation?  Probably not going to happen.  Facebook posts have landed other in trouble before, like an Oregon teen who was arrested last year after police were tipped off out his post that revealed he was drinking and driving.
So we'll leave you with a bit of perhaps obvious advice.

Best put by Slate's Katy Waldman to fellow millennials:  "Don not boast.  Do not mess with attorneys.  Do not overshare on social media..."

Graco Adds 403,000 Child Seats To Recall

DETROIT (AP) — Graco Children's Products has added more than 403,000 child seats to last month's recall of 3.8 million to replace faulty harness buckles.

But the added seats won't end a dispute with the U.S. government's road safety watchdog. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still wants Graco to add 1.8 million infant seats to the recall because they have the same buckles.

Buckles can get gummed up by food and drinks, making it difficult to remove children. In some cases parents have had to cut harnesses to get their children out. The agency says the problem increases the risk of injuries in emergencies.  A Charlotte Wrongful Death Lawyer said this is a serious problem.

Graco said in a letter to the agency that it found additional toddler and harnessed booster seats that should be recalled.

The 403,222 seats added to the recall include 2006 through 2014 Argos 70 Elite, Ready Ride, Step 2, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, My Size 70, Head Wise 70 with Safety Surround, Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Plus, and Smart Seat with Safety Surround, according to NHTSA documents.

In its letter to NHTSA, Graco said it didn't include the infant seats because they are used differently than the toddler seats, and because in an emergency, an adult can remove the whole seat from the car rather than unlatch the buckle.

"Graco looks forward to further discussions with the agency to resolve any remaining issues relating to those additional car seats," the letter said.

Atlanta-based Graco, a division of Newell Rubbermaid, has until March 20 to explain why last month's recall didn't include infant seats.

A NHTSA spokesman wouldn't comment and referred a reporter to the agency's previous statements about why seven rear-facing infant seat models should be recalled. A Miami Product Liability Lawyer said the company should be providing more information.

The recall, now at 4.2 million, is the fourth-largest child seat recall in American history. If the infant seats are added, it would be the largest such recall.