May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 235

Corporate Successor Liability Depends on State Law

On Friday, the Second Circuit admitted that one of the Supreme Court's decisions overruled the reasoning in one of its cases, and tucked tail.

In New York v. National Service Industries, the Second Circuit admitted that it can no longer use the "substantial continuity" test to determine whether successor corporations are liable for CERCLA cleanups. The Second Circuit had earlier used this test when one corporation bought the assets of another corporation, and held that the successor corporation could be liable.

But no more. Once the Supremes decided U.S. v. Bestfoods, the Second Circuit learned that it couldn't apply federal common law to decide what is essentially a state common law issue, even though the decision would create liability under a solely federal law.

Huh?

Yeah, it sounds confusing to me, too. CERCLA is the federal law that, among other things, determines liability for toxic contamination. But, the question of whether a corporation that bought out another corporation is liable for the first corporation's wrongdoings is a question of state law, not federal law. It's easy to get mixed up. You would think that federal law should apply to a federal statute. But, it's all in the call of the question (scroll down and read Rule No. 1).

So, did the Second Circuit decide the ultimate issue? Nope. They sent the case back to the minors for a decision.

Kind of like dodging the bullet on both ends.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, December 21, 2003 at 13:48. Comments Closed (0) |

Sure, Search My Car. I Want to Go to Jail.

Given this decision, I'm glad my kids aren't teenagers any more. If you have teenagers, read on. You'll want to know who your kids travel with now more than ever.

The U.S. Supreme Court just decided the case of Maryland v. Pringle and ruled that police officers can arrest everyone in a car if no one admits to ownership of contraband (drugs, guns, use your imagination) found in the car. Great.

Chief Justice Warren Rehnquist wrote, "We think it an entirely reasonable inference from these facts that any or all three of the occupants had knowledge of, and exercised dominion and control over, the cocaine. Thus, a reasonable officer could conclude that there was probable cause to believe Pringle committed the crime of possession of cocaine, either solely or jointly."

So, if your son or daughter piles into a car, gets pulled over and the police officers find marijuana, get out the bail money. You'll probably need it.

In this much anticipated ruling, the Christian Science Monitor has been doing its best to warn parents. Get to your your children's friends and acquaintances. It's not enough to rely on others anymore.

DARE may be changing, but the law's pretty well set. If you have children, you may want to educate them.

Flex Your Rights recommends that you (and your kids) refuse police searches if they ask. There may be a way out of the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's 11:00 p.m., do you know where your kids are? Let's hope they're not in jail.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, December 20, 2003 at 11:16. Comments Closed (0) |

Nicked Pics and Judicial Picks

This year's judicial award for "Judicial Wisdom of the Year" won by Justice William W. Bedsworth. David Pannick, QC (Queens Counsel, which means a British barrister) picked our very own Justice in the Times Online.

In his article, the "Silk" nominated several judges in various categories, including a story about nicked (stolen) pictures. The whole article is a hoot.

He had this to say about Beds: "When considering a charge of smuggling animals into the country, he stated: “There is no non-culpable explanation for monkeys in your underpants.” The runner-up was Lord Hoffmann, who recognised, in dismissing a privacy claim in the House of Lords, that “having to take off your clothes in front of a couple of prison officers is not to everyone’s taste”. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Master of the Rolls, wondered whether complex and defective regulations governing those who dig up the roads were “the product of a demented computer”. And a special mention for the ruling by the Ohio Court of Appeals that the Constitution confers on a person a right to bark at a police dog — so long as the animal started it."

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, December 19, 2003 at 08:09. Comments Closed (2) |

X for Snowmobiles in Yellowstone

As a follow-up to an earlier post about snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the Judge issued a 49-page decision yesterday.

The ruling drops the number of snowmobiles to 493 per day, down from an otherwise unlimited number, which generally peaked at 1,700 a day.

In my last posting, I noted that news articles alleged that bison were injured by the groomed trails meant for snowmobiles. Turns out the problem was that the bison used the roads to leave the park in droves. Guess they didn't like the snowmobiles.

It's not that the bison were injured by the road, it's that 1,000 bison had to be killed to prevent the spread of natural diseases they carry to domesticated livestock herds. Hasn't the National Park Service heard of a fence at Yellowstone's entrance/exit?

The Court's decision must have been a good one, because few are happy with it. Appeals are in the works, and we assuredly haven't heard the last snowmobile engine in our National Parks yet.

As Ms. Morality commented on my earlier post, everyone has their own tastes - some like to eat exhaust, and they ought to be allowed to do so if they want. While I don't like exhaust, this snowmobile tour looks like fun.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 18, 2003 at 09:56. Comments Closed (0) |

Insurers Must Defend Contract (And Tort) Claims

Insurance companies are generally required to defend lawsuits that allege negligence, and pay adverse judgments taken against their insureds. On the other hand, insurers also claim that they have no such duties when the allegations in the suit are based on contract and intentional conduct, such as fraud.

But what happens when a lawsuit involves both types? Usually, insurers still owe those duties, but they really argue against coverage when the lawsuit is mostly about a contract dispute.

Here's an interesting case, much of which is based on a contract dispute, but contains some tort claims, too. Our hero is a New York law firm. They're personal injury lawyers who take referrals from other lawyers, and then pay the referring lawyer a referral fee after a favorable outcome.

The referring lawyers sued the firm for allegedly failing to pay referral fees, and also claimed that the firm breached its fiduciary duty to its clients as well. The firm tendered that suit to their carrier, Westport Insurance Group, a subsidiary of GE, which promptly denied coverage, claiming the lawsuit sounded mainly in contract and intentional conduct, not negligence.

The firm sued Westport Insurance, seeking payment of their attorneys fees and costs to fend off the claims made by the referring lawyers. Just yesterday, Judge John G. Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that since the referring lawyers also sued for breach of fiduciary duty, Westport must pay the firm's defense costs.

According to the Judge's ruling, he rejected Westport's claim that the gravamen of the complaint involved intentional conduct and not negligence, saying that the underlying complaints raised a "legal and factual possibility that the [referring lawyers] may recover on at least one claim without proving that [the firm] acted fraudulently or deliberately."

Score one for our the law firm, and a loss for the insurance industry.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, December 17, 2003 at 09:20. Comments Closed (0) |

Thanks, Doc!

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Doc Searls, just gave a nod to MIPTC and ACWOS in today's post (second one down).

Now we'll watch those web stats jump.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 at 18:04. Comments Closed (2) |

Ruling on Snow(mobiles) from Afar

The snowmobiles may roar again through Yellowstone National Park tomorrow. Or, they may not.

It all depends on a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan. He's in Washington, D.C. writing an opinion today. "Snowmobile season" is set to start tomorrow in Yellowstone.

According to the Billings Gazette (in Montana) this Washington, D.C. Judge will rule on winter admission to a park in Wyoming, and I'm guessing the Judge has never seen Yellowstone on a snowmobile. Has anybody in this mess heard of venue?

But of course, it makes perfect sense. Why would you want someone who's at least seen Yellowstone to rule on it? Add to this long-distance lawsuit another challenge to the snowmobiles brought by the Fund for Animals out of New York. At at least the Fund has an office in Wyoming, and they may have even been to the park.

The Fund is concerned for the bison, who they claim can be injured on the roads groomed by the National Park Service for the snowmobiles. OK, I'll bite. How can bison be injured walking on a groomed road? To get to the other side?

During the Clinton era, snowmobiles were banned from the park. Bush has loosened the regulations, and brought on this challenge. His plan would allow 550 "cleaner and quieter" snowmobiles through Yellowstone each day, accompanied by guides.

Environmentalists want the snowmobiles banned altogether, allowing only things called snowcoaches, which to me look like a school bus. That way, they say, there will be the least environmental impact to the park.

And the least amount of fun. But no matter what the Judge rules (click here to check back), there are plenty of other trails to see. Don't forget to look at the trail conditions before you go. (I love the graphics on this last site).

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 at 08:58. Comments Closed (2) |

The Ozone Battle Continues

As if you didn't know already. Now, though, it's official. Many counties in California violate the 8-hour ozone limit. This USEPA letter published earlier this month gives the details.

The Environmental Defense Fund doesn't think the limits are enough. They think the testing parameter should be one hour instead of eight, that the method of testing should be different, and more aggressive emission reductions should be in place.

Only the Utility Air Regulatory Group supported the change. It was hard to find this group on the internet, but you can read the group's 1997 air-quality comments here.

If you'd like to see the USEPA's measurement of your air quality, click on this map to find yours.

Why is this issue important? Some believe that low-atmosphere ozone is one of the primary causes of asthma. The EDF's testimony cites individuals who have died from the combination of asthma and ozone. Others, like the UARG, don't see the connection.

If you'd like to find out more, here's what the USEPA is doing to curb ozone.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, December 15, 2003 at 09:19. Comments Closed (0) |



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