May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - We accept submissions by April 15 of every year.
We March Steadily Toward April 15
Despite the pun in the headline, tax season is almost upon us. Lexis has rounded up a series of articles on how to get ready for it here, and they're worth a look.
All I want is for time to go backwards, or someone else to do my taxes. I went to law school because I don't do math.
Lawyer to Lawyer Internet Radio Goes Ape
Last week, a guerrilla marketing stunt headed by Turner Broadcasting went horribly wrong resulting in complete chaos in the City of Boston. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, please join me and my fellow co-host and Law.com blogger Robert Ambrogi as we turn to expert Boston University Law Professor David Rossman to discuss this hot topic.
Has guerrilla marketing gone too far and who should be held accountable? What sort of punishment should offenders who stir up this type of chaos face in a post 9/11 world? Do they deserve punishment at all? Listen to L2L for a powerful show.
Update: Late this afternoon, the President of the Cartoon Network resigned over the consequences from his role in the flap.
Immigrant Twice Deported Sent Back A Third Time
Immigration is a sensitive topic for many, and especially so for MIPTC since I wouldn't be here if immigrants weren't allowed in this country. Both sets of my great-grandparents arrived here from Scotland (my Mom's side) and Wales (my Dad's side). There are many others who want to be here as well, and perhaps none more so than Raul Morales-Izquierdo.
Raul was deported after arrival here, not once, but twice. The first time he arrived without inspection and the second time he failed to mention that he had been removed once before. He married a U.S. citizen and attempted to get his previous removal order reinstated. The reinstatement was denied by an immigration officer, but Raul challenged that denial because an immigration judge did not make that ruling.
The Ninth Circuit denied Raul's petition for reinstatement on the basis that Congress allowed reinstatement petitions to be determined by officers, not judges. Raul will be deported to Mexico once again, now for a third time.
There's no prize for trying hard; only for following the rules. As most know, we don't have open borders with any countries, which requires that someone sets standards to determine who can emigrate and who can't.
How did you get here? Did you and your forebearers follow the rules?
Injured Skiers Don't Seem To Get The Message When They Sue Ski Resorts
It's time for MIPTC's annual roundup of the winter ski resort appellate opinions. It seems like every year, someone gets hurt on the ski slopes and then sues to recover for their injuries.
It's just that practically all of the courts routinely reject these claim because the skier "assumed the risk" of injury as soon as she stepped on the snow. It's really that simple. It's a somewhat dangerous sport, and you're likely to get hurt if you're not careful or well-trained. On the other hand, if you know what you're doing, it's one of the most enjoyable sports next to scuba diving. Where else can you be outside exercising in the mountains letting gravity do all the work and then get a hot toddy and a hot tub afterward? But to ski safely, there's a price.
Here's the part where I give my pitch to hire a ski instructor.
After all, I'm one myself - so says the Professional Ski Instructors Association - West. I even have a little pin to prove it. Seriously, though, it's well worth it. You and the ski instructor will be able to cut the long lift lines and get right to the top, you'll get personal instruction and you're less likely to get injured and your day on the slopes will be much more enjoyable.
Which is the whole point anyway. Unlike Karen Towns, who not only got injured skiing, but also didn't get anything when she sued.
Spin The Bottle For Insurance Deductibles
How does MTBE contamination in different geographical areas, different types of spills, different leaks in different plaintiffs all arise from one occurrence under an insurance policy?
When you're in the Third Circuit, and you're in the case of Sunoco Inc. and Sunoco Inc. v. Illinois National Insurance Co.
Let me offer a bit of an explanation. Sunoco had a $5 million self-insured retention under its insurance policy, and it was facing seventy-seven different lawsuits. That's $380 million of a total deductible, which is a lot, even for a big oil company. Practically speaking then, Sunoco would likely not have been able to undertake the cleanup of the contamination.
In fact, the combined deductible was greater than the $50 million policy written by Illinois National Insurance Company.
The court made this ruling, which binds only Sunoco and Illinois National, based on its logic that each of the 76* lawsuits allege the same cause of action. It went on, arguing that the suits essentially each claimed injuries from Sunoco's production of gasoline containing MTBE and the company's failure to warn users. The court finally determined that each plaintiff was exposed to the same general harmful condition (the MTBE additive), which and resulted in the same injury: contaminated groundwater.
The ruling, however, presents a two-edged sword. Absent some stroke of genius on the Third Circuit, there's also only one $50 million policy limit covering these 76 suits.
But stranger rulings have been issued before.
*Yes, careful readers will have caught what at first appears to be a typo: 77 vs. 76 lawsuits. The Third Circuit remanded the case to the District Court to deal with an issue not covered here. You'll have to read the decision to see what that issue is about - I covered a different topic in this post, one not readily apparent in the opinion, but nonetheless a consequence of it.
Swallowing Her Words Proved Difficult, If Not Nearly Deadly
Cell phones have been used for just about everything, but a murder weapon is a new twist. Melinda Abell got into an argument with her boyfriend, Marlon Brando Gill, over whether she's been talking to other men.
Gill got upset, and Abell alleges he shoved the cell phone down her throat. Gill denies the charges and claims Abell was trying to prevent him from finding out who she was talking to. Doctors removed the cell phone from Abell's throat.
Gill faces sentencing after his conviction by a jury.
Super Bowl HDTV Flunks The Pixelation Test
MIPTC had the opportunity to watch Super Bowl XLI on HDTV, as many did, but the HDTV signal from Cox Cable gets an "F" in my book. It seemed like every time there was a major play, the dreaded pixelation "stopped" the signal, and then when it caught up, the play was over. TIVO could do nothing to rescue the play.
Sure, the picture was sharp despite the rain on the cameras, but the interruption wasn't worth the the trade-off. We almost switched to the regular CBS channel, but tried to watch the entire game in HDTV.
To add insult to injury, everything associated with the system (television, cable box, HDTV signal and the receiver to process the audio and signal) is expensive.
If you're thinking about buying, you may want to wait until the technology catches up.
Not A Blip On The Tax Radar Screen - Tax Shelters Denied
Auditor KPMG's previous criminal vindication on tax shelters it sold suffered a setback in Texas civil court. Previously, as MIPTC reported, KPMG set aside a $46 million criminal fine over its Son of Boss tax shelter, also known as "Blips." But in Texas, Judge Ward essentially reversed himself and ruled the tax shelter was comprised of fake bank loans and therefore illegitimate, despite his previous ruling identified in the link above.
Apparently looking much closer at the aggressive tax shelters, Judge Ward ruled that Blips were not real investments and the related loans were not made and had no economic substance or genuine business purposes, all telltale signs for a tax shelter gone wrong. According to a New York Times article, the ruling likely exposes other entities who used the shelters, including NatWest, a British bank now owned by Royal Bank of Scotland. The investors in the tax shelters, Harold W. Nix and C. Cary Patterson, however, have to pay only the taxes on the money in the shelters, not the interest and penalties. It's KPMG, auditors and tax lawyers who are looking over their shoulders now.
Rest assured, the IRS won't be far behind.