John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.

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Julianna Walker Willis Technology



• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting


Four Loko Maker Says Users Knew of Health Dangers Print

The maker of Four Loko has previewed its defense of a slew of product liability lawsuits, arguing that the physical effects of the energy drink's mixture of alcohol and caffeine — far from being an undisclosed risk to consumers — are precisely what made it so popular.

Rod Fiorini

The legal onslaught against Phusion Projects includes at least half a dozen personal injury claims alleging Four Loko is “a dangerous and potentially fatal combination” of ingredients. In the latest case, filed Nov. 1 in Fresno, Calif., the family of a college student claims Four Loko caused his strange and violent behavior that ultimately led to police shooting him to death.

Rod Fiorini, 23, allegedly drank two cans of Four Loko and some beer before he “became extremely disoriented, excited, agitatated, and paranoid.” He was killed by police in a barrage of gunfire after his roommate called 911 and said he was firing a shotgun in his backyard.

“As a result of Four Loko's defective, unreasonably dangerous condition and propensities, as well as its related inadequate warnings, Rod A. Fiorini died on October 5, 2010,” his family's complaint says.

Four Loko has also been blamed for the death of Jason Keiran, a Florida State University sophomore who shot himself after allegedly consuming at least three cans — the alcohol equivalent of 18 light beers and six cups of coffee.

Phusion has yet to present a defense to the product liability suits. But in motions to dismiss two class actions filed in Florida and California by Four Loko consumers, it has argued that it had no duty to disclose the “synergistic effects” of alcohol and caffeine.

“[I]t is not plausible that the reasonable consumer was unaware of the effects of consuming the product,” Phusion says in the motion to dismiss the Florida case. “In fact, it is far more plausible ... that the supposedly unknown physical effect was not only well known but was the reason for the product's meteoric popularity.”

In its original formulation, Four Loko contained alcohol and four stimulants — caffeine, guarana, taurine and wormwood. After several highly-publicized incidents in which college students were hospitalized after drinking Four Loko, Phusion announced in November 2010 that it would remove caffeine from the product.

Critics say the combination of alcohol and caffeine “desensitized” users to the symptoms of intoxication. Fiorini's family allege in their lawsuit that the amount of alcohol he had consumed “should have caused him to lose consciousness or act in a subdued manner” but due to Four Loko's high caffeine content, he stayed awake.

But for Phusion's “acts and omissions,” Fiorini “would not have achieved the level of intoxication, disorientation, and agitation he experienced on October 5, 2010,” the suit says.

In the class action suits, which allege violations of consumer protection laws, Phusion has taken the position that the Four Loko label “plainly warns of health risks” and consumers, therefore, “cannot have been deceived into thinking Four Loko was risk-free.”

Moreover, the company concludes in its motion to dismiss the California case,

there is no plausible basis to suppose that consumers of Four Loko thought it was a caffeine-free benign beverage that had none of the effects of combining caffeine and alcohol. Four Loko — and similar caffeinated alcoholic beverages — never would have been created if consumers didn’t expect and assume that adding caffeine to alcohol affected their mental state.

Phusion could similarly argue in the product liability suits that it did not fail to warn consumers such as Fiorini and Kieran of the dangers of Four Loko. “[C]onsumers so well understood the risks of misusing or abusing Four Loko that they referred to it as 'blackout in a can,'” Phusion has said.

But the Fiorini family has cited communications in which government agencies concluded that caffeine, as used in Four Loko, is "an unsafe food additive” and indicated that Phusion's “marketing and sale of Four Loko ... may constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice[.]”

Both the class actions were dismissed for reasons unrelated to the motions to dismiss.

By Matthew Heller


Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

  • Hotel Sued Over Slaying of Escort by 'Craigslist Killer'

    The mother of a prostitute slain by the “Craigslist killer” at a Marriott hotel in Boston has alleged in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that the hotel's operator is liable for her daughter's death because it failed to prevent prostitution from occurring on its premises.
  • Court Extends Doctors' Liability for Prescription Gaffes

    The Utah Supreme Court has given a boost to the battle against prescription drug abuse by ruling that medical professionals can be sued over injuries to a nonpatient that were allegedly caused by  drugs they carelessly prescribed to patients.
  • Girl's Slaying Tests Cruise Line Liability

    The family of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout on a Caribbean island has asked an appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit that tests the liability of cruise ship operators for onshore injuries to passengers.
  • Bystander Claims "Swoon and Fall" Injuries at Church

    In yet another “swoon and fall” case against a church, an Illinois woman claims she was injured during a church service when a parishioner who was receiving the “spirit” fell backward, knocking several other worshippers into her.
  • Jurors' Comments Fuel New Trial Bid in Bullying Case

    Jurors may have opened the door to a new trial in a Maryland school bullying case by saying they returned a verdict for the defense because they were afraid of setting a bad precedent for school systems throughout the country.
  • Abuse Victim Can Sue Ex-DA Over 'Sexting' Messages

    A Wisconsin judge has protected a domestic violence victim from a rogue prosecutor, finding that she can sue him for sending her text messages in which he pressured her to have sex with him.
  • Four Loko Maker Says Users Knew of Health Dangers

    The maker of Four Loko has previewed its defense of a slew of product liability lawsuits, arguing that the physical effects of the energy drink's mixture of alcohol and caffeine — far from being an undisclosed risk to consumers — are precisely what made it so popular.

U.S. v. Arpaio
Subject: Civil rights
Document: Complaint

Schultz v. Medina Valley
Subject: School prayer
Document: Non-Kumbaya order

Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Verdict

Jackson v. Paula Deen
Subject: Sexual harassment
Document: Complaint

Marsh v. Air Tran Airways
Subject: Roaches on a plane
Document: Complaint



Peterson/Pryde v. Thyden
Court: Montgomery (Va.) Circuit
Subject: Virginia Tech shootings
Verdict: $8 million

Sheridan v. Cherry
Court: L.A. Superior
Subject: Wrongful termination



Brown v. Herbert
Date: 12/16/11
Court: USDC, Utah
Hearing: Motion to dismiss polygamy case