Lawsuit of the Day

Remember Lawrence Connell, the professor at Widener Law School who got in trouble for coming up with teaching hypotheticals in which he killed Dean Linda Ammons? Well, perhaps Professor Connell wishes the dean’s death was more than hypothetical.

Apparently Professor Connell wants to slay Dean Ammons — in a court of law. He has sued the dean for defamation.

Suing your current boss or employer — as opposed to suing after you’re gone, a la Matthew Kluger v. Fried Frank — can be awkward. Just ask JoEllen Lyons Dillon of Reed Smith or Raymond Carey of Foley & Lardner, two partners who have sued the law firms where they still work.

But they don’t have tenure, unlike Larry Connell. Let’s see what the good professor is suing over….

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Former Michigan prosecutor Andrew Shirvell might be gone from the Michigan attorney general’s office, but he has not been forgotten. Shirvell, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, has just been hit with a lawsuit — by Chris Armstrong, the ex-president of the University of Michigan student body.

Armstrong is suing Shirvell in Michigan state court for stalking, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and abuse of process. His lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and injunctive relief (to enjoin Shirvell from, well, being such a creep).

As you may recall, Shirvell seemed obsessed with the young, beauteous, and openly gay Armstrong, devoting an entire blog to criticism of Armstrong and following Armstrong around, day and night. As explained by Armstrong’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, Shirvell demonstrated a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong, reflected in numerous blog and Facebook postings in which Shirvell asserted that Armstrong was advancing a “radical homosexual agenda.” [FN1]

Let’s take a closer look at the complaint….

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Chris Webby

As many of you figured out, the cease and desist letter from Chris Webby, claiming ownership of the hashtag #webby, was an April Fool’s hoax. This week’s sign that the apocalypse is upon was a hologram launched by the Webby Awards people. Here’s the official reveal.

Really, we thought a few more of our loyal readers would see through it. The firm that purportedly sent the letter, Baxter, Butler & Associates, doesn’t exist. This commenter got it. But I guess most commenters don’t fire up Google unless an attractive girl is involved.

You can see why the Webbys weren’t able to get a real law firm to participate in this prank. It might have been a joke today, but the first hashtag infringement suit is surely just around the corner.

Happy April Fool’s Day. I’m going to go back to drinking heavily now.

Earlier: Cease and Desist Letter of the Day: Who Owns Your Hashtag?

Chris Webby

If you enjoy the fact that a company called PeerViews apparently claims ownership of the term “Small Law,” you’re going to love this latest piece of IP ridiculousness.

Rapper Chris Webby has sent a cease and desist order to the Webby Awards. He wants them to stop using the hashtag, #webby.

I’m pretty sure that trademarking hashtags is one of the prerequisites for the Rapture.

And yes, of course Chris Webby made a video about his legal complaint…

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Earlier this month, we presented you with a trademark law hypothetical. It was based on a dispute between Lawyerist and PeerViews Inc., parent company of TechnoLawyer, over the term “Small Law.” Lawyerist used the words “Small Law” in the title and text of this post — about Above the Law’s new offerings for small-firm readers, incidentally — and PeerViews objected.

In a letter by Kristen McCallion of Fish & Richardson, PeerViews expressed the concern that Lawyerist’s use of the words “Small Law” would diminish PeerViews’s goodwill in its “distinctive SmallLaw trademark.” PeerViews uses the mark for the TechnoLawyer newsletter on small firms.

We asked you, our readers, for your opinions on this matter. In the comments to our post, most of you sided with Lawyerist (but there were a handful of very vocal dissenters).

How will a judge or jury feel about this dispute? Because that’s who will get the next crack at this controversy. Lawyerist Media just filed a lawsuit against PeerViews in federal district court in Minnesota, seeking to invalidate the PeerViews trademarks on the terms “BigLaw” and “SmallLaw”….

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A couple of points before we start:

  • I know who Elie Tahari is because he spells and pronounces his first name just like I do (it’s like “Eliot” without the “it”).
  • I once told a toll lady on the New Jersey Turnpike: “You know, you should really have to pay me for having to drive on this thing.” She didn’t laugh though.

Thomas Horodecki, a manager in a design house for Elie Tahari, is suing the company for $2 million because he was forced to work in New Jersey.

Sounds reasonable to me…

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If your lover has these products in their bathroom, maybe you should use a condom.

I thought the most sketchy thing I’d see today was this article about people photoshopping the heads of their Facebook friends onto naked bodies and then masturbating. There’s nothing wrong with jerking off, but doing it to friends based on their profiles just seems violative.

Of course, there are things that seem wrong, and then there are things that are wrong. And Thomas Redmond, the creator of Aussie hair-care products, apparently crossed over the line into depraved wrongness.

When Redmond was 77, he banged a woman twenty years his junior, without a condom, and gave her his herpes. Mental note: I need to remember to never use Aussie hair products because the dude that created it has herpes and doesn’t take adequate precautions…

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Robert Leighton

Associates in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin seem to be doing a lot of walking these days. Last week, for example, bankruptcy associate Tyler Coulson announced that he was leaving the firm in order to walk across the country with his dog.

Today we bring you the tale of Sidley IP associate Robert Leighton, who apparently walked out on his fiancée, Lauren Serafin. But Serafin didn’t take the diss lying down.

Lauren Serafin is also a lawyer, so what did she do? She sued him, of course. Her suit for “breach of promise” seeks $62,814.71 in wedding and honeymoon expenses.

And it makes some lurid allegations about Leighton. Let’s take a closer look at the lawsuit — and the ex-bride behind it, who’s rather attractive….

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Ray Carey

You don’t see this everyday. Raymond Carey, a 57-year-old white male partner at Foley & Lardner, is suing the firm, alleging that it paid him less than it would have paid a “female, non-Caucasian, younger partner.”

Sadly, it appears the only evidence Carey has for his claims is that he wasn’t paid as much as he feels he was promised. That’s disappointing. When women, gays, or minorities make discrimination claims, there are usually juicy tidbits about inappropriate jokes and statements made to the alleged victim. But I just read through a 63-page complaint and there wasn’t a single alleged “cracker” joke. Apparently nobody at Foley told Carey he needed to show “more bulge.”

But hey, if the brother’s not getting paid as much as other people in his office, maybe he has a point. And even if you don’t find the complaint particularly salacious, one of Carey’s attached exhibits is the Foley & Lardner partnership agreement….

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Legendary humorist Charlie Chaplin was once asked to describe “funny.” He famously responded: “You take a woman walking down the sidewalk. Show the audience a banana peel in front of her. Everyone knows that she is going to step on the banana peel and do a pratfall. At the last instant, she sees the banana peel, steps over it and falls into an open manhole that neither she nor the audience knew was there.”

Alright Charlie. Well here we have the set-up almost right. Reuters has a story about a banana peel and a 58-year-old California woman who busted her ass slipping on one.

Alone that’s not very funny, so we need something more. We need an open manhole…

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