Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that debt collectors can’t use a “bona fide error” defense to avoid being sued for misinterpreting the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). In other words, if a debt collection agency makes a demand that’s in violation of the Act, it can’t say it didn’t know any better. Well, it can, but you can go right ahead and sue. [More]
Better hope your technorights-based lawsuit doesn’t make it all the way to the US Court of Last Resort, because these august judges might not have a freakin’ clue of what’s going on. Turns out they don’t know the difference between email and a pager, among other things. [More]
If a retailer doesn’t protect your credit card data and it gets stolen, should you be compensated? Not for any unauthorized charges, which are already covered under banks’ zero-liability protection, but for the time lost dealing with the problem, for the anxiety it causes, and for any future credit history/score issues it might cause?
Two recent Supreme Court cases on federal pre-emption have made a mess of tort law, confusing and endangering consumers by holding that a patient who is injured by a dangerous drug can sue the manufacturer, but a patient injured by a dangerous medical device cannot. How this happened, and what to do about it, inside.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Diana Levine in Wyeth v. Levine. Levine, a musician, had her arm amputated when an anti-nausea drug was improperly administered in her artery, and sued the manufacturer for failing to warn of the risks on the drug’s label. Wyeth claimed that her case was pre-empted by federal law.
“Pre-emption” is a legal doctrine that says the federal government can claim all regulatory power over an area or subject, barring states from acting on their own. The drug maker Wyeth has brought a case before the Supreme Court arguing that a woman in Vermont, who lost her arm due to a drug complication that Wyeth knew about but did not publicize, cannot sue them in state court because of pre-emption. Wyeth says that only the FDA has the power to regulate it—and since the FDA approved Wyeth’s drug label, it’s the FDA’s responsibility. We think Wyeth is pretending to care about federal-versus-state power in an attempt to weasel out of any responsibility.
The court noted that “were the ‘Federalist Papers’ just being published today via e-mail, that transmission by Publius would violate the [current Virginia] statute.”
Thomas Amschwand knew he was dying and did everything in his power to make sure his wife would be able to collect his $426,000 life insurance policy. Yet when the 30-year-old succumbed to heart cancer, his employer, Spherion, a temporary staffing company, told his widow Melissa that she would receive nothing.
Westerners are stuck paying $3 billion to energy companies that colluded to gang-rape the free market. California, Washington, and Nevada were planning to return the money to customers, but the Supreme Court recently ruled that the industry manipulated the market, fair and square.
The Supreme Court rejected T-Mobile’s appeal in 3 cases yesterday, which means an earlier federal ruling that says states “can refuse to enforce arbitration clauses if they include bans on class actions” will stand. Now T-Mobile has to go back to state courts to deal with the class action lawsuits against it. [Associated Press]
A 9-page look at how big business has been scoring big wins in the Supreme Court over the past 30 years [NYT].
The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to halve the punitive damages levied against Exxon for its massive 1989 oil spill from the Exxon Valdez tanker, from the current $2.5 billion to something more like $1 billion. Exxon claims the higher number amounts to excessive punishment. According to the New York Times, the decision may come down to a tie with four justices on either side; Justice Alito is not participating because he owns Exxon Mobile stock. The Exxon Valdez disaster “caused a 3,000-square-mile oil slick and still affects Alaska’s fisheries after nearly 19 years.”
The 8-1 decision came in a lawsuit by Alex E. Ferrer, a former Florida Circuit Court judge who decides minor civil disputes as a form of TV entertainment.
The Supreme Court ruled today in Leegin v. PSKS that manufacturers can collude with retailers to set the minimum prices of products, arguing that such a decision was good for competition. Succumbing to the court’s recent bender of conservatism is a 96 year-old precedent from Dr. Miles v Park that held minimum price accords as intrinsically – or in legalese, “per se” – illegal. Writing for the majority, swing-Justice Anthony Kennedy showed kiddies the dangers of taking crazy pills:
Supreme Court ends 96-year ban on manufacturers conspiring to set minimum product prices.
Speaking of crappy cell phone providers, we’ve long been aggrieved by the providers’ one-sided contracts. Sign up for a cellphone and all you are really guaranteeing a company like Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile is that, over the course of the next year, you will continue to pay them whatever arbitrary monthly fee that they spontaneously dream up, regardless whether or not that is the fee you initially agreed to.