That is what one woman, Tamara Fields, is claiming. She is suing Twitter for enabling an Islamic State (“ISIS”) attack which killed her husband, Lloyd “Carl” Fields, on November 9th in Jordan. Her suit contends that Twitter violated the Anti-Terrorism Act. The Act permits U.S. citizens to triple damages for injuries suffered from acts of international terrorism. The lawsuit alleges that Twitter enables ISIS and other terrorist groups to grow, recruit, and disseminate propaganda. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and is one of the first of its kind.
While it is evident that terrorist groups are gaining far too much traction on social media, how successful will a lawsuit like this be?
Did Twitter Help Kill Fields?
Tamara Fields’ lawsuit contends that Twitter’s activity was a substantial factor in her husband’s death. It further alleges his death could have been foreseeable. Fields’ attorney states, “It was foreseeable that giving ISIS unfettered access to Twitter accounts would enable them to recruit, fundraise, and spread their propaganda and that this would lead to the deaths of innocent civilians.”
The question becomes whether Twitter knowingly or in willful ignorance allowed ISIS groups to use their platform to spread propaganda and did nothing to stop it.
Different social media platforms have different standards to stop terrorist-related propaganda. For example, Facebook shuts down any page, group or profile related to terrorist organizations or any content celebrating terrorism. Of the social media giants, it is the best at removing ISIS-related videos, newsletters and photos.
Social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter rely primarily on users to identify offensive content, which is reviewed and may be deleted. These companies are not legally required to report the offensive material to government agencies, but they often do if they come across content which raises serious red flags.
In the past several years, the use of Twitter has grown, especially among ISIS supporters. It began to increase suspensions to Twitter accounts after videos and images of journalist James Foley’s beheading was disseminated on social media. Although Twitter has successfully identified many terrorist groups and suspended their accounts, users whose accounts are suspended often come back with new accounts.
Even if Twitter hasn’t been altogether successful, they have teams around the world who actively identify violating conduct, investigate reports of rule violations, partner with organizations countering extremist content online, and work with law enforcement.
As with any social media platform, there is a dichotomy in allowing free speech versus restricting dangerous terrorist propaganda. Twitter, more than any other social media outlet, is known for liberally allowing freedom of expression.
Government regulation of speech in the United States is generally considered unconstitutional pursuant to the First Amendment, regardless of if the speech is offensive or hateful. Free speech activists are concerned that if government officials police certain types of speech, it will lead to censorship.
Communications Decency Act of 1996
According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“C.D.A. Section 230”), intermediaries like Twitter and Facebook cannot be held personally liable for content posted by their subscribers. C.D.A. Section 230 protects internet service providers and interactive computer service providers, which includes practically any online service that publishes third-party content. There are exceptions for certain criminal and intellectual property-claims. However, C.D.A. Section 230 gives broad protection that permits controversial or political speech to flourish online.
It is important to note that the legal protections provided by C.D.A. Section 230 are limited to U.S. Law. Canada, Japan, European nations, and many other countries do not have similar statutes which provide such expansive protections. While other countries have high levels of internet access, most prominent online services originate in the United States.
Will Fields’ Lawsuit be Successful?
Given the First Amendment Free Speech protections, coupled with C.D.A. Section 230, it is unlikely that Tamara Fields lawsuit will go very far before being thrown out.
Authored by Erin Chan-Adams, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are expanding in use from aerial footage or delivering packages. Drones are now being used for recreational sports, like racing.
Using drones for civilian recreation is a new concept in the world of drones. So the application of legal liability to drone use for injury, trespassing, and property damage are new concepts for the legal world to apply.
Using drones for racing also invites questions of drone registration, pilot registration, and government regulation.
When a drone is in flight, it may lose control and then crash into a person or property. It may cause a minor injury, but it can result in serious physical injury that leads to a viable tort action against the drone pilot.
In the case of a personal injury, a successful case needs the injured party to prove that the drone pilot had a duty to the injured party.
What Is the Duty of Care for a Drone Pilot?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement in face of the rise of recreational drone use, stating that when “you fly your drone anywhere in the nation’s airspace, you automatically become part of the U.S. aviation system. Under [aviation] law, your drone is an aircraft…you have the responsibility to operate safely, just as a Cessna or 747 pilot does.”
The FAA maintains the stance that a drone pilot has the highest duty to the public. In the FAA’s eyes, drone pilots are closer to airplane pilots rather than regular automobile pilots. Airplane pilots must exercise ordinary care and caution when operating an airplane. Airplane pilots are regarded as trained professionals, and so owe the highest duty of safety. But, an airplane pilot is a professional who had to undergo advanced training to operate an airplane. Airplane pilots go through testing, examination, and other training to ensure they all have the same basic training and those unqualified are not allowed to fly. Due to their advance training, a pilot’s “ordinary care” is that of a licensed pilot.
Yet, a drone pilot does not need lessons, hours of supervised flight time, or even certification by the FAA. At the moment, a recreational drone pilot may fly his/her drone without registration so long as the drone is under 55 lbs and does not fly over 400 feet. Given that drone pilots do not have the same level of training or the same licensing requirements, it is unreasonable to hold drone pilots to the same level of duty as airplane pilots.
The free and public use of airspace has always been difficult for the government to regulate. There are no boundaries in the air or clear indications of when you have crossed from one county, state, or nation to another without the aid of GPS.
Now drones have introduced untrained, unlicensed, and unregistered pilots into the airspace. A FAA task force formed to decide how to regulate the influx of drones entering the airspace during the holiday season.
The Task Force advised the FAA to create a hobby/recreational drone pilot registry to control the risk of drones to the “non-flying public.” The registration would be free and drone pilots must put their registration numbers on every drone they pilot.
The 2015 U.S. National Drone Racing Championship offered a grand prize of $25,000. Major news networks covered the race with live streaming of the entire event, gaining attention around the nation and the world.
The competition requires registration with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) to register in the race. The AMA requires a membership fee and a signed agreement to follow their code of conduct. In return, the AMA will offer insurance coverage for personal injury, property damage, and accidental death.
Drone racing is growing with teams from all over the world coming to compete. It is here to stay, and the FAA is scrambling to control and regulate the use of recreational drones.
Drones Are Here to Stay
The FAA knows that drones are here to stay. While the registration of drone pilots is a step forward, the FAA will need to find a way to register the drones as well. Legal debates and lawsuits will grow as the government will need to learn how to keep up with the World of Drones.
Authored by Janice Lim, LegalMatch Legal Writer
General Motors has entered into a settlement to pay a fine of $900 million. The fine is payment for the automaker’s delay in handling its ignition-switch problems in 2.6 million vehicles. The issue has been associated with more than 100 fatalities, and several more injuries. The settlement also entails a deferred prosecution agreement for three years.
According to the Los Angeles Times, GM neglected to reveal to regulators in a timely fashion the existence of a deadly safety defect and deceived consumers about the safety of GM vehicles that had the defect. However, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx claims that this was not GM’s only deception. The automaker also failed to disclose the truth to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the public. He further stated that the purpose of the fine is to send a message to companies that there is no place for deception and delay, and that there is a great cost for participating in such behavior.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that specific supervisors and lawyers at GM were aware of the deadly defects concerning the ignition switches which caused crashes by abruptly shutting off vehicles in motion. The prosecutors accused them of choosing profits over safety. Nevertheless, the names of the wrongdoers were not revealed.
Although the fine is high, it is nothing compared to the irreparable harm inflicted on the victims and their families by GM’s negligence. According to Clarence Ditlow, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, GM killed more than 100 people by placing a defective ignition switch that the automaker knew was defective, into more than one million vehicles. But no one from GM served any time in jail or faced charges of criminal homicide.
In addition to its admission, GM has relinquished its ability to reduce its losses from the fine by deducting it as an expense on its taxes. The settlement agreement is similar to the one made by the DOJ with Toyota Motor Corp. in 2014. Toyota admitted to deceiving regulators concerning fatal safety defects that were responsible for unintended abrupt acceleration incidents. Toyota was fined $1.2 billion, which is the largest amount that has ever been charged to an automaker.
Fines Are Not Enough
However, the law prevents GM officials from facing criminal charges. GM made payments of millions of dollars to its lobbyists to keep the Vehicle Safety Act devoid of criminal penalties since 1966.
The settlement was described as “very disappointing” by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) because it failed to demand sufficient and definitive admission of criminal responsibility from GM and its employees. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, stated that it would be difficult to charge an individual at GM with a crime. In order to level such a charge, one would have to prove criminal intent, which is challenging.
I agree with the claim that the officials at GM who were aware of the defect in the ignition switches, but chose to have them installed in the vehicles anyway, should be held criminally accountable. A large fine is simply an inadequate deterrent to engaging in the deception of consumers and regulators in order to reap profits instead of enforcing safety. The threat of jail time and criminal charges would serve as an even greater preventative measure against the negligence of automakers, and there would likely be fewer instances of placement of defective parts, and as a result, fewer injuries and fatalities.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law
As consumers, you have a right to consumer protection from sellers who engage in abusive business practices. Consumer protection laws are intended to hold merchants liable when they find ways to be profitable at the expense of consumers, who are often not well-informed, and who possess less bargaining power.
One type of consumer protection that is available to you is the right to be free from harassing phone calls from debt collectors who telephone you early in the morning or late at night, contact you at your place of business, or communicate with your friends and family. If you are the victim of such harassment, you may be able to recover a statutory damage award of $1,000 and attorney’s fees under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
You also have the right to be free from predatory lending, which has been the principal complaint in several lawsuits. For instance, consumers have been charged extremely high interest rates when applying for credit cards and loans, in which fees and penalties are often concealed in the fine print that most consumers do not take the time to read. And when consumers start to pay off a loan balance, lenders may apply such payments to the part of the loan balance that is associated with the higher interest rate.
Such predatory lending practices were common during 2010, when there was a housing crisis marked by many foreclosures. There are certain laws that offer protection to consumers against such abusive business practices. They are the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Home Ownership and Equal Protection Act (HOEPA) of 1994.
In addition, consumers are protected from false or misleading advertising, an example of which is the advertisement by car dealers of vehicles at a lower price in an effort to attract people to the dealership. Upon arrival at the dealership, though, they realize that the reduced sales price is no longer the current price of the car, at which point the dealer tries to persuade consumers to buy a car on less favorable terms.
There are also consumer rights laws in place to protect you from such practices as warranty misrepresentation, forced arbitration clauses, defective products, and identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection has as its objective the enforcement of federal laws that address unfair or deceptive business practices. For example, the bureau has limited the amount of telemarketing fraud by creating the National Do Not Call Registry, which enables individuals to prevent for-profit companies from making unsolicited calls to them on their home phones.
If you believe that you have been the victim of unfair and deceptive business practices, you should consult a consumer rights lawyer, who may be able to help you recover financial compensation, and communicate to the person or company in violation of consumer rights laws that such behavior will not go unpunished.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law
Doctor’s prescription note: “Take two Tylenols and I will
absolutely, definitely be seeing you again tomorrow morning.” I remember as a child how comforting Tylenol can
be when you’re sick. But I didn’t know
that it now might actually be making people sick. Faithful consumers of Tylenol products should
be aware that the
company has issued a recall of over 40 children’s versions of its
over-the-counter products early this May.
Johnson & Johnson, the company that makes Tylenol, has also issued
recalls for Benadryl, Motrin, and Rolaids.
This is the fourth Tylenol recall in a period of seven months, with the last being a recall of Tylenol Arthritis in January. Several users of Tylenol products had complained of nausea and vomiting in connection with a moldy, mildew-like smell coming from the products. Not so good news, indeed. Thanks for the medical advice, doc.
Even more disappointing for the household-trusted name brand
is the recent investigation probe by the FDA of a Tylenol production
facility. An FDA report issued also this
May reveals shocking
conditions at the Tylenol plant which were described as sub-quality and
involved countless violations of safety standards. The report suggests that the FDA found issues
with nearly every system operation at the plant. Research experts claim it’s one of the worst
reports they’ve ever seen.
To give you an idea of how bad it was, inspectors discovered layers of thick dust everywhere and grime on production equipment. They also found a large hole in the facility ceiling, and pipes which had apparently been repaired with duct-tape. Gross. Not quite what you’d imagine from a company that sells a product that apparently makes everything better.
In even grosser connections, the culprit in the recalled
products has been
identified as a bacteria known as B. cepacia. B. cepacia is apparently antibiotic-resistant
and has been linked to infections in hospital patients. It was found on several drums used in
transporting the products. This makes
sense, I guess- I’m not really familiar with any popular lines of
anti-bacterial Tylenol, so maybe they aren’t experts in that particular field.
As someone who places their trust in name-brand products, I am severely disappointed. What’s next? Dirty Band-Aids? Used Pampers? Dried out Pentel pens? I’ll bet someone will eventually strike it big by making the word “generic” a trademark name. Hmmm…
Most people don’t recall (pardon the pun) the last big
scandal involving Tylenol, which happened way back when in 1982 in what is
known as the “Chicago
Tylenol Murders”. Seven people who unknowingly
took cyanide-laced Tylenol died in
In some ways I think the present Tylenol investigation is worse, even though no one has lost their life to the products. The 1982 murders involved tampering which occurred after production, and authorities were unable to identify any suspects. Here, we are talking about a lack of diligence, plain and simple, which means that the injuries that have occurred could potentially have been prevented.
The 1982 incident left behind a legacy of improved safety
standards for the entire over-the-counter industry. I wonder if this particular case will leave
behind a similar legacy. All I can think
about is whether Tylenol will be able to restore public trust in its name. Even after the FDA
slammed them hard, Tylenol supposedly still didn’t respond quickly enough,
and the FDA even had to issue them a warning.
Too bad they weren’t able to administer some Tylenol to the production lines and alleviate the symptoms of faulty operations. But that’s just my point- all the safety and health violations are only symptoms of the more deep-rooted illnesses of thoughtlessness and carelessness. And those are the kinds that can be the most difficult to cure.
But seriously, though, if you’ve purchased Tylenol recently,
you might want to toss or refund the bottles and switch to a different brand in
By: Jay Rivera
Ever wonder how people who do stuff like this or this or this not only get away with it without being hauled off to the loony bin, but in many case actually have a legal leg to stand on that allows them to be awarded millions of dollars? It's one of the most common questions I get regarding the law and it's no surprise why, in case you missed it earlier, millions of dollars. It's also one of the most hotly contested aspects in the legal world. Why you ask? Again, millions of dollars.
In case you haven't figured out the answer to my first question or what I'm talking about yet, I'm referring to a little something call "gross negligence" which is the legal basis used to secure the aforementioned millions of dollars for all of these types of lawsuits. What is it and how does it work, you ask? Excellent question, I'll get to it right now, but if you're too busy or lazy to read on click here to get the bullet pointed version.
RICKROLLED SON!!! I've got to get those in while I can before YouTube starts pulling his videos. Geez, people will pull even the crappiest creative/intellectual properties once it gets popular enough. That almighty dollar…always ruining everyone's good time…
Anyway, back to the law. Gross negligence is a legal doctrine that allows people who have been injured or wronged by the actions or inactions of a tortfeasor, which is a fancy legal word meaning a person whose wrongful act causes injury to another hence the term "tort law." And in tort law there are basically two ways to establish a lawsuit against another party: either through a lawsuit for intentional harm (where someone acts to intentionally hurt you, such as a person punching you in the face) or unintentional harm AKA negligence (where someone's actions accidentally causes you harm). An example of unintentional harm would be someone wanting to punch your friend, who is standing in front of you, in the face and right before the punch hits your friend, he ducks and you get your clock rocked instead. That's negligence in a nutshell.
But what makes it complicated is when this principle is used to assign blame to a mall owner because you fell on a wet floor in their mall. It's also what makes companies like McDonalds and Starbucks put warning labels on their cups of coffee telling you the coffee is hot. In fact it's what makes companies put stupid labels on things, period.
"So how do you assign responsibility to someone who didn't actually cause you harm?" is your next question. I'm psychic, that's how I knew. Basically you go through the five elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation, proximate (foreseeable) causation, and harm. If the lawsuit fulfills each of the elements then you've got a case for negligence.
Take the McDonalds coffee case: the plaintiff there claimed McDonalds had a duty to warn its customers that their coffee was very hot. They breached their duty by not including a warning label. When the woman dropped her coffee, it caused her severe burns, which was a foreseeable consequence of McDonald's failure to warn her that the coffee was hot. This resulted in harm to the plaintiff by way of burns.
Seem very convoluted to you? Well, that's how arguably much of the law works in America. It's also why we have so many frivolous lawsuits in this country. But don't get me wrong, negligence liability is a sound legal doctrine. Without it, travesties like harm from asbestos, polluted water sources, and all other manner of corporate and personal wrongdoing would go uncompensated and unpunished. Negligence lawsuits ensure that things like that don't happen. All I'm saying is, try not to abuse it people.
It seems that everywhere you look these days; people are
coming up with more creative ways to get their highs. From Volcano vaporizers
to light cigarettes, getting your nicotine buzz has become the technological
grail. One of the newest is the
electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette.
But what exactly is this thing?
The easy answer is to say that, unlike a cigarette, the e-cigarette is actually constructed primarily from a stainless-steel tube. To be more precise, when someone "puffs" on an e-cigarette, a computerized sensor feels the drop in pressure and activates both an internal heating element as well as the signature "red glow" LED at the tip. The heating element then vaporizes a liquid solution that contains, among other things, varying levels of nicotine.
As the makers of these things really like to tout upon, these e-cigarettes can be smoked anywhere because they are not technically cigarettes. Thus, although I hate to see it, there are kiosks full of these things popping up in malls everywhere. The employees of these carts are encouraged to "smoke" these e-cigarettes inside of the malls where they work to show the shoppers that it’s okay to smoke inside. Personally, I felt nauseated by the sight and wondered how the mall owners allow such filth.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes are considered "new drugs," which means that they require approval from the FDA. This means that their safety needs to be backed by scientific data. Although the companies that sell these e-cigarettes claim that they are safe, they have not backed up their claims with any data showing studies on humans. And despite the FDA saying that these products are still waiting on their approval and cannot be sold, stores are popping up like candy, and there has been no movement to stop their sale. This has prompted the FDA to sue for the power to regulate these drug devices. Does this raise a giant red flag for anyone else but me? I mean, if these e-cigarettes are as safe as the companies claim they are, why are they forcing the FDA to sue to get the power to regulate them?
These e-cigarettes also present a new legal issue. In states where cigarette smoking is banned in restaurants, workplaces and within 20 feet of many public places, where exactly is an e-cigarette allowed? The makers of the e-cigarettes claim that they can be smoked anywhere because they are not defined as a cigarette, but as the FDA has found, these devices still deliver chemicals that are quite toxic to humans. In response, some states, like California, are pursuing legislation that would halt the sale of e-cigarettes until the FDA has the power to regulate them.
So, what’s the best bet? Get your toxins the traditional way and light up, or get new and exciting chemicals and light up your LED…
Apple took a hit today after testing by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) showed excessive levels of phthalates in iPhone and iPod headphone cords.
Wired’s blog network quotes CEH director Michael Green as saying that “Apple customers should know that when they get their hands on an iPhone they may be getting a dose of toxic chemicals as well.” However, the CEH also claims that their beef is not with the levels of PVC in the products, but with Apple’s failure to label those thousands of iProducts with a warning.
You may be familiar with U.S. standards for food product labeling—but labeling products for potential hazards is a serious matter as well. This error of omission is actually considered to be a kind of product defect, more specifically referred to as a “warning defect.” Warning defects refer to products that do have sufficient warnings or instructions for use and which injure consumers. It is this law that explains the seemingly obvious warnings on irons (“Do not iron clothes while wearing”) and other products.
CEH intends to decide just that with their most recent legal push
against Apple, which follows the Greenpeace condemnation of those same
If you are an iPod or iPhone user who is concerned about the detrimental effects of these chemical levels on your health, keep an eye on this case. While it’s unlikely that phthalates will negatively impact your health (as they will pose more of a risk to the environment itself when they are inevitably replaced or disposed of), you may have a chance to be involved in a defective products class action lawsuit.
by Kate Beall
We have all heard stories about family members, friends or colleagues finding something strange in their food. You may even be one of the unlucky ones who fall into this category. Some of the stories I’ve heard: bugs, alive or dead; screws; glass; hair; and even a finger (okay, so we’ve all heard that one).
Can you really sue the manufacturer or restaurant in which the foreign object was found? This is everyone’s first question and the American Way. Who do I sue first? Unfortunately, in most circumstances your claim is worthless. Say you are opening a can of corn for your family for dinner. You pour out the can and in it lies a deceased cockroach. Pretty disgusting. You gag over the sink and throw out the can and swear that you will never eat canned corn again. You want to sue but for how much. You have been “emotionally damaged” by this bug in your corn but did you actually suffer monetary damages? In the above case, I would say no. You did not ingest the cockroach nor did you get sick from ingesting the cockroach. But what about emotional distress? I wish you luck with that cause of action. In most cases it is not worth the small claims filing fee.
Your best bet is to call up the manufacturer and tell them what happened. They may send you vouchers for free food and maybe even a few coupons. This will compensate you for your losses (having to throw out the can of food). This is really all you are entitled to. Most want to sue for hundreds of thousands of dollars but in the end will probably not even receive coupons.
I know what you are thinking. What about the finger in the chili? I would say that is an extreme case and, since it was a hoax, almost never happens. My guess is the reason an attorney even looked at the case is that it was a human body part. Body parts contain fluids, blood etc. that may make you sick. And since it was such an extreme case one could argue emotional distress. A finger compared to a cockroach is a much different story. Had the woman in question contacted the same attorney complaining about a bug in her chili he/she would have never taken the case. It is really hard to say if she would have received a sizeable settlement or judgment. Remember, prior to her being arrested the claimant dropped her case. Maybe because it was a hoax or maybe because her attorney advised her that she had no case.
Here’s the deal. I am in no way discouraging you from filing a lawsuit. But please be aware that unless you ate the foreign object and have medical expenses from doing so that you most likely will receive nothing for your claim. If you have been injured from ingesting a foreign object consult with an attorney to find out your legal rights. If there is any evidence be sure to preserve it and take plenty of pictures. Happy eating.
By Lisa Zanassi