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Contract by Emoji

EMOJIS CAN SIGNAL YOUR INTENT! A judge in Israel ruled against a couple for misleading their prospective landlord via text. The judge found that a few emojis sent by the couple to the prospective landlord communicated an intent to rent and awarded the landlord $2,200 in small claims court. The landlord claimed that previous conversations and emojis reasonably allowed him to infer that the couple was going to move forward with renting the space. The landlord took down the advertisement for the apartment, but the couple never responded to the landlord’s follow up messages. The landlord filed a claim in small claims court alleging that the emojis mislead him specifically blaming a dancing lady, two people dancing, a chipmunk, a peace sign, a smiley face, and a champagne bottle. The couple denied their intent to mislead and/or rent the apartment stating that they were not impressed with the apartment’s condition. However, the judge still ruled in the landlord’s favor, finding that the series of emojis while not all contained in one text, still conveyed “a great sense of optimism” and awarded the landlord $2,200. The Court stated, “Although this message did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, this message naturally led the Plaintiff to great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment…Defendant 2 used “smiley” symbols. These symbols which convey to the other side that everything is in order, were misleading since at that time the defendants already had great doubts as to their desire to rent the apartment.” WE’RE HERE FOR YOU 24/7 At Cory Watson Attorneys, we have made it our mission to fight for the rights of injury victims and their families for more than 30 years, and have recovered over 3 Billion for clients. Call (877) 562-0000 or fill out our online form to arrange for your FREE and CONFIDENTIAL case evaluation.

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Industry News

Fraternity Hazing and University Liability

A fraternity ritual, also known as hazing, begins around 9 pm on February 2, 2017, at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University. At approximately 10:45 pm, after being forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, an intoxicated pledge, Timothy Piazza, falls down the basement steps at his fraternity house. Piazza, unconscious, is carried up the stairs by other pledges and placed on a couch.  It will be 24 hours before anyone seeks medical attention for Piazza.  At 1:23 am on Saturday, February 4, 2017, Piazza is pronounced dead. Timeline of Timothy Piazza’s Final Hours According to an article in USA Today, the following is a timeline of the events leading to Piazza’s death: Feb. 2, 2017 8:56 p.m.: Pledges filed into Beta Theta Pi’s great hall, which had the lights turned off. Three brothers — Pledge Master Daniel Casey, Chapter President Brendan Young, and Ryan Burke — can be identified by a light source in the front of the room. 9:06 p.m.: Burke leads the pledges out of the great hall. 9:16 p.m.: Beta Theta Pi brothers send the first pledge through “the gauntlet,” a drinking-based obstacle course utilized in BTP’s hazing ritual. 9:21 p.m.: Timothy Piazza enters the gauntlet — Casey hands Piazza a handle of vodka, from which Piazza drinks heavily. Eight seconds later, Nicholas Kubera hands Piazza a beer, which Piazza shotguns. 10:31 p.m.: Pledges emerge from Beta Theta Pi’s basement and are visibly intoxicated. 10:40 p.m.: Beta Theta Pi brother Lars Kenyon assists Piazza, who was staggering and hunched over, to a couch in the great hall. 10:43 p.m.: Kubera encourages Piazza to stand up, and assists him in walking through the dining room and kitchen before returning to the living room. Piazza is visibly intoxicated during this endeavor. 10:45 p.m.: Piazza stands up, unassisted, and staggers toward the front door, which he fails to open. Piazza heads toward the basement steps, passing Jerry Coyne and Luke Visser on the way. Time Unknown: Timothy Piazza falls down the basement steps. Cameras located in the basement did not record on the night in question, according to court documents. 10:47 p.m.: Piazza is carried back up the steps by Ryan Burke, Luke Visser, Greg Rizzo and Jonah Neuman. Piazza is limp and has a visible bruise on his abdomen. The brothers place Piazza on a couch. When Rizzo attempts to administer a sternum rub to Piazza, Piazza is unresponsive. 10:49 p.m.: Rizzo dumps liquid on Piazza’s face. Piazza does not respond. Following this Burke lifts Piazza’s arm, which immediately falls back to Piazza’s chest. 10:55 p.m.: Jonah Neuman retrieves a backpack, which he attaches to Piazza at 10:56 p.m. 11 p.m.: BTP brother Ryan Foster sits himself at Piazza’s feet in order to prevent Piazza from rolling over. 11:12 p.m.: Neuman also sits on Piazza’s legs to prevent him from moving. 11:14 p.m.: Kordel Davis, a newly initiated brother to Beta Theta Pi as of December 2016, enters the great hall. Davis approaches Piazza, leans over him and then turns to the other brothers in an animated fashion, pointing to his head and then to Piazza. When he testified, Davis told jurors he told the other brothers that Piazza needed to be taken to the hospital. Davis told jurors he screamed at the brothers, telling them they needed to get help. 11:15 p.m.: Neuman shoves Davis into a wall and tells him things are under control. 11:15 p.m.: Davis reiterates his concerns to Ed Gilmartin, the chapter’s vice president. In response, Gilmartin says Davis is crazy, claiming the other brothers have majors in kinesiology and biology. 11:25 p.m.: Daniel Casey, the pledge master, reenters the great hall to check on Timothy Piazza — he slaps Piazza three times in the face. 11:53 p.m.: Rizzo sends the following GroupMe message: “Also Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of steps, hair-first, going to need help.” Feb. 3, 2017 1 a.m.: Brothers in the room observe Piazza vomit and twitch on the couch. Piazza is surrounded by Ryan Foster, Jerry Coyne, and Joseph Ems, who “backpack” Piazza to prevent him from rolling onto his back if he passes out. 1:48 a.m.: Piazza rolls onto the floor. Ems, Foster and Matt Reinmund pick Piazza back up and slam him onto the couch. 1:50 a.m.: Ems strikes Piazza’s abdomen. 3:22 a.m.: Piazza attempts to regain his feet, and Coyne is nearby. Piazza falls backward and strikes his head on the hardwood floor — Coyne shakes him for movement, and then leaves the room. 3:54 a.m.: Piazza attempts to stand up again, but falls face first onto the floor. 4:59 a.m.: Piazza stands and staggers toward the lobby. Seconds later, he falls into an iron railing. He gets up again and attempts to go to the front door, but falls head first into the door. 5:08 a.m.: Piazza rests on his knees with his head buried in his hands. Then, he rolls to his side and clutches his abdomen. 5:15 a.m.: Beta Theta Pi brother Jonathan Martines walks downstairs for a drink of water, stepping over Piazza. 5:26 a.m.: Another BTP brother, Frederick Steimling, comes downstairs for water. He observes Piazza, and then walks Piazza to the great hall. Piazza falls down three steps. Steimling steps over Piazza and leaves him on the floor. Eventually, Piazza makes it into the great hall. 6:44 a.m.: Beta Theta Pi pledge Qobi Quainoo enters the great hall — Piazza is on the floor. 6:57 a.m.: Quainoo uses SnapChat to film Piazza. 7:18 a.m.: Piazza stands up again and staggers toward the basement steps. Approximately 10 a.m.: Daniel Erickson and Kyle Pecci search for Piazza — eventually, Erickson discovers him behind a bar. Erickson, Pecci and another brother then carry Piazza upstairs and place him on a couch in the great hall. Following this, brothers shook an unconscious Piazza. The brothers also covered Piazza with a blanket, wiped his face and attempted to dress him. 10:48 a.m.:...

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The Little Known Act that is a Huge Threat to Public Safety

On January 11, 2017, as the public focused on other topics such as healthcare reform and cabinet confirmations, the U.S. House of Representatives quietly passed the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017.[1]  Contrary to its stated purpose of streamlining regulations and eliminating red-tape, the act would make it nearly impossible to pass regulations intended to keep the public safe.  According to consumer groups, the act could be more properly named the “Filthy Food Act”[2] or the “Regulatory Protection Prevention Act.”[3] Disturbingly, the Regulatory Accountability Act would resurrect certain features of the old law that thwarted the EPA’s attempts to ban asbestos in 1991.[4]  Although most people believe the use of asbestos to be illegal in our country, the EPA’s attempted ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act was struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1991.[5]  To this day, no ban has ever gone into effect.[6] Under a recently amended version of the TSCA, the EPA announced last December its intention to further evaluate its regulations on asbestos.[7]  Although many groups hope that this might finally lead to an outright asbestos ban,[8] that result seems unlikely if the Regulatory Accountability Act becomes law.  Although the title makes the bill sound harmless, it will dramatically affect the EPA’s proper function.[9] WE’RE HERE FOR YOU 24/7 At Cory Watson Attorneys, we have made it our mission to fight for the rights of injury victims and their families for more than 30 years, and have recovered over 3 Billion for our clients. Call (877) 562-0000 or fill out our online form to arrange for your FREE and CONFIDENTIAL case evaluation. [1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5. [2] http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Regulation-and-safety/Groups-slam-Regulatory-Accountability-Act. [3] https://news.utexas.edu/2017/02/03/regulatory-accountability-act-threatens-health-and-safety. [4] https://www.theregreview.org/2017/03/29/roberts-misguided-regulatory-accountability-act/. [5] Corrosion Proof Fittings v. E.P.A., 947 F.2d 1201 (5th Cir. 1991).  The full opinion is available online at http://www.law.uh.edu/faculty/thester/courses/Environmental%20Law%202016/Corrosion%20Proof%20Fittings%20v%20EPA.pdf. [6] https://www.asbestos.com/legislation/ban.php. [7] https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-names-first-chemicals-review-under-new-tsca-legislation. [8] http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/archives/42185. [9] http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/03/the-coming-gop-assault-on-regulations-000351.

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Contributory Negligence in Alabama

Laws can be complex and difficult to understand. Sometimes they make sense, and sometimes they do not. One confusing concept for a party that has been injured in Alabama is a legal theory called pure contributory negligence. In Alabama an injured person can recover money for their injuries from the person that injured them if that person was negligent. A person is negligent when they owe another person a legal duty and they breach that duty and that breach causes an injury to another person. For instance, if John rolls through a stop sign and crashes into Bill, John is responsible for the injuries to Bill because John had a legal to duty to stop at the stop sign and check for traffic. The legal duty to stop for the stop sign was designed to protect people like Bill. However, if Bill was driving 10 MPH over the speed limit and John can prove Bill’s speeding contributed at all to the crash, then Bill cannot make any claim against John for his injuries. Even if Bill was only 1% at fault for the crash, the rule of contributory negligence means that Bill cannot recover any of his damages from John. While this may not make sense, it is the law in Alabama. The only legal defense to contributory negligence is if the at fault party was not merely negligent, but wanton in the conduct that cause an injury to another party. Alabama law defines wanton conduct as conduct which is carried on with a reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others. In the example above, if John was driving drunk then his conduct may be regarded as wanton conduct. That wanton conduct would prevent him from using contributory negligence as a defense to keep Bill from being able to recover for his injuries even if Bill was speeding. Recovering damages after an injury can be a difficult, confusing, and time consuming task. The adjusters or lawyers for the negligent party may not offer a fair payout or may deny any responsibility for the injury. Because of the logistical and legal issues involved when trying to recover damages for an injury it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a negligent party injures you or a loved one.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Dangerous Drugs

FDA Delays Rule on Generic Drug Labels Until 2017

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has again delayed a decision on whether generic drug makers will be held responsible for warning patients about the risks of their medications. This comes as a disappointment to trial lawyers and consumer groups who want to eliminate the legal loophole which prevents patients from suing generic drug manufacturers for dangerous generic drugs. The majority of prescription drugs dispensed in the U.S. are generic drugs, and the companies that market them are not subject to the same warning label rules as their name brand counterparts. To get a generic drug approved for sale in the U.S., the generic drug manufacturer must prove that their generic is chemically identical to the name brand, and the label on the generic drug is identical to the one on the name brand drug. Generic drug manufacturers are not required to do any testing on the drug or update the use, safety and warning information as new medical and scientific information is learned unless the brand name drug manufacturer first updates the label information. This regulatory scheme creates very serious health dangers to consumers using generic drugs.  First, if the brand name drug is defective, then the generic equivalent is also defective, but most courts hold that only the name brand drug manufacturer can be sued and held responsible. So, the patients taking the generic equivalents have no lawsuit when harmed by the defective generic. Second, when a brand name drug is no longer made and sold, the brand name drug company is no longer responsible for researching and updating safety information. This means that if the drug is still available as a generic only, there is no company doing the research and updating the safety information. So if new dangers about the drug are learned, this information is not provided to the consumer by any manufacturer. The FDA’s decision is troubling. Dr. Michael Carome, speaking as director of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said, “The F.D.A. is plainly bowing to industry pressure and, in the process, prioritizing industry profits over patient health and safety.” Dr. Carome is one of many consumer advocates who had hoped the FDA would fix this safety and accountability gap. Generic drug manufacturers object to a change in the industry standard, saying that it would create confusion as equivalent drugs could have different warning labels. Manufacturers have proposed an alternative in which the FDA would be responsible for making decisions regarding label changes. However, consumer advocates have pointed out that the agency does not test drugs and does not have the resources to monitor new developments in drug safety information. Please join Cory Watson Attorneys in supporting safer drug labeling.

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Consumer Watchdog Agency Moves to End Forced Arbitration by Banks

  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a proposal Wednesday to significantly curb the use of forced arbitration by banks and credit lenders.  The move would affect banks, credit unions, credit card issuers, lenders (auto, payday, and auto title), installment and open-end lenders, private student lenders, debt settlement firms and buyers, and other consumer financial entities as defined in the Dodd-Frank Act section 1002.

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Spotify Fine Print Chips Away Consumer Rights

Spotify, the popular online music streaming service, has introduced a new provision to its terms and conditions that further strips its users of their Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury. Buried in the fine print of the “terms and conditions of use” you agree to when signing up for Spotify is a “forced arbitration” clause.Forced arbitration is a form of dispute resolution in which a user waives their right to sue, to participate in a class action, or to appeal the decision of an arbitrator, as a mandatory condition for using a given product or service.  If Spotify cheats a customer or breaks the law, that customer cannot go to court and must instead have their dispute settled by a private arbitrator that is picked by Spotify. The inclusion of forced arbitration clauses into contracts and terms of agreement has become an increasingly common practice by companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and AT&T.  Forced arbitration clauses are being used in more and more contracts for employment, insurance, car loans, credit cards, investment accounts, and so forth. Most consumers have no idea that they’ve agreed to forced arbitration in their contracts.  It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of companies refuse to sign contracts with other businesses that include arbitration clauses like the ones they force on their customers. Spotify recently added a new secrecy provision to its forced arbitration clause in its terms of use.  It reads: “All documents and information disclosed in the course of the arbitration shall be kept strictly confidential by the recipient and shall not be used by the recipient for any purpose other than for purposes of the arbitration or the enforcement of arbitrator’s decision and award and shall not be disclosed except in confidence to persons who have a need to know for such purposes or as required by applicable law. Except as required to enforce the arbitrator’s decision and award, neither you nor Spotify shall make any public announcement or public comment or originate any publicity concerning the arbitration, including, but not limited to, the fact that the parties are in dispute, the existence of the arbitration, or any decision or award of the arbitrator.” To summarize, this new provision bans Spotify’s customers from telling other people if they have a legal dispute with the company, or even talking about “the existence of the arbitration.” Furthermore, even if a consumer won their legal dispute in arbitration,  (which is unlikely given that Spotify effectively gets to choose the arbitrator), no one outside the case would ever be allowed to know. Spotify’s most recent move bolsters the one-sidedness of the arbitration process, and it actively seeks to suffocate information consumers reasonably ought to have access to.  At present, companies have rigged the system against the average consumer according to Sun Tzu’s famous maxim: “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”  Should Spotify’s new secrecy provision stand, it could pave the way for other companies to include similar clauses in their arbitration agreements. If you think consumers deserve a fair shot against companies when they cheat or break the law, you should let them know by signing this petition to remove forced arbitration clauses.

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Serra Nissan General Manager Randy Visser Enters Plea Deal in Criminal Conspiracy Case

Serra Nissan General Manager Randy Visser has entered a guilty plea to criminal conspiracy charges involving wrongdoing at Serra Nissan. Visser was accused of defrauding Nissan North America by falsifying sales reports in a scheme to collect incentive bonuses from the carmaker.  Maximum punishment for the federal crime is up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000, according to court documents released June 5, 2015. Visser is the highest ranking Serra Nissan employee charged in the continuing federal probe of activities at multiple Serra auto dealerships.  Eight former employees, including sales managers and finance managers have pled guilty to criminal charges. Serra Nissan’s controller Kimberly H. Branch, is free on bond after being arrested on criminal charges earlier this week.

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Serra Nissan Fraud Investigation-Former Managers Guilty of Conspiracy

Former Serra Nissan sales manager Abdul Islam Mughal was given a two and a half year prison sentence for his role in the Serra Nissan fraud case. Seven other former employees of Serra Nissan pled guilty in federal court in Birmingham to a variety of fraud charges stemming from a joint FBI-IRS investigation into fraudulent auto loan practices at Serra Nissan. The defendants are former general managers, sales managers, finance managers and salesmen at Serra Nissan in Birmingham. The FBI-IRS fraud investigation was conducted from August 2010 to October 2013.  It uncovered a scheme at Serra aimed at increasing sales and commissions for Serra Nissan and certain employees by creating and submitting bogus loan documents to lending institutions and misleading innocent banks and buyers concerning the value of vehicles being purchased.

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Arbitration Clauses Are Taking Away Consumers’ Rights

A report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on March 11, 2015, found that forced arbitration clauses are now extremely common, and are restricting consumers’ ability to seek legal relief by preventing consumers from filing their claims in court and preventing consumer participation in class actions.

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