Category Archives: Business Law Blogs

Missouri Appeals Court Vacated $72 Million Award

In February 2016, a jury awarded a woman $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages in a suit against Johnson & Johnson for causing her cervical cancer.  She died in 2015 after prolonged use of baby powder made by the company.

In its ruling vacating the judgment, the appeals court cited a recent Supreme Court ruling disallowing lawsuits in states where the plaintiff is not a resident and where the injury did not occur.  The plaintiff in this case is from Alabama and sued in Missouri.

“Jim Onder, who is representing many plaintiffs in the lawsuits, has argued that Missouri is a proper jurisdiction because Johnson & Johnson packages and labels some products in Missouri.”  According to the article, most research indicates talc, which is a soft mineral, has a minimum correlation to ovarian cancer.  In other lawsuits, jurors awarded plaintiffs more than $300 million combined, and the company intends to have all these rulings overturned.


Toys R Us Enters Chapter 11

Toys R Us entered Chapter 11 recently causing panic among toymakers. The company owes millions to suppliers.

Toys R Us owes $14.06 million to Jakks, which last year posted a profit of $1.2 million, making the California-based toy supplier one of more than 100,000 creditors sideswiped by the toy chain’s bankruptcy in the run-up to the all-important holiday season. In total, Toys R Us owes $7.5 billion to a group that includes virtually every major toymaker in the country: Mattel (owed $136 million), Hasbro ($59 million), Spin Master ($33 million), Lego ($32 million), Radio Flyer ($12 million), Crayola ($2.6 million).

Companies such as Lego, who are working with Toys R Us, expect their own sales to decline. Small “mom and pop” companies that make things like fidget spinners “rely heavily on Toys R Us for visibility and sales, and often spend months customizing items to the retailer’s specifications.” These companies have “little hope” they will receive part of what they are owed.

Toys R Us received “$3.1 billion from JP Morgan and others to help pay for inventory and company investments.” Some suppliers believe the money can help keep the company in business, but others are not so optimistic.

Presidential Pardon – Article II

The district court judge dismissed the guilty verdict against Sheriff Joe Arpaio citing President Trump’s plenary power to pardon under Article II of the United States Constitution.

“Prosecutor John Keller said it was appropriate to dismiss the case against Arpaio.”


Vet Seizes Truck To Aid Victims

A veteran did the brave thing by taking a truck to drive victims of the Las Vegas shooting to the hospital. In the article, the author loosely uses the word “steal,” in reference to the truck, but in fact the defense of necessity would negate any charge of theft.

The veteran stated “he looked for victims with the most serious injuries first, loaded them into the truck bed and drove them to Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center. He made two trips before ambulances arrived on scene.”

Friends said of him: “‘You’re an outstanding example of what we should all strive to be in time of crisis,'” “There’s a lot of unsung heroes that day that stood up and helped people,” the veteran told the press.


IKEA Recalls 27 Million Dressers for Causing Deaths

IKEA, the popular low-cost furniture manufacturer, recalled 27 million “Malm” dressers.   Three children were recently killed as a result of the defect in design.

The company was on notice of the tendency of the furniture to be top-heavy, but did nothing to address the issue until the death of a 22-month-old child earlier this year.  In addition to the recall, the company offered to send crews to people’s homes to tether the dresser to the wall.

“On average, one child dies every two weeks from falling TVs or furniture. At least six deaths have been connected to Ikea’s Malm dresser.”

Tom Brady’s Suspension

Posted by Mike Bocchino.

Tom Brady has been accused of knowing about his team deflating footballs in the 2015 AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The footballs’ air pressure had been significantly reduced to a point where other players could tell the difference. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, investigated and suspended Brady for knowing about the tampering of the footballs. Brady fought the suspension in federal district court and his lawyers persuaded the judge. He ruled that Brady did not need to serve his suspension because it was an unfair punishment for just being accused of knowing about the deflation.

The commissioner then took the case to the court of appeals where they did not look at the facts of whether or not Brady deflated the ball, but rather whether or not Goodell was able to cast such a punishment on a player. They looked solely at whether Goodell, as arbitrator, acted in the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement. Judges Barrington Daniels Parker Jr. and Denny Chin wrote in their opinion, “We hold that the commissioner properly exercised this broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to confirm the award.”

Basically they agree that the commissioner acted on the powers which he, the league, and the players union had all agreed upon in 2011. So those of you out there saying that Goodell has too much power, the players agreed to what he can and cannot do. Plus, the tampering of footballs is cheating and this is not the first time that Brady had been caught cheating, never mind countless times that he did not get caught. It was only a matter of time.

But overall, the court of appeals did a great job looking at whether or not Roger Goodell stepped over the line or acted within his range of duties and whether or not it was the best interest of the league, which it was.

Mike is business administration major with a concentration in finance at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2018.

Aeropostale Files Chapter 11

The teen clothing chain, Aeropostale, filed for Chapter 11 protection, claiming online and fast-fashion retailers are the cause. The company expects to emerge within six months as a leaner company. It will close 113 stores in the U.S. and all 41 stores located in Canada.

“Online retailers and fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Forever 21 and Inditex’s Zara have posed a threat to traditional apparel retailers, but American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. have managed to turn around their businesses by controlling inventories and responding faster to changing fashion trends.”

The company may come out of this with restructured debt, but a long-term solution would require rethinking its brand.

Second Circuit Upholds Brady Suspension

The Second Circuit upheld Tom Brady’s suspension for the first four games of the new season and overturned the district court’s ruling.  The court ruled the arbitrator’s award was valid and should not be disturbed.

Judge Parker, writing for the majority, stated, “Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings.”  He continued, “Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”

Courts are loathe to upend an arbitrator’s decision, unless for example, there was some type of fraud or corruption on the part of the arbitrator. The parties agree by contract to arbitration in lieu of bringing their case to court.

Brady can appeal to the entire Second Circuit (en banc) and to the United States Supreme Court, however, his chances either take the case are slim.

The opinion can be found here:

Justices Mull the Constitutionality of “Refusal” Statutes

Several states have statutes that make it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer if suspected of driving under the influence. Some states, like New Jersey, make refusal a civil offense. The High Court is reviewing statutes in North Dakota and Minnesota that make it a crime for people suspected of drunken driving to refuse to take alcohol tests. Drivers prosecuted under those laws claim they violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The justices questioned lawyers representing the states as to why police cannot be required to get a telephonic warrant every time they want a driver to take an alcohol test. “Justice Stephen Breyer pointed to statistics showing that it takes an average of only five minutes to get a warrant over the phone in Wyoming and 15 minutes to get one in Montana.”  However, this may not be correct.

“Kathryn Keena, a county prosecutor representing Minnesota, suggested some rural areas may have only one judge on call, making it too burdensome to seek a warrant every time. She said even if a warrant were procured, a driver could still refuse to take the test and face lesser charges for obstruction of a warrant than for violating drunken driving test laws.”

Telephonic warrants have also been the rule in New Jersey since 2009. Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed itself, reverting back to the federal standard requiring police to obtain a warrant after establishing they have probable cause. Under the more stringent standard of using telephonic warrants, police were complaining it took to long to reach a judge. Police also used consent forms they carried, causing an outcry from the defense bar that such a practice may lead to further abuses. Justice Anthony Kennedy said the states are asking for “an extraordinary exception” to the warrant rule by making it a crime for drivers to assert their constitutional rights.

The problem for the states is that without the threat of a refusal penalty, the only proof available at trial as to whether someone was intoxicated while driving is the observations made by police. Observations, however, cannot prove blood alcohol level.

Trump May Replace Janet Yellen

In a Fortune interview, Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, indicated he may replace Fed chief, Janet Yellen, although it appears he likes it when interest rates are low. Speaking from a business standpoint, he would be correct. On the other hand, he acknowledges that low rates are not good for savings accounts, “The problem with low interest rates is that it’s unfair that people who’ve saved every penny, paid off mortgages, and everything they were supposed to do and they were going to retire with their beautiful nest egg and now they’re getting one-eighth of 1%,” says Trump. “I think that’s unfair to those people.”

Trump is in favor of taking power away from the Fed and have more Congressional oversight.