800px-For-rent-signFinding rental housing in California is not always an easy task. In some neighborhoods, there may be no rentals available for individuals who need housing but do not have friends or family to call upon and who are unable to qualify for a mortgage. In other neighborhoods, rentals may be available but may be priced so high that individuals and/or families cannot afford them. Another circumstance that can make it difficult to find housing is being placed on a “blacklist” – a privately-created list of those tenants and renters who have had an eviction notice filed against them. Being on this tenant blacklist can (for some) mean the difference between securing that perfect rental and the landlord choosing to rent the unit to another tenant.

Gov. Brown Signs A.B. 2819

This week California Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 2819 into law, thereby granting protections to California renters against being wrongfully placed on tenant blacklists. Under the previous legal scheme, a landlord could file an eviction notice against a tenant under certain circumstances. Once that notice was served, an eviction lawsuit might thereafter be initiated. If the lawsuit was not resolved within 60 days of filing, the tenant’s name would be added to the blacklist automatically. The tenant’s name would remain on the blacklist even if the tenant were to win his or her eviction lawsuit. This could result in the tenant’s credit and ability to rent other housing being negatively impacted for years.

800px-Walmart_logos_old_and_newA husband and wife visiting a Phoenix Wal-Mart store found more than they were looking for: bed bugs. The problem began when the husband (who had an injury to his toe) sat down in one of the store’s motorized carts that are made available for guests with mobility challenges. As the couple shopped, the husband began to complain of his back itching. When the man stopped by the restroom and got up from the cart, the couple noticed that the seat of the cart where the man was sitting was infested with bed bugs and that the man’s back was covered in bites. The company indicated it took prompt action upon learning of the infestation, including removing the vinyl covers from its motorized carts for cleaning.

Retail Stores’ Liability for Bed Bug Infestations

Although many individuals associate bed bug infestations with mattresses and bedding materials for obvious reasons, bed bugs can be found in other locations and materials as well. It is not just homes, apartments, and hotels that need to worry about bed bug infestations. Bed bugs have been found inside books, behind wallpaper, and even in hospitals and laundromats. While finding bed bugs inside the seat of a motorized cart at a retail establishment may be unsettling, it is certainly not out of the ordinary.

f92f0e449e17d1d2e566d638a427eef9Some may believe that lawsuits are won or lost based on complex legal arguments or shrewd strategy. However, as recently illustrated in a California employment dispute, sometimes the outcome of a lawsuit depends on the basics, like making sure the lawsuit is filed against the proper defendant. In a recent California case, an aggrieved employee brought suit against his employer, whom he named in the lawsuit. The employer was able to obtain a dismissal in their favor because the employee had improperly identified his actual employer (the case is presently being appealed).

Who is the Defendant?

In any California personal injury lawsuit, the “defendant” is the individual or entity alleged to have caused the victim’s injuries through negligent or reckless conduct. One of the first things you will do with your personal injury lawsuit is to name the defendant and serve a copy of your complaint or petition on the defendant you name. But just because you name a certain person or entity as a defendant does not mean that he or she is obligated to litigate the matter on the merits. In the recent case, for example, the employee’s lawsuit was dismissed before the merits of the case were litigated because the type of lawsuit filed by the employee could only be brought against the employee’s legal employer. Because the defendant named by the employee was determined not to be the employee’s legal employer, the defendant was not obligated to litigate the matter on the merits.

784px-Fox40-black-whistleIt is no secret that employers are not particularly fond of whistleblower laws. These laws not only provide financial incentives for those employees or stakeholders who know of a company’s wrongdoing to come forward, but they also prevent an employer from discouraging whistleblowers through the use or threat of retaliation. Despite the existence of these laws, however, companies may still try to find ways to dissuade potential whistleblowers from making reports to government agencies and/or filing suits under the False Claims Act. That, at least, is what one California company is accused of doing recently.

A (Failed) Preemptive Strike Against Whistleblowers

As opposed to retaliating against employees who had filed whistleblower claims against the company or reported the company’s activities to government authorities, California-based Health Net allegedly tried to accomplish this goal before any claim had been filed. Allegations made against the company state that Health Net made employees sign an agreement in which they acknowledged that they would not receive any severance from the company if they reported the company to a governmental agency and/or participated in a whistleblower lawsuit against the company. In other words, any employee that wished to obtain any sort of severance pay or benefits from the company needed to keep quiet about any illegal or unethical behavior in which they observed the company engaged.

file4251346980964A star Southern California high school football player was hospitalized for a head injury after colliding helmet-to-helmet with another player during a game. While there has been increased concern shown toward these types of injuries in recent years – especially those that occur to children – head injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries continue to occur, seemingly unabated by attempts to limit their occurrences and reduce their severity. This is unfortunate, because head injuries can cause serious, permanent harm to young and old alike.

What are Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)?

As its name implies, a traumatic brain injury is an injury that impacts the brain of the injury victim. Traumatic brain injuries can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the severity of the injury itself. As one might expect, mild traumatic brain injuries generally do not result in serious or permanent consequences whereas the impact of a severe traumatic brain injury can be disabling and permanent. The most common ways in which a traumatic brain injury can be inflicted include:

Haircut 8The insurance carrier for the for-profit Marinello Schools of Beauty has agreed to pay over eight million dollars to settle a qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit filed against the school’s operator by six former employees. According to the suit, B & H Education, Inc. – which operates the Marinello Schools of Beauty in various locations throughout Southern California – allegedly assisted students without a high school diploma in obtaining invalid diplomas. These students would then enroll in the school and obtain federal financial aid for which the students were not eligible (federal regulations require recipients of federal student aid to have obtained a valid high school diploma). As part of the settlement, B & H Education, Inc. has admitted to no wrongdoing.

Details of the Qui Tam Lawsuit and Allegations

The lawsuit was brought by six former employees of B & H Education, Inc. against the insurer after the education company went out of business in early 2016. According to the allegations of the plaintiffs (who filed the suit on behalf of the United States), B & H would assist students in obtaining a high school diploma by allowing them to take unproctored tests, use aids like cellphones while taking tests, and enabling students to retake the same tests over and over until they were successful. Upon “successfully” completing their high school diploma in this manner, the students would then enroll at the beauty school and obtain federal student aid. The company’s schools were allegedly kept in business through the federal student loan monies that students would receive (and then pay to the school for tuition expenses and other educational costs).

Amazing_Hawaiian_BeachA Citrus Heights couple’s Hawaiian vacation turned tragic after Mike Droter made a fateful decision to jump into the ocean one last time. Mr. Droter and his companion were in the final days of a vacation in Hawaii when Mr. Droter decided to enter the ocean to body surf. According to news reports, mere minutes after entering the water a wave crashed over Mr. Droter, breaking several vertebrae and causing damage to his spinal cord. This left Mr. Droter paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without assistance.

Vacation Destination Dangers

Vacations offer individuals the opportunity to unwind and participate in fun, exciting activities in which they might not otherwise have the chance to participate. Scuba diving, parachuting/parasailing, and body surfing are just some of these exciting and dangerous activities. Aside from the physical dangers, these activities can also present legal difficulties in the event the participant is injured or killed.

450px-Metrolink_Train_(2955742140)On Wednesday, September 7, a Metrolink train crashed into a truck that was on the tracks near Oxnard in Southern California. The pickup truck did not appear to have been stuck or stalled on the rails at the time of the crash, and investigators postulated that the driver of the truck had taken a wrong turn and traveled several dozen feet down the track before stopping the truck. The crash caused three double-decker Metrolink cars to overturn and two additional cars to derail. In all, approximately 50 people were injured in the accident.

Typical Injuries in a Train Crash

Train crashes can occur with terrible violence and can result in serious injuries depending on the unique facts of the crash. Overturned or derailed cars can throw individuals from their seats and into stationary objects such as other seats or the sides of the car. This can result in:

According to a report from KGTV 10 News, San Diego, California, the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is taking a toughened stance against instances of “social media abuse” in nursing homes. The CMS issued a nationwide memo to state health departments calling upon nursing homes and the state departments that oversee their operations to begin creating and following policies limiting the ability of nursing home workers to abuse residents through social media. The new directives come after numerous cases across the country – including one alleged, recently-reported instance in Vista – of nursing home workers taking advantage of residents under their care using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Used to Abuse Nursing Home Residents

Numerous incidents paint a picture of the “typical” instance of nursing home abuse: An elderly resident residing in a nursing home is vulnerable because he or she is suffering from some physical and/or (oftentimes) mental condition. Nursing home workers take photographs or videos of these residents in various stages of undress or in other embarrassing circumstances and then upload these photos and videos to social media platforms. This (of course) is designed to expose the nursing home resident to embarrassment and humiliation (although, because of the mental conditions many of these residents have, the residents themselves are often unaware of what the nursing home worker is doing). Family and friends of the mistreated resident are oftentimes made aware of the humiliating photo or video when they come upon it online by chance.

Last month the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a pilot program it is currently field-testing in the Department of Labor’s Western region (covering Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Nevada, Hawaii, and California). Recognizing that the processing of some whistleblower claims is time consuming, the process (called Expedited Case Processing Pilot) allows a complaining whistleblower whose claim meets certain criteria to can ask OSHA to forward his or claim along with any findings of fact made by OSHA to an administrative law judge for consideration. scotus

Criteria for Expedited Processing and How the Process Works

Not all whistleblower claims OSHA are eligible for the expedited process. In order to qualify, the following facts and circumstances must be true: