Settlement reached in A&M Bonfire suit

“Abuse of Corporate Citizens?” You’re Joking.

The first small chink appears in Halliburton’s armor

Houston Chronicle reporting today that a federal judge has ruled that Jamie Leigh Jones, the former employee of Halliburton subsidiary KBR who alleges she was raped by co-workers while in Iraq, can take her claims to trial. Halliburton, you’ll recall, is seeking to have Jones’s claims heard in arbitration rather than in court.

Apparently the ruling by U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison is that Jones does not have to take the assault/rape claims through arbitration, but that she must first resolve other workplace-related claims through that process before going forward in court on the more serious charges.

Bravo. Sounds like a thoughtful ruling: Employment contract + workplace disputes = arbitration. Employment contract + assault, rape and imprisonment by co-workers = jury trial.

How much you wanna bet Halliburton appeals this ruling?

Study accuses Merck of deception in promoting Vioxx

A study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association accuses pharaceutical giant Merck of deception in promoting Vioxx. According to the researchers, who had access to thousands of documents gathered in lawsuits involving Vioxx, Merck “waged a campaign of deception to promote its drug, moving slowly to warn of possible hazards while at the same time dressing up in-house studies as the work of independent academic researchers.” Among the allegations are that Merck gave the Food and Drug Administration an incomplete accounting of deaths in a clinical trial involving Vioxx, and that studies ostensibly done by independent scientists were done by employees or contractors.

Two observations: First, this highlights the growing problem of “preemption,” in which drug makers avoid civil liability by hiding behind the FDA’s approval of drugs and devices. That is, if the federal government thinks something is safe enough to sell to the public, a slick trial lawyer and a jury of twelve yokels ought not find to the contrary and award a bunch of money to some poor sap who dies from using it. Preemption has been a darling of the Bush administration and has found sympathetic ears on the Supreme Court. The problem is, as this Vioxx study points out, the FDA is getting their information from the drug makers themselves. Bad idea.

Second, when individuals lie and kill people, we call that a felony and we punish them. When drug companies lie and kill people, their market share increases and their stock rises. How is that right?

Baristas Win Lawsuit Against Starbucks Over Tips

A California judge has ruled that Starbucks Corp. must pay baristas in that state more than $100 million for forcing them to share tips with shift supervisors. San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett also found that state law prohibits managers and supervisors from profiting from employee gratuities and issued an injunction to stop the practice. Starbucks said it plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

I hope Starbucks doesn’t turn into Wal-Mart. I gotta have my daily grande non-fat latte from the store down the street. The coffee is good but I stop there because of the friendly baristas (shout out to Vikki and crew at Montgomery Plaza).

Treat the employees right and I won’t have to initiate my one-man boycott like I did with Wal-Mart (whose stock plunged when I announced that I would no longer shop there).

Jamie Jones files suit against Halliburton

Jamie Jones, the young woman who alleges that she was drugged and raped by her Halliburton/KBR co-workers while she was in Iraq, has filed suit in federal court in Houston. Halliburton wants to force Jones’s claims into arbitration per her employment contract, which is outrageous given the inquities of arbitration against the plaintiff.

Halliburton’s attorneys argued that the contract Jones signed binds her to settle all claims – including claims of sexual assault – against her former employer through arbitration. In the next breath, they argue that her claims were not related to her employment, despite her allegations that Halliburton co-workers raped her in Halliburton barracks.

Defense attorneys also chortle over the fact that Jones has changed her story “several times.” Well then, tough guys, you shouldn’t fear trying her case to a jury, should you? Go win it the old fashioned way through good lawyering and tough cross-examination, not through a private arbitrator who always rules for the employer.

On Thrill Rides, Safety Is Optional

Good article about the dangers of amusement park rides.

Hey, I’m not opposed to the well-run outfits, but even the most-professionally run parks have had some problems. What really scares me to death are the traveling carnivals that set up in mall parking lots, at county fairs, and such. I worked on a case years ago involving a machine called the “Gravitron” at a state fair. It broke apart and spun kids all over the midway. Seems the carny who assembled the ride had not followed the set-up procedure in the instruction manual…then we learned during his deposition that the carny could not read.

Why such little safety oversight by the government? Follow the money (see the industry’s lobbying efforts described on page 3 of the article).
If you’re interested, this consumer safety organization deserves a look.