TIME legal

Jawbone: Fitbit Employees Stole Company Secrets

Day Two Of Mobile World Congress 2014
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Fitbit Flex wearable electronic fitness devices sit on display at the Fitbit Inc. pavilion on day two of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.

New lawsuit comes as Fitbit readies IPO

Fitbit is prepping for its upcoming market debut, but its road to going public just got a lot bumpier.

Jawbone, Fitbit’s biggest competitor in the wearable health-tracking industry, alleges in a new lawsuit that Fitbit has “systematically” plundered confidential information by luring employees who brought along sensitive materials. Jawbone says Fitbit put into place “clandestine efforts” in order “to steal talent, trade secrets and intellectual property,” according to the complaint, filed Wednesday in California State Court.

Fitbit is the leader in health tracking devices. According to its initial public offering prospectus filed this month, Fitbit’s market share is nearly 85%. Jawbone, Apple and Nike are all competing for the No. 2 spot.

Jawbone’s complaint says that a number of former employees downloaded company information, like business plans and strategy documents, and took that data with them to a new position within Fitbit using thumb drives. It quotes an unnamed executive search consultant saying, “Fitbit’s objective is to decimate Jawbone.”

Jawbone is asking for both financial damages and the court’s intervention to prevent former employees from using any more information they may take.

TIME Walmart

Walmart Settles Accident Lawsuit with Actor Tracy Morgan

Tired Truck Drivers
Will Vaultz—AP In this image from video the limousine bus carrying Tracy Morgan and six other people lies on it's side early Saturday morning, June 7, 2014, on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The "30 Rock" star filed the lawsuit after a truck for the retailing giant crashed into his limo

Walmart has reached an undisclosed settlement with actor Tracy Morgan, ending a lawsuit against the retailer after one of its truck drivers crashed into the actor’s limousine last year.

Terms of the agreement with the “30 Rock” TV star and other plaintiffs in the case were confidential.

“I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably,” Morgan said in a statement.

Morgan filed a lawsuit against Walmart in a U.S. District Court in July 2014, roughly a month after an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike involving a Walmart truck driver. Morgan was seriously hurt in the accident, which resulted in one death and three injuries. Earlier this year, Walmart settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of a comedian, James McNair, who was killed in the accident.

The lawsuit filed by Morgan claimed that the driver of a Walmart truck was speeding when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the entertainer’s vehicle. It was also alleged that the driver was fatigued from working long hours.

“We are pleased to have reached an amicable settlement that ends this litigation,” said Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. president and CEO. “We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved.”

Morgan, who suffered a severe brain injury in the highway crash, has slowly recovered and was seen walking with a cane last month.

TIME Uber

Why the Disabled are Suing Uber and Lyft

Uber
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Uber

The ride-sharing services are being sued for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Ride hailing services Uber and Lyft are on the same side for once: They both deny accusations they discriminate against disabled passengers.

The two companies are named as defendants in a smattering lawsuits from California to Texas alleging they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make their cars handicapped accessible. In some courts, Uber and Lyft are even named as co-defendants in a single case—putting the rivals, awkwardly, in the same boat.

The complaints paint the car service companies—or at least their drivers—as callous to the disabled. One lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind of California, for example, says an UberX driver stuffed a blind passenger’s guide dog in the trunk, and refused to stop the car to let the animal out. Other drivers allegedly refused to pick up blind customers accompanied by dogs.

Another physically disabled woman, Jennifer McPhail of Austin, says in a lawsuit that a Lyft driver left her on the curb because her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the car. The driver then failed to provide alternative transportation.

Meanwhile, other disabled app users are airing their own grievances outside of court. Kristin Parisi, 30-year-old Boston woman who uses a wheelchair, told The Daily Beast that an Uber driver refused to pack her chair into the trunk, for example. So Parisi had to maneuver herself and the chair into the back seat with no assistance, while the driver berated her as an “invalid.”

Uber denies any responsibility by saying it doesn’t discriminate against the disabled and that it can transport blind and wheelchair-bound passengers. It told The Daily Beast that drivers accused of discrimination are usually suspended or fired. Lyft has a similar policy:

It is Lyft’s policy that passengers that use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the trunk of the vehicle or backseat of the car without obstructing the view of the driver should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft platform, and drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and his or her wheelchair.

Lyft says it is also willing to accommodate service animals. But it recommends that passengers who need them call the driver in advance and let them know–and has a hotline for drivers to call if they have a “medically documented reason” that would prevent them from taking the animal.

Still, the heart of Uber’s defense against the discrimination allegations could not only define its identity as a firm, but set a new precedent for how it and other disruptive tech-based businesses are viewed in the eyes of the law.

Uber argues that as a technology company, it is not subject to laws regulating public transit and other transportation providers, such as the ADA, or “required to provide accessible vehicles or accommodations.”

Still, the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened in the blind plaintiffs’ case to urge that the discrimination accusations be taken seriously. It also requested that the court interpret whether the laws governing other transportation providers should apply to Uber as well.

A decision against Uber could be costly to it and other upstart tech firms that may find themselves classified as belonging to a more traditional industry.

In a Texas case, Uber has already indicated that the cost of making the necessary modifications would be “extraordinary.” The plaintiff in that lawsuit said a driver refused him service and that he could not order an accessible vehicle through the app.

“It would have to modify the Uber App, modify its policies and procedures, and provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in numerous cities,” according to an October court filing.

Indeed, Uber has recently added the ability to order a wheelchair-accessible vehicle using its app in certain major cities like New York and San Francisco. But it’s unclear if or when the option will be available elsewhere.

In the meantime, Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which advocates for accessible transportation for disabled passengers, offered this advice in The Daily Beast:

“I think that many in the community do not understand that Uber has nothing against access and the ADA,” says Lipp. “The big problem is that until the courts settle whether Uber is a software company or transportation company the disability community will just have to be patient and try to work with Uber, not against them.”

MONEY Debt

Woman Wins $83 Million in Lawsuit Against Debt Collector

Getty Images

A jury found the collection agency guilty of "malicious prosecution"

A Missouri jury ordered a debt buyer to pay nearly $83 million to a Kansas City woman it pursued for a $1,000 credit card bill she didn’t owe, NPR affiliate KCUR reports. The jury found Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC guilty of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, for which it will pay $250,000 in damages, as well as maliciously prosecuting the woman, Maria Guadalupe Mejia, over the debt that did not belong to her. For the malicious prosecution, the jury awarded Mejia $82,990,000 in punitive damages.

PRA Group Inc., which owns Portfolio Recovery Associates, sent an email statement to Credit.com:

“This outlandish verdict defies all common sense,” wrote spokesman Michael McKeon. “We hope and expect the judge will set aside this inappropriate award, and we plan to file motions to make that request formally in the near term. Any fair reading of the facts of this case makes plain that a verdict of this size is not justice by any means, and cannot stand.”

Portfolio Recovery, one of the nation’s largest debt buyers, sued Mejia in February 2013 over the credit card debt, though the actual debtor turned out to be a man in Kansas City, Kansas, with a name similar to Mejia’s. The company pursued Mejia for the debt for 15 months after she first received notice of the lawsuit. In a written statement to KCUR, Mejia said, “The lawsuit terrified me.”

Fear is a common consumer response to debt collectors, whether the debt is legitimate or not. The first thing consumers should do when they hear from a debt collector is ask the collector to validate the debt in writing — it’s crucial to know your debt collection rights as a consumer, so you don’t end up paying a debt you don’t owe or letting the collection account unnecessarily damage your credit standing.

If you’re unsure of how to approach a debt collection situation, you may want to consult a consumer law attorney, who may review your case for free, to help you understand whether the collector is violating your rights.

More From Credit.com

TIME Companies

Uber Sued By Man Who Claims It Was His Idea

London Taxi Cabs As Uber Technologies Inc. Blitz Leads To Drop in Black Cab Recruits
Simon Dawson—BloombergGetty Images A user scans for an available vehicle using the Uber Technologies Inc.'s app on an Apple Inc. iPhone 6 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Thursday, May 14, 2015.

He says he discussed it with the co-founders before they got funding

A California man says Uber was his idea, and he wants a “significant share” of its value.

The man, Kevin Halpern, said in a lawsuit that he had discussed his business, Celluride Wireless, consisting of a car service ordered by mobile phone, with Uber co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp beginning in 2006. Two years later, they presented the concept for Uber at a venture capital conference. He says they never had any written agreements, only oral, but that he mailed himself a letter with details of his concept in 2005, and that the proof is in his safe.

Halpern has been litigious in the past, filing suits against the founder of OfferPal Media and the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., according to USA Today. His lawyer, Christopher Dolan, has represented plaintiffs in several other cases against Uber.

An Uber spokesperson called the claims “completely baseless” and said the company would “vigorously defend against them.”

[USA Today]

TIME Books

Here’s Why Courtney Love Is Getting Sued by the Co-Writer of Her Memoir

2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images Courtney Love arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

A biographer says she owes him $200,000

Writing a memoir can be a savvy decision for celebrities in the later stages of their careers, but stars with the writing chops of Patti Smith (whose Just Kids won the National Book Award for Nonfiction) are diamonds in the rough—so it’s common for musicians, actors and others to hire a co-writer or ghost-writer to complete the project.

But when Courtney Love teamed up with Anthony Bozza to help her write her memoir, things didn’t quite work out as planned: Bozza has filed a lawsuit asking the singer for $200,000 in damages. He claims he received only $100,000, half of the amount they agreed upon in 2010, and seeks further funds for potential royalties, the New York Times reports. Love herself received $400,000 of a $1.2 million advance, according to the lawsuit.

The memoir now seems to be stuck in limbo: it was originally due for a 2012 publish date. That was pushed to 2014 when the book wasn’t ready, then delayed again. Bozza’s lawyer says in the suit that Love refused to send the manuscript to the publisher, HarperCollins imprint William Morrow, even though he delivered it to her in early 2014. Bozza, who has previously worked on memoirs with the likes of Tracy Morgan and Wyclef Jean, claims that Love later texted him saying she was working on fixes to the book with another author.

Neither Love nor HarperCollins commented on the suit to the Times. If the book manages to overcome the legal and literary challenges, it’s sure to spark interest among fans of Love and her late husband, Kurt Cobain, looking for more details on their iconic marriage. The memoir is tentatively titled after a lyric from her band Hole’s song “Doll Parts,” Girl With the Most Cake.

TIME Courts

Uber to Face Lawsuit Claiming Discrimination Against the Blind

Some blind passengers with guide dogs allege they have been refused service

A California court has ruled that ride-sharing service Uber must face a lawsuit that claims the company has discriminated against blind people by sometimes refusing service to passengers with guide dogs.

A magistrate judge in San Jose said in a decision last week that the plaintiffs could argue that Uber is a “travel service” subjected to the parameters of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Reuters reports, rejecting Uber’s position that the plaintiffs couldn’t sue under the ADA. The company issued a statement saying drivers are told it’s policy to comply with all laws related to the transportation of passengers with service animals.

The plaintiffs allege there were at least 40 instances when blind passengers with service animals had been refused service, with some drivers yelling “no dogs” to potential riders. In one case, the plaintiffs claim, one Uber driver was said to refuse a blind woman’s request to pull over after she learned her guide dog was locked in the vehicle’s trunk.

The company, which has faced global complaints about its drivers’ pay and passenger treatment, has two weeks to respond to the complaint.

[Reuters]

TIME movies

Frozen Story Was Stolen, Author Claims

Frozen
Walt Disney Pictures

An author says the story was taken from her book

A Kuwaiti author has filed a federal lawsuit claiming Frozen took parts of its narrative and characters from a story in her book.

Muneefa Abdullah says the popular Disney movie took plot points from her story “The Snow Princess,” which appeared in her book New Fairy Tales in 2007, according to the Detroit News. The suit names Disney as well as the screenwriter and co-director, Jennifer Lee.

Disney has previously promoted the film as being based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen,” originally published in the mid-19th century. All three stories feature ice, snow and a princess or queen with frosty powers. Disney has reportedly not yet commented.

[Detroit News]

TIME movies

Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard Sued Over The Cabin in the Woods

Joss Whedon
Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Joss Whedon arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the Dolby Theatre on April 13, 2015.

An author alleges Whedon and Goddard ripped off his 2006 novel

An author is suing Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard for copyright infringement, alleging The Cabin in the Woods filmmakers stole the premise of his novel for their 2012 horror movie.

Whedon, the Avengers: Age of Ultron director and Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator, produced and co-wrote the movie with Goddard, who directed it.

But author Peter Gallagher has accused the two of them of ripping him off his 2006 book, The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines, and is asking for $10 million in damages, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The suit, which also names Lionsgate and Whedon’s production company, claims the film unlawfully borrows the book’s plot (a group of young people encounters monsters at a cabin that’s secretly controlled), as well as certain key scenes and the personalities of Gallagher’s characters. Lionsgate declined to comment to THR, while Whedon and Goddard’s camps had yet to respond.

[THR]

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

Fitness Guru Jillian Michaels Files $10 Million Lawsuit

The Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption's Kickball For A Home Celebrity Kickball Game
Getty Images

The trainer says she has not been compensated for videos used by Lionsgate

Fitness star and trainer Jillian Michaels has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Lionsgate over YouTube videos posted to its channel.

Michaels—a former The Biggest Loser host—claims Lionsgate has not compensated her for her workout videos that are used on the Lionsgate BeFit YouTube channel, Variety reports. Michaels says she was not consulted about Lionsgate’s use of her brand and image and that the amount of videos used by the studio has exceeded their contract so she should receive royalties.

Michaels says her videos make up nearly half of the 350 million views gained by the channel.

Michaels and Lionsgate did not respond to requests for comment at publication.

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