TIME Courts

SeaWorld Faces Lawsuit Over Treatment of Whales

USA, California, San Diego, Sea World, Killer Whale (orca)
Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket/Getty Images A killer whale (orca) at SeaWorld in San Diego.

The suit says customers who were deceived about the parks' practices should be refunded

A class action lawsuit has been filed against SeaWorld claiming that customers were deceived about the parks’ harmful treatment of whales, and that they should be refunded for their tickets.

The plaintiff is Holly Hall, a California woman who lawyers say would not have taken her family to a SeaWorld park in 2011 if she had known about the way the whales were treated, citing powerful drugs, forced breeding and cramped quarters that are detrimental to their health, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The lawsuit says any visitors to the parks in the last four years should be refunded, alleging that SeaWorld deliberately misleads the public about its care for orca whales.

The lawsuit comes two years after the popular documentary Blackfish, which sought to expose abuses in the sea-park industry through the story of one whale. On Tuesday, former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove published his own exposé, Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. The lawyers in the class action lawsuit had previously represented Hargrove.

SeaWorld is calling the suit “a publicity stunt intended to generate more news coverage of John Hargrove’s anti-SeaWorld book,” emphasizing that there is “no higher priority for SeaWorld than the health and well-being of its animals.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

TIME hockey

Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss NHL Concussion Lawsuit

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson allowed the case launched by league players to proceed

A federal judge in Minnesota has thrown out the NHL’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the body inadequately informed players of the health risks caused by concussions despite having ample knowledge and resources.

The plaintiffs are seeking a financial settlement for the “pathological and debilitating effects of brain injuries caused by concussive and sub-concussive impacts sustained … during their professional careers,” according to court documents.

The NHL argued that the case was pre-empted by the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which created a six-year statute of limitations on the case. They also argued additional jurisdiction claims. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson rejected those challenges.

“Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that they may not have been aware that they had suffered an injury — or the possibility of injury — while they were playing in the NHL,” she wrote in her judgement.

In response, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement reported by the Associated Press. “While we would have hoped for a different result on this motion, we understand that the case is at a relatively early stage, and there will be ample opportunity for us to establish our defenses as the discovery process progresses,” he said

As implied in the statement, the ruling does not mean the players have won the lawsuit, but rather that they can move forward with the litigation.

The players suing the NHL are Dan Lacouture, Michael Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, David Christian and Reed Larsen.

Read next: This NHL Player Got Traded After His Daughter Made a Written Plea

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME animals

Chinese Man Gets Attacked by a Wild Panda, Sues Government for $80,000

Panda resting in a tree
Jay Schipper—Flickr RF/Getty Images

It must have been sheer pandamonium

A man in China has been awarded more than $80,000 in compensation from the government after a wild panda bit him on the leg, his lawyer said Monday.

Local officials had tried to capture the panda after it wandered into Liziba village in China’s northwest Gansu province, but ended up chasing it onto Guan Quanzi’s land, reports Agence France-Presse.

“I saw a panda jump out in front of me, its body completely covered in mud,” he told local paper the Lanzhou Evening News.

Guan endured seven hours of surgery after the incident, which happened in March last year. The panda managed to escape.

Guan’s son sued local forestry officials who now have agreed to pay $83,000, which will cover the man’s ongoing medical bills.

Though pandas are known for being pretty easygoing bamboo eaters, they are part of the bear family and can deliver a fierce bite. They’ve also been known to attack humans.

[AFP]

TIME Companies

Facebook Is Facing a Massive Lawsuit Over Online Purchases Made by Kids

Social Networking Sites May Be Monitored By Security Services
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images In this photo illustration the Social networking site Facebook is displayed on a laptop screen on March 25, 2009 in London, England.

The company has so far refused to refund purchases made by children without parental permission

Correction appended: 10:17 p.m. EST on Mar. 16

Facebook was ordered to face a nationwide class-action lawsuit in the U.S. on Tuesday, over its refusal to provide refunds to parents whose children spent money on the website.

A federal judge in San Jose, California ruled that hundreds of thousands of people across the country could legally claim refunds from the social network over its policy on online purchases by minors, Reuters reported.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman also said parents could not pursue refunds as a group, because each case would be different, but could do so individually.

The suit was initiated in 2012 by two children and their parents, over purchases of the now discontinued virtual currency Facebook Credits made using the parents’ credit and debit cards. One child said his mother used her credit card to buy him a $20 game called Ninja Saga but was subsequently charged hundreds of dollars for what he thought were virtual currency purchases, while the other child racked up charges of $1,059 after taking his parents’ debit card without permission.

“The difference between Facebook and other businesses is that the company is on actual notice of a user’s age, but treats children the same as adult users when it comes to taking their money,” said J.R. Parker, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit says Facebook violated state laws by refusing refunds under its “all sales are final” policy, to which the company responded by saying the claims were too disparate. It also said the lawsuit lacks merit, and that it will defend itself vigorously.

[Reuters]

Correction: The original version of this story misstated when the lawsuit against Facebook was filed. It was filed in 2012.

Read next: Why Facebook Is Really Excited About Slow Internet

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Music

The ‘Blurred Lines’ Ruling Is the First of Its Kind

Blurred Lines Suit
Jamie McCarthy—2014 Getty Images Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke perform during the Walmart 2014 annual shareholders meeting on June 6, 2014 at Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"It's never been based on a jury's opinion"


This article has been enhanced with interactive sound clips. To hear the sound clips, click the phrases highlighted in red.

A jury ruled Tuesday that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke copied Marvin Gaye on their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” awarding the Gaye family nearly $7.4 million dollars in a verdict that could have a chilling effect on pop music.

You don’t have to be trained musician to spot the similarities between
soundFile=http://pdl-stream.timeinc.net/time/audio/blurredlines/blurred-lines-clip.mp3|
startPosition=1|
endPosition=5750|
content= “Blurred Lines”
and Gaye’s 1977 song
soundFile=http://pdl-stream.timeinc.net/time/audio/blurredlines/got-to-give-it-up-clip.mp3|
startPosition=1|
endPosition=7500|
content= “Got to Give It Up.”
Listen for yourself: Both begin with skittering, light-on-their-feet drum beats punctuated by a few pulsing bass notes; both Gaye and Thicke begin the track showing off their falsettos, though Thicke drops the high notes shortly after. Williams argued that he had just been “channeling that feeling, that late-’70s feeling” (and you can’t copyright feelings), but Gaye’s copyright applied only to the sheet music version of the song—the jury didn’t even hear the official recording in court—which means the case came down to the actual nuts and bolts of the songwriting.

Historically, these kinds of legal disputes are settled by insiders who can analyze note-for-note the stretches of the song coming under scrutiny, the Los Angeles Times reports. But while the “Blurred Lines” case had plenty of expert testimony from musicologists and industry executives, they ultimately didn’t get to make the call—regular people did.

“It’s never been based on a jury’s opinion,” Irving Azoff, the chairman and CEO of Azaoff MSG Entertainment (which reps Williams) told the Los Angeles Times. “If we’re now entering into a gray area, that’s very scary.” By putting it to a jury, the debate was turned over to relatively untrained ears, which makes this ruling a particularly slippery slope for both songwriters and artists.

Read next: Here’s Exactly How Much Money ‘Blurred Lines’ Made

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME energy

How $8.9 Billion Became $250 Million in the Exxon Lawsuit

An Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station in Nashville, Tennessee on Jan. 16, 2015.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An Exxon Mobil Corp. gas station on Jan. 16, 2015.

New Jersey's suit against Exxon says it damaged more than 1,500 acres of land

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration’s assertion that it worked “aggressively” to ensure that Exxon Mobil Corp. reimbursed the state for environmental contamination isn’t changing any minds among the critics of the deal.

For more than a decade the state has been fighting for a court order that would have required Exxon to pay $8.9 billion for environmental repair and other damages related to the company’s oil refining and other activities in northern New Jersey. Instead, the Christie administration has agreed to settle on $225 million to resolve the state’s lawsuit.

Word of the settlement emerged on Feb. 27 as a New Jersey judge apparently was considering how much Exxon should have to pay. The deal generated a chorus of criticism and vows by state legislators to block the deal.

On March 5, the state’s acting attorney general, John Hoffman, and its environmental commissioner, Bob Martin, issued a statement saying their two offices had worked hard together to reach a settlement with Exxon, which they called “the single largest environmental settlement with a corporate defendant in New Jersey history.”

Read more: This Is Why Warren Buffet Dumped His Exxon Holding

“[T]his administration aggressively pushed the case to trial [and] is the result of long-fought settlement negotiations that predated and postdated the trial,” the statement by Hoffman and Martin said.

Exxon said it would have no comment on the matter.

Despite the explanation from the state’s Republican administration, two prominent Democrats in the state legislature, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Raymond Lesniak, are preparing to file a motion in the Exxon suit to block the settlement. Lesniak has also filed a formal request with the court for all documents related to the settlement.

“We have to and we will get to the bottom of this case to determine how $8.9 billion shrunk down to $250 million,” Lesniak said in a statement. “We are going to dig deep and then we will dig deeper to find the truth.”

Sweeney and Lesniak are among Christie’s critics who say he the governor acted quickly to take advantage of a budget law allowing the governor to divert revenue from environmental settlements that exceed $50 million away from intended clean-ups to the state’s general fund.

Read more: Judge Dismisses Suit Against Energy Companies Over Louisiana Erosion

The law expires June 30, and the critics say it forced Christie to act quickly by reducing the fines to the satisfaction of Exxon and use the proceeds to fill gaps in the state’s budget or even to finance subsidies meant to attract businesses to the state.

“Christie was trying to get this settlement in before [June 30] because [the state Legislature] won’t repeat it in the new budget,” Lesniak said.

Christie is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which has been the beneficiary of more than $1.9 billion in donations from Exxon since Christie first ran for governor in 2009. Asked if the generous settlement amounts to a gift from Christie to Exxon, Lesniak told the International Business Times, “One can certainly see it that way.”

The state’s suit says Exxon damaged more than 1,500 acres of meadows, wetlands and marshes in the northern New Jersey communities of Bayonne and Linden, where Exxon operated multiple oil refineries for decades. Just two of these facilities, the Bayway and Bayonne sites, would cost $8.9 billion to restore, according to an expert hired by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

TIME Music

Lil Wayne Is Suing His Record Label Cash Money for $51 Million

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Clippers Game
Noel Vasquez—GC Images/Getty Images Lil Wayne attends a basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Dec. 17, 2014 in Los Angeles, Calif.

The 32-year-old New Orleans native says he has not been paid for his upcoming album and wants out of his contract

Rapper Lil Wayne has filed a lawsuit against his record label Cash Money, alleging that he is owed $51 million.

According to the suit, Lil Wayne, 32, says Cash Money and its CEO Bryan “Birdman” Williams has withheld millions of dollars for his upcoming unreleased album The Carter V, TMZ reports.

Lil Wayne says the label was supposed to pay him an $8 million advance on his album, plus $2 million once it was delivered. The album was completed in December but Lil Wayne says he has not seen any of the money.

The New Orleans native claims he should be allowed to end his contract with the label and receive payment of $51 million instead.

In addition to his artistic freedom, the Lollipop rapper has asked a judge to declare him joint copyright holder of all Young Money recordings, currently an imprint of Cash Money, including collaborations with Drake and Niki Minaj.

[TMZ]

MONEY Insurance

The $300,000 Reason You Should Shovel Your Walkway ASAP

Shalonda Earvin clears the sidewalk in front of her Union St. home in Norwich, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Earvin said this was her fourth time out shoveling since it started snowing.
Sean D. Elliot—AP Shalonda Earvin clears the sidewalk in front of her Union St. home in Norwich, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Earvin said this was her fourth time out shoveling since it started snowing.

Your municipality may have laws on snow removal, but you'll pay an even bigger price if somebody slips and falls on your property.

Find that shovel, snow blower or your neighbor’s kid if you’re in the Northeast. Thanks to winter storm Juno, your driveway and walkway are likely topped with a lovely coat of white snow that could cost you a pretty penny if you don’t clear it quickly.

“Property owners face legal obligations to keep their property clean, safe, and ice-free,” says Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute. “If you fail to shovel your sidewalk or other public walkway, and someone slips and falls, you could potentially face a lawsuit. In some states, you may have broken the law, too.”

You’re responsible not just for snow and ice on private walkways but also public ones that abut your land. If you fail to keep your premises safe, those who are injured on your property could sue you, says Worters. “If someone slips on ice because of a poorly positioned downspout, it is considered negligence,” she adds.

Some places like New York City and Bridgeport, Conn. have also enacted laws that make landowners responsible for keeping public sidewalks clear of ice and snow. Those who fail to follow the law can be fined. In New York, you could have to pay up to $150 and be subject to up to 10 days of imprisonment.

Often, places that have snow clean up laws will also have a time limit for when pathways need be cleared. “Some jurisdictions say that a property owner can wait a ‘reasonable amount of time’ before clearing, which is nebulous,” says Worters. “But in Boston, property owners have three hours after the snow falls to shovel.”

While it is a good idea to check directly with your local municipality to find out if snow clearance laws apply for your town and state, the safest route is to simply shovel your area within a few hours of the snowfall’s end so you can avoid both fines and litigation. After all, even in places that do not legally require you to clear the snow, such as Ohio, you can still face a lawsuit.

Since even the most vigilant shoveler may miss a spot, Worters also recommends having liability insurance coverage to pay the cost of your legal defense and any court awards (up to the limit of your policy) should someone slip on your property and sue you. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000, but the Insurance Information Institute advises that you purchase at least $300,000 worth of protection.

TIME Companies

Everything You Need to Know About the Very Ugly Monster-Beats Lawsuit

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones Company
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Beats headphones are sold in an Apple store on May 9, 2014 in New York City.

Monster is suing because it says Beats duped it out of its fair share of the headphone empire

A former partner of Beats Electronics is suing the company and phone manufacturer HTC for “deliberate acts of corporate betrayal.” Monster, which was involved in the design and development of the original Beats headphones, is alleging that Beats founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre conned Monster out of its stake in the headphone empire through a series of unscrupulous business maneuvers. Now Monster is seeking punitive damages from Beats, which Apple bought last spring for $3 billion.

In its 64-page complaint, Monster unloads a barrage of allegations against Beats, particularly against Iovine. (Beats did not respond to an email seeking comment). Here are the key points you need to understand about the contentious relationship between the two companies that helped grow luxury headphones into a billion-dollar market.

Monster Prototyped and Manufactured the Original Beats

According to Monster’s complaint, Monster CEO Noel Lee and his son Kevin originally pitched the idea of high-end headphones to Iovine and Dr. Dre, who had been considering launching a speaker line, in late 2005. Eventually, Beats and Monster entered into a licensing agreement in early 2008—Monster would handle the engineering, production and distribution of the headphones, and Beats would offer the “Beats by Dre” branding and leverage the clout of Iovine and Dr. Dre to market them to sports and hip-hop fans. Monster says it financed the engineering of the original headphone line and developed at least 30 protoptypes. The combo of headphones of at least decent quality with extremely slick marketing and packaging was an immediate smash hit. Between 2008 and 2012, Beats by Dre products generated $1.5 billion in revenue, according to Monster.

Monster and Beats Cozy Up

As the premium headphones began to gain traction, Monster took a few actions to strengthen its relationship with Beats that the company now says led to its “betrayal.” In August 2009, Noel Lee bought a 5% stake in Beats (at the time, Iovine and Dr. Dre each had a 15% stake, according to Monster). That same year, Monster amended its licensing agreement to stipulate that Beats could terminate its licensing agreement with Monster if there was a transaction that resulted in a “bona fide change in control,” such as someone buying a majority stake in Beats.

An HTC Investment Ends Monster-Beats Partnership

In August 2011, phone manufacturer HTC bought a 51% controlling stake in Beats Electronics. According to Monster, this sale was the “bona fide change in control” that Beats needed to terminate its licensing agreement with Monster. The end of the Monster-Beats partnership was formally announced in January 2012, and Monster says it was “strong-armed” into providing information about its retailer and logistics networks to Beats quickly in exchange for getting to sell Beats-branded products for a slightly longer period.

Iovine and Dr. Dre Buy Beats Right Back

Less than a year after the HTC investment, Beats Electronics bought back half of HTC’s shares in the company, granting Iovine and Dr. Dre a 75% controlling stake in Beats. HTC had also provided Beats with a $225 million loan before the Beats founders bought back a portion of the company. At the time, HTC said the financial decisions were meant to give Beats “more flexibility for global expansion while maintaining HTC’s major stake and commercial exclusivity in mobile.” Monster, meanwhile, believes the entire HTC investment was a “sham” aimed at giving complete control of Beats to Dr. Dre and Iovine. “If the contractual arrangements between Beats and Monster terminated without a change of control, Beats would not have gained control of Monster’s pioneering engineering efforts, as well as Monster’s distribution and sales networks,” Monster wrote in its complaint. Beats bought out the rest of HTC’s stake in the company in 2013.

Monster Misses the Apple Payday

Monster’s Lee had reduced his stake in Beats from 5% to 1.25% following the end of the Monster-Beats partnership. As he was deciding whether to offload his Beats stake entirely in September 2013, Lee claims that he talked to multiple Beats officials who told him that Beats had no liquidity event coming “in the next year or two.” Lee sold his stake back to Beats at a price of $5.5 million. Eight months later, Apple bought Beats for $3 billion. Lee’s stake would have been worth about $100 million.

TIME Smartphones

Apple Is Being Sued For Misrepresenting Storage After an iOS 8 Upgrade

iPhone 6 Becomes Available In Hong Kong
Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images A customer looks at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong, China.

Installing the new operating system takes away up to 23.1 percent of an iPhone's storage capacity, complainants allege

Two iPhone users have initiated a class action lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the company misrepresented the phone’s storage capacity after users upgrade to the new iOS 8 operating system on iPhone 5S, 6 and 6+ devices.

The users, Paul Orshan and Christopher Endara, filed a complaint in a California court on Tuesday, Apple Insider reported. The complaint alleges that Apple failed to inform its users that installing iOS 8 would take up as much as 23.1 percent of the phone’s storage capacity.

Orshan and Endara further accuse the company of using the limits in storage capacity to force consumers to pay for upgrades to their iCloud storage capacities.

The lawsuit states that Apple is using “sharp business tactics” to cash in on a “desperate moment” for users, like “trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding.”

MORE: This Easy iPhone Trick Will Save You Tons Of Photo Space

[Apple Insider]

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