Legal News & Events

Uber Wars

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While unbeknownst to half the world, a war is erupting amongst ridesharing services and the taxicab industry. New ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft, offer high quality services at a fraction of the cost of traditional taxicabs. Unlike those taxicabs, they are not heavily regulated and taxed, enabling them to undercut the competition. This has left longstanding taxicab companies screaming foul, as opposed to acknowledging the greater issue, stagnation.

Ridesharing on the Rise

Uber is now operating in more than 100 cities in 37 countries. Just last week it launched in Miami, Orlando and Austin, while in other areas the company openly defies orders to cease and desist. In most jurisdictions, the argument as to whether ridesharing companies should be regulated along with taxicabs, hinders upon whether they are considered a true ride pairing service or cars operating with meters. Uber’s position is that its app is simply an electronic means to hitch a ride, and that their vehicles do not classify as meter operated taxis because the smartphone running the app does not have to be attached to the vehicle. The opposing view is that Uber’s smartphone app operates as a meter and thus must be regulated under the same laws as other taxicabs. For now the debate continues; however, what we do know is that taxicab drivers are losing money and they want it fixed fast.

We want something that’s fair to everybody,” said Parminder Cheema, a taxicab driver and elected member of the association’s leadership council. Taxi drivers frustration stems from the fact that they’ve had to abide by city rules — which include licensing fees, commercial insurance laws, and a bevy of other requirements — for decades, while Uber and others have come into town and conducted business in their own manner. The taxi medallion that permits one to operate a yellow cab in New York cost upwards of 1 million dollars.

Interestingly enough, while governments are moving swiftly to limit the expansion and growth of Uber and similar companies they are “tripping over themselves to lay down a legal framework for an impending wave of driverless cars—and autonomous car services would eliminate labor from transportation entirely.” This ongoing conundrum teaches a great lesson, at the expense of the taxicab industry. Never stop innovating. Never stop moving forward.

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My First Publication: Reading Aloud to Children and Its Impact on Literacy and Crime

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Reading Aloud to Children and Its Impact on Literacy and Crime
Spring 2014 | Access to Justice | ABA Section of Litigation

Honored to have my first official publication. I wrote this article in January for the ABA Section of Litigation. I was notified this week that it was chosen for their Access to Justice, Spring 2014 Newsletter. Editor’s note – “If you should ever want to publish with us again, please let me know. Your work was great!” Truly humbled by the gesture and looking forward to continuing to write, as well as develop more complex pieces in the future.

Access to Justice

In March of 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ). The mission of the ATJ is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status. The ATJ is guided by three principles: “(1) Promoting Accessibility—eliminating barriers that prevent people from understanding and exercising their rights; (2) Ensuring Fairness—delivering fair and just outcomes for all parties, including those facing financial and other disadvantages; (3) Increasing Efficiency—delivering fair and just outcomes effectively, without waste or duplication.” It should also be noted that the ATJ also includes “collaboration between the DOL [Department of Labor] and the American Bar Association (ABA) to help workers resolve wage and hour complaints” under which “if the DOL can’t resolve a worker’s complaint because of limited capacity, the Department will furnish the complainant with a toll-free number which will connect them with a participating ABA-approved attorney referral provider in their area.”

Crime and Literacy

While the connection between crime and literacy may not be readily apparent, literacy does play a role in crime. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, up to ‘“70% of the incarcerated population is believed to be illiterate in some jurisdictions’ (1999). Many criminals end up in prison because they do not have the literacy skills, the proper education, or the life skills to make it in life the way law-abiding citizens do.” Literacy programs and other initiatives that aim to reduce crime minimize the need for access to justice.

The stressful lifestyle and hectic schedule of practicing lawyers are well documented. There is always more reading, research, or writing to complete, but no assignment can compare to the positive impact of reading to our children. Under constant pressure, we often lose sight of what is truly important, those small gestures that make a huge difference in other people’s lives. The purpose of our profession at heart, after all, is to help create a better living situation for everyone.

To read the article and its entirety see, Reading Aloud to Children and Its Impact on Literacy and Crime

Evans’ Safe Harbor Article One of 2014’s Best, Selected for Thomson Reuters Ent Law Anthology

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Excellent article with great insight:

“Law and policymakers, OSPs, and other stakeholders must recognize the value of established user- expectation and customary and accepted practices. They also must formalize those beneficial uses that currently exist in the gaps and gray areas of copyright law and that cause little, if any, market harm. Good faith users deserve safe harbor protection in the digital age.”

Well said, and achievement very well deserved. Congrats!

Tonya M. Evans

WillametteLawRev-Cover My law review article, Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age , published recently by Willamette Law Review (50 Willamette L. Rev. 1 (2013)),  has been judged one of the best law review articles related to entertainment, publishing and/or the arts published within the last year!

Accordingly, the editor of the 2014 edition of the Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts Handbook selected Safe Harbor for inclusion in the annual Handbook anthology published by Thomson Reuters (West).

[View & DL Safe Harbor for the Innocent Infringer in the Digital Age]

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Warner Bros. sued for blockbuster film Gravity

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Gravity Film

Not long ago, the blockbuster film Gravity made headlines for winning seven awards at the 86th Academy Awards.  Today, the awarded film is being headlined for different reasons…

Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen is suing Warner Bros. with the allegation that its blockbuster film, Gravity, is derived from her 1999 book by the same name.

The complaint filed in California federal court on Tuesday doesn’t allege copyright infringement. Instead, it’s a contract claim stemming from a film option she sold when the book was released. Gerritsen’s book is described as featuring “a female medical doctor/astronaut who is stranded alone aboard a space station after a series of disasters kill the rest of the crew.”

A company called Katja picked up film rights to herGravity book for $1 million. Additionally, she was promised that if a film “based on” her book was made, she would receive a $500,000 production bonus, screen credit and, maybe most importantly, 2.5 percent of defined net proceeds. Last year’s film — which won seven Oscars — grossed more than $700 million worldwide, putting potentially a lot at stake in the new lawsuit.

See, Tess Gerritsen Sues Warner Bros. Over ‘Gravity’

Never say Never: DE Chancery Court issues first arrest warrant

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The Delaware Court of Chancery this week did something that, as far as anyone can tell, it has never done before. It issued an arrest warrant.

The unusual action by Vice Chancellor Donald Parsons Jr. came in a lawsuit filed by W. L. Gore and Associates against a former employee and research scientist – Huey Shen Wu of Newark – who the company claims is misappropriating Gore trade secrets and property.

Parsons issued the order calling for Wu’s arrest after weeks of warning him that he was in contempt of court and faced possible imprisonment if he did not comply with an order to surrender his U.S. passport, Taiwanese passport, Chinese visas and other Chinese travel documents.

Widener Law School professor Lawrence A. Hamermesh, who specializes in Chancery Court matters, said he was surprised by the move and did not realize the court had that power. “It is news to me,” he said.

See, Chancery Court issues unprecedented arrest warrant

2014 ABA Midyear Meeting Recap

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The ABA Midyear Meeting was an amazing experience. The Hyatt Regency Chicago and Swissotel served as host hotels, with the Hyatt set up as headquarters for the ABA Association, and Swissotel the primary meeting grounds for the Youth Lawyers Division. Wind chills left temperatures feeling near negative 20 degrees, so the underground pedway connecting the properties was nothing short of a miracle.

Prior to arriving, I reviewed the available program itenary and chose to sign up for the Anatomy of ADR and Law School to Law Practice event. I arrived at the Swissotel early Friday morning unsure of what to expect – it was my first ABA national meeting…

Law School to Law Practice:

The description, “program discusses the pros and cons of starting a solo practice, and how one succeeds after he or she has committed to the objective of making it as a solo practitioner.” Attending simply made sense. Topics discussed may be useful to any young attorney in launching their career. The program was orchestrated by the YLD Solo Practitioners. Chris Blaylock, of the Law Offices of C.W. Blaylock served as the moderator, along with Orly Ahrony, and Elizabeth “Jodi” McShan as panelist.

The program was planned for one hour, which I predicted to be quite challenging. One hour is not enough to cover almost anything in the legal profession, let alone explain how to launch and develop a firm. Nonetheless, the panelist gave it their best shot.

The material was broken down into three sections: Marketing and Accounting; Networking/Retaining a Client/Client Communications; and the Pros and Cons of Running a Small Firm. Opening slides listed basic information easily discoverable online with little research, but in the interest of ensuring that everyone was on the same page I understood the purpose. Additionally, it made it super convenient and helpful for future reference. Later slides, discussed in detail best practices for a solo practitioner along with recommended resources.

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The Stunt that Keeps on Giving…

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News of the mysterious ‘Dumb Starbucks’ coffee shop that popped up in Los Angeles over the weekend spread like wildfire. As details emerge, it appears the shop was one big stunt. As it turns out, the idea was the brainchild of Comedy Central reality-TV-show host Nathan Fielder. The networks argument against trademark infringement, parody law & free speech…

Despite threats from Starbucks that what Nathan Fielder is doing is a trademark infringement, the network’s parent company says “Dumb Starbucks” constitutes “protected free expression.”

See, Comedy Central Lawyers Approve ‘Dumb Starbucks’

Game On : PA Supreme Court Opens Door for Negligent Design Claims Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

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Recently, the PA Supreme Court released a ruling that is sure to shake things up involving life science matters in Pennsylvania. Read more below.

In a decision with significant potential ramifications, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a ruling that pharmaceutical companies can be held liable for negligence in the design and marketing of drugs, regardless of claims that the drugs had been properly labeled and tested, as well as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The ruling, announced January 22nd, upholds an intermediate appellate court decision against a Pfizer, Inc. subsidiary in a wrongful death action involving the diet drug Redux. In its 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected arguments by Wyeth Ltd. that pharmaceutical companies could only be held liable in Pennsylvania for manufacturing defects and inadequate warnings.

See, Negligent Design Claims Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Employee Data Theft

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Thinking of downloading that one last document from your employer to help with your next venture? Think again.


An employee downloading company information or emailing it to a personal email account prior to an anticipated termination may be liable for misappropriation under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. An allegation of improper downloading was sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss even if the trade secret was not improperly used. Marsteller v. ECS Federal, Inc..

See, Employees Can Be Liable for Data Theft Regardless of Use

Should Rap Lyrics Be Admissible Evidence?

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It seems hard to justify the use of lyrics like this as anything other than a cynical attempt to influence the jury with what is likely unfair character assassination. Any “gangster rap” artist is going to have lyrics in their songs that read like the manifesto of a criminal. That, however, does not make that person a criminal. Music is art, after all, and nobody goes around suggesting that Gwar actually wants to eat your children, that Martin Scorsese is part of the mob, or that John Carmack murders uber-demons in his spare time. Gangster rap has grown up and been commercialized so that it’s as authentic as Kraft American Singles cheese and mostly as palatable. Some gangster rappers are as “gangster” as the teenage surburbanite children who listen to it so faithfully. In the case of Skinner, the other evidence used against him was testimony by witnesses that told more stories than Stephen King. Still, he was convicted by the jury, though that conviction was later overturned.

See, Should Rap Lyrics Be Admissible Evidence?