May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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MIPTC Is Now Vlawging

You saw it here first. MIPTC is now live from Newport Beach!

We've got a vlog. Or is it Vlawg? In any event, in addition to hearing MIPTC posts on your iPod or Pocket PC, you can now see us on your PVR. Or, you can download our vidcast through our RSS feeds, which now include a video feed. We'll keep podcasting, certainly, but add vidcasting as a new feature. Here's the first vidcast, just one post down.

You can watch MIPTC on your Windows Media Player or on your Mac with QuickTime or any of a number of other video viewers.

Admittedly, the first vidcast is primitive, but over time it will get better. We're working on some new software and techniques. So, bear with us. We're certainly far from broadcast video, but then again, I'm just a lawyer. If you've got some experience or just want to give me some advice, comment below or call our Audio Comment line at 206-338-3088.

Law will never be the same.

Podcast  Vidcast

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 22:16 Comments (0) |

When Do Lawyer Jokes Get Out Of Line?

Here's a guy who needs to get a life. A lawyer in Hempstead, NY complained when two guys told this joke while waiting in line:

How do you tell when a lawyer is lying?" Harvey Kash reportedly asked Carl Lanzisera.

"His lips are moving," they said in unison, as reported by CNN. Harvey and Carl are members of a group known as Americans for Legal Reform (may not be the correct link).

I like lawyer jokes as much as most of us do. In fact, the old saw goes that lawyers like lawyer jokes more than regular people. But the lawyer also waiting in line at court complained, and the Harvey and Carl were arrested.

For disorderly conduct. Now I wasn't there, so it's hard to tell. In fact, the CNN article notes that "Dan Bagnuola, a spokesman for the Nassau County courts, said the men were 'being abusive and they were causing a disturbance.' "

Someone other than the lawyer likewise thought Harvey and Carl were out of line.

For a joke?

Podcast  Vidcast

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 09:52 Comments (4) |

The Disasters Of Business Interruption Insurance Coverage

When the lights went out, so did the assembly line. Fourteen of Chrysler's plants went down in late 2003, idling workers for a day, stopping 10,000 vehicles in production and wasting nearly 1,000.

The blackout of 2003 has now made its way into court in a big way. $33 million in damages, plus another $4 in interest.

Chrysler is suing it's insurer, Allianz AG, for failure to cover its business interruption. Allianz has some marketing materials about its business interruption insurance coverage.

According to the AP, "The blackout was the worst in the nation's history, knocking out power to parts of eight states and costing at least $6 billion in economic and other losses."

Business interruption insurance coverage is designed to pay in the event that a business is unable to operate as a consequence of a covered loss. In this instance, the assembly lines of GM and Ford went down in addition to Chrysler's. GM didn't file an insurance claim. Perhaps GM's assembly line is set up to deal with a blackout. Ford wouldn't say whether it submitted a claim or not, but it didn't file suit. If Ford had coverage, then it would appear that its insurance company paid.

Is business interruption coverage a good idea? Depends on whether your company can financially handle the downtime. With tsunamis, blackouts, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes and other natural disasters, now would seem a good time to revisit your insurance coverage.

Then the only other natural disaster you may have to deal with is your insurance company.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 23:25 Comments (0) |

Mass DNA Sampling: Which Would You Choose?

You've likely never heard of Christa Worthington, and unfortunately, we're not going to hear from her, either. She was killed in Truro, Massachusetts on Cape Cod over three years ago.

The police have no leads. Her two-and-one-half-year-old daughter, now five, was found nearby.

Police have now resorted to mass DNA collecting to generate leads. The ACLU is none too happy about it, and sent a letter to the Truro police and prosecutors asking them to stop.

It's a Constitutional violation, the ACLU claims. The Lexis One article link above notes that mass DNA has solved crimes in Europe, but not in Louisiana, Virginia or Nebraska, where it has been tried without success.

Lexis One also quoted Cape Cod Prosecutor Michael O'Keefe, who said he did not intend to change tactics. "Our goal is to employ whatever methodology is available to us to solve a homicide," he said, adding that authorities understood some people would not participate "for a variety of legitimate reasons."

Is it open up to prove your innocence, or clam up and exercise your rights?


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 at 14:07 Comments (7) |

Fire Departments Lawyer Up; Not Liable For Contamination

You've volunteered for your local fire department. You respond to a five-alarm fire. You do a service for your local community.

At least that's what they called it when my grandfather, James B. Walker, volunteered for the West Pittston Hose Co. No. 1. He used to kid me as a child and say that I should have brought marshmellows when we came to watch the fire. In my small town, fires were an event.

So it likely was with the Amityville Fire Department in New York, population 9,559. Except when they got a barnburner recently.

They got sued (subscription may be required, and the decision is not available on the Court's website). The volunteer firefighters put out a big fire at the AMW Materials Testing facility, a company that uses chemicals in its operations.

Afterwards, AMW cleaned up the resulting contamination from the fire, water and spread of the chemicals beyond their normal containers.

Then, AMW sued both the North Amityville Fire Company and the Town of Babylon on Long Island. For contribution under CERCLA. AMW alleged that the fire department made the contamination worse because they doused the fire and they performed some cleanup. AMW alleged that the firefighters were required to pay contribution for the cleanup because they qualified as an operator.

The Court didn't buy it. The judges cited the volunteer firefighter exception and barred AMW's attempt to recover damages from the fire department.

Now when fire departments rush to a fire, they'll have to take their lawyer along.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, January 10, 2005 at 11:49 Comments (0) |

Microsoft Releases Beta Spyware Program

Do you have a lot of pop-up ads? Are you worrried about someone tracking your internet usage?

Microsoft has [finally] released a beta version of an anti-spyware program. McAfee (costs) and Ad-aware (free) are other alternatives.

You can download it here (free).

Beta software is generally untested, so it's probably better to go with a pre-proven solution, at least for now. Maybe after six months it will something to think about. But if you've got a ton of pop-ups, something is better than nothing.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, January 10, 2005 at 00:17 Comments (0) |

Vermont Supreme Court Triggers Coverage For Pollution

But First, A Small Correction

There's an old joke that Latin is sic, sic, sic. Modern English scholars use "sic" to show that the typo is in the original, and likewise that "we're too smart to have made that error - it's in the original."

I think that the Vermont Supreme Court may misunderstand at least one environmental term. They use the "sic" reference in their recent opinion of Hardwick Recycling v. Acadia Insurance just after the word "surficial." See paragraph 7 of their opinion.

Admittedly, it sounds like an invented word. But, according to Princeton, "surficial" means "pertaining to or occurring on or near the [E]arth's surface; 'a surficial geologic deposit.' "

The Supreme Court's opinion in paragraph 7 reads, "As an apparent follow-up to investigations conducted pursuant to the May access order, the State, through the Hazardous Materials Management Division of ANR, issued a 'Request for investigative activities at Green Mountain Sanitation, Hardwick (VT DEC Site #95-1792),' to plaintiffs' consultant, which was copied to plaintiffs' counsel and Richard Towns among others. The letter stated that DEC personnel had discovered '(1) . . . surficial [sic] oil discharge; (2) a leaking drum which contained volatile organic compounds; (3) elevated levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons in the swale which discharges into the Lamoille River and; (4) buried solid waste material throughout the property.' The State concluded that additional work was necessary to determine if further 'investigation, monitoring and /or remediation' was warranted and thus requested plaintiffs to undertake substantial on-site work." Beyond a 48-word sentence, followed by a 42-word sentence, "surficial" appears to be the correct word, correctly used.

Now certainly I've made mistakes, and if you scan through my archives, you'll more than likely find a bunch, so it's difficult to cast stones. But, in the very beginning of the posted opinion, the Vermont Supreme Court asked for corrections, so here is one, and MIPTC has followed up with the letter requested by the Court.

The important part of the decision shouldn't be overshadowed though. The Court decided that "damages" as defined in Hardwick's comprehensive general liability policy included claims by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Acadia added an endorsement to Hardwick's policy for "pollution liability hazards." The Court's decision, however, isn't final. It sent the case back to the trial court to see whether an exclusion applies.

We'll keep an eye on it.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, January 09, 2005 at 23:28 Comments (2) |

The Social Customer Wonders, MIPTC Tries To Answer

Christopher Carfi over at the Social Customer Manifesto asked the good Professor and me about this post. Whew! Think there are enough prepositions in that last sentence?

Anyway, it seems that c|net reported that Apple (doesn't it seem like the appropriate Apple URL extension would be ".org"?) is suing one of its fan sites over allegedly releasing Apple trade secrets.

And the announcement came out just before MacWorld.

Coincidence or coincidence? I think it wasn't.

Chris and others wanted to know why. There were the typical "I'm not a lawyer, but ..." statements, and I take Chris' question to heart. I am a lawyer.

Except on weekends, but this time I'll make an exception for my friend.

So, Apple has trade secrets? I didn't know. But assuming that they do, and I haven't seen Apple's suit so I'm guessing that there are allegations that someone leaked trade secrets to the Apple fan site. Beyond the obvious ploy for publicity on the heels of the big splash from CES 2005, Chris and other MacHeads ask why Apple would treat its customers so.

I don't use Macs, and frankly don't understand the hype. [With tongue planted firmly in cheek here], my PC works just fine. Now that I've surely laid down the gauntlet just to give Apple apologists something to comment about, here's what I think.

Apple's legal department is known as one that aggressively protects the company's trade secrets, and legally, they believe they have to. Otherwise, once they really need to protect one, say for example what the G6 is going to look like and how fast it will run and all the cool new software that will finally beam Scotty up, the person who leaked the information and the site that published it would argue that Apple waived its right to protect its trade secrets.

If a company has trade secrets worth protecting, there's usually one good way to protect them. That's to sue. Without regard to who you sue. Customer, fan site, employee or otherwise.

That aggressive litigation stance sets the tone. Everyone knows that Apple aggressively protects its trade secrets, so presumably that aggressive stance prevents some trade secrets from being disclosed. That's where a company's value lies. According to some, as much as 70%. That seems high, but it still makes the point. According to a survey sponsored by the American Society for Industrial Security and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fortune 1,000 companies lost $45 billion in 1999 due to the theft of proprietary information.

That's a chunk of change.

Indeed. Would you buy a Mac from the corner vendor if it were just as good as the one you could buy from Apple? Maybe, maybe not.

But if you could get a full-blown Mac for under $500?


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, January 08, 2005 at 18:11 Comments (1) |

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