Here is a look at some of the hottest topics lawyers and others in the legal industry have been abuzz about:
1. BP’s change of heart over its settlement for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster
– In November 2012, BP agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement to compensate individuals and businesses that had suffered losses as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Now, BP is denouncing the terms of the settlement it helped set up, alleging that it has paid millions of dollars in what it is calling “illegitimate, dubious claims.” In fact, BP is arguing that it has paid thousands of claims based on little to no evidence and, as a result, the terms of the BP settlement should be changed.
However, as Judge Leslie H. Southwick of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Court has stated, “there is nothing fundamentally unreasonable about what BP accepted… but now wishes it had not.”
As this battle rages on, it seems that the claimants themselves are the ones suffering the effects, as BP officials are intensifying their methods for scrutinizing claims and, in some cases, have seemed to indefinitely delay payouts.
2. GM’s change of heart over its mandatory arbitration policy
– In mid-April, General Mills quietly updated its arbitration policy, requiring people who communicated with the company in various ways online to agree to mandatory arbitration if they had a dispute with GM. The broad terms of this policy, which could effectively be extended to people who simply “liked” the company on Facebook or downloaded manufacturer coupons from GM’s website, quickly garnered much criticism among consumers, as well as legal professionals.
The growing public backlash to GM’s arbitration policy continued to snowball over a week or so, prompting some consumers to boycott the brand entirely. By April 21st, GM capitulated, announcing that it was abandoning its new policy and reverting back to its former policy.
As Kirstie Foster, the director of external communications for General Mills explained, “those terms – and our intentions – were widely misread, causing concern among consumers… so we’ve listened – and we’re changing [the terms] back to what they were before.”
3. South Korea ferry disaster
– The tragic sinking of a South Korean passenger ferry on April 16th has led to an investigation that continues to reveal shocking negligence on behalf of the vessel’s crew, the company that owned the ferry and potentially even government agencies.
Just some of the alleged negligence that potentially contributed to the loss of more than 300 civilian lives includes poor maintenance of the vessel, overloading of the ferry, a lack of enforcement of maritime regulations, and covering up prior accidents in which the ferry had been involved. Investigators are also looking into allegations of corruption between the shipping association responsible for the ferry and government regulators.
Among the latest developments in the aftermath of this tragedy is the official public apology that has been issued by South Korean President Park Geun-hye. “My heart aches thinking how I can best apologize and ease the grief and pain… I am sorry that so many precious lives were lost,” Ms. Park has stated.
4. Deadly fungus found at New Orleans Children’s Hospital
– The outbreak of a deadly flesh-eating fungal infection in the New Orleans Children’s Hospital led to the painful deaths of five children between August 2008 and July 2009. This month, a medical journal reporting on this tragedy disclosed that the outbreak was most likely caused by infected bed linens, towels and/or hospital gowns and that it took more than 10 months after the death of the first infected child for hospital officials and doctors to link the cases.
The report also found that hospital workers had been unloading clean linens in the same dock where medical waste was discarded and that dust and other debris from a nearby construction site had infiltrated some of the hallways where clean linens were stored. This report is raising new questions about why it took so long to make the connection among the deaths and what the hospital’s responsibility was in terms of alerting the public about the outbreak.
5. Warrantless cellphone searches
– As the Supreme Court continues to consider whether warrants should be necessary for police to search suspects’ cellphones (in Riley v. California, 13-132 and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212), a heated debate rages on in the legal community, including in social media. Specifically, the heart of the issue rests on whether searching suspects’ cellphones without warrants violates people’s Fourth Amendment rights. One solution currently being considered is whether to limit warrantless cellphone searches to only information stored in the “cloud,” which is specifically an option that the Obama administration has proposed in court documents.
As new developments arise in these ongoing legal debates, investigations and issues, Case Funding will continue to bring you the latest news on these hot topics.