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•  Legal Events - Legal News


A lawsuit accusing restaurant chain TGI Friday's violated consumer fraud laws with its drink pricing can't go ahead as a class action that could have included millions of members, but a similar case involving Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants can, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Debra Dugan sued TGI Friday's after she was charged one price for a drink at the bar and a higher price at a table in 2008. The restaurant didn't list drink prices on its menus, according to the lawsuit.

A lower court in 2012 granted class-action status to anyone who ordered unpriced drinks at 14 of the company's restaurants in New Jersey from 2004 through 2014. TGI Friday's had estimated that could have amounted to as many as 14 million customers, according to court filings. But the plaintiffs disputed that figure.

According to the lawsuit, TGI Friday's conducted research that showed that customers spent an average of $1.72 less on drinks if the prices were displayed than if the prices weren't displayed. The lawsuit sought to prove that that amount could be considered a loss for anyone who had ordered a drink at the restaurants. Wednesday's 5-1 ruling rejected that argument, but said individual claims could still proceed.



Ohioans lost the right Friday to appeal disputed tax decisions directly to the state’s high court, a scarcely debated policy change that critics say will have sweeping consequences for businesses, individuals and governments.

The Ohio Supreme Court advocated for and defends the change, arguing it was necessary to lighten its docket of a flood of market-driven property tax disputes and to preserve its role as arbiter of the state’s most significant legal questions.

Administrative Director Mike Buenger said the Supreme Court is intended to deal with categories of cases that are of great statewide public importance or of constitutional magnitude.

“We started looking at these cases because there was concern by the court that many of them presented basic disputes over mathematic valuations and calculations, and often little more than that,” he said. “With limited exception, these cases did not present great questions of statewide importance.”

A court analysis found that only 14 of the 152 appeals of Ohio Board of Tax Appeals decisions the court was compelled to accept in 2014 involved matters of law appropriate for the high court’s attention.

Justices took their concerns to the Ohio Senate, which quietly slipped language into the state budget bill signed in June removing the court’s obligation to accept direct tax appeals - an option since 1939 - and sending them through the appellate courts first.

Business groups pushed back, arguing that sending tax appeals through regional appellate courts would add costs, inconsistency and competitive disadvantages to Ohio’s tax system.

“The impact will be extremely negative. Over time, it will erode the uniformity of the tax code in the state of Ohio,” said Tom Zaino, a Columbus tax attorney and former state tax commissioner under Republican Gov. Bob Taft. “It’s going to be equally bad for government as it is for taxpayers.”

Zaino said his business tax clients often have more than one location and eliminating direct Supreme Court appeals will lead to decisions that are applicable in only one part of the state, to some but not all of a business’ properties or to one competitor but not another.



A Cleveland abortion clinic asked Ohio's high court on Tuesday to grant it legal standing to sue over abortion-related restrictions tucked into the state's 2013 budget bill.

Preterm of Cleveland argued that the provisions impose added administrative and caseload burdens that clearly qualify the clinic to proceed with its constitutional challenge to the manner in which the bill was put together.

The clinic's attorney, B. Jessie Hill, told justices significant new hurdles are not required to meet the legal burden for standing.

"We have to do something we didn't have to do before: We have to enter into a new contract every two years," she said. "That's all we need to demonstrate."

The clinic disputes budget provisions that required more frequent renewal of a clinic's emergency transfer agreement with a local hospital after prohibiting public hospitals from participating and required testing for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion can be performed.

The state's attorney, Ryan Richardson, argued the clinic has not demonstrated true or threatened harm and so can't legally sue.

"As this court has said, really the essence of standing is having a plaintiff that has a direct and concrete stake in the issues, so that the plaintiff is able to properly sharpen the issues for the court's resolution," she said. "Bringing a plaintiff who is not directly affected impacts the ability to properly present the facts and legal issues that the court needs to properly adjudicate the case."

The lawsuit comes amid abortion clinic closures across Ohio that have coincided with falling abortion rates.



Thousands of protesters stood firm outside a Spanish court in Barcelona after night fell Thursday, continuing to shout demands for the release of a dozen regional officials arrested in connection with a planned vote on Catalan independence.

Spanish authorities maintain the referendum scheduled for Oct. 1 is illegal and are challenging its constitutionality. But Catalan pro-independence groups also are digging in their heels as they fight for what they say is their right to vote.

The demonstrators who spent the day outside the Catalan Superior Court of Justice, a branch of the Spain’s national legal system, answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the surprise crackdown by police the previous day.

As the sun set, a large crowd sang, waved pro-independence flags and held banners proclaiming “Democracia!” (Democracy!) Unlike the previous night, when there were scuffles with police and patrol cars were vandalized, the mood remained festive.





A French court ruled Tuesday that photographers and gossip magazine executives violated the privacy of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge by taking and publishing photographs of the former Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.

The court in a Paris suburb fined two executives of French gossip magazine Closer — owner Ernesto Mauri and executive editor Laurence Pieau — each the maximum of 45,000 euros ($53,500) for such an offense.

The Closer executives, along with two photographers for a celebrity photo agency, were collectively ordered to pay 50,000 euros ($59,500) in damages to Kate and the same amount to her husband, Prince William.

The damage award was substantially below the figure that the magazine’s lawyer said the royals had requested, but the timing of the court’s finding of privacy invasion had particular resonance in Britain.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the death of William’s mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car accident that occurred while she was being pursued by paparazzi.


The royal couple did not attend the hearing where the verdict was announced. Their office at Kensington Palace said they were pleased the court ruled in their favor and now consider the matter closed.

Kate and William “wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen,” the palace said in a statement.



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