Politics in the Workplace: Wiseman Quoted in Memphis Daily News

Let’s talk politics. Or not. Regardless of the outcome, the 2016 Presidential Election is set to go down in history.  You have probably learned about (or are inundated with!) the political positions of many of your friends through social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter.

But what about politics in the workplace?

In 2012, Reporter Andy Meek wrote an insightful article for the Memphis Daily News about the need for employers to carefully monitor the discussion of politics in the workplace. It’s worth pointing out again during this election cycle. Attorney Lang Wiseman was interviewed for the article, which stated in part:

Lang Wiseman, a partner at Wiseman Bray PLLC, said there’s an even bigger worry than that.

“Politics can be a passionate topic that can lead to heated – if not disruptive – incidents and feelings,” he said. “In fact, political discussion can at times even become infused with notions of religion, race and sex that can create actual legal risks for the employers. That’s not to say that every perceived slight or discomfort in the workplace gives rise to a legal cause of action, but just to note that there is a careful balancing act that employers have to stay on top of.”

READ THE ARTICLE: Attorneys Warn Against Workplace Political Talk

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The Attorneys of Wiseman Bray PLLC handle personal injury cases, auto accidents, apartment crime cases, estate planning, asset protection, charitable planning, business litigation, business organization, business counseling, and many other general legal services.  Please visit our website to learn more about our attorneys and the work we do for our clients.


ObamaCare at the Supreme Court: Day 3 Recap

Sorry to be running late with this post concerning the final day of argument at the Supreme Court yesterday, but I wanted to again pass along the post by my friend Hans von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation who’s been following the hearings in DC.

There’s been lots of talk by pundits and prognosticators about how the seeming skepticism expressed by the Justices during oral argument means that the ObamaCare law will inevitably be struck down.  I disagree.  Not because I believe it will be upheld, but rather because I believe there’s no way to tell much of anything simply by listening to the questions asked by Judges during their hearing of an appeal.

Mind you, while some of the questioning in this particular case has been unusually illuminating, I’ve been involved in numerous appellate hearings, many of which occurred while I was “on the inside” as a law clerk working for Judge on the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  And based on my experience, I can tell you that a Judge’s questioning is often just that:  questioning.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate an opinion one way or another.  Indeed, sometimes the toughest questions are not from a Judge trying to signal what side he/she is on, but rather from a Judge who is genuinely trying really hard to make up his/her mind, and perhaps playing devil’s advocate or trying to rule out any doubts they might have.

Moreover, in this case, the legal theories could make for some interesting combinations of opinions by the Justices.  Some of the most conservative members of the Court, for example, may be inclined to allow their preference for judicial restraint to trump their misgivings over possible constitutional issues withe ObamaCare.

The best prediction is to simply stay tuned.  The Court’s Term will be over in a few weeks, and the latest that their rulings are handed down for a particular Term are usually in June.  So, we’ll know pretty soon what the answer is.

ObamaCare at the Supreme Court: Recap of Day 2

My friend Hans von Spakovsky has been attending the oral argument at the Supreme Court and has summary of what how things went yesterday in his article over at PJ Media.

One interesting quote in particular from the article:

Both before and after the arguments, I had revealing conversations with a liberal professor in the courtroom.  He agreed that the government’s chief problem is that it had not provided a limiting factor or boundary line in any of its previous arguments.  Thus, if the Supreme Court agrees that Congress has the power to compel the purchase of an insurance policy from a private company, it could compel the purchase of virtually anything considered good or prudent.  After the arguments ended, the professor agreed that Verrelli had been unable to come up with a concise and reasonable answer to that question, which was asked of him multiple times by different justices.

ObamaCare Before Supreme Court Starting Today: Brief Guide

My friend Hans Von Spakovsky has a great rundown of the Supreme Court’s schedule as they hear argument over the course of the next three days on the various legal issues implicated by ObamaCare.  Check out the article over at PJ Media.

As for the most pressing substantive issue in the case — the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution — there is a very good summary of the “evolution” of the Court’s interpretation of the Clause over the course of the past century over at The Atlantic.

Legal Tip: Take Photos of the Contents of Your Wallet & Store Them on Your Smartphone

Identity theft is rampant.  You hear horror stories over and over again.  To protect yourself, you should avoid supplying personal and financial information online except in connection with verifiable, reputable sites.

But what about “old style” identity theft?  Indeed, sometimes despite your best efforts, there are occasions where your wallet, purse or briefcase is lost or stolen.

One way to protect yourself is to take a photo of the contents of your wallet or and store them in a password protected app on your smartphone — e.g. take a photo of the front and back sides of your credit cards, your license, and your health insurance card.  Indeed, in the unfortunate event your wallet is stolen, you will need to call your bank and credit card companies to cancel your cards, and it would be helpful to have their customer service numbers readily available along with your account information.  Having photos will also enable you simply to remember what cards are actually in your wallet, too.  (Not to mention, having the photos on your smartphone can be handy for those times when you forget your wallet and need your ID or health insurance card, for example.)

CAUTION: Store photos of your cards only if access to your phone is password protected, or if you use an phone app that is password protected. The last thing you want is to have your phone stolen or lost — as if that isn’t bad enough — and to compound that problem by having your credit card info inadvertently available to the thief as well.

Either way, though — whether it involves online or “old style” identity theft — you should timely and carefully monitor your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized or fraudulent transactions.  Under the law, you are NOT responsible for fraudulent transactions if you timely discover and report them.

The Obamacare case to be heard by the Supreme Court in only 2 weeks

I posted previously about the Obamacare cases that were on a collision course to the Supreme Court.  The most eagerly anticipated question before the Court is the constitutionality of the individual mandate — that is, does the federal government have the power to require someone to purchase something?

Three of the 13 federal appellate courts have now ruled on Obamacare.  The 4th and the 6th Circuits upheld the individual mandate, whereas the 11th Circuit deemed it unconstitutional.  (The 6th Circuit is where I clerked.  It covers Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan).

It’s a fascinating issue with all sorts of wide-ranging legal and historical implications, and it’s now set to finally be heard by the Court on Monday, March 26th.

An article in The New York Times offers a glimpse into the importance of the case — and to the legacy in particular of Chief Justice Roberts — noting that “[t]he six hours the court will devote to arguments is a testament to the case’s importance.  The last time the court heard longer arguments in a politically charged case was in 1966, over the Voting Rights Act, a crowning achievement of the civil rights movement. And the last time the Supreme Court ruled that a major piece of economic legislation was beyond Congressional power to regulate commerce was in 1936, when the court struck down minimum-wage and maximum-hour requirements in the coal industry.”

The case will have important political implications as well.  Indeed, considering the length of time it generally takes for the court to issue their written decisions following argument, the case opinion will likely be handed down just in time for the final stretch run of the upcoming presidential race.

Stay tuned for a short summary and primer on the precise legal issues involved.

In the meantime the lawyer for the parties challenging Obamacare.  He is a former law school classmate of President Obama, and a former Justice Department official in charge of appearing before the Supreme Court to defend similar laws passed by Congress.

Outrageous & Frivolous Lawsuit Verdicts – Fact or Urban Myth?

Everybody has probably seen them at one time or another — The Stella Awards — an annual list of the most outrageous lawsuits. The Awards are named after Stella Liebeck, the lady who sued and won a multi-million dollar verdict against McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee on herself.

Some of the more noteworthy Stella Award winners include:

  • The woman who won $1.7 million from Winnebago after putting her RV on cruise control at 70 mph, and then getting up to go make herself a sandwich in the back. She claimed that Winnebago should have warned her that she couldn’t leave the driver’s seat after putting the cruise control on.
  • A 19 year old in Los Angeles won $74,000 in medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord while the teenager was trying to steal a hubcap.
  • A woman who was awarded $80,000 after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store, even though the toddler was her own son.

These examples are humorous, and indeed, the list goes on and on with other silly examples. The only problem is that ALL OF THESE LAWSUITS ARE ENTIRELY FALSE!

Even the underlying McDonald’s hot coffee case itself has reached unwarranted levels of urban myth-ism.  If you want the REAL story behind the case, click here for more info on why the final verdict in that case was actually quite reasonable under the circumstances.

Why do I bring up these awards? Because you wouldn’t believe the number of people I talk to who bring up these “cases” as examples of what’s wrong with our legal system.

The problem is that these wild misconceptions foster the type of false notion perpetuated by insurance companies and politicians who claim that there’s no rhyme or reason to our judicial system — which, of course, is the sort of “problem” that they just happen to have a government solution for.  How convenient.

Well, take it from a lawyer who’s in the trenches everyday: despite what you may hear — the concept of jackpot justice is exceedingly rare.  Are there occasionally exceptions and outlier verdicts? Absolutely. Just like there are times when clearly negligent defendants get away with maiming people.  But both situations are exceptions and hardly the norm.

Is the system expensive and in need of tweaking here and there?  Sure.  Just like everything else in life, it can be improved.

But good policy decisions aren’t made by throwing out the baby with the bathwater — and cutting off people’s legal rights in the meantime — based on urban myths perpetuated as fact.  That makes absolutely no sense at all.

So, don’t believe the hype.  Do your own homework before you fall hook, line and sinker for a story that sounds too crazy to be true.  Because most times, it isn’t.

Scalded Privates: The Short (But Real) Story Behind the Supposedly "Frivolous" McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit

“Can you believe it?  Some lady got millions for burning herself with her own hot coffee from McDonald’s!” 

You’ve no doubt heard all the talk before.  The case has become the poster child for so-called frivolous lawsuits and politicians screaming for silly tort reform.  The verdict supposedly represents everything that’s wrong with America and the legal system.

Of course, there’s only one problem: the legend has outgrown the truth.

As Paul Harvey used to say: “And now, here’s the rest of the story.”

  • The plaintiff was Ms. Stella Liebeck.  She was a grandmother who attempted multiple times to settle her case with McDonald’s.  They refused.
  • She wasn’t driving down the street when she got burned.  She was a passenger in a stopped vehicle.  They had ordered coffee at the drive-thru window.  After receiving the order, her grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that she could add cream and sugar. The coffee spilled when she was attempting to remove that hard plastic lid from the little cheap styrofoam cup.
  • The coffee wasn’t just hot — it was scalding.  Indeed, it was discovered during the case that McDonald’s actively enforced a requirement that its restaurants keep coffee at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit — only a few degrees away from the boiling point! By comparison, home coffee makers generally maintain coffee at 135-140 degrees.
  • Notwithstanding, a McDonald’s’ quality assurance manager testified that the company enforced the 185 degree requirement even thought they knew a burn hazard existed with any food substance greater than 140 degrees, and that it was not fit for human consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat, and cause full thickness burn injuries to the skin in only 2-7 seconds.
  • In fact, McDonald’s produced documents showing that there were more than 700 other claims by other people similarly burned by its coffee over a 10- year-period. McDonald’s quite clearly knew the risk involved and simply chose to ignore it.
  • Ms. Liebeck’s injuries were legitimate.  In fact, they were horrendous.  Her vascular surgeon determined that she suffered full thickness burns (3rd degree burns) over 6 percent of her body — including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. (See the photo below if you have a strong enough stomach.)
  • She was hospitalized for 8 days, during which time she underwent skin grafts in her genital area.
  • Despite these grotesque injuries, Ms. Liebeck merely asked McDonald’s to pay for the cost of her medical treatment, and offered to settle the case for only $20,000. They refused.
  • At the end of the day, this wasn’t a runaway jury.  Indeed, Ms. Liebeck was only awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages. And even this amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Ms. Liebeck 20 percent at fault for the spill, and thus they made a corresponding 20% reduction to the damages.
  • Based on the evidence of past claims and McDonald’s conscious decision to ignore a substantial risk, the jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages.  The idea behind punitive damages is to make sure the defendant is properly motivated to change its conduct by taking into account the fact that there were other instances of egregious damages for which they might have escaped appropriate responsibility. And even then, the $2.7 million punitive verdict only equaled about 2 days of coffee sales at McDonald’s.  2 whole days.
  • And the court reduced even that amount to only $480,000.

So take a look at the photo and ask yourself whether you’d willingly trade those injuries and skin grafts to genitalia for a mere $600,000.

No way.  Not me.  No thanks.

Doesn’t sound so “frivolous” anymore, does it?