Category: Litigation


“But He Started It!” – Workplace Altercations

By Sam Ventola,

Just the Facts, Ma’am

The story of actor Thomas Gibson of the television show “Criminal Minds” has been in the news recently.  According to news reports, he had a disagreement with writer-producer Virgil Williams.  The altercation escalated with Mr. Gibson kicking Mr. Williams in the shins.  Williams filed a complaint with the studio’s human resource representative.  Initially, Gibson was suspended for two shows.  However, when news of the altercation came out, he was ultimately fired.

News reports indicate that Gibson has “lawyered up” and they are evaluating a claim against the production company.  Of course, you probably will not win if you get fired for kicking somebody.  However, Gibson may have a contract that limits the grounds for which he may be fired.

What Does Colorado Say About This?

Some may wonder what liability an employer may have for a physical altercation between employees.  Under Colorado law, as in most places, such an injury would be covered by workers compensation insurance, if the employee’s dispute was related to work issues (as this one seems to have been).  When a claim is covered by workers compensation, then that system sets the limits of the claim.  The injured employee cannot bring other claims against the employer.  On the other hand, if an employee’s injuries are not related to work issues, workers compensation does not apply. However, the employer could still be possible if the injured employee could prove that the employer was negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising the employee that committed the assault.

Before workplace issues get to this point, however, employers should consider workplace mediation to resolve disputes between employers, or claims of unfair or illegal treatment by employees.  Getting an early resolution is always better than waiting until somebody gets sued.  Or kicked.

 

smv profile newSam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.

Classic Literature Edited?

By Sam Ventola,

book-cover-huck-finn

“Please take it,” says I, “and don’t ask me nothing—then I won’t have to tell no lies.”

 –Huckleberry Finn

You may have heard a major media frenzy awhile back over the decision by “the publisher” of Huckleberry Finn to change some of the words, especially the racial epithets. Every news story I read about this published this the same way – hook, line and sinker. And people were incensed that future generations would be deprived of Huckleberry Finn as originally written by Mark Twain.

It was all a crock. Go down to your neighborhood book store and check Huck Finn for the bad words – you will probably find them right there same as they always were. How did the media get this so wrong? It was either ignorance of the law, or perhaps a desire to make the story bigger than it really was.

You see, there is no “the publisher” of Huckleberry Finn. Because of its age, Huckleberry Finn is “public domain,” and therefore can be published by anyone. What happened is that one publisher decided to change the words, but there are hundreds of others of publishers of the book that made no such decision.

When does a book become public domain? Well, the question is a bit complicated, and depends on the date of first publication. For works created in 1978 or after, the copy right expires seventy years after the author’s death. Works published from 1964 to 1977 have their copyrights expire in 28 years, but they can be renewed. Works published from 1925 to 1963 have copyrights expire 95 years after publication. All publications from before 1925 have expired copyrights and are public domain.

One would hope that at least some media outlets would have legal advice on staff that would have caught this. The more cynical conclusion is that they knew full well that they were misleading, but didn’t let that get in the way of a good story.

If you have questions about copyright law or any other legal issues, please visit us at www.samventola.com or contact our office at (303) 864-9797.

 

Sam VentolaSam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.

Am I in a Ponzi Scheme?

By Sam Ventola,

pyramid dollar Some have asked whether multi-level-marketing (“MLM”) schemes are considered Ponzis. The answer is not simple. Although some MLM’s may not be Ponzi schemes under legal definitions, they are often actually Ponzi schemes for all practical purposes.

A Ponzi, named after Charles Ponzi, or pyramid scheme, involves getting people to pay into a system that allows them to profit from others brought in after them, who they are often expected to recruit. Theoretically you can recover your payment or even profit in a Ponzi scheme by obtaining payments from people below you in the pyramid. The problem with all Ponzi schemes is that eventually they run out of victims, and the people who came in later or have not been able to recruit enough new victims will have lost their payment.

Are MLM’s Ponzis? Regulations differ from state to state, but generally a MLM will be considered legal if it involves substantial sale of products and services to people outside the organization. However, an MLM is still a Ponzi for all intents and purposes if success in the venture DEPENDS on bringing more people in. If you are considering getting involved in an MLM ask yourself and the promoters this question: is it realistic to expect this business to succeed by just selling the product? If the answer is no – that you NEED to bring new people in to make any significant amount of money – it’s really a pyramid scheme, even though it may be legal.

One formerly popular MLM you probably have heard about was the “Three Step Plan.” They do not tell you until later into the process that the Three Step Plan is supposed to be about selling mangosteen juice. Now, mangosteen juice may be wonderful stuff, but it is also available from hundreds of sources. If you were interested in buying mangosteen juice, would it make sense to buy it through the Three Step Plan, which involves all the expense of advertising and payment along the uplines? Of course not. If it doesn’t make sense to you as a potential buyer, it doesn’t make sense as a business.

Please visit us at www.samventola.com if you want to know more about Ponzi schemes or consumer scams in general.

Sam Ventola Sam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and   mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment   disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.

Have your legal questions answered by contacting our office by telephone at (303) 864-9797 or email at sam@samventola.com.

Sharing the Wealth?

By Sam Ventola,

money

 

Now that the Powerball jackpot is up so high, you may have seen a rash of posts on social media offering to share a Powerball jackpot with anyone who “likes” or “shares” a post. Some have asked us if such an offer is enforceable.

The short answer is yes – if you can prove it. These posts constitute an offer to make a contract under the law. You “liking” or “sharing” constitutes your acceptance of the contract, and it is now enforceable. You’d have to somehow prove that you did what was asked, with screen shots, etc.

We once had a client who had won a giveaway at a convenience store for a new car. After they won, the convenience store told them that they actually had intended to only give them use of a car for six months. Sorry but no – the contract was for a car, and the convenience store was informed that unless a car was delivered they would be liable not just for the car, but also for triple damages and attorney’s fees for false advertising. Of course, the car was then delivered.

Just because the contract would be enforceable, however, doesn’t mean the “liking” or “sharing” is a good idea. Of course, the odds against the ticket in question winning are astronomical. Meanwhile when you “like” or “share” a post like that you give your Facebook information to hundreds of advertisers.

 

Sam Ventola has a wide variety of experience in litigation, legal education, and mediation. He has been an attorney on both sides in business litigation, employment disputes, probate litigation, and personal injury cases. In addition to being an attorney, he has been a mediator, hearing officer, labor relations professor, and lecturer on litigation, employment and First Amendment issues. He has also achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell.