Supreme Court Makes It Harder to Recover In Retaliation Cases

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the high court raised the bar in litigating retaliation claims.  Dr. Naiel Nassar was employed by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  He complained of harassment and left his job in 2006 for another job at Parkland Hospital.  The hospital, however, withdrew its job offer when one of the former medical center supervisors opposed it.  He filed suit for retaliation and his claim went to trial.  The jury awarded him $3 million.  The Medical Center appealed, contending that the trial judge improperly charged the jury with a "mixed-motive" instruction, meaning that the jury could find in favor of the Plaintiff if it concluded that retaliation was a motivating factor in his discharge.  The Medical Center argued that the district court should have given a jury instruction stating that the Plaintiff's former employer could only be held liable if the supervisor's decision was the "but-for" basis for the retaliation.  The high court agreed, and reversed the jury verdict.  The court did not rule upon the merits of the case, but sent the case back down for further reconsideration in light of its ruling.  This opinion is in line with the Supreme Court's approach taken in age discrimination cases.  Several years ago, the high court ruled that in age cases, liability would only attach if age was the "but-for" reason taken for a discriminatory action.

Hollander Law Firm Releases: Guide to Protecting Children From Predators

We have recently released a guide for parents on how to protect their children from predators. We know that there are very few thing in the world that are more important that the safety of our children so we hope that this guide will help parents prepare and educate themselves and their children. We have also launched our sexual abuse law website that is full of very useful information and aimed at protecting children and helping those that have become victims to sexual predators.

Hollander Law Offices Files New Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Chicago Archdiocese and Cardinal George

On Wednesday of this week, The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander, filed a new sexual abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal George.  The filing of the case was reported by Channel 2 CBS News.  Hollander's client, known as John Doe in the case to protect his privacy, claims that on two occasions while he attended St. Agatha's parish, that Father Daniel McCormack fondled him on two occasions.  Hollander currently represents five other victims who similarly claim that the priest, since laicized, sexually molested them.  Those other cases are pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County.  McCormack is currently incarcerated after he pled guilty in 2007 to sexually assaulting 5 boys.

Appellate Court Holds Contract Bars Claim for Paralyzed Gym Member

In a recent opinion, the Illinois Appellate Court has held that a man who was paralyzed while using exercise equipment at a health club is barred from suing the club because of the language in his contract with that entity.  In 2009, the Plaintiff was severely injured while suing a weight assisted dip and chin-up machine at L.A. Fitness.  His injuries led him to became a quadriplegic.  The Plaintiff joined the club five months before, but language in his contract exempted the club "from all liability" to members.  The Circuit Court of Cook County dismissed his negligence suit.  The Plaintiff appealed, contending that the language was confusing and inconsistent with Minnesota law, where he resided when he joined the club.  The appellate court rejected his argument, reasoning that the club had no duty to explain the contract to him before he signed it.  Results like this, unfortunately, are not uncommon.  If a disclaimer is clear and conspicuous, it will usually bar a claim if the Plaintiff signs it in advance.

Federal Court Paves the Way For Employee to Puruse FMLA Claim Against Non-Employer

In perhaps a case of first impression, a federal district court judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against a non-employer involving an FMLA claim.  Luis Arango worked for Sysco, a marketer and distributor of food service products.  Work & Well administered time off requests for the company's employees.  Arango claimed that Work & Well falsely told him that he was ineligible for part of the leave, prompting Sysco to fire him.  The court held that Arango was not shielded from the consultant's privilege (which would ordinarily shield it if it gave good faith advice) since there was enough evidence that the defendant did not give honest advice to Sysco.  Work & Well promised to "ensure consistent, complete FMLA compliance" in its contract with Sysco.  The evidence also showed that Work & Well also promised to reduce the number of FMLA leaves and the days off associated with those leaves.  The court did not rule on the merits of the claim, but with the ruling, the case can now proceed to trial.

Christian Brothers Settle Sexual Abuse Claims

The Christian Brothers of Ireland agreed to settle about 400 claims involving sexual abuse for $16.5 million.  As a result of the claims, the Christian Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in April, 2011.  The victims filed claims in the bankruptcy court.  The claimants included 32 men who went to Brother Rice High School, Leo High School, and St. Laurence High School in Burbank.  The claimants alleged that the sexual abuse took place from the 1960s through the 1980s.  The bankruptcy settlement does not preclude the victims from filing suit in state court.  Three lawsuits were recently filed in state court on behalf of 32 plaintiffs.

Joliet Diocese Settles Sex Abuse Claim and Agrees to Release Secret Files

In a landmark development, the Joliet Diocese agreed not only to settle a sexual abuse case involving one of its priests, but also to release 7,000 pages of internal church documents which detail sexual abuse allegations involving 15 priests.  The victim, whose case prompted release of the files, filed suit against the diocese in 2007.  He claimed that he was sexually assaulted by Reverend James Burnett when he was 8 years old.  The victim claimed that the assault happened during his first confession.  The priest was removed from ministry in 2006.  He served in churches in Joliet, Naperville, and Bensonville.  The website for the Diocese of Joliet lists 34 priests whom credible allegations of sexual abuse have been made.  Fourteen of those priests are dead.  The victim said he refused to settle unless the documents were released.

Los Angeles Archdiocese Settles Sexual Abuse Cases for Ten Million Dollars

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles recently settled four sexual abuse cases for a sum close to $10 million.  The victims claimed that they were sexually assaulted by priest Michael Baker.  Authorities state that Baker allegedly abused 23 boys over a three decade span.  This settlement is the first one for the LA Diocese since they agreed to release 12,000 documents concerning its handling of sexual abuse claims.  Authorities say that the priest admitted that he sexually assaulted two boys to Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1986.  Mahony initially sent Baker for treatment, but then later reassigned him to ministry, where he abused boys again.  One of the lawyers in the case said the release of the files was a pivotal point for settling the claims.  Baker was defrocked in 2000.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and was released in 2011.

Federal Judge Rules That Comcast Handbook Provided Agreement for Wages

United States District Court Judge James Holderman recently ruled in a lawsuit brought against Comcast Corp.  that its employee handbook provided an agreement between the company and its employees for certain wages due under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.  The company moved to dismiss the claim, but the court ruled against it.  Comcast argued that the handbook contained a disclaimer, stating that the handbook could not be considered a contract of employment.  The court acknowledged the disclaimer, but stated that there was a difference between a contract and an agreement.  An agreement between the two parties, even in the absence of a contract, could provide a basis for a claim for wages.  The class action lawsuit will likely take some time to resolve.  In 1990, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit brought against St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital that a handbook could constitute a contract of employment between a company and an employee under certain circumstances.  If found to be an enforceable contract, the employee may have a claim for breach if the employer fails to follow it.  An employer which utilizes such a handbook can negate the existence of a contract if it employs a sufficiently clear disclaimer prominently displayed in the manual.  Whether a court will find that the disclaimer is sufficient is dependent upon the language used and how the disclaimer is set off from the substantive provisions in the handbook.

Hollander Law Offices Files Another Suit Against Archdiocese of Chicago for Sexual Abuse Involving Father Daniel McCormack

The Hollander Law Offices recently filed another lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County on behalf of a young man who claims that he was sexually assaulted by Daniel McCormack, a laicized priest, in the mid-1990s.  The man who attended St. Ailbe's school in Chicago, claims that the now convicted priest, repeatedly sexually abused him at the school.  According to the victim, the former priest told him that the unlawful acts were okay because they were sanctioned by God.  The victim has since struggled with anger issues and substance abuse.  The lawsuit is consolidated with many other sexual assault cases before one judge for discovery purposes.  Though we expect the litigation to take some time, a number of similar claims have resolved for millions of dollars.  The Hollander Law Offices currently has four such claims pending against the Archdiocese of Chicago involving McCormack.