lawsuit

Tim Evanson via Wikimedia Commons

This week, a Cheboygan District Court Judge ruled that Chesapeake Energy will go to trial for alleged fraud.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has accused the Oklahoma-based energy company of swindling landowners in northern Michigan.

Peter Payette is with our partners at Interlochen Public Radio and he has been covering this story.

How did all of this start?

Around May of 2010, the state auctioned off the right to drill for oil and gas on public land.

"And that auction saw prices that were astronomical. The state in one day raised as much money from the sale of oil and gas rights as it had raised in its entire history," Payette says. "And that's because out-of-state companies believed that by using these newer methods of horizontal hydraulic fracturing that they could make a lot of money by drilling deep down in the ground and taking out natural gas."

These companies went out to private landowners that summer and asked to explore their properties for oil and gas. The landowners signed leases. "And those promised what is called a 'order of payment' and in many cases the landowners did not receive payment and may say they were cheated and are owed money," Payette says.

The MGM Grand Casino in Detroit
Mike Russell

Current and former employees of the Detroit MGM Grand Casino are suing the casino for unfair labor practices.

What could be up to 200 employees claim the casino refused to pay floor supervisors for overtime.

The Fair Labor Standards Act says certain employees who work more than 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime pay.

But the complaint claims the casino hasn't done that.

Megan Bonanni is a lawyer for the employees. She says what the floor supervisors are asking for is only fair.

Citizen groups are suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over an air permit it granted to a Dearborn steel plant.

Two months ago, the MDEQ issued the permit to the Severstal plant. It allowed the facility to continue polluting at levels that had previously been cited by the state.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

McDonald's is being sued for allegedly stealing the wages of fast-food workers in Michigan.

The lawsuits allege workers at 21 McDonald's restaurants in Detroit are forced to pay for their own uniforms and work off the clock.

“These unlawful practices have flourished in part because most of the workers are so financially vulnerable that they are afraid to lodge the claims on their own behalf,” says attorney Joe Sellers, who’s handling similar lawsuits in California and New York.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge in Iowa has dismissed a Michigan couple's lawsuit that claimed butter flavorings in microwave popcorn left the husband with lung disease.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett ruled Tuesday that Michigan's three-year statute of limitations barred the lawsuit brought by David and Barbara Stults of Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit-area judge wants a federal appeals court to intervene in a lawsuit linked to the accidental consumption of alcohol by a child at a Detroit Tigers game.

The parents of Leo Ratte are suing Judge Judy Hartsfield. In 2008, the 7-year-old boy was temporarily removed from them when his father mistakenly gave him Mike's Hard Lemonade at Comerica Park.

wikipedia.org

The Arab-American Civil Rights League says hundreds of Arab-Americans received letters from Huntington Bank this year explaining that their accounts have been closed, shut down or terminated.

No reason was given for closing the accounts, and no other link exists between the private and business account holders, except that they are all Arab-American owned accounts.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An effort to roll back Flint’s recent spike in water and sewer rates has failed.

On Friday, a Genesee County Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Flint.

Flint's city council president sued, after the mayor, then later the state appointed emergency manger, increased city water and sewer rates. The increases effectively doubled the rate for city water customers

City leaders claim the rate increase was needed to pay for rising water system expenses.

dow.com

A federal judge has slapped Midland-based Dow Chemical with a billion dollar judgment in a price fixing case. The company allegedly colluded with its competitors to fix the price of urethane.

The collusion allegedly occurred between 1998 and 2003. Urethane is used in automotive, construction, appliance and furniture products.

In February, a jury turned in a 400 million dollar verdict against Dow Chemical. This week, a federal judge tripled the penalty to $1.2 billion.   

Dow plans to appeal the verdict. BASF, Huntsman International and Lyondell Chemical Company have already reached out of court settlements with the plaintiffs.

DETROIT (AP) - Three Ohio drivers are suing Ford Motor Co., claiming the company's six-cylinder EcoBoost engine is defective.

The lawsuit says the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine can shudder, shake and rapidly lose power while drivers are trying to accelerate. It says more than 100 drivers have complained about the engine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Birmingham Schools Face Lawsuit Over Fees

Jan 2, 2013
OliviaBurns / MorgueFile.com

A lawsuit filed against Birmingham Public Schools says the district is violating state policy which bars mandatory special fees.  

Gym clothes, combination locks, and student planners are all common purchases for back to school shoppers.

But the lawsuit, brought by parents of a sixth grader in Birmingham, says the district cannot require these annual purchases. 

user elioja / Flickr

The future of medical marijuana dispensaries and growing cooperatives are on the line with two cases before the Michigan Supreme Court. The court heard arguments on those cases Thursday.

Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully said the medical marijuana act does not allow dispensaries where patients can share marijuana with each other.

“The act clearly delineates two methods in which a qualified patient may obtain their marijuana—they may grow it themselves or they may designate a caregiver to grow it for them,” Scully said.

Former Flint Mayor Don Williamson.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former Flint Mayor Don Williamson is suing the city after officials demanded that he pay out $4.5 million awarded to police officers in a 2011 discrimination suit.

Williamson is arguing that city officials violated his constitutional rights when they asked a judge to require the former mayor pay the sum, Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports:

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan inmate who blamed prison officials for his bad teeth has another cavity to fill: a $353 bill for his failed lawsuit.

A judge has ordered Jerry Flanory to pay for transcript costs, copy fees and a nominal $20 for the state's cost of the one-day trial. The money will go to the state of Michigan.

Flanory claimed his teeth and gums suffered because he was cut off from toothpaste at a prison in the Upper Peninsula. The state denied the allegations and said the Flint man had only five teeth when he entered prison.

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Operators of a Haiti orphanage are suing journalist Mitch Albom and one of his charities, claiming the best-selling author broke terms of an agreement about running the orphanage after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

The Caring and Sharing Mission charity and its Inkster, Michigan founder, the Reverend John Hearn, filed a lawsuit in a Pontiac court this week claiming the Detroit Free Press columnist and his A Hole in the Roof Foundation didn't follow an operating agreement they entered into with the Port-au-Prince mission after the quake.

Michigan’s Department of Human Services is being sued for failing to disclose to parents that their adoptive children had special needs and therefore qualified for federal aid.

David Kallman is an attorney representing 8 families in the case.  He says because they didn’t know their children had disabilities, so they missed a deadline to claim these benefits for their adopted children, and are now struggling with major medical bills.

He says the families love their kids and want to help them.   But the expenses are decimating them.

A spokesman for DHS says they can’t comment on the case, since the suit won’t be filed until tomorrow, but that they investigate all allegations into wrongdoing.

- Chris Edwards, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Rio TInto Eagle Mine, Oct. 2010
Rio Tinto Eagle Mine

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell has refused to halt construction of a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

In an order signed today, Bell rejected a request by the Huron Mountain Club, a private sportsmen's group, to stop work on the mine while the club's lawsuit works its way to trial.

The exclusive club owns about 19,000 acres of forest land in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County, including an 11-mile stretch of the Salmon Trout River, according to the AP.

Flagstar Bank branch in Ann Arbor
Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

Some current and former employees will get another chance to pursue a lawsuit against Flagstar Bank over company stock in their retirement accounts.

A federal appeals court has reinstated the case in Detroit federal court. The Troy-based bank is blamed for offering Flagstar stock to employees at a time when the bank was in perilous shape.

Flagstar's stock price lately has been under a dollar, compared with nearly $15 in 2007. The court says the lawsuit raises a "plausible claim" that Flagstar breached its fiduciary duty to employees during that time.

The bank has said workers made their own investment decisions.

Flagstar recently announced its first profitable quarter since 2008. It has 111 branches in Michigan.

stmarylansing.org

The Michigan Catholic Conference has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block an Obama administration rule that requires employer health plans to offer contraception coverage. The Catholic church opposes birth control.

The Catholic Conference offers health coverage to about 10,000 employees and their dependents at Catholic parishes, schools and charities across the state.

Paul Long is the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference.

“Inasmuch we provide this benefit, this mandate would be very restrictive upon us," Long said. "We felt that we needed to act in a way that was in keeping with who we are and being able to continue to provide the plan that we’ve always provided.”

The lawsuit says the contraception requirement violates the church’s religious freedom. It was filed at a federal court in Ohio. Franciscan University of Steubenville-Ohio is also part of the lawsuit.

John Klein Wilson / Michigan Radio

This past week, Michigan Radio's The Environment Report brought us a special series looking at the connections between cancer and the environment.

Producers looked at our current understanding of how the chemicals in our lives affect us, how neighbors in the White Lake area in West Michigan are mapping cancers, how some mothers in St. Clair County are asking why their children developed a rare type of cancer, how fights over potential carcinogens play out in court, and what scientists are doing to unlock the secrets of our genes.

They also collected stories of courage and warmth from those people affected by cancer around Michigan and posted their stories on a Tumblr page.

And finally, people were invited to ask questions in a "live-chat" with a noted expert on how some toxic substances might affect our health, Dr. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas.

Here is a roundup of the stories produced for this series:

J.D. Redding / wikimedia commons

A Livonia man has filed suit against a Detroit-area AMC movie theater over what he believes to be excessively high snack bar prices.

David Ashenfelter of the the Detroit Free Press reports that Joshua Thompson, a security technician and movie buff decided to pursue legal action after paying $8 for a Coke and a box of Goobers candy at the AMC Livonia theater recently.

According to Ashenfelter,  Thompson is seeking refunds for concession stand customers along with payment of a civil penalty by the theater for what he considers to be a violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

user H.L.I.T/Flickr

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the MCCA fee is $145 per driver. It is, in fact, $145 per insured vehicle. If you own, and insure, two cars, the fee would be $290.

 

A coalition of trial lawyers, unions and victim advocates is going to court seeking data on accidents and insurance payments.

Lawmakers who want to change Michigan’s no-fault insurance system say the current system is unsustainable. But fans of no-fault say the data will show the system is financially sound.

The problem is the information is held by an industry group that does not want to release the information. The group sets an annual assessment on drivers to pay the health care bills of the most-critically injured people.

“This knowledge is being hidden from us, from the Legislature, from the public," said George Sinas, a personal injury attorney who opposes plans to change no-fault. "We are deeply committed in this lawsuit in seeking an end, in seeking a lifting if you will of this shroud of secrecy.”  

Sinas says the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association should be forced to release the information because it was created by the Legislature, and because every driver has to pay the fee.

But the insurance industry disagrees.

"The MCCA is not a public body," said Pete Kuhnmuench, president if the Insurance Institute of Michigan, an industry association. "It’s not even a policymaking body. It’s a payment mechanism. It collects assessments from insurance companies and then it reimburses insurance companies for expenses they have relative to a private contract.”

Kuhnmuench says state insurance regulators make sure the MCCA assessment is fair and that consumers are protected. The MCCA assessment on every insured vehicle in Michigan is $145 this year.

Michael Tam / Flickr

The legal battle between Lansing-based law and some of its former students has deepened. Cooley Law School has been sued by four of its former students for claiming false job placement statistics. They say Cooley is misrepresenting data to improve the school’s image and get more students. Cooley sued the law firm representing the students last month for defamation. Kurzon Strauss law firm in New York had several online advertisements looking for information about Cooley and other law schools misrepresenting job placement numbers.

Jesse Strauss is a lawyer at Kurzon Strauss. He says their posts requesting information about Cooley were not defamatory.

“We regard the Thomas Cooley suit as a pure intimidation tactic – to sort of make us go away and stuff our investigation,” he said. “The whole suit is about our investigation. The postings that they point out were made when this firm was seriously contemplating litigation against them. We believe they are well aware of that.”

James Thelen is an associate dean at Cooley. He says in an email that the students’ allegations are “completely baseless.”

“We will vigorously defend this lawsuit and continue to pursue the defamation and other legal claims we filed against the Kurzon Strauss firm last month," Thelen said.

A similar lawsuit has been filed against New York Law School by three former students with Kurzon Strauss.

- Amelia Carpenter – Michigan Radio Newsroom

Three unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees have sued over a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to health insurance imposed by the district.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson tells The Detroit News the cuts are "an unprecedented power grab." Secretary's union President Ruby Newbold tells the Detroit Free Press employees will fight them any way they can.

The federal court suit seeks an injunction to block the changes, which were made under new state legislation expanding emergency financial managers' power.

The suit is against emergency financial manager Roy Roberts and state Treasurer Andy Dillon, who approved the cuts.

Roberts declines comment on the suit but says he's encouraged by the "overall attitude of the unions" in showing willingness to work with him.

s_falkow / Flickr

A Michigan law school has sued a law firm and a handful of bloggers for defamation. The Thomas M. Cooley Law School says four anonymous bloggers and individuals from Kurzon Strauss law firm in New York are hurting its reputation online. One blog questions the academic quality at Cooley, noting that many graduates do not find jobs. The law firm posted several advertisements naming Cooley as a law school that manipulates post-graduate student data. The firm has posted a retraction on at least one website.

Jim Thelen is an associate dean at Cooley. He says the statements cross the line.

"People using the internet and doing so anonymously - it appears to embolden some people to say more than what they would say if they had to put their name to it," Thelen said.

Thelen says he knows they can’t police the internet, but wants the posts taken down. A partner at Kurzon Strauss declined to comment.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Photo by Steve Carmody

A year ago... a ruptured pipeline spewed more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The crude oil had a big environmental impact. It also affected the lives of thousands of people living in the spill zone. The pipeline’s owners have spent the past year reimbursing many of them for their losses.

Wayne Groth says the odor of the oil was overpowering the first night. Talmadge Creek runs right past the home he and his wife Sue lived in for 22 years. The oil flowed down Talmadge Creek into the Kalamazoo River.

Groth says it wasn’t long after the spill that clipboard carrying employees of Enbridge started walking through his neighborhood, promising to clean up oil. He says they made another promise too...

“They said if you’re still not happy with the job... you could sell your property to them. They would buy it from us.”

Shelly T. / Flickr

UPDATE: 4:15 p.m. July 28, 2011

DuPont says its herbicide called Imprelis is responsible for tree injuries primarily on Norway spruce and white pines. They are addressing problems on a case by case basis.

ORIGINAL POST: 3:31 July 25, 2011

Three Michigan companies are suing DuPont for damages to trees on their property. It’s the first of at least four lawsuits against the chemical company. Damages linked to a DuPont-manufactured herbicide called Imprelis have been linked to dead and dying trees across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the chemical in 2010. Lawn care professionals say they’ve received complaints despite using Imprelis as directed. The EPA and DuPont are investigating claims.

Amy Frankmann is with the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association. She says not only are trees suffering – so are the reputations of landscapers.

"The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has gone out and investigated the claims that we’ve heard about and our members have done nothing wrong. So they’ve applied it according to label and our concern is that the industry is getting a black eye when they didn’t do anything wrong," Frankmann said.

Repairs for damages nationwide are projected to be in the millions of dollars.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

New America Foundation / Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency on behalf of a University of Michigan Professor. Juan Cole is a critic of the Bush administration and Iraq War. A former CIA official claims the Bush administration asked him to dig up some dirt on Cole in 2005 and 2006 to discredit his analysis of the government.

Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager law was highly controversial even before it was passed - and yesterday, a coalition of twenty-eight teachers, union members and private citizens filed suit, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

In their view, it violates the state constitution because it gives the executive branch power over the legislative, violating the separation of powers, something fundamental to both the United States and Michigan constitutions. To me, the only thing surprising about this suit was that it took so long to be filed.

This is not the first of the governor’s sweeping reforms to face a constitutional challenge. Lawsuits have already claimed the taxing of pensions is unconstitutional. Such cases can often take months or even years to wend their way through the court system. But in the case of the pension tax, to his credit, the governor requested a speedy decision from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The justices have agreed to hear the case in September, which is lightning speed in high court terms.

Getting this resolved quickly makes perfect sense, partly so that the state can try to figure out budget alternatives just in case the ruling goes against them.

Deciding this early should also prevent the endless cycle of hearings, injunctions and motions to lift injunctions.

But as long as the high court has agreed to an expedited decision on the constitutionality of the pension tax, it should give us a speedy ruling on the emergency financial manager bill as well.

Everything I know about our state’s highest court, and the experts I have talked to about this, makes me think it is highly likely the justices will rule in Governor Snyder’s favor in both cases.

user the consumerist / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

Pages