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New frontiers in litigation

The dog days of summer have brought forth a number of notable lawsuits and legal proceedings – some merely interesting, and others pretty unusual.

Videogame addiction

In Hawaii, one Craig Smallwood has sued both the maker and publisher of a video game called Lineage II. Smallwood claims he became addicted to the game over the course of some 20,000 hours of play, and the game makers failed to warn him that Lineage II was addictive.



A federal district court judge has dismissed four of Smallwood’s eight claims, allowing the case to go forward on claims of defamation, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

Killer whale case




Readers may recall the tragic death of a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando earlier this year. A killer whale dragged her into the tank, where she died as a result of drowning and traumatic injuries.

Now, a New Hampshire couple is suing SeaWorld, alleging their 10-year-old son suffered emotional distress from witnessing the attack. The parents claim their son Bobby, who was celebrating his birthday at SeaWorld, had bonded with the trainer and was traumatized by seeing her dragged under the water.

SeaWorld has not commented on the lawsuit.

One wonders how insurance premiums and ticket charges might escalate if, whenever there was a traumatic accident at, say, an auto race, football game or rodeo, damages could be recovered not only by persons physically injured but also thousands of other spectators.

Campaign $$$ for judges

Unlike federal judges, California state court jurists are popularly elected. California judges and their challengers frequently engage in campaign fund-raising.

The California Legislature now has passed a bill that would disqualify a judge from hearing cases involving a party or attorney who had contributed $1,500 or more to the judge’s previous election campaign, if the campaign took place within the preceding six years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until the end of the month to sign the bill.

Diamond price-fixing

A diamond is forever, the advertising campaign says; but litigation over diamonds may also have a life of its own.

After protracted legal proceedings, a $295 million settlement was reached in a class action alleging that diamond company De Beers SA engaged in price fixing.

However, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the settlement in July, on the ground the trial court had not properly analyzed whether the case should go forward as a class action.

The Second Circuit has now agreed to reconsider the panel’s decision at an “en banc” hearing – which is a circuit court rehearing conducted before a panel of about a dozen judges.

Blockbuster busted?

Blockbuster Inc. has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has defaulted on a bond interest payment, causing some analysts to predict Blockbuster may file for bankruptcy as early as the end of September.

The video chain has faced increasing competition from other types of movie services.


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