Thursday, February 27, 2014

Question of Law or Fact?

Here is an interesting juxtaposition of articles.  In a trial in Michigan challenging the constitutionality of Michigan's state constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage, expert testimony has been elicited that same sex couples can be competent parents:

At about the same time, in a brief filed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case where a US District Court judge struck down Oklahoma's same sex marriage ban, a legal argument was advanced claiming that same sex marriage is bad for children. 

So, is the effect of same sex marriage on children a question of fact or of law? 

Michigan case:

Oklahoma case:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Topless Deep Sea Fishing Trip Contract?

There's a post title that will draw attention!  Does the pictured written memorandum memorialize a contractual obligation?

What are the issues?

1. Consideration: Was a ride on the topless deep sea fishing trip provided in exchange for the I.O.U. promise?  Or is this a promise to provide a gift to a friend in the future?

2. Condition and Performance: "When I graduate" and "when I have money" appear to be conditions precedent to performance.  What if he never graduates, yet acquires money?  What if he graduates but never has money? How much money is enough to be considered "having money"?

3. Sufficiently Certain and Definite: How much money is to be paid for the described event? Why not simply state the amount to be paid?  Or is the amount to be determined in reference to price of the trip on the future day of payment?  Who goes topless?

4. Legality: Did this trip originate in a place where topless-ness is legal? Or was the topless part of the activity to take place outside of the territorial waters of the US?

5. Capacity:  Was there any intoxication issue? Does it appear to be sufficient to affect contractual capacity?

Maybe it should be an exam question.

Source of image: Total Frat Move


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chinese Company Understands Profit, But Not Product Liability

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a District Court ruling that there is personal jurisdiction in US courts over a Chinese drywall manufacturer.  If you are not familiar with the legal, environmental and health issues related to Chinese drywall use in US buildings, click here for a summary, or watch the ABC video report below

Apparently the company never responded to this lawsuit and was subjected to a default judgment.  They claim that they did not understand the implications of the lawsuit.  As the judge noted, that's what American law firms are for.

Chinese Drywall Report from ABC:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fired For Observing Patriotic Flag Protocol

Federal Law states:

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. 

4 U.S.C. section 8.

Rick Heilman, a 22 year Navy veteran, noticed the National flag flying outside his work place was tattered.  He asked his manager if he could take the flag down until a replacement was obtained.  He was twice told, "no."  After thinking about it over the weekend, he returned to work on Monday and took down the flag. Whereupon, he was fired for insubordination.

According to the news report:

Yearwood Equipment Company’s management would not speak on camera, but did reiterate that Heilman was not fired for replacing the flag. 

Right! He was NOT fired for replacing the flag. He was fired for replacing the flag after his boss told him not to, even though replacing the flag was the right thing to do.

Is it tuh-MAY-toe or toe-MAH-toe?

Of course, the employment-at-will doctrine protects the employer, allowing employee dismissal for good reason, for no reason and even for a bad reason.  Some states recognize public policy exceptions to employment at will for employees who are fired for engaging in an important public activity. North Carolina law ought to recognize that displaying proper respect for the national flag trumps the superficial bruising of a boss's ego.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Truth in Advertising: Still Lovin' It?

BuzzFeed has produced a video comparing the food pictured in McDonald's commercials to what the restaurant actually serves. Not surprisingly, there appears to be a substantial difference between what is advertised and what is delivered. Do the advertised images exceed the limits of expected "puffery" to be factually deceiving? That sounds like a discussion question for class.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dam**ed Contracts, Again!

We've been experiencing a horrible winter in the Northeast, as well as elsewhere, with snowfall accumulations far exceeding normal ranges.  Last week on a day when the all the schools in Connecticut closed and the governor told state employee to stay home from work (except those whose job included cleaning up the snow) and urged all other people to stay off the roads, one important social institution braved the elements  - the mall was open.  The Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester Connecticut was open, and because tenants have clauses in their leases that they are subject to "heavy fines" if the stores are closed when the mall is open, all the stores required their employees to defy the governor's request and risk life, limb, and property damage to open their stores. Thankfully, most people resisted the normally overwhelming impulse to buy overpriced handbags or trendy clothing in a blizzard and stayed home.  The mall closed early sending the intrepid employees back out to brave the elements in order to get home.

It's a good thing that contract law imposes the "reasonable person" standard on the interpretation of contracts because left to their own devices, we apparently can't count on people to act reasonably.

Click here or on the image below to see the video news report:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dam**d Contracts!

A college student participating in a half-time promotion sunk an incredible one handed half-court shot as time expired on the contest. However, he won't collect the $10,000 prize money. The contest required the contestant to sink a layup, a free throw, a three point shot and a half-court shot in the allotted time to win the prize. But the contract said that while the contestant could have as many attempts as time allowed for the first three shots, he was allowed only one attempt at the half court shot. Unfortunately for the contestant, the one handed fall away banker came after he missed his first attempt at the half court shot.  The school bought an insurance policy for the contest and they say the insurer will not pay.  Dam**d Contracts!

Click on the image below to watch the drama unfold:

This video has been on and off the internet several times already, so here is another link just in case. And another.

Read the contract:
Student who sank miraculous half-court shot likely won’t collect any prize money
copy of contract via West Chester athletic director Edward Matejkovic

Monday, February 17, 2014

Three New Ethics Videos Unwrapped

This blog has previously featured the Ethics Unwrapped website from the University of Texas. The site is now linked in the menu on the left side of the blog.  Professor Robert Prentice advises readers that the site has added three new videos:

We have just released three new videos on Moral Myopia, Moral Muteness, and Moral Imagination, with content provided by Dr. Minette Drumwright, who teaches ethics at the University of Texas's McCombs School of Business and Moody School of Communication.  As always, the videos are free for all to use.

Moral Myopia:

Friday, February 14, 2014


Serial murderer and his baton twirling girlfriend face society's retribution.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Investigation

Racial profiling may not be an appropriate topic for humor.  However, human fallibility, innate prejudices and the extraordinary workings of the brain to block out what it doesn't think it needs may be.

Click here or on the image below to see a clip from Everybody Hates Chris:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A-Rod Drops ADR Challenge

NY Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez has apparently withdrawn his lawsuits filed as an "appeal" of an arbitrator's ruling that suspends him from playing for the entire 2014 season as a penalty for using performance enhancing drugs. Legal commentators are not surprised.  The lawsuit had zero chance of success.  It is one of the hallmarks of arbitration that appeals of arbitrator's rulings cannot merely allege that the arbitrator was wrong. The arbitrator could have made his decision based on the testimony of a witness who said that heard from a guy who was abducted by space aliens that the aliens supplied A-Rod with the PEDs, and the decision would not likely be overturned. Unless there was fraud or extortion or some other similarly untoward conduct by the arbitrator or the arbitrator exceeded the parameters of the dispute submitted to him or her for resolution, the courts will not disturb the arbitrator's ruling.  That is why the issue of mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts is so important.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Your Kid Has a Snow Day? You're Fired!

The article here recounts this story. The thrust of the article is that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) needs to be amended to protect workers in this situation.  The article doesn't even mention the employment-at-will doctrine which justifies employee dismissals for any reason or no reason.  The FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. EAW applies to everyone. The point of advocacy here should be to advocate for emergency child care as an important public obligation within the exceptions to the EAW doctrine.

FMLA basics:

US one of the worst in the developed world when it comes to supporting pregnant women:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Flash! Flash! Speed Trap Ahead!

A federal judge has ruled that a driver's act of flashing lights at oncoming drivers is protected free speech and may not be punished by government. The case comes from the US District Court in Missouri.

Jonathan Turley, a criminal attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School, said courts across the country are dealing with the same issue. In virtually every case except those still being decided, the person cited has prevailed, Turley said.

While flashing lights might be legal, is it ethical? Who is being helped? What public purpose does it serve? Shouldn't speeders be caught and punished?  If ethics is the communal sense of right and wrong, does it matter if you are a member of the community of drivers or the greater community of citizens of the area - including children, elderly, disabled and non-drivers who are at risk from speeders?  How many times has an innocent driver been injured or even killed because a speeding driver lost control and crossed the center line? You might think that you are helping out a fellow driver, but are you really part of the problem?

Just thinking...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Insurance Sales Songs

Brutal honesty! Watch out for salty language like, "F**k Me!"  You have to cut the guy some slack, he's trying to make a living selling insurance on commission:

Love insurance salesman assisted by barbershop quartet wielding therapeutic canes and field hockey sticks:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Foibles of Federalism; The Legal/Illegal Environment of Cannibus

Marijuana is now either legalized, legalized for medical use or decriminalized by state law in nearly one-half of the United States. However, it is still illegal under federal law. The US Supreme Court determined in Gonzales v. Raich that the powers granted the federal government in the Commerce Clause support federal legislative authority to act. The years since that case have seen troughs and peaks of federal enforcement, promises not to enforce and those promises broken.  Now as businesses begin the  task of selling marijuana under state law, they discover that banks are unwilling to handle their money. Fearful of running afoul of federal law and facing disciplinary action or worse, federally licensed banks are refusing to handle marijuana money that is legally obtained under state law but are illegal proceeds of a crime under federal law. The DOJ recently promised to give banks guidance on how to legally handle this money without risking enforcement action. Banks are skeptical. These are the kinds of policy promises that have been broken before and, of course, are non-binding on future administrations who can prosecute past actions.  So it looks like marijuana dispensary entrepreneurs will be burying a lot of cash in coffee cans in their backyards.  The more things change . . .

Warning: This video includes the word "f**k"

Is this how legal recreational use of marijuana will affect businesses?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shocking Lack of Ethics in Politics

This story involves a shocking violation of any conceivable ethical standard.  But it involves politics, not business. Once again, if these are the people who make laws, then what hope do we have that they would give a hoot about using law to mandate ethical conduct.

Apparently, Republicans in Florida have made a website that looks like a site for Democratic Congressional candidate Alex Sink.  However, when you click on the button to donate, you are actually pledging money to her opponent.

As reported by The Cloakroom:

The Tampa Bay Times interviews one donor who thought he was giving to Alex Sink's (D) congressional campaign. It even used the same blue and green color scheme as the candidate's official website.
Said the donor: "It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site."
But he didn't see the small print, which said, "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." 

See candidate Sink's actual website, here.  Read The Daily Kos report and see images from the fake site here.  See NRCC website  to defeat Sink here.

Image from Alex Sink's site:

Image from NRCC site:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Politics is Crazy and Politicians Make Law

According to their responses at a recent candidates forum, three candidates for the Republican nomination to run for the US Senate in Georgia would support a resolution to impeach President Obama if they had the opportunity to vote on one.  The most prominent among the candidates is Rep. Paul Broun. Rep. Broun,  was the subject of a post in this blog when, as reported by the Huffington Post, he famously opined:

"God's word is true. I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell," said Broun, who is an MD. "It's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

Remember, these people make laws. When studying the Legal Environment of Business, it does a disservice to our student for us to focus entirely on the judicial process while ignoring the legislative process. The AACSB Accreditation Standard #9 requires as part of the Undergraduate Curriculum content:
  We are not so naive as to believe the Civic's Class maxim that the law is insulated from politics. Let's make sure our student get a thorough education as well.

Click here or on image to see video of Broun and others "voting" for impeachment:

Monday, February 3, 2014

27 Amendments in 27 Days

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is sponsoring daily spotlights on all 27 Constitutional Amendments.  The series, entitled 27 Amendments in 27 days, began this past Saturday, Feb 1st. Each day's offering includes lesson plans, educational resources and guides.  Perhaps there is something there that you may use in class.