What would Halloween (or a Halloween-themed blog series) be without costumes? I have friends who, to this day, take the entire year to come up with some of the most impressive and painstakingly detailed getups I’ve ever seen. I, for one, was never an active crafter, so my options were (sadly) always store-bought.
My crafty costuming connoisseurs out there will appreciate a story about one Halloween costume project that went horribly, horribly wrong. One so wrong, in fact, that it ended with a products liability lawsuit.
Our story takes us back to the early 1980’s. Frank and Sue Ferlito, a husband and wife, dressed up as the famous fairytale duo: Little Bo Peep and her sheep*. For the sheep costume, Mrs. Ferlito put her DIY skills to work using long underwear, Elmer’s Glue, and cotton batting (manufactured by Johnson and Johnson) to make the costume. According to the opinion, Mr. Ferlito was head-to-toe in the cotton batting:
At the party, Mr. Ferlito was ‘itching’ for a cigarette. He and his wife left the party, and in a few clicks of a butane lighter, the flame accidentally caught the cotton batting on Mr. Ferlito’s sleeve. In seconds, the lamb costume was on fire. By the time they could put the costume out, Mr. Ferlito suffered burns that covered almost one-third of his body. According to the appeal, Mr. Ferlito underwent several surgeries to correct the damage from the fire.
After such a horrific happenstance, Bo Peep and her Sheep decided to sue Johnson and Johnson for products liability. Their claim? That Johnson and Johnson failed to warn them on the packaging that the cotton batting was as flammable as they discovered at the Halloween party. (Yes, really.)
In the original case, a jury awarded the Ferlitos $620,000 ($550,000 for Mr. Ferlito, and $70,000 for Mrs. Ferlito, respectively). Shortly after, a new trial was ordered, and the district court set aside the large sum. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit was still not convinced, and the case was extinguished. The couple could not prove that a flammability warning on the package for the cotton batting would have changed their actions on that fateful night. Unfortunately for the couple, with products liability, this was a critical component of winning the case.
According to the opinion, “[Mr. Ferlito] knew that cotton batting burned but emphasized that he did not know ‘how it burned’. His wife, who made the costume, also knew that cotton could burn, “[b]ut not burn that fast.” Additionally, Mr. Ferlito admitted that he ignored warning labels on his cigarettes, and was distracted by others in Halloween costumes outside when he went to light his cigarette.
In the end, the court didn’t decide whether a warning label was needed on the cotton batting and saved that question for another day. In this instance, the risk was obvious by the characteristics of the product.
So, creative costume crafters: be careful this Halloween!
Stay tuned for more exciting #LAWctober posts every Friday during the month of October! If you’re just joining us now, check out my earlier posts below:
- Jealousy. Murder. Siri?— http://goo.gl/ziGl00
- The Devil Made Me Sue It!— http://goo.gl/1eMMI7
*There is actually conflicting information in the original opinion and the appeal. The original opinion reports that the couple was “Mary and her little lamb,” on appeal…”Little Bo Peep and her Sheep.” Take your pick.Comments
Often times, we go through rough patches in our lives. Our whole world as we know it turns upside-down, and we feel like we aren’t in control. In most instances, we blame ourselves, our family, our job, or some other outlying factor. One Pennsylvania man blamed Satan…and he actually tried to sue him!
In 1971, an extremely distraught man named Gerald Mayo brought a real legal claim against “Satan and His Staff” claiming that “Satan has on numerous occasions caused [Mayo] misery and unwarranted threats against [his] will,” and “that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused [Mayo’s] downfall.” Additionally, Mayo attempted to raise a civil rights claim, because the “acts of Satan has deprived him of his constitutional rights.” Mayo attempted to file this complaint “in forma pauperis” which, translated from legalese, simply meant that he could not afford the court fees, but wished to proceed with the case anyway.
In its short (but somewhat humorous) reply, the PA court told Mayo he couldn’t sue the devil. First, the Court said it had serious doubts that Mayo’s claims could be ones that the court could help. Next, the court said that there was no known address of the Devil, except for one case in New Hampshire (making a slight nod to the short story “the Devil and Daniel Webster,” which was a fictional story about a man who sold his soul to the devil and who hired a famous attorney to break his contract)
picture adapted from “Daniel Webster and the Devil argue in court," a picture in the public domain and via Wikimedia Commons
Finally, the court mused that many people may have same or similar claims against the Devil, and that a class action (or the ability for everyone to sue at the same time for the same reasons) might be more appropriate in this case. Of course, if you want to read what the court said in its entirety, you can read the full document here.
So the next time the devil made you do it, don’t expect to point a legal finger at Satan…at least not in Pennsylvania, anyway!
Enjoying my Halloween posts so far? Stay tuned for more #LAWctober content every Friday this October! Follow technolawgical for updates!Comments
iPhone users can attest: we’ve all been there. We get bored and ask ridiculous questions to our “personal virtual assistant,” Siri. While, for the most part, Siri can be useful for checking the weather or sending a text, Siri is also amazing for answering some very random commands in some entertaining and tongue-in-cheek ways. One such command used to be “I need you to help me hide a body.” That was, until a recent murder case surfaced this past summer involving Siri as an unlikely accomplice.
Yes, you read that right: Murder.
In 2012, a young University of Florida student named Pedro Bravo was accused of murdering his friend, Christian Aguilar. The two men were reportedly at odds with each other because Aguilar was friends with Bravo’s ex-girlfriend. Their friendship turned sour, and soon Aguilar was reported missing. According to the news reports, prosecutors said that Bravo killed Aguilar by poisoning and strangulation and then left the body in a shallow grave an hour away from the university. The motive behind all of this was over jealousy surrounding Bravo’s ex girlfriend.
While a murder story is chilling and tragic in any capacity, there is an interesting technological twist. When Bravo’s phone was confiscated and searched for evidence, a peculiar screenshot showed up on Bravo’s phone that was dated at or around the time that Aguilar went missing.
Screenshot of the evidence file used during Bravo’s trial displaying the “I need to hide my roommate” command on Siri.
The search was “I need to hide my roommate,” and Siri’s snarky reply was: “What kind of place are you looking for? Swamps…Reservoirs…Metal Foundries…Dumps…Mines…” In addition to this Siri search, it was reported that Bravo’s phone flashlight was used nine times during the day the incident allegedly took place, and that GPS information from the phone subsequently disproved his alibi.
In more recent articles, there is a lot of debate surrounding whether the exchange between Bravo and Siri actually directly occurred. While there is no question that the screenshot was on the phone at or around the time that Aguilar went missing, Bravo’s phone (an iPhone 4) did not have Siri capabilities (this feature did not become a native element of the iPhone family until the 4s). Likewise, the screenshot depicted a phone using the AT&T Network. Bravo’s phone was from Verizon. Prosecutors soon realized that this was part of Facebook cache data of a Siri screenshot instead of an actual system prompt.
You can see the actual testimony here regarding the phone screenshot here:
YouTube video of the testimony via the Innovation News Center.
As of August, Bravo was charged with first degree murder of Aguilar and was sentenced to life in prison And as for Siri? Gone are the days of being an accomplice. Ask her where you can hide a body today and she will coyly tell you: “I used to know the answer to this…”
Stay tuned for more #LAWctober blog posts every Friday this October!Comments
Greetings Guys and Ghouls,
Ahh, fall is in the air. The leaves are changing, the air is getting chilly, and the pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING is in full bloom. The only thing left to make things feel more official is the start of all the Halloween-themed movie marathons, tv specials, decorations, costume parties, and haunted houses. And rightfully so; We’re finally in October…a month where some of the creepiest, most bizarre, and scariest things tend to happen. If you have a fascination with the macabre, everywhere you turn, you’ll be sure to find some of your favorite terrifying things.
And that includes here at technoLAWgical.
Since my Valentine’s Week was such a success, I’m coming back strong here at technoLAWgical with a whole MONTH of Halloween-themed posts.
Welcome, everyone, to the month of LAWctober!! Stay tuned every Friday this month (starting this Friday, October 3) for some tricks and treats involving some of my favorite supernatural, dark, and (sometimes) funniest legal cases. It’s been incredible researching these stories, so I hope you enjoy what this blog has in store for you.
Until then: grab a bag of candy corn and a pumpkin spice latte, and get ready. Friday will be here before you know it! :)
Well, hello there!
It’s been quiet here on the technoLAWgical blog. Not for lack of things to talk about, but for many exciting developments that I’m happy to announce today. Here are three things to get excited about:
1. I’m a Published Author!
I am officially a contributing author for two nationally published books. The first is a legal text book on data security and privacy law, and the other is a Computer Agreements form book for attorneys practicing in high-tech law that is part of a multi-volume set of form-books spanning all areas of the law.
For those interested in learning more about the publications, or to purchase a copy for yourself, click the links above!
2. I’m a National Speaker This Month!
For those interested in learning a thing or two about social media and ethics, I am a speaker for a national phone conference called “Ethics: Social Media Sanctions” on August 27th. The National Business Institute is holding the program, and (for all you attorneys out there) it will count as 1 CLE credit in qualifying jurisdictions.
To sign up for the national conference, be sure to check out this website:
3.There Are Lots of Cool Things on the Horizon (So Stay Tuned)
I have a few more projects in the works that I’ll be announcing soon. In the meantime, stay tuned to the blog and my social media feeds.
Likewise, if you are searching for a legal help for your startup or technology company, be sure to check out my solo practice’s website: technoLAWgical. The website explains a lot about my work as a solo lawyer and the types of law I generally practice.
As always, thanks for your support, your encouragement, and continued readership. Without you, my practice, blog, and everything else wouldn’t be possible.
Talk to all of you soon with an exciting new blog post! —MegComments
If you didn’t see the news, Wednesday, June 25 was a big day for privacy and technology law. The Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) ruled on two pivotal cases that greatly shape the way we legally encounter technology.
Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of these cutting edge issues in law? Here’s what you need to know:
The police arrested a man after finding loaded firearms in his car during a traffic stop. As a result of his arrest, his cellphone was confiscated and searched. The cellphone search revealed incriminating evidence that led the police to charge the man with additional criminal charges.
What Was the Problem?
The police didn’t get a warrant (which is a fancy term for a document granting official permission) to search the man’s cellphone, and the man felt that he was entitled to his privacy on the device.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an arrested person has the right to privacy for the information in his cellphone. Cellphones contain intimate information surrounding a person’s life, and so police must go through the required, governmental formalities to access this information.
How This Affects Us?
This is a very significant case for law enforcement practices and privacy. For the first time in history, we have a definitive answer as to how private our information is treated on our cellphones. Traditionally, courts disagreed with whether an arrested person has privacy in his cellphone information. In the future, police will be required to get a warrant if they want to search through someone’s cellphone, or they will risk serious legal repercussions.
An up and coming startup named ‘Aereo’ created a new way to watch broadcast television live on the internet. Aereo gave its subscribers an antenna that received data from shows played over the air. As live shows broadcasted over the air, Aereo downloaded a “personal copy” of the program to the subscriber’s account where it could be streamed on a variety of devices.
What Was the Problem?
Aereo’s subscription service gave users access to copyrighted content. The company didn’t pay licensing fees, nor did it believe it should. Although it created an innovative way to capture and stream media, the companies that owned the rights to the content believed that Aereo was using their material in violation of copyright law.
The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that Aereo was committing copyright infringement. The Court equated Aereo’s service with cable television, which falls within the scope of copyright law.
How Does this Affect Us?
Looking to start up a streaming service like Aereo in the future? Proceed with caution. Now that copyright issues surrounding Aereo have been discussed by the Supreme Court, there will likely be more restrictions surrounding services that attempt to offer copyrighted content without first paying the licensing fees.
For more information, check out the full decisions here:Comments
This past Sunday was Star Wars Day…and for those who might have missed it, May the Fourth Be With You!
Our story takes us back to 2002 when Ghyslain Raza, a young Canadian high school student armed with a golf ball retriever and a video camera, recorded himself in his school’s AV department. What came from this recording session was a video that was arguably the first of its kind to grow viral on the internet:
Screenshot of Raza’s viral video, “The Star Wars Kid,” Circa 2002. Click the screenshot to view the video (external link to YouTube).
Screenshot of the Arrested Development, “Star Wars Kid” Parody Circa 2013. Click the screenshot to view the video (external link to YouTube).
Raza, circa 2010, overcame his hardships and graduated from law school, among other accomplishments (via Motherboard)
(pic: artworksbytb, “,” May 11, 2012, via Flickr, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License.)