Author Archive

PayPal says U.K. customer breached her contract by dying

“You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit,” the letter said, “as we have received notice that you are deceased.” Not only that, it continued, “[t]his breach is not capable of remedy.” Despite the recipient’s status as no longer living, the letter included an instruction to “READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY.” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar; Leo Kelion, BBC]

Be a guestblogger for Overlawyered

Summer is here and with it two opportunities to join us as a guestblogger for a week of posting, beginning as early as next week. Authors of newly published books and scholarly work in our fields of interest are particularly welcome. If you’re interested, contact editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com.

Citing 2002 federal law, MGM Resorts names Las Vegas shooting victims in suit

MGM Resorts, which operates the Mandalay Bay hotel casino in Las Vegas, has invoked a law passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to ask for a ruling that it is not liable to more than 1,000 victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre during which a gunman in a Mandalay Bay room killed 58 people and injured nearly 500. The Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002 limits claims against some makers of security equipment and sends lawsuits against such firms by terror victims to federal court. According to a critic, MGM is taking a broad view of the law’s provisions, claiming its protection because it employed a security vendor with SAFETY Act certification and because the shooting was an act of “mass violence.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security “has not designated the Las Vegas shooting a terrorist attack.”

The use of declaratory judgment and similar processes, familiar from fields like insurance law, can lead to public relations damage, especially if aimed at parties minding their own business who had not filed a claim or action and might never have done so. It is not clear from coverage how many of the 1,000+ persons named in MGM’s legal filings had evinced no intent to file claims or suits; a suit against MGM was filed last November on behalf of 450 victims. [Jason Tashea, ABA Journal; Rachel Crosby, Las Vegas Review-Journal]

July 18 roundup

U.S. House moves to side with religious agencies in adoption debate

Three years ago I took a critical view of the trend in many states and cities toward excluding from publicly funded adoptive placement of kids in public care relatively conservative religious agencies that decline to handle placements to families outside their belief group, to non-traditional families such as same-sex couples and single parents, or both. In recent years the ACLU and like-minded groups have stepped up the pressure with lawsuits in states like Michigan aimed at excluding these groups from access to public money unless they take all kinds of families.

Now a bill called the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881/S.B. 811), passed by the House of Representatives as a rider on the pending Labor/HHS appropriations bill, would prohibit states from taking adverse action against foster care and adoption agencies on the grounds that they refuse to engage in referrals, placements or other services that conflict with their religious or moral convictions. States found to have violated the rule would be subject to loss of 15 percent of their federal child welfare funding. The rule broadly prohibits “discriminating or taking an adverse action against” agencies and would give agencies broad legal remedies including attorneys’ fees.

I haven’t had a chance yet to review all the details of the bill, which in any case would need approval of the Senate and President before becoming law. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have papers in favor of the measure and Human Rights Campaign against.

In the mean time a well reported, balanced piece by Gillian Friedman on the controversy mentions tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Cato conference in D.C. on adoption policy [Deseret News; more/related, Bobby Ross, Jr., Religion News Service in March] The panel on this subject leads off the conference, and includes Assistant Professor Stephanie Barclay of the J. Reuben Clarke School of Law at Brigham Young University; Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director at the Human Rights Campaign; Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois College of Law; and me.

Janus aftermath roundup

I join Dr. Saurabh Jha to discuss law, medicine, and American tort history

A noteworthy podcast: I join Dr. Saurabh Jha [@RogueRad on Twitter] for an lengthy discussion of how American tort and medical malpractice law has changed over the past century, similarities and differences with Britain, how ethics in the legal field stacks up against ethical trends in medicine and the pharmaceutical business, contingency fees, the successes and shortcomings of legislated tort reform, trends in the courts, incentives for medical testing, and much more. It’s all part of Dr. Jha’s podcast series, associated with the Journal of the American College of Radiology. You can listen here.

Land use and real estate roundup

  • Political fight brewing in California over ballot initiative that would pave way for bringing back rent control [Michael Hendrix, City Journal]
  • “Metes and bounds” method of describing legal property boundaries has been much derided, but new archival research from American colonial period suggests its benefits then were greater and costs lower than might appear [Maureen (Molly) Brady, SSRN, forthcoming Yale Law Journal] Just for fun: street grid orientation (or lack thereof) in major cities expressed as polar charts [Geoff Boeing]
  • “Alexandria, Virginia Gets Housing Affordability Wrong” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato]
  • Houston does not zone but it does subsidize deed restrictions. Is that good? [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
  • Great moments in historic preservation: “Silver Lake gas station moves toward landmark status” but connoisseurs say it’s not nearly as choice as the three service stations previously landmarked in L.A. [Curbed Los Angeles]
  • “America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation” [Scott Beyer]

New York’s very broad cyberbullying bill 2.0

An earlier cyberbullying bill in New York was struck down by the state’s highest court as in violation of the First Amendment, and now a new version… well, let’s just say that it has free speech problems too, which don’t get conjured away just because a person named in and distressed by speech is a minor [Eugene Volokh, Eric Turkewitz first post with explanatory followup, Scott Greenfield first and second posts, earlier]

“Guardians from Hell”

More, this time from Michigan, on how guardianship in the wrong hands can turn into a “completely legal, utterly grotesque system for undermining the rights of the elderly,” cutting out kids and legitimate heirs. Last fall the New Yorker ran a chilling investigative piece by Rachel Aviv exposing guardianship abuses in Nevada. [Gretchen Rachel Hammond, Tablet; coverage last October of the Rachel Aziz piece]