Siri, that often frustrating, sometimes helpful help function embedded on Apple technologies may have her day in court. Of course, the lawyers are still wrangling over whether or not Siri’s potential role in a murder is admissible in court.
When I think of Siri, I can’t help thinking of that anonymous version played so well by Scarlett Johansson in the recent movie “Her” (Man, was she efficient!) If Johansson’s version of the digital Dora had been on the job, the murder charges against Pedro Bravo might never have materialized. However, that is not the case. And on that note—to the case—the murder trial of Pedro Bravo who allegedly murdered his roommate, friend and fellow student Christian Aguilar and then asked Siri for help on how to hide the body.
The backstory is that Bravo allegedly strangled Aguilar in his SUV while in the parking lot of WalMart. Yes—why do it in the comfort and privacy of your own home? Both men are/were students at the University of Florida. The incident reportedly took place on or around September 20, 2012. After 20-year old Bravo murdered his friend, he is then alleged to have driven to a forest in nearby Levy County to bury Aguilar, whose body was later found with metallic tape looped around his wrists and near his feet.
Original? No. And the reason for that may be Bravo’s virtual accomplice. Apparently, investigators have produced evidence which show that at the time of Aguilar’s murder Bravo woke Siri on his iPhone saying “I need to hide my roommate.” (wonder if the programmers at Apple anticipated that one…)
It must have seemed like a reasonable idea at the time—as reasonable as murdering your roommate for dating your ex-girlfriend.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Siri responded to Bravo’s request, giving suggestions like: “Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps.”
Of course cell phone activity is trackable, and apparently prosecutors have presented evidence that Bravo was using his cell phone in locations and times that contradict his alibi.
According to the Gainsville Sun, investigators believe Bravo also activated his iPhone’s flashlight function during the time he was burying Aguilar’s body in the woods. A useful app, by the way—I use mine in to read menus in dimly lit restaurants …
So, all this has kicked up a firestorm of controversy over whether or not Siri’s data is admissible in court.
Speaking to the Sun, defense attorney Stephen Bernstein said that the iPhone evidence—including location data obtained by Verizon— should not be shown to a jury because the employee who prepared the data wasn’t called to testify. Bravo has a constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to confront his accusers in criminal court. This right typically works with the common law rule against allowing hearsay evidence.
So, if Bravo ‘s attorneys are unable to question the Verizon technician(s) who prepared the iPhone/Siri data, including which cell towers Bravo’s iPhone connected to the night of the murder, Bravo could argue he has no way to test the reliability of that evidence. In which case, Bravo’s camp may be able to appeal the introduction of the cell site data, which is currently a matter of contention in federal court.
But what about Siri? Apparently, if the data is not unduly prejudicial (how could the statement “I need to hide my roommate” not be?) and is not offered to prove the allegation that Bravo did effectively make the request of Siri, (how would that work?) then the Siri evidence may be properly admitted. Um.
So, is Siri a virtual accomplice? I think not, but at some point all this smart technology really could end up burying the lot of us.
Hey Bud–this one’s for you! The maker of Budweiser—Anheuser-Busch—is facing an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit filed in California federal court alleging the company failed to pay its drivers overtime. The lawsuit was filed by Charles Hill and Joe Correa, each of whom drove delivery trucks for Anheuser-Busch in California, allege “Anheuser-Busch’s violations … were willful and intentional.” They are also claiming that the beverage giant implemented pay structure that discouraged workers from taking required meal breaks and rest periods, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California labor law. Nice! But we know this song…you work the hours, you don’t get paid, you can’t take your meal and rest breaks…. Why do so many big corporations have such a hard time paying their people? What is that about? Try it and see if you can get away with it? Then so much the better?
Well, not in this case…According to the Anheuser-Busch lawsuit, Hill has worked for Anheuser-Busch from about June 1999 through to the present, and Correa from 1985. During this time, a typical day work day for them involved picking up alcoholic beverages from a storage facility and delivering them to retail locations throughout the state of California. Drivers are allegedly paid a flat rate per day plus about 10 cents per case for every case delivered. Hill and Correa claim that the drivers can often work between eight to ten hours per day, which results in more than 40 hours per week, yet they are not compensated for the overtime.
Further, the lawsuit claims that despite there being a written policy in place regarding employees being able to take meal and rest breaks, Anheuser-Busch refused to allow the drivers to take them. The company further established a payment structure discouraging its drivers from taking meal and rest breaks because it would be impossible to be paid for the time.
The plaintiffs also allege the company does not pay its drivers for all hours worked including regular hours, because the company locates its clock out location in a remote area “to encourage drivers to clock out prior to finishing all their work.”
“The drivers routinely would clock out first and then proceed to the warehouse to finish their work duties [saving] them a trip back to the clock-out location,” the lawsuit states. “Anheuser-Busch knew about this practice but continued to allow the drivers to perform the work.”
The nitty gritty—the class action lawsuit seeks to represent all Anheuser-Busch truck drivers who drove routes exclusively in California during a four-year period prior to the filing of the instant case.
Additionally, the plaintiffs seek to represent a second “rest break” class comprised of all Anheuser-Busch’s California drivers who were paid a flat daily rate plus a piece rate for each case delivered over the course of the same four year period.
The FLSA claims are being brought as a collective action for Anheuser-Busch drivers during a three-year period preceding the complaint. The case is Charles Hill et al v. Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide Inc., case number 2:14-cv-06289, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Failure to WARN? Some 400 employees—sorry—ex-employees at Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) allege they were just laid off in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Law (WARN ACT) act, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit just filed. The plaintiffs are alleging the company has also violated California labor law when it laid off those factory workers—which incidentally total about 11% of the company workforce—without proper notice.
FYI—The WARN ACT requires that every industrial or commercial establishment in California that employed 75 or more people in the last 12 months “may not order a mass layoff [defined as 50 or more employees in a 30 day period], relocation, or termination at a covered establishment unless, 60 days before the order takes effect” the employer gives written notice of the order to the employees, California “Employment Development Department, the local workforce investment board, and the chief elected official of each city and county government within which the termination, relocation, or mass layoff occurs.”
Filed by employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, the lawsuit is seeking class action status and damages for back pay, wages, injunctive relief, restitution, and civil penalties for illegal mass layoffs of 200 to 400 factory workers on or about July 21st.
Go get ‘em!
FedEx Ground will be delivering $2.1 million in funds as settlement of a California labor law class action lawsuit brought. Filed by a group of current and former package handlers, the lawsuit alleged the company failed to provide proper meal and rest breaks.
Lead plaintiff Aaron Rangel alleged in the class action filed in September 2013, that FedEx Ground Package System Inc., was in violation of the California Labor Code and the state’s Unfair Competition Law.
As part of the settlement motion, about $7,500 will be set aside as an award for Rangel. Additionally, FedEx will be required to clarify its meal and rest period policies, which the agreement says could itself be worth $100,000.
Rangel, a former FedEx employee, said FedEx was required, but failed to provide, class members who worked two shifts in a workday a meal period, as well as a second rest period. He also said FedEx failed to provide pay employees for time spent in security checks.
If approved, the settlement will provisionally certify a class of current and former nonexempt FedEx package handlers in California who worked for the shipping company at any time from Sept. 24, 2009, through either Sept. 1, 2014, or the date of preliminary settlement approval, whichever is earlier.
The settlement agreement weighs a worker’s share based on whether he or she was a part-time or full-time employee, with more money going toward those who were full-time or who worked more than one four-hour shift in a workday. It also gives more money to former employees who were entitled to waiting time compensation.
If there is any unclaimed money, it will not revert back to FedEx, but instead be allocated toward those who did claim a share of the settlement fund, according to the terms of the agreement.
The case is Aaron Rangel v. FedEx Ground Package System Inc et al, case number 8:13-cv-01718, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Ok – Folks –time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend –see you at the bar!
A roundup of recent asbestos-related news and information that you should be aware of. An ongoing list of reported asbestos hot spots in the US from the Asbestos News Roundup archive appears on our asbestos map.
Recently, Bayshore Broadcasting published a report about new developments with the demolition of the former Hillcrest Public School in Orillia, Canada. According to the article, asbestos has been discovered in the structure and building materials. Consequently, the structure is being demolished to make way for the construction of a new playground and park.
For many years, asbestos was added to a number of common building materials to increase their strength and durability, and to provide insulating and fireproofing properties. Many older buildings across Canada still have materials that contain asbestos in them. Some of the many materials that may contain asbestos in older structures include:
• Attic and wall insulation containing vermiculite
• Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring
• Roofing and siding shingles
• Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
• Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets
• Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
• Oil and coal furnace insulation and door gaskets
• Heat-resistant fabrics
When asbestos-containing materials age or are disturbed, they can become friable and asbestos fibers can become airborne. During remodeling and demolition activities, such as at the former Hillcrest Public School, these materials can be easily disturbed and become airborne. If not properly handled, these fibers can pose a threat to workers and other building occupants and in this situation could have created a hazard in the soil of the new playground and park if the asbestos had not been identified and properly managed.
Flint, MI: An out of state law firm has initiated asbestos testing for thousands of former GM employees. Begun some four months ago, the firm reportedly wants to test workers who their current health problems are related to exposure. The firm is paying for the testing, which consists of two x-rays.
In cases where people test positive, they become eligible to receive money from as many as 47 asbestos trusts that have established for this very reason. The amount of financial compensation varies from person to person, depending on the severity of symptoms that are found to be directly related to asbestos.
In cases where peoples test results are negative they don’t owe any money for the testing.
According to the attorney heading up the effort, thousands of GM employees were exposed to asbestos if they worked at GM plants from the 1960′s to 1982. (ABC12.com)
St. Clair County, IL: Danny Balensiefen has filed an asbestos lawsuit alleging Crane Company, Foster Wheeler Corporation and dozens of other defendants are responsible for his diagnosis of asbestos lung cancer. Balensiefen was diagnosed with asbestos-induced lung cancer on May 9.
According to his complaint, Balensiefen was exposed to asbestos by products designed, manufactured, marketed and sold by the defendant companies and used in his employment in various capacities, including laborer at an auto repair shop, clerk at Safeway Groceries, truck driver at Eagle Motor Lines and laborer at several other companies.
Balensiefen is seeking more than $50,000 in damages. (madisoncountryrecord.com)
Medina, OH: RPM International Inc. settled a lawsuit that resolves personal injury asbestos-related claims related to Bondex International, Inc.
The agreement calls for a plan of reorganization with the United States Bankruptcy Court. Under the terms of the agreement a $450 million trust will be established for the benefit of the asbestos claims. Over the next fours years RPM will deposit an additional $347.5 million into the trust fund.
RPM’s industrial products include roofing systems, sealants, corrosion control coatings, flooring coatings and specialty chemicals. Industrial brands include Stonhard, Tremco, illbruck, Carboline, Flowcrete, Universal Sealants and Euco. RPM’s consumer products are used by professionals and do-it-yourselfers for home maintenance and improvement and by hobbyists. (woodworkingnetwork.com)
Martinsburg, WV: The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has cited The Veterans AffairsMedical Center near Martinsburg for improperly disposing of asbestos-containing material.
The debris was discovered July 21 by Greenfield Enterprises while the general contractor was working on demolition of a concrete slab in the boiler plant, according to information released by the DEP and provided by Krista Bowen, an industrial hygienist with the medical center.
The material was spotted in soil along the rear wall of the boiler plant, according to information provided to the state. Work was stopped on the day the debris was spotted and appropriate measures were taken to cordon off and wet down the area, officials said.
The work was being done as part of upgrades to the boiler plant, which is about as far away from the hospital building as you can get on the medical campus, medical center spokesman Michael J. McAleer said.
The contractor began demolition work on the concrete slab on July 11, according to the DEP.
A DEP notice of violation was issued July 24 by inspector Michael Kanehl, according to a copy of the notice released by the agency. (heraldmailmedia.com)
So, who saw this coming? The monkey, perhaps? An Indonesian monkey took a selfie with a wildlife photographer’s camera, and it’s raising some interesting copyright law questions, specifically—who owns the image?
David Slater, the British wildlife photographer whose camera was used by the monkey while he was on assignment in 2011, believes that he has ownership of the image. The backstory—he was setting up his camera equipment to photograph a crested black macaque monkey, according to The Huffington Post, when the monkey grabbed Slater’s camera and began taking photographs, including a pretty good selfie.
Of course the selfie is posted online and goes viral (wonder if Monkey has a Facebook page?). Not surprisingly, Slater assumes he owns the copyright to the selfie. Uh, apparently not, according to Wikipedia.
Yes—Wikipedia has posted the picture on its site as well as on Wikimedia Commons, an arm of the Wikimedia Foundation that posts photos that are in the public domain and therefore free to use, the Huff Post reports. When Slater requested that Wikimedia take the photo down, arguing that the copyright belongs to him, and that he should be paid for the use the photo—every time it’s used—as is normally the case—Wikipedia said—“No”—won’t take it down, can’t make us, the picture belongs to everyone.”
Wait just a banana-picking moment there sunshine…
HuffPo spoke with attorney Josh Bressler, who specializes in intellectual property law. He said the “author” of a photograph is the person who has “contributed the expressive content.”
The nitty gritty, according to Bressler, is that a monkey is not considered a person under the law, and only a person can be an “author.” Legally speaking, only humans and corporations are “people.” Animals, on the other hand, are considered property, not people.
Hence Wikipedia’s stance. Wikipedia spokesperson, Katherine Maher, emailed the following statement to HuffPost:
“We take these assessments very seriously, and researched both sides of the argument. We didn’t think the monkey owned the copyright—instead, our assessment was that there’s no one who owns the copyright. That means that the image falls into the public domain.
Under US law, for example, copyright claims cannot vest in to non-human authors (that is, non-human authors can’t own copyrights). It’s clear the monkey was the photographer. To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they’d only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image.
Because the monkey took the picture, it means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain.”
But the monkey couldn’t have taken the picture without Slater’s camera—doesn’t that count as a significant contribution? And, btw, if animals are deemed as “property” then where’s the monkey’s owner? Does that person—I guess the island of Sulawesi?—technically “own” the image?
And ok—this gets better—so when you’re out at a bar—it’s happy hour and your sober friend takes pics, on your camera, of you and your bud’s sloshing back a few and making idiots of yourselves, the pics are on your camera—but you, being too drunk to actually take a groupie yourself, didn’t take them. In theory, your sober friend ‘contributed the expressive content’, right? So when the pics go viral via Instagram, do you have any claim to them? Things that make you go hmm…
Well, in this case, Slater reportedly spoke with HuffPost, stating that he is “aggrieved” by the situation and is urging people to stop using Wikipedia. He thinks the editors at Wikipedia “have a communistic view of life.”
“It’s potentially being run by people with political agendas,” Slater said. “The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin … They’re using whatever suits their agenda.”
I’d say he’s pissed. As a creator myself, I can’t blame him. In our digital age, where copyright is a very hot commodity and one for which FB and the likes are prepared to risk hefty lawsuits, you have to love the irony here. Copyright is big bucks. So—if the picture belongs to everyone—i.e. the public—does the public also stand to profit by it?
Gap giving a whole new meaning to Loss Leaders …so much so they got slapped with a consumer fraud class action this week. The issue is Gap’s alleged misleading advertising over sale items…you know—it’s for sale—but the one next to it isn’t—that kind of thing… Essentially, the Gap class action lawsuit claims the clothing retailer uses advertisements for sale items that do not clearly indicate sale exclusions both in its stores and online.
The Gap lawsuit, entitled Misbah Etman, et al. v. The Gap Inc., et al., Case No. BC547161, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, alleges that lead plaintiff, Misbah Etman, was misled regarding which items were included in a sale display, which resulted in her paying full price for an item when she purchased it.
The backstory, in legal speak: “Because of the advertisement, Plaintiff believed that all the clothing on the rack bearing the advertisement was on sale at the price displayed on the advertisement and/or subject to the discount stated on the advertisement,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff looked through the clothing, selected three items she liked, waited in line for an open register, [Etman] found out at the register that Defendant would not sell her one of the items at the price displayed on the advertisement or would not discount one of the items in accordance with the advertisement.” Consequently, “[a]lthough she had been misled, Plaintiff purchased the non-discounted item and paid the higher price Defendant demanded.”
An example of an alleged advertisement Gap emailed “with a hyperlink to Defendant’s website stating clearly in dark letters against a white background ‘Hours to Shop!; Happy Monday; 40% Off Your Purchase; Ends Tonight.’” However, continues the complaint, “the email also states in barely noticeable lettering against a colored background ‘EXCLUSIONS APPLY.”
Further, “[o]nce a consumer clicks the hyperlink…the consumer is taken to Defendant’s website to shop [and], [w]hile shopping, Defendant’s website does not identify for consumers the items that are included in the sale, nor does it identify that items that are excluded from the sale,” alleges the Gap class action lawsuit.” And, “Defendant’s website does not even disclose whether an item is included in or excluded from the sale when a consumer selects an item to place in the consumer’s ‘shopping cart,’” the lawsuit states.
The consumer fraud lawsuit further claims that Gap also misleads consumers through its online stores by “enticing consumers to shop for, and to purchase, products from Defendant through Defendant’s website by means of false and misleading advertisements Defendant emails to consumers.”
The lawsuit seeks certification for a proposed Class of all other consumers who purchased products at Gap stores in California, or purchased products on the Gap website while in California, on days when Gap displayed the advertising described in the class action lawsuit.
So—heads up all you California Gap shoppers…
Not caring a Hoot for Hooters Text Messages.…What are you supposed to do when tits and ass just ain’t enough to get bums in seats in anymore (bad pun, I know). Send text messages to advertise your booty. Umm, maybe not. Hooters is facing class action lawsuit alleging the restaurant chain violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)—just the TCPA? Filed by lead plaintiff Peyman Zandifaez, the lawsuit alleges that on June 14, Zandifaez received an unsolicited text message on his cell phone from Hooters and a second unsolicited text message on July 5.
“The… SPAM text messages were form texts that were sent consumers on mass and just solely to the plaintiff, which is indicative of the use of an automatic telephone dialing system,” the complaint states. “[The] defendant used telephone number 368-32 to send this unsolicited SPAM text message to plaintiff’s cellular telephone.”
The Hooters lawsuit alleges that at no time did the plaintiff provide Hooters with his cellular phone number, through any medium, nor did he consent to receive such an unsolicited text message. Further, the plaintiff alleges that at no time did he sign up for nor use the defendant’s services or products, nor has he ever had any form of business relationship with Hooters.
“Through the unsolicited SPAM text message, defendant contacted plaintiff on plaintiff’s cellular telephone regarding an unsolicited service via an ‘automatic telephone dialing system,’” the lawsuit states. The ATDS has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator, according to the suit.
According to the lawsuit, Zandifaez is charged for incoming calls and text messages and the text message constituted a call that was not for emergency purposes. “Plaintiff did not provide defendant or its agent prior express consent to receive text messages, including unsolicited text messages, to her cellular telephone,” the complaint states. Nice…Go get’em!!
And as one TCPA lawsuit is filed, so another is settled… This week, in Los Angeles, a settlement agreement was reached in a class action lawsuit against Metlife which alleges a former agent faxed millions of advertisements for life insurance to consumers and businesses in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).
According to the terms of the MetLife settlement, the company, one of the largest life insurance companies in the US, will pay $23 million to resolve two related lawsuits, one in state court in Illinois and the other in federal court in Florida.
Incredibly, an estimated 1 to 2.8 million recipients of the faxes across the country will be covered by the settlement. The settlement will cover faxes sent between 2008 to 2014, even though the lawsuits focus on faxes sent by the agent between 2010 and 2012.
According to the lawsuits, the former MetLife agent Scott Storkick paid a fax-blasting specialty firm run out of offices in Fort Lauderdale, to help generate leads so that he could maintain his standing as one of the company’s top-performing agents. Ultimately, Storick said that the fax blasting campaign generated between 30 and 50 of the approximately 200 MetLife life-insurance policies he sold annually between 2010 and 2012.
Ok – Folks –time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend –see you at the bar!