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Hackensack Business and Commercial Law Blog

With workers' comp, maybe one size doesn't fit all p2

We are talking about a class action lawsuit filed against BP Products North America Inc. and BP's attempt to reduce the number of plaintiffs. The lawsuit comes out of a chemical release from a BP refinery. The plaintiffs are both workers -- actually, contractors and subcontractors -- at the plant and members of the community.

BP petitioned the court to remove the workers from the lawsuit, arguing that their injuries were work-related and, so, covered by workers' compensation insurance. Workers' comp is the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, BP said, so these 315 plaintiffs could not sue for damages.

With workers' comp, maybe one size doesn't fit all

A recent New York Times crossword clue asked for BP's old logo (five letters). It took a minute to figure out that the word was "shield." According to its website, BP changed to the current sun logo after it combined operations with Amoco in 1998.

In the past 15 years, though, that shield could have come in handy: BP's image has taken quite a beating, and not all of the blows have been related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In November 2011, there was a chemical release at a BP Products North America Inc. refinery near Galveston, Texas. More than 500 people -- contract and subcontract workers at the site and residents of the town nearby -- filed a class action lawsuit against BP. They claimed they had suffered breathing difficulties, vocal cord damage and a variety of other injuries as a result of the release.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition … or a cyber attack, p2

We all know the old saying about the word "assume," but there are things you can assume. It all depends on how much information you have -- more is better. If you are a franchisee, you should assume that every promise the franchisor has made is included in the franchise agreement.

The problem is that new risks can come up fast. Or, they can be lurking in the background and all at once turn into an emergency. If it's a risk that affects every franchisee in a network, is it the franchisor's responsibility to address it?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition … or a cyber attack

We spoke generally about cyber attacks back in November, spurred by a lawsuit filed by P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. against its property/casualty insurance provider, Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut. The restaurant chain was just one of many big companies to suffer a data breach over the last couple of years, but, as we noted in our Nov. 18 post, a good number of businesses have not done much to protect themselves from an attack or to develop a plan for how to respond to an attack.

When it comes to cyber theft, we know that size does not matter: All businesses are potential targets, even small and mid-size businesses. But are certain types of businesses more attractive to hackers? Are there business sectors that tend to have fewer safeguards in place than the Targets and Home Depots of the world?

Responding purposefully when foreclosure threatens your business

As every seasoned business owner in New Jersey and elsewhere knows, effective enterprise planning encompasses all aspects of a business.

In prosperous times, of course, much of a business principal’s focus is upon managing profits and applying them in a manner that best promotes sustained growth and viability in the future.

Not all times are marked by an abundance of riches and continued prosperity, though; most upside business cycles are finite and occasionally roiled by periods of economic malaise that can materially threaten a company’s prospects.

In a worst-case scenario, a business can confront conditions sufficiently dire to threaten its very existence. Perhaps creditors are becoming notably aggressive in their repayment demands at a time when company resources are stretched dangerously thin. Perhaps a bank or other mortgage lender is threatening foreclosure on a business property.

My oh mayo, you don't have to break any eggs to make mayonnaise

Purists may not be happy about it, but the maker of Hellmann's mayonnaise has conceded that mayo can be mayo even if it does not contain egg yolks. Hellmann's manufacturer Unilever United States Inc. has withdrawn its lawsuit against Hampton Creek Foods Inc. over the latter's labeling of its comparable product, Just Mayo. Unilever filed its complaint in federal court here in New Jersey at the end of October 2014.

Unilever specifically objected to the startup putting an egg on the label when the product does not contain eggs. And without eggs, Unilever continued, Hampton Creek should not be calling its product "mayo." Unilever was apparently basing its complaint on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of mayonnaise. As it turned out, that was a mistake.

Hackers face prosecution, but who exactly is the victim? p3

We are talking about Target's motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit related to the 2013 data breach. Target claimed that, for a number of reasons, the plaintiffs did not provide enough information to move the case forward. The federal court agrees and disagrees.

For example, Target said that the plaintiffs had not established that they suffered any harm from the data breach. The court merely states that it is too early in the lawsuit for Target to bring it up. The claim is plausible, the court says, but the discovery phase of the litigation may show otherwise; if that happens, the corporation may then move forward with another motion to dismiss the lawsuit. 

Hackers face prosecution, but who exactly is the victim? p2

The objective of civil litigation is, for the most part, to remedy harm inflicted on one party by the other. The law talks about this as "making someone whole." The plaintiff is diminished in some way by the intentional or reckless act of the defendant. The harm can take just about any form -- physical, monetary, emotional -- but the plaintiff must prove that the loss is real.

When there is no real harm, the complaint may be labeled a "nuisance lawsuit." A nuisance lawsuit can cost defendants time and money and waste the resources of an already strained justice system. The plaintiff has not suffered real harm; perhaps he is frustrated with the defendant or is looking for a way to get back at the defendant for a personal slight. The defendant will generally ask the court to dismiss the case.

Hackers face prosecution, but who exactly is the victim?

The federal government confirmed this week that North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures Entertainment cyber attack. Officials admit they are still a little fuzzy on the actual mechanics of the Nov. 24 attack, but they are confident that North Korea ordered it.

The hackers looted the company's system the way the Yankees looted Tara: They took everything. Confidential documents, unreleased movies, employee data -- they absconded with terabytes of computer files and then wiped everyone's computers clean.

But they weren't done.

Lawmakers look to commercial development to help Atlantic City

For several decades, tourists and gambling aficionados from across the nation flocked to Atlantic City to their spend time -- and money -- at one of the area's several major hotels and casinos. Flash forward to 2014, however, and the picture is much different and much bleaker for the resort city.

Indeed, the last year alone has seen four of Atlantic City's 12 largest casinos shutter operations. As if this wasn't bad enough, this number will soon increase to five, as Donald Trump's famed Taj Mahal is scheduled to close for good in just a few weeks.

In terms of the total cost to the city of these hotels and casinos closing, consider statistics show that as many as 8,000 casino workers have lost their jobs. This is not to mention, of course, the millions of dollars in tax revenue the city will also lose.

While things might be looking somewhat grim for the "AC," hope may be on the horizon thanks to the recent efforts of state lawmakers.

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