Monthly Archives: September 2009

8155 – A Two-Faced Decision


For your high school reunion, you want your picture along with that of your boyfriend printed in the memory book.  The only problem in this case is you’re a boy, your boyfriend is a boy and the result is oh boy.  It seems the company that published the memory book has a policy not to include same-sex couples.  When Dave and his friend realized they couldn’t get the picture, they decided to frame matters in another way—with a lawsuit.  They claimed the company’s refusal to print the picture violated the Civil Rights Act.  Even when the reunion committee took David’s side, the company responded by refusing to publish the book at all, and sent back the committee’s check.  The Court of Appeals held the law clearly applies to classification based on sex, and as for the company’s argument that its policy applies to all same-sex couples, including fathers and sons, and twin sisters, the Court said equal application of discriminatory practice still violates the law.  One judge dissented, but the majority ruled.  And the publishers of the memory book have lost because of a snap judgment, and David and his friend will be getting the picture—double exposure and all.

People v. Robert Sanders, Supreme Court of Illinois, McMorrow, J., 6/18/98, 1998 W.L. 319490 (see No. 5331)

8154 – Hakuna Marina


If you promise to move your boat from the marina before the hurricane hits, do you really have to?  A lot of boat storage contracts require boat owners to move their boats on request if the marina owner determines the boats will be a hazard during a hurricane.  As Hurricane Opal bore down on the Florida panhandle, Mel’s Marina asked the owners of 16 boats to move them, just like they promised to do.  The boat owners took a look at Opal, took a look at Mel, and decided they were much more afraid of Opal than Mel, and left their boats right where they were.  Opal hit hard and the 16 boats were tossed around like toys doing substantial damage to the marina.  Mel sued the boat owners, who cited a Florida law that says marinas can’t force vessels to be removed following the issuance of a hurricane watch.  Mel argued federal maritime law preempts state law.  But despite a lot of high pressure, the Court waded into the eye of the storm and found for the boat owners, holding that life and safety trumps property.  So even if you promised to move, you may not have to, since the Courts may provide a safe harbor to ride out the storm that follows a storm.


Burklow & Associates, Inc., d/b/a Mel’s Marina v. Regan, Belcher, et al., District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, 9/17/98, Barfield, J., 1998 W.L. 633980 (Fla. App. 1 Dist.)

8153 – Think Before You Listen


If you’re thinking of wiretapping your spouse, listen up.  After Kathleen filed for divorce from her husband, Michael, they decided to try reconciliation and began living together again.  Michael was still convinced Kathleen was having an affair and decided to record all incoming telephone calls with a tape recorder hidden under the bed.  Unfortunately for Michael, Kathleen looked under the bed and found the reel thing and, needless to say, the divorce was back on track.  Kathleen then sued Michael for violating the federal wiretapping act, which requires that at least one party to a conversation give consent to recording it.  Since Michael wasn’t a party to any of the conversation, his consent didn’t count.  By the way, most states require all parties’ consent to recording a call.  The Court that first heard the case dismissed it before trial, holding that inter-spousal wiretapping within the marital home is an exception to the federal wiretapping law.  But Kathleen appealed, and the Court reversed, saying if Congress wanted to exempt the marital home, it would have said so.  So Michael’s number may be up and if you’re thinking of wiretapping your spouse, don’t, because you may never get off the hook.


Young v. Young, Michigan Court of Appeals, 6/9/99, Griffin, J., 21 FLR 1511, 9/12/95.

8152 – The Smell Test


This is a case about cases of garlic and one which gives us a look, or rather a smell, at how the FDA protects us.  The case got started when a shipment of 6,000 crates of raw purple Spanish garlic shipped from Spain arrived at San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The next day an FDA inspector cut open 30 bulbs and found 16 that didn’t pass muster.  Using the ten percent rule, he seized all 6,000 crates of garlic.  The rule is if ten percent of the sample chosen to be inspected is defective, the entire shipment must be detained.  The shipper went to Court, claiming the FDA lacked jurisdiction over fresh vegetables and had not properly published its rules.  There was the strong implication the garlic would’ve gotten by and caused no problems if it hadn’t caught the attention of a nosy food inspector.  A lower court gave the garlic the go-ahead, but the Court of Appeals reversed and said hold the garlic, ordering further hearings.  The only remaining question is what finally happened to the garlic.  Proper procedure would dictate the garlic is still being held as evidence—as for exactly where, well, believe me, someone knows.


Caribbean Produce Exchange v. Secretary of HHS, First Circuit Court of Appeals, Coffin, J., 893 F.2d.

8151 – All Hands on Deck for Allstate


High Holidays, the Sabbath, and working for a living—sometimes it all works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  As Jews around the world celebrate the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, we’re reminded of the conflict faced by those employees who believe work is prohibited on holy days.  This case involved David and Terry, who ran an Allstate insurance office in Ohio.  They’re observant Jews who always closed the office before sunset the night before Jewish holidays and the Sabbath.  Everything was going great until Allstate announced all Allstate offices had to remain open until 6 p.m. on Fridays, which in the winter is several hours after sunset, from 9 to 1 on Saturdays, and on all days during the week.  David and Terry notified Allstate they considered themselves constructively discharged—they then resigned, and sued.  But the Court held for Allstate, holding they weren’t actually disciplined or fired, and Allstate was actually surprised when they left.  So David and Terry have moved on, and you’re in good hands with Allstate, except when souls get in the way of sales.


David A. Goldmeier and Terry C. Goldmeier v. Allstate Insurance Company, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, No. 01-3888, July 24, 2003, Boggs, J.