Tag Archive for Shayna Keyles

RD Legal Funding Gets Ready for BBBS’ Walk for Kids’ Sake

smiling kids
Joseph Genovesi, President of RD Legal Funding and Board Member for the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Bergen, Morris, Passaic and Sussex, is rallying up the team at RD Legal to participate in the Walk for Kids’ Sake for the second year in a row.

Last year, with the help of friends, family, and the RD team, Genovesi managed to raise over $1,500 for the Walk. This year he hopes to exceed that amount. The walk is being held on October 26th, 2014 at the Wyndham Worldwide Headquarters, 22 Sylvan Way, Parsippany, NJ.

The Walk for Kids’ Sake is an event held annually by BBBS in order to fundraise for its mentorship program and to celebrate its successes. Founded in 1904, BBBS operates in order to inspire, support, and motivate children by offering positive mentoring. Studies conducted by Public/Private Ventures have shown that children with a mentor of some sort are less likely to engage in dangerous, illegal, or otherwise detrimental activities, and are better able to thrive in a family environment.

Genovesi has been an active member of BBBS for over 13 years, and has been on the Bergen, Morris, Passaic and Sussex board since February 2013. He has been a mentor to the same child for over 13 years, and has seen the effects of positive mentoring firsthand.

If you are interested in learning more about BBBS, visit www.northjerseybigs.org. You can support Joseph Genovesi’s team by visiting www.walkforkidssake.org/joegenovesi.

Photo Credit: ToniVC via Compfight cc

Written by Shayna Keyles

Shayna Keyles is a blogger and social media marketer based in Louisville, Kentucky. When not working with RD Legal, she helps small businesses manage their online profiles and explores uncharted areas. You can follow her on Twitter at @SKLiaison or contact her at skeyles@gmail.com.

Animators Bring Anti-Trust Case Against California Movie Studios

In a rather animated new debate, California-based film companies, including Walt Disney Co. & DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. are being sued in a wage-fixing antitrust case.

Plaintiffs in the case are accusing the companies of colluding not to hire software engineers, animators, and other digital artists that are currently or have previously been employed at one of the other companies in question. Employees claimed they have been harmed by this agreement, which effectively stamps out competitive wages. Tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Adobe are facing a similar suit for similar claims.

Indeed, Apple plays a large part in the animation antitrust suit. The claims being contested began in the 1980s, when George Lucas of Star Wars fame sold his computer animation division to Steve Jobs’ Pixar. Lucas and Pixar President Edwin Catmull allegedly reached an agreement not to seek out each other’s employees. This agreement eventually expanded to include other animated film studios, including two branches of Sony Corp, ImageMovers, Digital Domain 3.0, and those mentioned above.

While Catmull claims that this collusion has been a boon for business in Northern California – in 2007, he is quoted as saying that wars have been avoided because of these agreements. However, animators who have been affected by the collusion feel they have been cheated. According to the complaint filed, digital artists and software engineers have been denied opportunity to express their creative talents, gain international recognition for their work, and cash out on their artistic visions.

Photo Credit: Express Monorail via Compfight cc


Written by Shayna Keyles


Ferguson, the First Amendment, and the Freedom to Film

golden scales of justice
The week following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer has been met with protests and rioting. Reports from the Ferguson police department indicate that law enforcement officers have been brusque in their treatment of media representatives who have filmed protest events on cameras or smart phones. Some officers allegedly confiscated a phone and erased footage of a fatal beating.

Journalists Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize winner from the Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, representing the Huffington Post, were arrested on August 13th at a protest in a Ferguson McDonald’s. Lowery tweeted that they were arrested because the police “decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.”

Legally, citizens have the right under the First Amendment to film public events. Protests and riots are public events, and as such, police behavior at these events is considered public. The only instance where filming an officer at a public event is illegal is if the act of filming obstructs the officer in the line of duty.

Active duty officers often treat this type of First Amendment issue fluidly. Clay Calvert, Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Florida, saw no evidence that the journalists were impeding with police work and saw no legal basis for the officers to arrest the journalists. However, according to Calvert, officers who are under extreme stress or who fear their authority will be undermined in a sensitive situation will often overlook First Amendment issues.

While events in Ferguson are still unfolding, the NYPD is all too aware of its officers having a disdain for being filmed. Shortly after the strangulation of Eric Garner by an officer, which was filmed by a witness and released online, the NYPD department chief released a memo to all officers.

“Members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or ordering the person to cease constitutes censorship and also violates the First Amendment.”

Experts seem to agree that filming police activities is legal. But Christopher Pisciotta, Eric Garner’s attorney for his previous legal troubles, advises caution. While he believes that when used properly, taping police incidents can serve as a valuable courtroom tool, officers can still view the act of filming as interference and use it as grounds for arrest. “If you do it too close…they will arrest you.”

Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com via Compfight cc

Written by Shayna Keyles

Marikana Miner Protests Call for Legal Funding

South Africa may have to re-evaluate its non-regulated legal funding industry in the continuing aftermath of last year’s Marikana miner’s strike, which, to date, has resulted in at least 78 injuries and 46 deaths. 13 of the deaths occurred after the protests were resolved, the most recent death occurring this past Tuesday, November 5, when union leader Percy Letanang was murdered at his home. On the same day, an article was published by News 24, billed as “South Africa’s Premier News Source,” detailing how Legal Aid SA will challenge a court ruling stating that Legal Aid SA should fund litigation on behalf of the injured and aggrieved miners.

In August 2012, miners working at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana organized a wildcat strike. The intent of the strike was to increase monthly salary from approximately $500 USD to approximately $1500 USD – put another way, from approximately $23 USD per workday to the more liveable $71 USD per workday. The strike began August 11, launching into a six-week conflict rife with civilian and police clashes. As of September 18, 45 miners had been killed, and Lonmin had agreed to a 22% overall pay increase for rock miners.

Though the immediate economic concerns related to the strike were settled relatively quickly after the conflicts – noted by some as the most severe and violent protests in South Africa since Apartheid ended – the legal proceedings are just beginning. After the protests ended last September, 270 miners were arrested and charged with murder. Two police officers were killed in the protests. Furthermore, over 70 miners were injured in the conflict, and witness reports say most of the strikers were unarmed. Survivors of the shooting launched a protest in front of President Jacob Zuma’s office on September 12, 2013, calling for the state to finance the plaintiffs’ legal fees and the attorneys’ expenses. The North Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that Legal Aid SA, an organization backed by the South African Government, provide funding for the trial, but Legal Aid is appealing the ruling.

South Africa’s legal funding industry is one of the least regulated in the legal finance space. Unlike in most other countries that allow legal funding, South Africa’s laws don’t find champerty and maintenance to be unethical barriers to the legal funding industry. South Africa’s Constitution allows for third-party litigation financing, as long as the claim is found to be bona fide and the funds are not going towards the defense. Furthermore, if the court decides that the third-party lender is influencing the case in any way, or that the plaintiff or attorney is consulting with the financier about the direction of the case, the court may intervene.

At present, the legal teams representing the injured and arrested miners have withdrawn until they are given access to legal funding. However, the main source of legal funding in South Africa is from state sanctioned organizations, court appointed organizations, or small unaffiliated businesses. Class action legal financing does not yet seem to exist.

The Marikana miner’s case could be a landmark for South Africa. Pertinent issues of civil rights, post-Apartheid racial tensions and income inequalities will doubtlessly be addressed. Moreover, the case is drawing a significant amount of attention to South Africa’s budding legal funding industry, and the particular role it plays (or, doesn’t yet play) in large class action suits. The outcome of this case, and the means by which the case is concluded, may very well influence the trajectory of South Africa’s litigation financing industry.

Written by Shayna Keyles

Trying Torts for Reform

scales of justiceA recent verdict in Long Island, New York awarded a family $130 million after a decade of litigation and appeals. This is the second largest medical malpractice verdict in New York history, and defense attorneys are less than thrilled. The hospital’s lawyers, in the popular refrain of institutions facing payments, declared that the jury was out of control, and that this case was a “powerful argument for even more tort reform”. However, as author and attorney Steven Cohen demonstrates in his thorough analysis of the case in question, Reilly v. St Charles Hospital, “large medical malpractice verdicts may be the strongest drivers in making healthcare safer.”

Tort reform was spearheaded during the Regan administration to achieve three main goals. The first was to reduce the amount of frivolous lawsuits; the second, to cut healthcare costs while ensuring quality healthcare; and lastly, to lower malpractice insurance rates for doctors, and make sure that doctors did not leave the practice. Frivolous lawsuits are often described as “spilled coffee suits”, referencing Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants, in which a woman spilled hot coffee on herself at a McDonald’s drive through. This garnered excellent press coverage for tort reform advocates, but was incredibly misleading: this case involved third degree burns, skin grafts, and two years of subsequent medical treatment.  Though not all supposedly frivolous lawsuits involve McDonald’s coffee, many personal injury and medical malpractice cases are labeled “frivolous” on principle.

As it turns out, truly frivolous lawsuits are likely much less common than tort reform advocates believe. According to Cohen’s research, 46% of plaintiffs will drop a med-mal case before trial. Of the remaining 54% that do go to trial, 57% favor doctors and hospitals, and $462,000 is the average settlement award for a plaintiff.

One of the unintended consequences of tort reform is the increase in casesgavel of justice against doctors and hospitals. Shortened statues of limitations require injured parties to bring a case within a more immediate timeframe, causing “plaintiffs [to] file suits that name every doctor who could conceivably be liable in the case.” Tort reform, if anything, has increased the prevalence of lawsuits. To call them frivolous, however, would be a stretch.

In both his Bloomberg editorial and his contribution to The Inner Circle, Cohen asks the reader to consider what message a $130 million jury verdict will send to different parties. Based on interviews with the Reilly v. St Charles Hospital jurors, the verdict was awarded not out of vindication, but out of a sense of duty and fair compensation.

In addition, Cohen gives us the anecdote of anesthesiologists in 1983 who were burdened by high malpractice premiums and higher rates of litigation. This led the American Society of Anesthesiologists to re-evaluate all of their procedures and suggest improvements to the field of anesthesiology. Since that time, the mortality rate from anesthesia administrations is less than 1% of what it used to be, and anesthesiologists’ malpractice premiums are some of the lowest in medicine.

These two events, observed in tandem, show us that allowing lawsuits to pile up and pay out extraordinary awards is evidence of a larger problem. If medical professionals and the medical industry are facing such high rates of litigation, and premiums continue to increase, it may be time for other medical specialties to take the route of the anesthesiologists and reevaluate. If this fails to happen, torts will continue until there is reform.

Written by Shayna Keyles.

Why Viral Marketing Isn’t Always The Best Marketing

businessman on pogo stickIf you’re in marketing today, you’re probably aware that the digital marketing landscape has shifted dramatically in the past decade. The emergence and increasing popularity of social networks and improved search functions has made it easier for content to go viral, or move from user to user with unprecedented ease. However, with so much content available to filter through, it’s as easy to lose important information as it is to find and share it. Viral marketing may be great for large brands with a diverse target audience, but for smaller companies and law firms with a very specific customer base, going viral may not be the best option.

Kelsey Libert and Kristen Tynski argue that viral marketing is the best way to expand your company’s reach and retain customers. Citing the statistics of “5.3 trillion display ads shown online each year, 400 million tweets sent daily, 144,000 hours of YouTube video uploaded daily, and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every day,” they suggest creating an emotional buzz around your content to make it share-worthy.

Kelsey and Kristen do make a good point. Viral marketing can introduce new potential customers to a brand and its content; secure new leads without the need for direct marketing, potentially reducing a company’s advertising and sales budget; and can also garner a lot of free press. However, viral tactics may work better for some brands than others.

Smaller brands and businesses, like law firms who only work with personal injury plaintiffs, may not see all of the benefits of viral marketing. While viral practices can direct lots of traffic to the company website, not all the traffic may be desirable and you may wind up sorting through an influx of unqualified leads. This doesn’t mean it’s not important to share content, engage with your audience, and try to attract new visitor pools – it just means that viral marketing, which namely occurs through word of mouth channels, might not be the best way to do it if you’ve got a very specific target group.

So what’s the best way to engage with potential leads if it’s not through emotional displays on the big social media networks? Find out where they congregate, go to them, and offer your expertise. If you are an attorney, build up your credibility by answering inquiries and writing guest posts on sites such as Avvo, Nolo, and Lawyerist. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn to network with other attorneys. Make yourself a resource for other attorneys and potential clients by creating an FAQ on your website and keeping a blog; for inspiration, keep track of legal writers, bloggers, and social media users who post great content.

Viral marketing can be great, but keep in mind, not everyone needs a viral campaign to successfully create – and keep – an audience. In many cases, a smaller, more targeted campaign will do a much better job than a wide-spread viral initiative. If you know your company’s purpose and you know the needs of your audience, the right approach should make itself clear.

Written by Shayna Keyles.

Australian Attorney Seeks Litigation Funding Within a Legal Grey Area

koala bear in australiaMaurice Blackburn is an Australian plaintiff’s law firm that is currently leading an equine influenza class action against the Commonwealth Government. As with many class action cases, this one requires an extraordinary amount of capital to call in experts, cover discovery costs, and accommodate witnesses. As many class action attorneys are wont to do, Maurice Blackburn decided to turn to a litigation funding company to ask for assistance. There is only one issue: Maurice Blackburn seems to be very cozy with Claims Funding Australia Pty Limited (CFA), the litigation funding company from which he is seeking funding. The chairman of Maurice Blackburn is a Director of CFA; the CEO, head of employment, and head of industrial law practice at Maurice Blackburn are CFA shareholders; and, significantly, all of the principals at Maurice Blackburn are beneficiaries of the trust that was formed to create CFA.

The litigation funding industry has raised many ethical questions, among them the roles of champerty and barratry. While many areas with established legal funding firms have adopted legislation to accommodate for any potential legal or ethical complications, the nebulous nature of the field does occasionally create new challenges that pre-existing legal ordinances may not account for. This is one of those challenges, and it appears to be two-fold.

The first part of this challenge is of a legal nature. The Federal Court that is involved with this case questions whether or not Maurice Blackburn and CFA are breaching rule 10.1.2 of the Legal Profession Act of 2004, which reads:

“A practitioner must not, in any dealings with a client exercise any undue influence intended to dispose the client to benefit the practitioner in excess of the practitioner’s fair remuneration for the legal services provided to the client.”

Maurice Blackburn argues that the law firm is not being influenced in any manner by the CFA; however, this matter is now left to the discretion of the court.

The other issue at hand is whether or not the potential arrangement between CFA and Maurice Blackburn will create a conflict of interest. New regulations took effect July 12, 2013 regarding conflicts of interest in the legal funding industry, and it is now considered an offence not to avoid such conflicts. If the courts do allow CFA to fund Maurice Blackburn, CFA will have to ensure that it can maintain a professional separation from its contacts at the law firm.

The publicity that this case has garnered in Australia has gained Federal attention. The incoming Coalition government is being presented with a proposal to effectively limit the interactions between law firms and any litigation funding firm with which they are associated. The implications and breadth of this proposal are as yet unknown. However, the decisions made by both the Coalition government and the Federal Court will be sure to have a significant impact on the future of litigation funding in Australia, if not elsewhere.

Written by Shayna Keyles

Structured Settlements Recognized by the Department of Justice

3d pie chartMany tort cases are so large and complex that it is difficult to obtain enough capital to ensure prompt payment of a settlement. A claimant may find herself waiting for years after a case has settled to receive even a portion of the money that was awarded. This type of delay is much more than a frustrating inconvenience; the money awarded in tort settlements is often used to pay legal fees, medical fees, cover unemployment, and cover other expenses that were otherwise averted during the legal process. Fortunately, there are options for those claimants who require their settlement funds at a faster rate than the court can pay.

Structured settlements are agreements between claimants and financial or insurance institutions in which the claimant agrees to receive periodic payments on her settlement amount rather than receiving one lump sum payment. Most commonly, this type of settlement agreement is preferred by claimants who litigated as a result of litigation or some other personal harm.  In fact, it is so common for personal injury, product liability, or workplace discrimination claimants to utilize structured settlement agreements to receive their settlement awards that structured settlements have been endorsed by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Organization of Disability, two of the largest disability rights organizations.

The United States Department of Justice also recognizes the value of structured settlements. In 2006, the Department of Justice added a list of structured settlement brokers to its Civil Division webpage. The brokers listed on this page meet specific minimum qualifications laid out by the Department of Justice and are approved by the DOJ to “administer settlement payments according to their schedules.” The qualifications are not too extreme: brokers must be licensed in the United States, must not have been suspended from practice or have had a license revoked, must not be a felon, etc. One who practices in annuity brokerage, also known as selling structured settlements, may nominate herself to be included on the list.

The DOJ’s support of structured settlement brokers is significant, in that it legitimizes the industry on a grand scale. With such a well-known agency backing structured settlements, potential clients can more easily become elucidated about the benefits and risks involved with the practice, and hopefully, more claimants will be able to seek assistance with structured settlement brokers.

Written by Shayna Keyles