San Fernando Valley Los Angeles Attorneys
Navigation Two
Phone Number
Friday
Nov202015

Header Rules: Class Action Lawsuit Changes Youth Soccer

Injury AttorneyConcussion Attorney

 

 

by Thomas Cecil

(818) 907-3292

 

 

Recently, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and other youth soccer leagues agreed to issue new guidelines, including recommending the banning of “headers” for players under 10, in settlement of a class action lawsuit over concussions brought by parents of several youth soccer players.

Concussion LawyerNational Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human ServicesThe lawsuit arose out of mounting evidence that youth soccer players, especially girls, are at risk of significant brain injury from concussions suffered while playing soccer. According to the lawsuit: “soccer ranks among the top sports in the number of concussions per game. Female soccer players have a higher per-game concussion rate than male players.” 

Unique to soccer is the use of the head to direct the ball towards another player or to the goal, an action known as a header. The plaintiffs contend:

"Headers" can be a violent striking of the ball, sometimes with such violent impact that spectators wince and the sound of the impact carries through the stands. At least 30 percent of concussions in soccer are caused by heading the ball or by attempting to head the ball and colliding with a player, object, or the ground. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a concussion is:

a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging the brain cells. 

As stated in its Concussion Information Sheet made available as part of the CDC’s Heads Up Concussion program,

Children and teens who show or report one or more of the signs and symptoms listed below—or simply say they just “don’t feel right” after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body—may have a concussion or other serious brain injury. 

The observed behavioral signs include: 

  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness; or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.” 

Impact of Youth Sports

Scientific evidence shows that the brain of a child or teenager is more vulnerable to long term damage from repetitive concussions, yet youth and high school sports tend not to provide adequate medical supervision. A New York Times health writer states:

The young brain is especially susceptible to concussion, and sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children aged eight through 13, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. A child who suffers a concussion is one and a half times more likely to experience another, and those who have had two concussions have a threefold greater risk of the same injury happening again.

According to the class action lawsuit, “about half of all high schools have access to an athletic trainer, but very few have an athletic trainer present on the sidelines or on call to help identify concussions during play.” 

Sports Injury AttorneyIn the terms of settlement, the USSF, US Youth Soccer Association (USYSA), and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), among others, will issue new guidance including a recommended ban on headers for U-11 and younger players, and a time limit on heading for U-11 to U-13.

Concussion education for coaches, referees, parents and athletes will be established. Some guidelines will be mandatory – such as the removal of a youth player from practice or a game where the player may have suffered a concussion and the need to follow certain protocols before that player will be allowed to return to play. Return to play and new substitution guidelines are also included in the settlement.

While the results of the class action lawsuit are a step forward in protecting young athletes from serious long term brain injuries, it remains to be seen whether banning heading will appreciably reduce the number of concussions.

Again, from the New York Times:

Among girls, soccer is associated with the highest risk — 6.7 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures, according to the academy study. Although many focus on the hazards of heading the ball, a new study of high school soccer players found that contact with another player was by far the most frequent cause of concussions among female and male players. 

Excellent helpful concussion resources for youth and high school sports, including brain injury basics and a number of relevant fact sheets for identifying and managing concussions, are found at:

CDC Heads Up

http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/index.html

HEADS UP to Youth Sports: Parents

http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/parents.html

Concussion Information Sheet

http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/youthsports/parent_athlete_info_sheet-a.pdf

Thomas Cecil is a Brain Injury Attorney and Shareholder at our firm. Contact him via email: tcecil@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: (818) 907-3292.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Nov102015

Cruise Line Hit Big for “mild” Head Injury

Injury AttorneyBrain Injury Attorney

 

by Thomas Cecil

(818) 907-3292

 

A major cruise line was hit with a $21 million dollar verdict after a passenger was struck in the head by an automatic sliding door. As reported by a local Seattle television station and shown on security video, the passenger was struck on the right side of his head as the door attempted to close as he walked through the doorway.

In the video, the passenger is seen grabbing his head and seemingly shaking off the blow. Unfortunately, the passenger suffered what is known as a “mild” traumatic brain injury, a “closed head” injury more commonly called a concussion.

As reported in the story, the injured passenger developed post concussive syndrome which caused a cascade of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness and social withdrawal. A successful businessman’s career and family life was forever changed by what appears to be an undramatic blow to the head. So what actually happened?

According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.

A “mild” brain injury can be a misnomer. The CDC stresses that concussions need to be taken seriously as the damage can be life altering.

According to the CDC, there are generally four categories of symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury, including:

traumatic brain injury

Mild traumatic brain injuries are oftentimes overlooked and difficult to diagnose because the injured person looks otherwise healthy and the brain damage does not show up on standard imaging such as CT scans and conventional MRIs. Notes the CDC,

Diagnosing MTBIs can be challenging as symptoms of MTBI are common to those of other medical conditions (such as post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, and headache syndromes), and the onset and/or recognition of symptoms may occur days or weeks after the initial injury.

Although most people recover in a matter of days or weeks, a concussion can have long-term complications, “affecting thinking, sensation, language or emotions. These changes may lead to problems with memory, communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia.” 

According to the television report, the injured cruise ship passenger suffered from one of the potential complications of concussion known as post-concussion syndrome or PCS. PCS is typified by attention and memory problems with symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbance, headache, dizziness, irritability, affective disturbance, apathy, or personality change lasting more than three months (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). A small minority never recover and are known as the “miserable minority” or “walking wounded.” 

The tragedy with the cruise ship passenger is that his injury was preventable. According to the report, the cruise line had known about the malfunctioning door which had struck other passengers but it failed to take reasonable steps to correct it. A $21 million dollar damage award undoubtedly provides the incentive to protect its passengers more carefully.

Thomas Cecil is a Brain Injury Attorney at our firm. Contact him via email: tcecil@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: (818) 907-3292.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Nov022015

Trusts, Estates, Exemptions and Taxes

Trusts & Estate Planning

 

by Kira S. Masteller

818.907.3244

 

It may be hard to believe that in 2001, the estate and gift tax exemption, also known as the unified credit, was a mere $675K.

In 2016 that credit is anticipated to go up to $5.45M for single filers; potentially $10.9M for married couples. This year, the exemption is $5.43M per individual.

These are projected figures from Thomson Reuters Checkpoint, and are based on the Consumer Price Index. The Internal Revenue Service will release official figures later this year, but the projections are probably on point, since U.S. Tax Code requires periodic adjustment for inflation.

Below the Threshold

Though not a huge increase (basic exclusion amounts rose by $120K in 2012, $130K in 2013 and $90K in 2014 and 2015) high net worth individuals and couples are reminded to review their tax planning to insure they are taking advantage of the exemptions properly and looking into other tools to keep the taxable portions of their estate as low as possible. 

The GST, or Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax exemption should also rise to $5.45M next year, and the gift tax annual exclusion will remain at $14K.  Remember: Filers may gift $14K to as many individuals as they like without reducing their lifetime gift exemption, in addition to making lifetime gifts that are reportable and do apply to their  exemption. 

Additional payments may be made for health or education expenses, and will be treated as excluded gifts so long as the payments are made directly to the provider. 

Married Couples and Portability 

Combined exemptions for married couples can get a little complicated. 

Portability should be elected on the estate tax return of the first spouse to die, even if there are no estate taxes owed. If the deceased spouse has not used his or her entire lifetime gift or estate tax exemption, the surviving spouse can “port” the remaining exemption so that it is added to his or her exemption.

All assets passing to a surviving spouse (who is a US citizen) are estate tax-free.

Kira S. Masteller is an Estate Planning Attorney and Shareholder at our firm. Contact her via email: kmasteller@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3244 for more information. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Oct262015

Marriage of Davis: A Shared Roof = Shared (Community) Property

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerCertified Family Law Specialist

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis

818.907.3274

 

 

 

Community Property DivisionDuring the recession, we occasionally heard of couples who were divorcing, but still cohabitating. For economic reasons, neither spouse moved out of the house – they continued to share or divide financial responsibilities as they did before agreeing to end their marriage. Maybe they each agreed to do their own laundry, cook their own meals or vacation without each other.

Sometimes the situation occurs for non-economic reasons, one spouse needing time to find another place to live, for example, or parents living together for their children's sake.

This past summer, the Supreme Court of California issued an opinion In re Marriage of Davis that showed the decision for splitting couples to share an address may not always be wise. The opinion came down to whether or not the parties lived "separate and apart", though they shared the same roof.

Destructive Times Between Deciding to Divorce and Actually Leaving

On the surface it seemed the Davises did live separately:

Sheryl Jones Davis and Keith Xavier Davis discontinued sexual relations in 1999; stopped sharing a bedroom in either 2001 or 2004 (the parties disagreed here), took separate vehicles to their children's activities, and each did his or her own laundry.

On the other hand, for the sake of the children, they continued to celebrate birthdays and holidays together. Sometimes they vacationed separately, and other times they vacationed as a family. They maintained a joint bank account for household expenses, though each opened or reactivated a personal account as well. 

When Sheryl petitioned for divorce in December 2008, she listed the date of separation as June 1, 2006 – that marked the day Sheryl told her husband she was done with the marriage, presented him with a ledger of household expenses, removed him from her American Express card and returned his credit account cards to him, and took a job the following month. She told the court she considered Keith to be merely a roommate from that point forward.

Divorce LitigationIn response to the divorce petition, Keith Davis listed the date of separation as January 2, 2009. Sheryl did not move out until July 2011, and Keith filed an amended response changing the date of separation to July 1, 2011.

Both the lower and appellate courts found June 1, 2006 to be the date of separation. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Why Does Date of Separation Matter?

California is a community property state. Family Code § 771(a) regarding community property provides:

"The earnings and accumulations of a spouse and the minor children living with, or in the custody of, the spouse, while living separate and apart from the other spouse, are the separate property of the spouse." 

Date of separation, therefore, is important in determining whether or not a particular asset should be classified as community property, or separate property.

In the Davis' case – Keith argued that spouses who share a home cannot be "living separate and apart"; while Sheryl contended that the totality of circumstances, i.e. arriving at the kids' activities in separate cars, individual bank accounts, etc. should determine whether or not spouses are separated.

The Supreme Court considered previous cases and legislation dating back to the 19th century.  In particular, the Court referred to Chapter 161 of the Statutes of California, "An Act to protect the rights of married women in certain cases."   

The 1870 Act did not contain a definition of the phrase ―"living separate and apart" used in section 2. (Stats. 1870, ch. 161, § 2, p. 226.) However, the Legislature‘s understanding that the phrase connoted a threshold requirement of separate residences may be discerned from an additional section of the statute.

The Court also turned to Black's Law Dictionary, which previously defined separation as "residing in different places and having no intention of resuming marital relations," and more recently, as "living away from each other, along with at least one spouse's intent to dissolve the marriage." 

Focused solely on the interpretation of California's community property statute, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Moving Out is Merely the First Step 

Though living in separate residences is a critical part of establishing a date of separation, divorcing couples who need to cohabitate for a while can have an attorney draw up a written agreement to stipulate the official separation date.

On the other hand, couples who live apart immediately may still not be legally separated – moving out is merely one step in establishing a separation date.  Should the parties continue to act married in other ways, establishing separate domiciles may not help in the community vs. separate property issue.

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Certified Family Law Specialist (State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization) and a Shareholder at our firm. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com or by phone: 818-907-3274.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Oct052015

Music Publisher Caught in Birthday Suit

Franchise & Trademark Business Litigation

 

by Tal Grinblat & Nicholas Kanter

818.990.2120

 

In 2013, Good Morning to You Productions Corp.,  Rupa Marya and Robert Siegel (collectively “GMTY”) filed a class action suit against Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., one of the largest music publishing companies in the world and Summy-Birchard, Inc. (collectively “WCMI”), to invalidate the copyright registration of the song Happy Birthday To You.

Happy Birthday LitigationGMTY claimed the song is in the public domain, that WCMI has no rights to the lyrics or melody, and that WCMI should return “millions of dollars of unlawful licensing fees” received over the years.

In 1893, Mildred and Patty Hill sold a manuscript containing 73 songs composed by the sisters, including one piece titled Good Morning to All (melody composed by Mildred; lyrics written by Patty), to Clayton F. Summy, which Summy subsequently published in a songbook called Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Summy applied to register the copyright in the songbook that same year. 

Validity of the Summy Copyright Registration

As a musical work, Happy Birthday has two primary copyrightable elements- one for the music composition (the tune); the other for the lyrics (song’s words).  Each one is protected against infringement independently.  The parties both conceded that the Happy Birthday melody entered the public domain years ago.  The issue in the case was whether the lyrics were still protectable by copyright, and if so, who had those rights.  WCMI contended that the Hill sisters authored the lyrics to the song, held it for several decades and then transferred it to Summy Co. in 1935, which subsequently published and registered the lyrics for federal copyright.

The issue for WCMI was that the copyright registration covered “arrangement as easy piano solo with text” and listed another person as the author of the lyrics.  Hence, the copyright registration may not have covered the lyrics in the dispute.

Copyright Birthday Candles Begin Melting

The court held that WCMI had no evidence a transfer of the lyrics occurred from the Hill sisters to WCMI.  It found that while the Hill sisters gave Summy Co. the rights to the melody and the rights to piano arrangements based on the melody, no rights were transferred to the lyrics.  The court explained that because Summy never acquired rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, WCMI as Summy’s successor-in-interest, did not hold a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics entitling them to collect royalty or licensing fees.

The Song May Never End

IP LitigationThe battle may not be over, as Warner/Chappell is "reviewing their options" after the verdict, and GMTY will now move to qualify the lawsuit as a class action.

Though GMTY Productions may see their $1,500 license fee returned, the ruling signifies a landmark win for the "Davids" in this David and Goliath-like battle, particularly for musicians, entertainment productions and other artists around the world.

For business owners wanting to protect their own copyrights, the case serves as a reminder: Make sure you have the right to do so and keep good records of title to permit you to enforce rights in your copyrighted works.

 

Tal Grinblat and Nicholas Kanter are intellectual property attorneys at our firm. They can be reached via email or phone: tgrinblat@lewitthackman.com or 818-907-3284; and nkanter@lewitthackman.com or 818-907-3289.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120