For startups, social media can offer cheap and effective publicity. Startups must also be mindful that any advertising, including on social media, will require you to comply with federal regulations. While sponsored content regulations once went largely unenforced against social media based advertising, times are changing. Advertising on social media is increasingly drawing the eye of regulators. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations demand honesty and transparency in advertising, and fortunately, honesty and transparency will keep your company compliant.

In 2016, the FTC sued retailer Lord & Taylor alleging the company paid online influencers to post pictures of themselves wearing a specific Lord & Taylor article of clothing. The posts failed to disclose Lord & Taylor provided the clothing for free and paid each influencer thousands of dollars.  Lord & Taylor also paid for a positive review in the online publication Nylon that appeared without notice it was a paid promotion. The product sold out quickly, but the FTC sued Lord & Taylor. The case ultimately settled, and the settlement will affect Lord & Taylor for up to twenty years.  Lord & Taylor did not make the posts that got them into trouble; they only failed to require the influencers to disclose their relationship with Lord & Taylor. Your company is responsible for others’ posts if you pay for the posts—tracking paid posts to ensure regulatory compliance is obligatory. Continue Reading Watch Out for the FTC with your #SponCon

Last year, a St. Louis city jury sent shock waves across the world, awarding 22 plaintiffs nearly $5 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims its asbestos-contaminated talcum powder caused ovarian cancer in women who used the company’s product for years in the case of Ingham v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 1522-CC10417 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis City July 12, 2018). Prior to trial, Imerys Talc America Inc., a co-defendant supplier of talc to Johnson & Johnson, settled plaintiffs’ claims for at least $5 million.[1]

While previous ovarian cancer trials hinged on arguments that talc itself is carcinogenic, plaintiffs in Ingham argued their cancer was caused by asbestos particles mixed in with the talc. The impact of this verdict and similar previous decisions across the country has been damaging enough to prompt talc supplier Imerys Talc America Inc., to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a lack of financial clout to defend lawsuits alleging that Imerys’ talc caused ovarian cancer or asbestos-related mesothelioma.[2] Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Looking Ahead: The Future of Ovarian Cancer Litigation

A former laboratory technician at a biopharmaceutical company and his wife were awarded close to $70 million by a Florida state jury over claims he developed mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos-containing products at work. At the end of the two-week trial, the jury found against GEA Mechanical Equipment (“GEA”), an equipment company, for its negligence in distributing the alleged asbestos-containing products and failing to adequately warn plaintiff of the related health hazards. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Florida Jury Awards $70M in Mesothelioma Verdict

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Sullivan v. A. W. Chesterton, Inc., et al., No. 18-3622 (E.D. Pa. June 6, 2019), grappled with the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania statutes, 15 Pa.C.S. § 411 and 42 Pa.C.S. § 5301, (the “PA Statutory Scheme”) requiring out-of-state businesses to register in the state, which in turn functions as consent to general jurisdiction. This issue became salient only in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014) (holding corporation is “at home” only where it is incorporated or maintains its principal place of business). The Eastern District held that the PA Statutory Scheme requiring out-of-state corporations to register before they conduct business in the state and thereby consent to general jurisdiction in Pennsylvania offends the Due Process Clause and is unconstitutional. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Pennsylvania Federal Court Holds Statutory Scheme Requiring Out-of-State Corporations to Register to Do Business and Consent to General Jurisdiction is Unconstitutional

In Thomas-Fish v. Aetna Steel Prod. Corp., plaintiff Helen Thomas-Fish alleged her husband Robert Fish had died from mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos through his work at a shipbuilding yard in New Jersey in 1960. No. 17-CV-10648 RMB/KMW, 2019 WL 2354555, at *1 (D.N.J. June 4, 2019).  Plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against various defendants including Sonic Industries (“Sonic”), an alleged joiner contractor that installed asbestos-containing paneling during shipbuilding. Sonic was incorporated in California in 1966, six years after the alleged exposure in this case. In addition, Sonic maintained its principal place of business in Connecticut. Accordingly, Sonic was not subject to general jurisdiction in the state of New Jersey. Instead, Plaintiff asserted that Sonic was subject to specific jurisdiction in New Jersey through an unnamed predecessor entity under a successor liability theory. Defendant Sonic filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: District Court of New Jersey Finds Specific Jurisdiction Lacking Based on Successor Liability Theory

On September 5, 2018, the Appellate Court for the Fourth District of Illinois introduced heightened standards for plaintiffs to establish duty and causation in asbestos litigation through its reversal of a McLean County trial court’s decision denying a defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. McKinney v. Hobart Bros. Co., 2018 IL App (4th) 170333, appeal denied, 116 N.E.3d 948 (Ill. 2019). In McKinney, the plaintiff sued Defendant Hobart Brothers Company (“Hobart”) alleging his eight-month workplace exposure to Hobart’s asbestos-containing welding rods in 1962 and 1963 caused his mesothelioma. The welding rods at issue allegedly contained asbestos fibers that were encapsulated. The plaintiff also alleged exposure to asbestos-containing automotive products that occurred during the course of his forty-year mechanic career. In reversing the trial judgment, the McKinney Court addressed three issues of expert testimony admissibility under Rule 213 and ultimately tightened the reins on exposure claims involving encapsulated asbestos fibers by requiring industry knowledge of harm for the manufacturer’s product at issue before imposing a duty and ushering in the “substantial factor” test for causation. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: A “Substantial Factor” in Bringing About Change? Illinois’ McKinney Appellate Decision Raises Plaintiff Burdens for Duty and Causation

The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC, 2018 IL App (5th) 160239, where Plaintiffs, John and Deborah Jones, sued brake lining company Pneumo Abex (“Abex”) and glass bottle maker Owens-Illinois (“O-I”) for injuries John Jones allegedly suffered due to asbestos exposure during his construction career. Although Jones never worked for Defendants and never used or was exposed to any product of Defendants, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants entered into a civil conspiracy with the asbestos industry at large including Johns-Manville, an insulation and roofing materials manufacturer, to conceal the harmful health effects of asbestos exposure. In their complaint, Plaintiffs relied solely on circumstantial evidence to support their allegations of a conspiratorial agreement, including. (1) an Abex funded study on asbestos dust with Saranac Laboratory (the “Saranac report”) where a mice study revealing tumors was omitted from the published report; (2) a 1953 Sales Agreement between O-I and Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp. (“OCF”) for the sale of Kaylo insulation; (3) “non-toxic” ads that were issued by O-I and later by OCF; (4) O-I’s sharing of two asbestos health articles from 1941, (5) a unilaterally sponsored O-I study of Kaylo insulation involving exposure to lab animals; and (6) overlapping directors and stock ownership of O-I in OCF. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Illinois Supreme Court Set to Rule on Asbestos Civil Conspiracy Claim

Husch Blackwell is pleased to announce that this month marks the five-year anniversary of the opening of its office in the Cortex Innovation Community, the 200-acre innovation district located in St. Louis, Missouri and founded in 2002.

Husch Blackwell Cortex attorneys
Attorneys Mary Kate Mullen and Aleks Rushing celebrate 5 years at Cortex by highlighting startup clients. Photo courtesy of Aleks Rushing

Since opening the office in 2014, Husch Blackwell has played a key role in assisting many of the emerging-growth companies that have called Cortex home. The firm has staffed the Cortex office with a variety of lawyers on both a permanent and rotating basis and has provided legal advice ranging from intellectual property, employment law and immigration to corporate law, financing and mergers & acquisitions.

The firm celebrated its five-year anniversary at Cortex with a client event on August 21. More information about Husch Blackwell’s 5 years in Cortex can be found here. For additional information, please contact the firm’s Chief Growth Office, Dean Boeschen.

Most startups initially focus on incorporation, funding, and protecting their intellectual property, which is logical and practical! While these are all important and necessary, startups should also ensure that they are protecting their new startup from legal actions such as a lawsuit – the dreaded “L” word. A lawsuit is the official court process in which two or more parties seek to resolve a dispute. A legal battle can be lengthy, expensive, and create bad publicity. Startups are experiencing a rise in litigation and below we will focus on three growing risks to startups and provide practical steps to prevent these types of lawsuits.

Being threatened with a lawsuit is always frightening and unsettling but sometimes can be avoided. For example, in a sole proprietorship, both the company and owner could be liable for the damages. Structuring a startup as a corporation or a limited liability company could help reduce owner liability. Generally speaking, the creditors of a business also cannot succeed against the founders and other investors of corporations and LLCs for unpaid debts because they are sheltered by the corporate status. Continue Reading An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Why Startups Should Consider Litigation Risk

Even with the rapid growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones, one of the FAA’s primary rules is that the pilot must maintain visual line of sight with the unmanned aircraft at all times. When waivers were granted for “extended line of sight” operations, visual observers on the ground were still required. Those operational constraints are about to change.

Collaborative projects between private industry and the Universities of Alaska-Fairbanks and Hawaii are transforming dreams into reality for the unmanned aircraft community. These technological accomplishments are laying the foundations to provide vital services to rural and outlying communities through long-distance search and rescue, surveying and telecommunications platforms mounted onboard solar powered drones.

Continue Reading Important Milestones Are Being Met in Alaska and Hawaii for Unmanned Aircraft Systems