Legal Roundup: Cruise Ship Workers Sue, Abbvie on the Hook for $24 Million and More

The latest court cases and their impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | August 11, 2020

California, Cities Spar Over Marijuana Home Delivery

The Case: California has legalized marijuana sales. But they are banned in cities like Riverside and Beverly Hills. So who’s in charge?

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That question could be answered in a case involving marijuana home delivery. Twenty-five local governments sued the state “to invalidate the home-delivery rule that ‘permits commercial cannabis deliveries to any physical address in the state.’ The League of California Cities and police chiefs had complained that unrestricted home deliveries would create a chaotic market of largely hidden pot transactions, while undercutting local control guaranteed in the 2016 law that broadly legalized marijuana sales in the state,” according to the Washington Post.

Scorecard: The case was filed in April 2019, but began proceedings in August 2020.

“The judge tentatively sided with the state in questioning whether some of the communities have standing to bring legal action, because they do not have local ordinances in place that conflict with the state regulation.”

It is still being litigated.

Takeaway: The case could help decide who exactly is in charge when a state law conflicts with local guidelines.

AbbVie to Pay $24 Million for Humira Marketing Practices

The Case: You’ve probably seen commercials for Humira. The immunology drug is used to treat a wide range of conditions — from arthritis to Crohn’s disease.

But its marketing practices came under fire by the State of California. The state sued Humira maker AbbVie in Alameda Superior Court.

The state claimed “AbbVie had employed registered nurses as ambassadors to talk with patients about Humira but did not disclose that they were employees of the Big Pharma company,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The state claimed that “the company also unlawfully provided valuable professional goods and services to doctors at no cost to induce them to prescribe Humira.”

Scorecard: AbbVie agreed to a $24 million settlement. It admitted no wrongdoing. The company agreed to reform its marketing practices by having nurse ambassadors disclose that they work for the company and no longer allow sales reps to take health care providers to offsite business meals.

Takeaway: AbbVie continues to claim that its practices were educational while the California Insurance Commissioner says the settlement will help fight insurance fraud in the future. The settlement offers a warning to other pharmaceutical companies engaging in similar practices.

CBS Settles with Newscaster, EEOC Over Alleged Age Bias

The Case: Tammy Dombeck Campbell, 42, is a popular TV news reporter in Dallas. But when she couldn’t seem to get hired by local station KTVT Channel 11, she sued parent company CBS.

Campbell and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed that she was twice passed over for a traffic reporter position despite having the requisite five years of experience other candidates did not have.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Campbell had more than five years of on-air experience and she was knowledgeable about Dallas’ freeways and traffic patterns. Instead, CBS ultimately gave the job to a 24-year-old former NFL cheerleader.”

The article goes on to say that “court documents in the case shined a harsh light on CBS. In one March 2014 email, CBS station managers in Dallas debated why the station was stuck in fourth place in the ratings. ‘We need to look at everyone on this show, including the anchors,’ one station executive wrote, mentioning a veteran female anchor who the manager said was ‘starting to look outdated and tired.’ ”

Scorecard: CBS agreed to a settlement with Campbell and the EEOC. She’ll receive $215,000 in back pay and damages. The company’s Dallas stations “entered into a consent decree that forbids discrimination or retaliation against people who speak out against any unlawful practices,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Takeaway: Employers must review all candidates regardless of age, gender, race or any other factor unrelated to a person’s ability to do the job. Charges of discrimination could result in legal action, severe fines and reputation damage.

Cruise Ship Workers Allege They Were Effectively Held Hostage

The Case: Dragan Janicijevic and a group of cruise ship workers allege that they were forced to work without pay after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

They worked aboard the Bahamas Paradise cruise line and said they were offered a deal: Stay on and work or never work for the company again.

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Many took the deal and continued cooking, cleaning and performing other services despite not receiving a paycheck. Janicijevic, from Serbia, knew working on a cruise ship gives him financial opportunities that are tough to get at home.

Time reports: “The suit alleges that thousands of workers have been ‘unnecessarily kept on the ships for months on end, many thousands of miles away from their homes and families’ and ‘suffered lost wages and lost employment opportunities’ as a result.”

Bahamas Paradise claims it worked hard to repatriate employees to their home countries and to date, more than 90% have returned home.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Workers expect their employers to provide safe and fair working conditions. If workers feel that their own well-being is at risk, they may band together to demand what they consider just and fair treatment. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]