Legal Roundup: Tamarack Fire Victims Seek $85M from U.S. Forest Service, Widow of Kobe Bryant Sues Over Crash Pics and More

Residents from Nevada and California counties singed by the 2021 Tamarack fire seek a total of $85 million from the U.S. Forest Service for property losses.
By: | August 17, 2022

Tamarack Fire Victims Seek $85M from U.S. Forest Service

The case: Following the devastating Tamarack wildfire in July 2021, 27 people have filed a claim against the U.S. Forest Service, a move that precedes the formal lawsuit.

“Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the U.S. Forest Service has six months to either pay the claim or opt out, and face a potential lawsuit,” the Associated Press reported.

Residents from two counties in Northern Nevada and California seek a total of $85 million to make up for the loss of property.

Scorecard: The claim has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: The attorney handling the claim says that the day after the six-month period is over, he is prepared to file the lawsuit.

According to the AP, “The U.S. Forest Service initially decided to hold off on providing assistance on the Tamarack Fire as it struggled with limited resources and officials perceived the fire as contained to a small area. But soon, the fire spread rapidly, eventually scorching nearly 109 square miles (282 square kilometers) along the Nevada-California border.”

Individuals participating in the claim seek anywhere from $500,000 to $15 million in compensation.

Vanessa Bryant, Widow of Kobe Bryant Sues Over Crash Pics

The case: The wife of deceased basketball great Kobe Bryant is “seeking unspecified millions in compensation for snapshots taken of the NBA star’s corpse,” according to NPR. In 2020, Bryant, his daughter, and seven other passengers were killed in a helicopter crash.

Vanessa Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments for invasion of privacy in U.S. District court over “snapshots taken of the NBA star’s corpse that were circulated after he was killed,” NPR reported.

Scorecard: The jury trial is currently underway and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Vanessa Bryant alleges that “deputies did not take the photos for investigative purposes and shared them with firefighters who responded to the crash scene. The lawsuit said a deputy showed the photos to bar patrons and a firefighter showed them to off-duty colleagues,” according to NPR.

Two other families who lost relatives in the crash have already settled with the county for $2.5 million in a similar case, and Bryant did not settle, meaning that she is seeking more money. The county has dismissed her case as a “money grab,” NPR reported.

Sonos Accused of Violating Google’s Voice Assistant Patents

The case: Google has filed two patent infringement complaints against Sonos in the U.S. District Court in Northern California, claiming that “Sonos’ new voice-assistant technology violates several Google patents,” according to Reuters.

At issue are seven patents used in Google Assistant devices that are similar to the technology that runs Sonos Voice Control.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: These complaints are just the latest in ongoing smart speaker patent battles between Google and Sonos “including lawsuits in California, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands,” per Reuters, which added that “Sonos won an import ban on some Google devices from the U.S. International Trade Commission in January.”

Google seeks an unspecified amount and an order to block Sonos’ patent infringement.

Military Contractor Settles Improper Metals Testing Suit

The case: In 2020, former employee Bradley Keller filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Iowa-based Wellman Dynamics, a “company that manufactures large metal castings used by military contractors including Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft and Boeing,” according to the Associated Press.

Keller claimed that Wellman “failed to test the castings and falsely certified test results over seven years,” the AP reported. While Wellman was laid off in 2021, records show he was subsequently rehired.

Scorecard: Wellman “will pay $500,000 in restitution to the U.S. government to settle the allegations,” according to the AP.

Takeaway: Keller will receive a total of $105,000. “In the settlement agreement the company denies the allegations but indicated the case was settled to avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation of the claims,” the AP reported.

The agreement still allows the government to launch future investigations and pursue potential criminal charges. &

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

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