Legal Roundup: White Male Awarded $10M in Discrimination Case, Cleveland MLB Team Sued for Trademark Infringement and More

Former health care executive awarded $10 million in suit against former employer accused of Title VII discrimination.
By: | November 8, 2021

White Male Awarded $10M in Discrimination Case

The case: In 2019, former health care executive David Duvall filed suit against North Carolina-based Novant Health. He claimed that in the previous year, he was terminated and replaced by two women, one Black and one white.

Duvall, who had been a senior vice president of marketing and communication, “accused Novant of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race and gender discrimination in the workplace,” according to the Associated Press.

Scorecard: A federal jury for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina has awarded Duvall $10 million in punitive damages, finding that race and sex played a role in the firing.

Takeaway: The New York Times reported that the award is likely to be reduced by the trial judge, because “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act caps punitive damages at $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.”

Novant Health said that the verdict would not slow down efforts to increase the diversity of its 35,000+ staff, as reported by the Times.

Cleveland MLB Team Sued for Trademark Infringement

The case: After the Cleveland Indians changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians, a team with the same name took issue: Cleveland Guardians roller derby team. They took the case to court, alleging trademark infringement.

The wheeled Cleveland Guardians have used the name since 2013, according to the New York Times. The roller derby team alleges in the suit that the baseball team “knew the Guardians existed months before the name change was announced,” wrote the Times. The suit states, “Plaintiff was here first.”

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

Takeaway: Prior to the legal action, the owner of the roller derby team had offered to sell the name to the MLB team, but those negotiations led nowhere.

Pop Tarts Lack Strawberries, According to Class Action

The case: A plaintiff seeks $5 million in a class action suit filed against Kellogg Company. Elizabeth Russett claims that the breakfast brand misled consumers because there aren’t enough strawberries in Strawberry Pop Tarts, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, says that the name of the product, “ ‘Whole Grain Frosted Strawberry Toaster Pastries,’ is false, deceptive, and misleading, because it contains mostly non-strawberry fruit ingredients,” such as pears and apples.

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

Takeaway: This case is one of several targeting Kellogg. “Over the past year, at least three lawsuits have been filed claiming the brand’s strawberry-flavored varieties don’t contain enough actual strawberries relative to other, lesser-known fruit ingredients,” according to the WSJ.

All three suits were filed by Spencer Sheehan, an attorney from Great Neck, New York, whose stated goal is to pressure Kellogg’s to modify its product labeling. Sheehan files frequently against large food companies.

According to the Washington Post, a recent analysis found that Sheehan “filed two to three fraud suits per week on average in the first few months of 2021.”

Hippos Belonging to Cocaine Kingpin Pablo Escobar’s Ruled ‘People’

The case: In a Cincinnati U.S. District Court, The Animal Legal Defense Fund requested that hippos descended from animals belonging to the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar be given “interested persons” status.

The request was made so that “two wildlife experts in sterilization from Ohio could be deposed in the case,” according to The Guardian.

From the original four hippos Escobar imported to Colombia in the 1980s, up to 120 offspring are now roaming free and pose a threat to local flora and fauna, as reported by Newsweek. The Colombian government wants to sterilize or kill the hippos to prevent further population.

Scorecard: The hippos “can be recognized as people or ‘interested persons’ with legal rights in the U.S. following a federal court order,” reported the Associated Press.

Takeaway: The Animal Legal Defense Fund thinks this is “the first time animals have been declared legal persons in the U.S.,” according to the AP. While there’s little chance that the U.S. ruling will have any effect in Colombia, it does open the door to providing “precedent for other animals’ legal rights,” according to Newsweek, which points out the case of Happy the elephant of the Bronx Zoo. &

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