Legal Roundup: Google Not Responsible in Nightclub Shooting, Apple Drops Lawsuit Against Qualcomm and More

A look at recent court decisions and how their rulings have an impact on risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | April 24, 2019

Washington State University Settles Suit Involving Lost Hard Drive With Data of 1 Million People

The Case: Washington State University has agreed to pay $4.7 million to settle claims regarding a hard drive full of personal data that was stolen from a self-storage locker.


The Seattle Times reported that WSU also agreed to pay for two years of credit monitoring and insurance services for victims of the case.

King County Superior Court approved the settlement in mid-April. The funds will come from the university’s cyber liability insurance policy and state insurance.

Scorecard: The final tally from WSU isn’t known just yet but will become more clear as identity theft victims come forward. The Seattle Times reports: “The total amount will depend on the number of claims made. The stolen hard drive contained nearly 1.2 million people’s information, including social security numbers, addresses, contact information, career and health data, and college-admissions test scores. The data was collected over a 15-year period by the school’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.”

Takeaway: Data is crucial — storing it in a self-storage locker may not be the best way to keep it safe.

School District to Pay $850,000 in Teacher Retaliation Case Involving LGBT Student Group

The Case: A California school district has agreed to pay $850,000 to a teacher who claimed she was retaliated against for siding with an LGBT student group.

The teacher, Julia Frost, was the co-adviser of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Sultana High School.

The San Bernardino Sun reports: “In 2012, Frost helped members of Sultana High School’s GSA club bring in the ACLU of Southern California in response to what she and students saw as a pattern of discrimination against gay students and club members by teachers and administrators.

“But shortly before the ACLU weighed in on the situation at Sultana High, which ultimately led to changes in the district’s policy and training procedures, Frost was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed for the 2013-14 school year. Under California law, public school districts must inform teachers before March 15 if their services will not be needed in the coming school year.”

The Sun goes on to explain that the LGBT students claimed “slurs and other discriminatory behavior by teachers and administrators at the school, including delisting the organization from the school’s club listing, not letting the club put up flyers advertising events and forbidding students from wearing gender non-conforming clothes to school or to school events like prom and homecoming.”

Scorecard: Frost wins the case but hasn’t been able to find employment as a school teacher since she her tenure at Sultana High School. The Hesperia Unified School District in San Bernardino County has improved its complaint procedures and requires nondiscrimination training. In a statement they said Frost “has not yet produced any compelling evidence to support any of her claims” but said a settlement was the most prudent financial decision.

Takeaway: It is advisable for schools and other facilities to engage in nondiscrimination training in order to create a more welcoming environment and avoid potential litigation.

Case Dismissed: Facebook, Twitter, Google Not Responsible for Pulse Nightclub Shooting

The Case: Victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando sued Facebook, Google and Twitter claiming the tech giants helped the killer and others become indoctrinated to the Islamic State.

The massacre left 49 people dead and 53 injured.

The case had already been dismissed by U.S. District Court in Detroit and this week that decision was upheld by 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

MediaPost explained that the Circuit court determined there was no causal relationship between the tech companies and the killings, and that if “we accepted Plaintiffs argument, Defendants would become liable for seemingly endless acts of modern violence simply because the individual viewed relevant social media content before deciding to commit the violence.”

Scorecard: Google, Facebook and Twitter will not be held accountable for a shooter’s actions.

Takeaway: Tech companies aren’t necessarily responsible for the bad things people do on their platforms. 

Apple and Qualcomm Drop Lawsuits Against Each Other

The Case: Apple and Qualcomm have been battling for years in the courts.

Wired offered this quick history lesson: “Apple sued Qualcomm in January 2017, alleging that Qualcomm had withheld $1 billion in royalty rebates in retaliation over Apple’s cooperation with antitrust regulators in South Korea, where Qualcomm was hit with a $854 million fine in 2016.

“Qualcomm countersued Apple that spring, claiming that Apple deliberately slowed Qualcomm modems used in some iPhones to cover up slower performance of Intel-made modems used in other iPhones.


“Apple retaliated by withholding payments for the patent licensing fees its manufacturing partners were supposed to pay to Qualcomm, and by expanding its lawsuit to include the double-dipping allegations. Qualcomm responded by suing Apple’s manufacturers over the unpaid licensing fees and by suing Apple itself for patent infringement.”

Scorecard: Now, the companies are dismissing all litigation against each other. They’ve agreed to a six-year licensing agreement, and Apple will pay Qualcomm an undisclosed sum, according to Wired.

Takeaway: Sometimes, it’s better to play nice, even if you don’t like each other.

Wired said the deal may just center around the emerging 5G technology: “Qualcomm told investors last year that Apple would stop using its wireless chips, switching instead to chips made by competitors like Intel.

“One potential catalyst for the settlement emerged a few hours later: Intel said it won’t make wireless modems capable of connecting to the coming generation of 5G networks.

“Earlier this year, Intel had said it would have sample 5G modems ready in 2019, and officially launch the products next year. With Intel no longer an option, that would explain why Apple needed to work out a new deal with Qualcomm.”

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]