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Sugarland’s Lawyers Blame the Injured – IN State Fair Collapse

Just like the remainder of this story, this isn’t going to end well.

So, the legal people for the band Sugarland have made some pretty sensational comments regarding claims made by the some of the people injured or killed in the collapse that took place at the Indiana State Fair during the summer of 2011.  I doubt you’ve forgotten any of it, I can’t believe that I’ll ever forget that image of the stage crashing down:

From a post at the MSNBC site:

Fans who were killed and injured when stage rigging and sound equipment collapsed onto them as they awaited a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair failed to take steps to ensure their own safety and are at least in part to blame for their injuries, the country duo’s attorneys said.

The statement, part of a Feb. 16 response to a civil suit filed by survivors and families of some of those killed, is a clear attempt to cast blame away from the band as investigators continue to search for answers in the collapse that killed seven people and injured 58.

Calling the powerful winds that toppled the stage on Aug. 13 an “act of God,” Sugarland’s attorneys said fair officials and Mid-America Sound Corp. were responsible for the stage setup, and that the fans voluntarily assumed risk by attending the show.

“Some or all of the plaintiffs’ claimed injuries resulted from their own fault,” according to the response. Sugarland attorney James H. Milstone would not elaborate Tuesday on whether that statement included those killed as well as the injured.

I actually found out about this from Erich Friend of Teqniqal Systems in Fort Worth.  Erich is a safety guru and general genius, and my go-to guy for safety.  We were chatting about this at PLASA Focus this week when he told me about the band’s legal response to the disaster.  If you want another mind-blowing bout of complete and utter ridiculousness, read through the comments on the MSNBC Facebook post about the story.  Holy sh*t.

I haven’t seen any retractions, big announcements, or the like about Sugarland firing its legal team, so perhaps they are right in line with these comments.  We’ll see.

What? Ohio Public Utilities Commission and FirstEnergy’s $10.80 Stupidity

What?

Have you ever had a volunteer come to your door with a free compact fluorescent lamp?  When my wife and I lived in Oklahoma City,  a community program volunteer brought a free compact fluorescent lamp to our house for us to have and use in order to save energy.  How nice, right?  We thought so.  A public utility, FirstEnergy in Ohio, set up a program (that was approved by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, by the way) that distributes compact fluorescent lamps to customers in Ohio.

Cool program, right?  Free fluorescent lamps for all.  Except they’re not free – FirstEnergy will be charging their customers $10.80 each for the lamps, automatically, with no opt-out program.  Hold on a minute – for $10 I can go down to Target, Home Depot, or Lowes’ and buy a half-dozen compact fluorescent lamps.  What’s with this $10.80 per lamp crap?

Last year, the Ohio state government passed a bill saying that utilities had to cut their customers’ usage 22% by the year 2025.  Apparently this is how FirstEnergy is going about reducing energy usage – by charging customers way, way too much for something that people can buy on their own for 1/6 the price.

An article from John Funk at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland states:

FirstEnergy bought Chinese-made bulbs from three distributors including TCP Inc. of Aurora, because it couldn’t find any made in the United States. A California company will deliver 3 million of them door-to-door to Illuminating Co., Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison customers. The rest will be mailed.

Passing out the bulbs is not the way to persuade people to use them, Migden-Ostrander said. The company should have given its customers discount coupons and let them shop for the best deal, she said.

The company’s lawyers resisted that, arguing that FirstEnergy had to begin cutting back power deliveries right away to meet the terms of the new law.

Hmm.  You know what really sucks about this?  If you have seen the letter from FirstEnergy VP of Customer Service John Paganie, it seems like they’re giving these lamps away for free:

We are pleased to provide you with two energy-efficient CFLs. When you install these bulbs in place of two 100-watt incandescent bulbs in your home, you could save about $30 over the life of each bulb.  Here’s how:

Traditional incandescent bulbs cost less to buy than CFLs, but they might only last 750 hours. Your new CFLs should last 10,000 hours, which is 10 times as long. This means you would need to buy more than 13 traditional bulbs to equal the lifespan of one CFL.

Also, your new CFLs will use 75 percent less electricity than a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb, and will produce the same amount of light. When you combine the longer life and decreased energy usage of the CFL, you can see significant, long-term savings for each bulb you replace.

FirstEnergy’s Ohio utility companies – The Illuminating Company, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison – are providing these light bulbs to residential customers in Ohio.

We’re dedicated to helping our customers reduce the amount of electricity they use while increasing their energy efficiency. These CFLs are just one simple way you can improve energy efficiency in your home. We’ve also enclosed a booklet with more than 100 energy-saving tips.
For additional information, please visit firstenergycorp.com/energyefficiency.

Thanks, and enjoy your two compact fluorescent light bulbs!

Sincerely,
John Paganie
FirstEnergy Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Customer Service

What the hell.  Doesn’t this seem like a bit of a misleading statement?  I think it does, and apparently thousands of Ohioans also thought it did, because the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, who approved the program in the first place, has turned around and said that they have now asked FirstEnergy to postpone the start of the program until someone knows what on Earth it is going to cost, and what exactly is going on.  From the Consumerist website, a pro-consumer news site (I’m sure you know who they are), who posted the response from the PUCO on the FirstEnergy backlash:

“The PUCO has received a large volume of calls and emails in response to the compact fluorescent light bulb program approved last month for FirstEnergy. Today, I received a letter from Gov. Strickland asking that the PUCO postpone the program until such time as we can address several questions raised by the governor, members of the Ohio General Assembly and FirstEnergy customers related to program details and costs.

As a result, I have asked FirstEnergy to postpone deployment of its compact fluorescent light bulb program until the Commission can thoroughly assess the costs associated with this program. The PUCO approved the program following consensus reached during discussions among the company and other organizations including the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Although the PUCO allowed FirstEnergy to implement its program, we did not approve the charge that will appear on monthly bills as a result. Reports in the media place the cost to customers at sixty cents per month for three years, which equates to $21.60 over the life of the program. The PUCO has not approved these additional dollars nor have we received a request by the company to do so.

The PUCO will gather additional information regarding the program and its related costs. Until the PUCO has specific details regarding the program costs, FirstEnergy should not deploy its compact fluorescent light bulb program.”

I’ll be watching for more information on this ridiculance. If you have any more news about the program, please contact me via the contact form and I will get that info published right now.

A record of the legal case for this ridiculance is here – it’s a dry read, but interesting nonetheless.

News on Texas House Bill 2649 – Committee Selected

There’s a bit of news on Texas House Bill 2649 – it is official that the House refused to concur on the bill, and that a committee of conferees has been established to view and study the bill.  As of May 29, 2009 the bill has a House Committee of five members – Wayne Smith (Chair), Doc Anderson, Bill Callegari, Patricia Harless, and Mark Homer.  The Senate Committee is comprised of Senators Bob Deuell (Chair), Mike Jackson, Eddie Lucio, Jr., Kirk Watson, and Jeff Wentworth

I am going to suggest that we email the members of the committee and let them know your constructive suggestions.  I got a message in the middle of this whole thing from Wayne Smith’s office telling me that his female staffers were a bit freaked, as people were calling with very violent attitudes.  There’s no need for that, act like a professional and contain yourself.  Their staffers didn’t make the bill, so act like a human being.

I don’t think that having regulation in our industry is a bad thing; but it needs to be in our industry, and not lumped in as something else.  This idea needs more than a few legislators sitting around making decisions about an industry in which I assume they know little.

Email for the current House Committee on Texas House Bill 2649:

Wayne Smith:  [email protected]
Doc Anderson:  [email protected]
Bill Callegari:  [email protected]
Patricia Harless:  [email protected]
Mark Homer:  [email protected]

Email for the current Senate Committee on Texas House Bill 2649:

Bob Deuell:  [email protected]
Mike Jackson:  [email protected]
Eddie Lucio, Jr:  [email protected]
Kirk Watson:  [email protected]
Jeff Wentworth:  [email protected]

Be nice in your emails – be professional.  We’re fighting for our art and craft here, so act professionally.  You represent us all.

iLight Triumphs in iLight vs. Fallon Luminous Products

Did you hear about this?  From iLight’s press release (fyi, it’s a PDF link):

Chicago, IL – May 7, 2009 – iLight Technologies, Inc. (www.ilight-tech.com), a leader in innovative LED lighting solutions, is pleased to announce that on April 30, 2009, a jury in Federal Court unanimously found that Fallon Luminous Products Corporation willfully infringed multiple claims in three iLight patents. The jury also unanimously confirmed that those claims of iLight’s patents were not invalid, as Fallon had contended.

The jury concluded that iLight was entitled to a multi-million dollar award of compensatory damages. As a result of the jury’s finding of willful infringement by Fallon, the judge increased the amount of damages awarded by the jury by $1 million. The Court issued an injunction order prohibiting Fallon and all acting in concert with Fallon from using, manufacturing, importing, or selling any of Fallon’s infringing LED products.

In this case, iLight Technologies sued Fallon for infringing three iLight patents directed to certain ways of simulating cold cathode or neon lighting using, among other things, light emitting diodes (LEDs).   iLight’s patented technology enables an illumination product to have both the extensive benefits of LEDs (low energy usage, long life, durability, etc.), and the very visually striking appearance of cold cathode or neon lighting. This patented lighting technology has become particularly important as the world moves away from older lighting systems to state-of-the-art solid state lighting systems in order to obtain the advantages that this newer, environmentally friendly, energy-efficient lighting technology offers.

“Since its inception, iLight has invested significant resources in developing and delivering unique and leading-edge LED lighting technologies for our customers,” stated Mark Cleaver, Founder and Chairman. “While Fallon argued that it used a different lighting approach in its LED signage products from that disclosed and claimed in iLight’s patents, the jury unanimously agreed that Fallon’s lighting approach infringed iLight’s patents. The jury’s decision affirmed our belief in the considerable breadth of iLight’s patented illumination technology.”