Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Civil Liability Against Casinos

Litigating cases against casinos for the actions of third parties (assaults, batteries, etc.) just got a little harder.  The Nevada Supreme Court interpreted Nevada Revised Statute 651.015 for the first time in Smith v. Mahoney's Silver Nugget - 127 Nev. Adv. Op. 76 (2011).  I had the responsibility of drafting/arguing the underlying motion for summary judgment at the district court level that resulted in dismissal of Mr. Smith's case, and the duty of drafting the supplemental briefing requested by the Supreme Court as to the interpretation of duty as defined by NRS 651.015.  As such, I am probably the most knowledgeable about this issue.   

In Smith, the Supreme Court clarified that a district court has discretion to determine "duty" in determining if an innkeeper (hotel) should be liable for the criminal acts of third parties.  In most instances, the acts are thefts or assaults that result in the injury to the victim.  In 1993, the Nevada Supreme Court opined in Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp. 109 Nev. 109, 864 P.2d 796 that innkeepers are liable for these actions if the "totality of the circumstances" illustrated notice.  In response, the Nevada Resorts lobby had NRS 651.015 passed in 1995 that shifted the question of duty back to the court.  The Smith Court held that Doud did not abrogate the court's role in assessing duty, but ultimately upheld the dismissal based on the underlying factual findings by the district court.
Ultimately, this was a dream case for the resort industry to clarify NRS 651.015 and duty.  Mr. Smith's estate had an extremely weak case for multiple factual reasons.  There are likely ways for future plaintiffs to distinguish themselves from Smith, but that would likely require an attorney who is familiar with the appropriate legal arguments to do so.  Additionally, there are also hurdles related to causation (Bower v. Harrah’s Laughlin, Inc., 125 Nev. 37, ___, 215 P.2d 709, 724 (2009)), so future litigants should be wary of the potential difficulties in bringing a case against an innkeeper.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trade Secrets

I recently argued before the Nevada Supreme Court, link available at http://www.nevadajudiciary.us/index.php/oralarguments/1257-finkel-vs-cashman-professional-inc-cw-55377, regarding the issue of trade secrets.  While most people have a general understanding that a trade secret involves intellectual property like the secret recipe for Coke, many business owners do not understand that it also protects good will of a business.  In terms of good will, Nevada construes that unique processes and pricing may constitute a protectable trade secret.  This is important because it would protect the good will of a business against misappropriate by a former employee.  Notably, a trade secret is a protectable and proprietary interest of a business for so long as the trade secret remains "secret."  As such, a business owner would be wise to have its employees execute agreements that recognize the business' customer lists, pricing, contracts, and/or any other similar type of good will is a trade secret of the company.  This will enable the business to seek greater protection under the Uniform Trade Secret Act (NRS 600A) to protect itself from former employees. 
If you are a business owner who is concerned with protecting the good will of your business, please contact me as I may be able to assist you with this goal.