personal information, nevada, Internet Theft

How Nevada Safeguards Your Personal Information on the Internet

These days, you cannot watch the news without hearing about a security breach where personal information is stolen and private data has been exposed. We put all of our important information onto the public domain and rely on businesses and other entities to protect it for us. It is highly likely that you or someone you know has had their personal information compromised whether from the large scale breaches at Target, Home Depot, Sally Beauty Supply, Trump Hotels, Ashley Madison, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and CVS; or on a smaller scale at a local business. Anyone who uses a credit cards or shops online is at risk. If personal information is stolen, bank accounts can be hacked, credit cards charged, home addresses could be revealed, social security numbers can be stolen, and so on. People may not even know that the information has been stolen until years later when they try to get a loan or a new credit card and realize their credit is destroyed.

Keeping all these breaches in mind, it is nearly impossible to get by these days without using a credit card or shopping online, so we must all put our faith in the hands of the business we patronize to provide enough security to protect our personal information. But what happens when companies fail to protect our information? Are there any consequences? What if the businesses do not provide sufficient security? Or what if they do the best they can but the security is still breached?

 

Nevada continues to pass laws to protect personal information

Nevada Revised Statute 603A governs proper data protection for any “data collectors” who deal with nonpublic personal information whether it be driver’s licenses, social security numbers, credit cards or user names and passwords. Such data collectors are required to take “reasonable security measures” to protect records from unauthorized access, use, modification, or disclosure. Data collectors are required to maintain certain security standards, sometimes by using encryption, to protect personal data. If companies take credit cards they must comply with “Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards” which require encryption for information transferred electronically. For companies that do not accept credit cards, Nevada law still requires them to encrypt data transferred electronically.

In an effort to keep up with the ever increasing amount of personal information being transferred electronically, Nevada recently updated its statute to expand the definition of “personal information.” Prior to July 1, 2015 personal information required to be protected included social security numbers, driver’s license or identification numbers, and any account numbers in combination with passwords that permit access to a financial account. After July 1, 2015 personal information now includes medical information numbers, health insurance information numbers, driver authorization numbers, or user names/login information that in combination with a password or security question would permit access to an online account. This expansion of the meaning of personal information now seems to cover just about anything a consumer would be uniquely identified by at a business or on the internet, whether it be shopping with an online account, requesting a referral for a doctor visit, or subscribing to an online service.

Data collectors are not responsible for damages caused by a security breach as long as they are complying with the reasonable security standards outlined in the statute. If a business reasonably believes personal information has been stolen, they must provide the potential victims with notice right away.

Nevada considers itself to be the “gold standard” in consumer breach and notification laws1)See Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy, April 24, 2015 at page 4.. Nevada also prides itself on being “business-friendly” by having uncomplicated, clear and reasonable guidelines for what business need to do to comply with protection of consumer data2)Id.. The new guidelines expanding the definition of personal information was thought to incentivize businesses to protect the data or force them to go public with their breach by providing notice to the public.

 

Any press is good press? Or is it?

But are there any remedies to really protect a harmed consumer? It does not really appear so at this time in Nevada. Although businesses do have to notify individuals when the personal information is compromised, I am not convinced this is all that much of an incentive to do use all possible efforts to protect information. For example, Target was brought to the forefront of the news recently for its large scale data breach, but I do not know anyone who loves to shop there any less. I would make an educated guess that any number of my soccer mom friends are enjoying a stroll through Target as I write this. Not only that, but my home-improvement-enthusiast husband still goes to Home Depot at least once a week despite having to get an entirely new debit card when his information was breached a few months back. Point being that I just do not think it is a sufficient disincentive for companies to have to “out” themselves after a breach. Studies are showing that consumers are used to breaches and do not seem overly concerned about it. Typically consumers are not held responsible for unauthorized credit card charges and likely are not inconvenienced by more than a phone call to the bank.

Many companies that have suffered from security breaches have provided identity protection services at no charge for a certain amount of time. That is certainly helpful and likely comes at a substantial cost for the business, but it is not required. Connecticut recently passed legislation that will require identify theft protection to be provided in the event of a breach. California also requires these services.

 

What else can Nevada do to protect the personal information of her citizens?

In the future, Nevada may implement a law to require companies to provide these identity protection services. But it appears that most do anyway in an effort to show their customers that they care and that they will work hard to protect their data in the future. But is this enough? It is hard to say.

It is my perception that many of these computer hackers live abroad. Additionally, I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way, and if criminals are looking to find a way to steal personal information, they will always be one step ahead of the security game. So can we really fault a store for falling victim to an extremely sophisticated hacker when they took “reasonable measures” to protect my identity as required by law? Maybe. Say, for example, if someone does not receive notice of a breach because they changed their address since shopping at a certain store and they do not opt in to identity protection. Maybe a few years go by and this person is denied for a car loan because someone else has been taking out loans in his or her name and ruined the credit score of the victim. The consumer is innocent, so who should s/he blame? The store that permitted the data breach? Maybe.

Perhaps in the future, legislators would consider a private cause of action by a wronged consumer against a business who suffered a breach. Even if the business took reasonable protection measures, should an innocent consumer really be left holding the proverbial bag of harm when s/he now cannot buy a car? If this happens to a large number of people, maybe a class action suit would be a way to address wronged consumers. In that scenario, the benefit of a class action lawsuits come to fruition as a consumer who suffered only a small amount could seek redress without incurring substantial attorney’s fees. But, on the other hand, I can understand how a store who took all best efforts to stay up to date on the cutting edge of security protection should not be held liable for falling victim to a sophisticated scammer. If a business follows all laws and procedures, maybe it is unfair to require the entity to pay damages for a breach they could not have anticipated.

Since Nevada likes to stay on the forefront of consumer data protection, we will have to wait and see how these issues play out in the future. But for now, keep checking those credit reports and be on the lookout for any strange activity.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. See Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy, April 24, 2015 at page 4.
2. Id.
crying child, screaming

Screaming at a Crying Child in a Public Place: What is the Right Thing to Do?

As a business owner, what would you do if patrons of yours had a child with them that they would (or could) not stop from crying?

Before you answer, assume that 1) the establishment is full of other customers that are both annoyed with the crying and will see what you are about to do and 2) that we are living in the era of the “hyper gotcha-media”1)tm pending where we all now have electronic devices that can easily take video of what happens around us, and will likely tattle at the first whiff of unreasonable behavior.

Not an easy hypothetical, is it2)I have a more personal anecdote. A few weeks ago I flew back to Las Vegas from New York on a late night flight [the equivalent of a red-eye going west]. This couple with at least 4 children did not purchase a seat for their two very young kids, presuming [I assume] that they would hold the child through the 6 hour flight. For whatever reason, the child cried continuously [this is an appropriate time to use the term ‘literally’] for the entire flight. If you do not know many New Yorkers, they are more likely than most to tell you exactly how they feel about a particular set of circumstances. I could see folks starring lasers at the young couple in the back of the plane, then leaning over to the person next to him/her and stage whispering nasty thoughts that I will not repeat here. I was concerned that someone was about to get up, start an altercation, and we would all end up in Denver for the night. Luckily, this did not occur. But still, what were we all supposed to do? I felt both sorry for the young couple and angry at them for not being more responsible. I imagine the customers in the following scenario felt a similar cognitive dissonance. I share this tale only so you know, before I evaluate the behavior of the folks involved in this scenario, that I am certainly not better or superior to them.?

Hopefully, if this happens to you, the following does not occur:

In Portland, ME, a few weeks ago, a young couple with their toddler daughter arrived at a small, busy, breakfast establishment. After waiting thirty minutes for a table, the couple had to wait an additional forty minutes for their food to be prepared3)those familiar with the east coast small breakfast establishments will not find this wait time surprising. Unlike the spacious kitchens in Southern Nevada, there is a finite amount of space that these folks have to cook in, and it takes a bit longer to get your food. Plus, there is no pressure from the casino to get you out of the restaurant and back on the floor.

What happened next is not very clear; it depends upon whom you ask. All I can report with certainty is that the toddler became unruly, and there was a confrontation between the toddler’s family and the restaurant owner. I will allow you to read what each party stated on the facebook, and allow you to do your best Judge Judy4)it is shame we do not have more of her. If are sensitive to belligerent language, you may want to skip the posts from Marcy’s Diner.

 

Crying child, portland maine, restaurant owner, tort

Ms. Carson then went on to write an op-ed for the Washington Post regarding the incident5)It is tough for the Post to find hard news to report without an upcoming election..oh wait.

Again, I do not know for sure, the following is not anything more than conjecture, but there seems to be an agreement that the restauranteur addressed the child directly in an unfriendly manner. I know this may shock you, loyal reader, but the internets went into a tizzy over this. Most folks have previously been similarly situated, and therefore, have a strong opinion as to what was right for the parents/restauranteur to do.

The Press Herald of Portland, ME, polled their readers to discover how the public would adjudicate this issue. Out of 5500 votes, 61% of the respondents said that they approved of the way Ms. Neugebauer handled the unruly child.6)Source  I, for one, was a bit shocked by the result. And here I thought America loved children unconditionally. Perhaps it is just when they are seen, but not heard.

I got a lukewarm take of my own, as a matter of fact! It is a bit more nuanced than most of the opinions I have seen, so please bear with me.

 

If this crying child scenario happened in Nevada, is there a potential tort?

Assuming that folks name-calling on the facebook is not the most efficacious means to resolve societal issues, is the court system the right forum? If so, assuming the mother’s account of the events is correct, do the parents have a cause of actions against the restauranteur? Before we begin, know that each state has its own tort law, so what is true in Nevada is not necessarily true anywhere else. Given what we know of the facts, it is possible that a similarly situated plaintiff in Nevada might have a cause of action against the restauranteur through Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress(IIED) cause of action. The necessary elements of IIED are as follows:

1) the defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous;

2) defendants’ conduct was non-privileged;

3) defendants acted with the intention to cause plaintiffs emotional distress, or with reckless disregard for the probability for causing such distress;

4) plaintiffs actually suffered severe or extreme emotional distress; and

5) defendants’ conduct actually or proximately caused the emotional distress.7)Alam v. Reno Hilton Corp., 819 F. Supp. 905, 911 Dist. Court, D. Nevada 1993

 

If I may guess, you have read through those elements and are still not sure if these facts meet those standards. Fair enough. I am happy to elaborate in the pertinent ones. Elements 2 and 3 are easily met in our hypothetical restaurant scenario. There is no legal privilege to yell at another person’s child, and the restauranteur clearly intended to yell at the child, as expressed in her facebook post. As to the other three elements, things get a bit murky.

Was the conduct “extreme and outrageous?” That is a tough question to answer. “Extreme and outrageous” conduct “go[es] beyond all possible bounds of decency, is atrocious and utterly intolerable.”8)Id. I can hear you muttering under your breathe; more synonyms do not make the issue any more clear. The behavior of the restauranteur is what is called a question of fact that would be decided by a judge or jury.  The finder of fact would query, “is the behavior ‘extreme and outrageous’ in the eyes of the hypothetical reasonable person?” The answer again is unclear. As we saw last year with the hoopla surrounding Adrian Peterson9)the football player that was suspended for punishing his young son with a switch, mores with respect to parenting vary greatly through the country. If these facts were presented to a jury in the affluent part of the Bay Area/Park Slope, Brooklyn/Los Angeles, my guess is that the twelve, randomly selected folks would be more inclined to find yelling at another’s child as “extreme and outrageous.” If the case was tried in rural Texas, the deep south, or middle-west, I think it would be less likely.

As to the fourth element, the Alam court states “the stress must be so severe and of such intensity that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it. Moreover, the less extreme the outrage…the more appropriate it is to require evidence of physical injury or illness from the emotional distress.”10)Id. Citation omitted A similar social mores issue as above exists here. Depending on where you are, folks have different expectations of their children. Some think tough love is good for them, others think nurture is more important than nature. Considering the Las Vegas Valley is in between these two extremes, it is difficult to predict how a 12-person jury would decide.

In order for there to be a valid claim, the child would need to manifest actual harm suffered that was caused by the event. The kid would need to go from being gregarious around adults to needing multiple sessions of psychotherapy a week, for example. Even then, if the child suffered a trauma before the incident, it might be difficult to determine if this restauranteur is the actual or proximate cause of the child’s damages.

That was my long-winded way of telling you that a potential case, like most, will be fact-specific. As to the possibility of a tort, a few years ago in New York, Patti Labelle11)according to news accounts returned to an apartment building where she was staying, saw an unsupervised child, and lost her cool, to say the least12)read more here. The case did not go to trial, but Ms. Labelle decide to settle for six-figures before she was to be deposed. Although there is no telling why she settled, it is not that common for folks to pay out six-figures over frivolous claims.

 

Compassion for the Crying Child

Before we wrap up here, if I may, a few words13)#Synecdoche on sympathy, empathy and compassion. At least from the press accounts I have come across, I have yet to see my writer friends get to the underlying issue of this unfortunate incident. Comment if you disagree, but my feelings are that folks heard the details of the story, then latched onto the perspective that they were most familiar: either empathy for the toddler’s parents after they have suffered through a similar, painful episode with their own uncontrollable children, or empathy for the restauranteur as a person with no kids that who is tired of parents that cannot control their children in public.

Is this what we have become? Only able to understand perspectives we are most familiar with? Over the weekend I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me14)Highly recommended. There are too many great parts to elaborate on in a footnote, but I must say that I deeply admire his vulnerability. The book elicited thoughts of Vollmann’s “sleepwalkers” in Europe Central, Ellison’s Invisible Man [thematically], Morrison’s Song of Solomon [again, thematically], and the comment made by David Foster Wallace to David Lipsky in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself[This is in no way an endorsement of that movie. I am about to paraphrase.] that the real heroes of our society are the ones who will let go of the cynical irony and be genuine, honest, and vulnerable about how they feel, without any regard for how the remaining cynics will react. Toward the end of the letter to his son, Mr. Coates describes an incident in New York City when he was walking with his young son and a woman of another race shoved his son out of the way as if he was not entitled any amount of human decency. Mr. Coates describes becoming agitated (as I am sure we all would) and addressing the woman in a stern manner in reference to what she had done. Other men of the woman’s race saw the conversation and stepped in and threatened to have Mr. Coates arrested for speaking to the woman in such a way. Mr. Coates went on to express his regret to his son on how he had 1) lost his cool and 2) put his son at risk through the confrontation. How many of us would have responded in the same way and been left with similar regrets?

What is most apparent about the restaurant incident is that neither party seems to have any regard for how the other side must be feeling. It is doubtful that the parents of the toddler wanted her to be crying in the restaurant for all that time15)they do not seem like malicious people from what I have seen. To respond the way the restauranteur makes it look as if she thought the parents were trying to drive away her weekend breakfast crowd. Even if she cannot understand why the parents cannot or will not stop the child from crying, would not sympathy and compassion lead to a better outcome? Bring the child a little something to eat to tide her over? How about a crayon and a piece of paper? Upon their arrival, let the parents know that there will be a bit of wait with the breakfast rush so they know what they are getting into? If these options are not functional, and the child is crying in a manner unsuitable to the owner, perhaps pull the parent(s) aside and speak to them respectfully about why the disturbance is unacceptable. To yell at a small child seems to be the worst outcome possible besides violence (as we saw from the facebook post, the restaurateur was not against that option). Not that I am judging folks here, but I cannot fathom why it is necessary to call the small child those horrible names on the facebook. It is not like the family will be returning to the restaurant.

Ah, but what about the parents? Even if it takes a village to raise a child, perhaps the villagers should be permitted to opt in? Just because you are used to the volume of your crying child, it is not fair to assume others are as well. The restaurateur, her employees, and their fellow customers deserve more respect than that. If you do not know what to do, you could always ask for help! Like Mr. Coates spoke of, as parents you are possibly putting your child at unnecessary risk by not addressing the incessant crying. How important could those pancakes possibly be? Worse, instead of trying to understand why the restauranteur would respond in an unconscious manner16)as Eckhart Tolle would put it, you chose to instigate further harm by attacking the restaurant owner on the facebook, which is what triggered the media firestorm. Clearly the parents do not want to behave this way from the comment the mother made to her child after the yelling about not wanting the young girl to grow up to be that way. So is it ok to behave that way online? Now they have turned the incident into a crying shame, for the parents and the child. And for what good? Did shaming the owner bring about the desired result? Or just create a shame cycle?

Is this a product of our friends in the media exploiting conflict for their own profit without regard for the feelings of those involved? Who is to say. No one made the participants publish responses on the facebook and Washington Post, they all made that choice. But we in the media could show more compassion as well. Clear these folks were a bit out of mind during this incident, but by turning the incident into click-bait, we have defined these poor people by their worst behavior of one weekend morning17)it would be a different story if the incident was so-called “news-worthy,” but you will have a difficult time persuading me that breakfast incident in Portland, Maine, affects any of our lives. I do not think any of us want to be defined by our worst actions. Just because we can make a snap judgments does not mean we should.

Nor will you be able to persuade me that if each party showed sympathy and compassion for one another that it would not have led to a more desired result. Anger, shame and humiliation resulted in worse outcome for all involved. It does not have to be this way! Let us follow Mr. Coates’ example and use this incident to stay more conscious and have more sympathy for one another, even if it is not clear why in the moment. Good can come of all this hoopla after all.

 

More reading for your perusal:

NY Post on Patti Labelle

The Washington Post

The USA Today

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. tm pending
2. I have a more personal anecdote. A few weeks ago I flew back to Las Vegas from New York on a late night flight [the equivalent of a red-eye going west]. This couple with at least 4 children did not purchase a seat for their two very young kids, presuming [I assume] that they would hold the child through the 6 hour flight. For whatever reason, the child cried continuously [this is an appropriate time to use the term ‘literally’] for the entire flight. If you do not know many New Yorkers, they are more likely than most to tell you exactly how they feel about a particular set of circumstances. I could see folks starring lasers at the young couple in the back of the plane, then leaning over to the person next to him/her and stage whispering nasty thoughts that I will not repeat here. I was concerned that someone was about to get up, start an altercation, and we would all end up in Denver for the night. Luckily, this did not occur. But still, what were we all supposed to do? I felt both sorry for the young couple and angry at them for not being more responsible. I imagine the customers in the following scenario felt a similar cognitive dissonance. I share this tale only so you know, before I evaluate the behavior of the folks involved in this scenario, that I am certainly not better or superior to them.
3. those familiar with the east coast small breakfast establishments will not find this wait time surprising. Unlike the spacious kitchens in Southern Nevada, there is a finite amount of space that these folks have to cook in, and it takes a bit longer to get your food. Plus, there is no pressure from the casino to get you out of the restaurant and back on the floor
4. it is shame we do not have more of her
5. It is tough for the Post to find hard news to report without an upcoming election..oh wait
6. Source 
7. Alam v. Reno Hilton Corp., 819 F. Supp. 905, 911 Dist. Court, D. Nevada 1993
8. Id.
9. the football player that was suspended for punishing his young son with a switch
10. Id. Citation omitted
11. according to news accounts
12. read more here
13. #Synecdoche
14. Highly recommended. There are too many great parts to elaborate on in a footnote, but I must say that I deeply admire his vulnerability. The book elicited thoughts of Vollmann’s “sleepwalkers” in Europe Central, Ellison’s Invisible Man [thematically], Morrison’s Song of Solomon [again, thematically], and the comment made by David Foster Wallace to David Lipsky in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself[This is in no way an endorsement of that movie. I am about to paraphrase.] that the real heroes of our society are the ones who will let go of the cynical irony and be genuine, honest, and vulnerable about how they feel, without any regard for how the remaining cynics will react.
15. they do not seem like malicious people from what I have seen
16. as Eckhart Tolle would put it
17. it would be a different story if the incident was so-called “news-worthy,” but you will have a difficult time persuading me that breakfast incident in Portland, Maine, affects any of our lives

The Importance of Alleging All Possible Causes of Action in the Beginning of a Complaint

Although parties are not sure of exactly what happened during an incident that they were injured, it is important to speculate and make all reasonable guesses as to what may have occurred at the time you file your lawsuit. If not, and if only some theories are alleged, you may not be able to add additional theories later on.

 

The Curious Case of Mr. Nutton’s complaint

This happened in the recent case of Nutton v. Sunset Station, Inc.1)131 Nev. Adv. Op. 34.. Mr. Nutton fell while bowling at the casino and broke his knee. When he sued for under a personal injury theory of liability, he alleged in his complaint only that the casino had applied to much oil to the bowling lanes which made the lanes unsafely slippery, causing his injury. Mr. Nutton, who was not wearing bowling shoes at the time, steadfastly defended his shoe choice throughout the whole litigation process. He testified under oath that his choice to wear street shoes had nothing to do with his fall, because it was the oil and not the shoes that caused him to slip. As the case went on, it became rather obvious that Mr. Nutton was wrong about the oil in the lane. No other witnesses noticed oil, security footage showed no one else slipping, and Nutton could not even find an expert witness to state that there was too much oil on the lane. So, in order to save his case, a few months before trial, Mr. Nutton moved to amend his Complaint to allege that it was the negligence of the casino employees in not making him wear the bowling shoes that caused his fall.

Because Nutton had not originally alleged this theory, he needed permission from the Court to amend his complaint. Problem was, that at such a late time, it is difficult to meet standard for amending a pleading. First, if the time for amending pleadings has passed, (which it had), Nutton needed to show “good cause” for the court to allow him to amend. To determine whether good cause for amendment exists, the court looks at whether the complaint could not have been reasonably filed within the deadline despite best efforts of the party. Here, it was clear that this theory could have been alleged earlier since Nutton knew from day one that he was not wearing his bowling shoes. He could have easily added this theory at an earlier time. Next, the court had to decide whether to allow the amendment at all. Under Rule 15, leave to amend is generally given, unless it is clear that allowing a party to amend his complaint would be futile. Here, it was clear from discovery that alleging this new theory would be futile because he had maintained all along that his shoes were not the cause of the fall. So further pursuit of this claim would have just involved dismissal through a motion for summary judgment based on Mr. Nutton’s own testimony. However, the court was hesitant to disallow Mr. Nutton’s amendment based on his contradictions because his contrary statements were an issue for a jury to decide. But, ultimately, the amendment was not allowed because good cause for the delay was not shown.

So, what did we learn?

The court prefers to permit amendments to a complaint to give parties the chance to fully litigate cases on their merits. But, the court wants parties to do so in a timely manner, and if the parties do not, they risk losing the right to make their claims.

Footnotes   [ + ]

Do You Have Residency in Nevada?

**Late January 2017 Update**

[Editor’s note]

Below an excellent primer on Nevada citizenship written by friend of firm Ethan Featherstone. Assuming you are an American citizen, the question of citizenship in Nevada was difficult to define by statute, as you will see below.

Bottom line: it’s a question of your personal intent. If you intend for Nevada to be your primary residence, so long as you live here, there shouldn’t be a problem.1)You still are required to timely register.

There’s been some talk recently about folks that are registered to vote in 2 different states.

I’ll cut through the noise for you; that’s perfectly fine. People move. It is not illegal to be registered to vote in two jurisdictions.

What is illegal is to vote in a state where you do not reside. This is the definition of voter fraud.

For the 2016 election, there is zero proof that people registered in multiple jurisdictions voted more than once. That’s what matters.2)There is no evidence of voters illegally casting ballots at the most recent election in Nevada.”

Crimes require proof.3)This over-simplifies it. There are two necessary elements. You need a mental element, intent, called mens rea, which I guess multiple regisrations would speak to [not sufficiently in my eyes. I would want to see a statement made by a person]. The second element, entirely absent here, is the actus reus, or the action of the crime. Will someone please produce the actual voter that voted fraudulently in 2016? It is not proper to speak of voter fraud [because the discussion often leads to voter suppression efforts. This needs to be done very carefully.] unless the accuser has a specific person/instance in mind. It is imperative that the public believe that the elections are legitimate; if you think about it hard enough, you will realize everything we have is dependant upon popular sovereignty of the elected. If it is important to all of us that the President win the popular vote, it’s much simpler to eliminate the electoral college.

Just imagine how unfair our criminal justice system would be if you could press charges based on solely on innuendo..

-Brian

[End note]

Residency in Nevada

The residency of a person is important in many circumstances, such as whether you may file a lawsuit. Other categories, such as taxes, divorce, and possibly others may have additional or separate residency requirements and are not addressed here. The Research Division Legislative Counsel Bureau has produced a Fact Sheet regarding residency requirements in Nevada that will assist in most residency inquiries.

What is legal residency under Nevada law?

“Legal residence” is defined by statute under NRS 10.155, which is listed here in its entirety:

Unless otherwise provided by specific statute, the legal residence of a person with reference to the person’s right of naturalization, right to maintain or defend any suit at law or in equity, or any other right dependent on residence, is that place where the person has been physically present within the State or county, as the case may be, during all of the period for which residence is claimed by the person. Should any person absent himself or herself from the jurisdiction of his or her residence with the intention in good faith to return without delay and continue his or her residence, the time of such absence is not considered in determining the fact of residence. (emphasis added).

 

The statute contained in NRS 10.155 has remained largely unchanged since 1911. In fact, the portions relating to a person’s right to maintain or defend a suit has only changed to make it gender neutral.4)Compare with 1911 statute quoted in Fleming v. Fleming, 36 Nev. 135, 134 P. 445, 446 [1913]

 

How Nevada Courts define residency

The Nevada Supreme Court has held that “residency is a question of fact to be determined by the district court.”5) Vaile v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court ex rel. Cnty. of Clark, 118 Nev. 262, 271, 44 P.3d 506, 512 [2002]. This is different from most facts in a case which are determined by the trier of fact 6)typically a jury, but may be the judge at trial if a jury is not requested in a timely manner/is not desired by the party bringing suit. The standard of proof for residency is clear and convincing.7)McKim v. Dist. Court of Second Judicial Dist. of Nevada, 33 Nev. 44, 110 P. 4, 5 [1910]. This standard is higher than a ‘preponderance of the evidence’, but lower than ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’

There are two main elements to determining residency in Nevada under NRS 10.155: 1. an intent to reside in Nevada for an indefinite period of time and 2. actual, physical presence in Nevada. 8)Vaile v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court ex rel. Cnty. of Clark, 118 Nev. 262, 269, 44 P.3d 506, 511 [2002]. The term residency carries with it the idea of permanency as well as continuity.9)Id. These two elements—physical presence and intent to remain—have not been analyzed separately by Nevada courts.

In Aldabe v. Aldabe,10)84 Nev. 392, 441 P.2d 691 [1968], the Court found that evidence of “mailing address, voting registration, school attendance, medical care, business and financial affairs, auto and operators’ licenses, taxes, wills, and employment” all in Nevada as well as a “declared intention of Nevada residence and performed continuous daily activities in Nevada” supported a finding that a person was a Nevada resident.11)Id. at 397, 694. Furthermore, the lack of evidence demonstrating any intention to give up “residence as Nevadans to acquire that of any other state” was also persuasive.12)Id. The Aldabe Court found that a husband and wife were residents in Nevada in a divorce action because of the above evidence even though the property of their marital residence included land on both sides of the California-Nevada border with the living quarters located in California.13)Id. at 395, 693.

Affidavits by a party or witness regarding the person’s physical presence and intentions are also considered by Courts in the analysis of residency.14)118 Nev. at 270, 44 P.3d at 512; Moore v. Moore, 78 Nev. 186, 187, 370 P.2d 690, 690 [1962]; Klepper v. Klepper, 51 Nev. 468, 279 P. 758, 758 [1929];  Fleming v. Fleming, 36 Nev. 135, 134 P. 445, 446 [1913].

While there are requirements that a person must live in Nevada for a period of time in order to be eligible for some rights or entitlements, such as divorce, there is no such requirement for residency. Under NRS 125.020, a person must have resided in Nevada for six weeks before bringing suit for divorce. This assumes residency was already established. The Research Division Legislative Counsel Bureau has provided a “Fact Sheet” wherein it states “Legal residence starts on the day that such actual physical presence begins.” This is consistent with the Nevada Supreme Court’s holdings that a person need only be physically present and intend to remain indefinitely, which could be at the first moment the person crosses the Nevada border.

This was originally published by Ethan Featherstone

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. You still are required to timely register.
2. There is no evidence of voters illegally casting ballots at the most recent election in Nevada.”
3. This over-simplifies it. There are two necessary elements. You need a mental element, intent, called mens rea, which I guess multiple regisrations would speak to [not sufficiently in my eyes. I would want to see a statement made by a person]. The second element, entirely absent here, is the actus reus, or the action of the crime. Will someone please produce the actual voter that voted fraudulently in 2016? It is not proper to speak of voter fraud [because the discussion often leads to voter suppression efforts. This needs to be done very carefully.] unless the accuser has a specific person/instance in mind. It is imperative that the public believe that the elections are legitimate; if you think about it hard enough, you will realize everything we have is dependant upon popular sovereignty of the elected. If it is important to all of us that the President win the popular vote, it’s much simpler to eliminate the electoral college.
4. Compare with 1911 statute quoted in Fleming v. Fleming, 36 Nev. 135, 134 P. 445, 446 [1913]
5.  Vaile v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court ex rel. Cnty. of Clark, 118 Nev. 262, 271, 44 P.3d 506, 512 [2002]
6. typically a jury, but may be the judge at trial if a jury is not requested in a timely manner/is not desired by the party bringing suit
7. McKim v. Dist. Court of Second Judicial Dist. of Nevada, 33 Nev. 44, 110 P. 4, 5 [1910]. This standard is higher than a ‘preponderance of the evidence’, but lower than ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’
8. Vaile v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court ex rel. Cnty. of Clark, 118 Nev. 262, 269, 44 P.3d 506, 511 [2002]
9, 12. Id.
10. 84 Nev. 392, 441 P.2d 691 [1968]
11. Id. at 397, 694.
13. Id. at 395, 693.
14. 118 Nev. at 270, 44 P.3d at 512; Moore v. Moore, 78 Nev. 186, 187, 370 P.2d 690, 690 [1962]; Klepper v. Klepper, 51 Nev. 468, 279 P. 758, 758 [1929];  Fleming v. Fleming, 36 Nev. 135, 134 P. 445, 446 [1913].
Car Safety

Supplements to Auto Insurance and Nevada Law

Most folks1)that drive are familiar with how automobile insurance works.  Of those folks, less are familiar with the mechanics of the supplemental offerings, underinsured and uninsured motorist protection and MedPay. The law in Nevada treats uninsured and underinsured motorist protection in a similar manner, but applies a distinction2)with a difference for MedPay.  This post will discuss what these types of supplemental insurances are, and how the law treats them differently.

 

A few insurance definitions

What is underinsured motorist (UIM) protection?

A supplemental option to your liability policy that insures you if you the victim of an automobile accident, and the perpetrator does not have a sufficient amount of insurance to cover the costs of your damages. Many policies cover the driver and members of the driver’s household whether they are in the primary automobile or in the automobile of another.  The terms of the UIM policy differ between companies, and as you will see, it is imperative that you read your policy carefully.

 

What is uninsured motorist (UM) protection?

Similar to UIM, only it insures you in case the perpetrator does not have any insurance at all to cover the costs of your injuries.

 

What is MedPay?

Known as auto medical payments insurance, it is an insurance extension that pays for medical expenses3)the amount is capped if you or household member is injured in an automobile accident. Depending the specifics of the policy4)again, make sure to read it carefully! it may cover you and household members while in other vehicles, while riding public transportation, and even when walking.

 

Nevada law and the above insurance supplements

And you thought these supplemental insurance concepts were simple, eh? Well it is time to go spelunking in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS); as it turns out, insurance companies are required by law to offer UIM, UM, and MedPay:

NRS 687B.145  

      2.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, insurance companies transacting motor vehicle insurance in this State must offer, on a form approved by the Commissioner, uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage in an amount equal to the limits of coverage for bodily injury sold to an insured under a policy of insurance covering the use of a passenger car. The insurer is not required to reoffer the coverage to the insured in any replacement, reinstatement, substitute or amended policy, but the insured may purchase the coverage by requesting it in writing from the insurer. Each renewal must include a copy of the form offering such coverage. Uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage must include a provision which enables the insured to recover up to the limits of the insured’s own coverage any amount of damages for bodily injury from the insured’s insurer which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of the other vehicle to the extent that those damages exceed the limits of the coverage for bodily injury carried by that owner or operator. If an insured suffers actual damages subject to the limitation of liability provided pursuant to NRS 41.035, underinsured vehicle coverage must include a provision which enables the insured to recover up to the limits of the insured’s own coverage any amount of damages for bodily injury from the insured’s insurer for the actual damages suffered by the insured that exceed that limitation of liability.

 3.  An insurance company transacting motor vehicle insurance in this State must offer an insured under a policy covering the use of a passenger car, the option of purchasing coverage in an amount of at least $1,000 for the payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses resulting from an accident. The offer must be made on a form approved by the Commissioner. The insurer is not required to reoffer the coverage to the insured in any replacement, reinstatement, substitute or amended policy, but the insured may purchase the coverage by requesting it in writing from the insurer. Each renewal must include a copy of the form offering such coverage. (emphasis added)

 

So it is clear5)once we whack our way through all that verbiage that insurance companies must provide an option to Nevada residents to purchase UIM, UM and MedPay supplements to their automobile insurance coverage.  But are there requirements as to how insurance consumers must decline the supplemental coverage? NRS 690B.020 provides guidance in reference to UIM and UM:

 NRS 690B.020  

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in this section and NRS 690B.035, no policy insuring against liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of any motor vehicle may be delivered or issued for delivery in this State unless coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages, from owners or operators of uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicles, for bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death, resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicle. No such coverage is required in or supplemental to a policy issued to the State of Nevada or any political subdivision thereof, or where rejected in writing, on a form furnished by the insurer describing the coverage being rejected, by an insured named therein, or upon any renewal of such a policy unless the coverage is then requested in writing by the named insured. The coverage required in this section may be referred to as “uninsured vehicle coverage.” (emphasis added)

      2.  The amount of coverage to be provided must be not less than the minimum limits for liability insurance for bodily injury provided for under chapter 485 of NRS, but may be in an amount not to exceed the coverage for bodily injury purchased by the policyholder.

 

Ok, UIM and UM policy supplements must be rejected in writing. Additionally, the amount of under-insurance “must not by less than the minimum amounts for liability insurance.” NRS 485.185 provides instruction as to what those amounts are:

 NRS 485.185     

Every owner of a motor vehicle which is registered or required to be registered in this State shall continuously provide, while the motor vehicle is present or registered in this State, insurance provided by an insurance company licensed by the Division of Insurance of the Department of Business and Industry and approved to do business in this State:

      1.  In the amount of $15,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident;

      2.  Subject to the limit for one person, in the amount of $30,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident; and

      3.  In the amount of $10,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident, for the payment of tort liabilities arising from the maintenance or use of the motor vehicle. (Added to NRS by 1979, 1820; A 1981, 18621987, 10901993, 24841995, 27342007, 2049) (emphasis added)

 

So we know that the NRS requires insurance companies to offer UIM, UM and MedPay.  We also know that a customer must reject UIM and UM in expressly in writing, while the statute is silent on how MedPay is to be declined.  Additionally, we know there are statutory minimums for the amount of UIM and UM to be offered6)$15,000 for an individual, $30,000 for two or more persons.

Yet there are more ambiguities to be clarified.  If an insurance company does not have a written declination for MedPay, do they have to pay out under NRS 687B.145? What happens if you have a six-figure UIM policy, but the insurance company includes a non-occupancy exclusion as a term, and you are in an accident while riding in the vehicle of another. Will you be able to recover anything? We will need to examine case law to get clarification.

 

Wingco v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co. (GEICO)

Wingco determines if a written rejection is necessary for a MedPay policy:

By its terms, NRS 687B.145(3) requires Nevada motor vehicle insurers to offer insureds the option of purchasing medical payment or “medpay” coverage in the amount of at least $1,000. But the statute does not state that the insurer must obtain a written rejection of this coverage. For Wingco to prevail, this court would have to read a written rejection requirement into NRS 687B.145(3) that it does not expressly include7)Wingco v. Gov’t Emps. Ins. Co., 130 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 20 . Mar 27, 2014, page 4. Read the case here

The court goes on to state that because the statute is unambiguous, it is improper to read the written requirement of rejection into the statute8)if the legislature desired insurance companies to obtain a written rejection for MedPay, the statute would say so explicitly.  Because no written evidence is required, the issue of if a consumer was offered MedPay will be one ‘of fact,’ meaning at trial, each side would need to present evidence proving that MedPay was or was not offered9)a fairly expensive option to obtain the statutory minimum of $1,000.

 

Continental Insurance Co. v. Murphy

A written rejection of UIM is necessary per NRS 690B.020(1). In Cont’l Ins. Co. v. Murphy,10)120 Nev. 506, 511, 96 P.3d 747, 751 (2004). Read the case here, the Nevada Supreme Court reaffirmed that a 1st Party Carrier must have a written rejection in order to deny coverage. In that case, the Plaintiff had a $300,000 UIM policy, but was injured while not occupying an insured vehicle. Continental Insurance had a non-occupancy exclusion as part of the UIM policy and denied they had to pay anything. The Nevada Supreme Court held:

(1) There must be a written waiver of UIM, so there non-occupancy exclusion was invalid,

(2) Nevada public policy only requires minimum coverage as determined by the statute.

So while the non-occupancy clause was invalid, it was only invalid as to the minimum coverage. Thus, on a $300,000 UIM policy with a non-occupancy exclusion and no written waiver, the 1st party carrier must provide at least $15,000 in coverage.

So, one last time, it is imperative to read your insurance policy.  The poor folks in the case above thought their $300,000 of UIM followed them no matter how they traveled, but learned that hard way that it was not the case.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. that drive
2. with a difference
3. the amount is capped
4. again, make sure to read it carefully!
5. once we whack our way through all that verbiage
6. $15,000 for an individual, $30,000 for two or more persons
7. Wingco v. Gov’t Emps. Ins. Co., 130 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 20 . Mar 27, 2014, page 4. Read the case here
8. if the legislature desired insurance companies to obtain a written rejection for MedPay, the statute would say so explicitly
9. a fairly expensive option to obtain the statutory minimum of $1,000
10. 120 Nev. 506, 511, 96 P.3d 747, 751 (2004). Read the case here
Portrait of van driver

Seat Belt, Helmet, and Social Costs

If someone were to ask me whether failing to wear a helmet or a seat belt was a contributing factor to an injury, I would tell them “no” and that evidence of the seat belt and helmet should not be admissible.  The idea being that there is a difference between (1) causing an accident and (2) failing to do everything you can to protect yourself from injury, just in case someone else causes an accident.

Generally, it is accepted that evidence of seat belt use is not admissible in trial unless you are suing the manufacturer for an injury related to the seat belt.  Courts around the country go either way on the seat belt defense, but the prohibition of the seat belt defense is codified in NRS 484D.495(4)(b) and (c), which states that not wearing a seat belt:

(b) May not be considered as negligence or as causation in any civil action or as negligent or reckless driving under NRS 484B.653.

(c) May not be considered as misuse or abuse of a product or as causation in any action brought to recover damages for injury to a person or property resulting from the manufacture, distribution, sale or use of a product.

 

Thus, Nevada does not allow evidence of the use of a seat belt, except when the seatbelt manufacturer is being sued under a products liability theory.1)Naturally, it makes sense to let the product manufacturer argue that its product did not cause the injury because the victim was not using the product at the time

Nevada does not have a corresponding helmet admissibility rule, but the principle is the same.  To the extent that courts accept the wisdom of “failure to wear a helmet did not cause the injury, instead the driver that knocked you off the motorcycle caused the injury” then a jury should never know about the helmet.

 

A few (not so) rhetorical questions to consider in reference to a seat belt or helmet

1) Did the failure to use a seat belt or helmet cause the accident?  No. Use (or lack thereof) of a seat belt or helmet had nothing to do with the accident.  The negligence of the defendant caused the accident.

2) Did the failure to use a seat belt or helmet cause the injury?  No, the impact of the victim’s head on the ground caused the injury.  Thus, use or non-use of seat belt or helmet has nothing to do with causation of the accident or the causation of the injury.

​3) Most importantly, did the plaintiff violate the Rule of Avoidable Consequences and fail to mitigate damages by non-use of a seat belt or helmet?  Here people differ.  I agree with the courts that say “no”.  Failure to mitigate the harm of the tort only involves actions taken after the accident.  The decision to not use a seat belt or helmet happens before the tort occurs. Thus, the plaintiff’s requirement to mitigate damages does not apply, unless the plaintiff had the power2)as most 7 year olds think they have to put the seat belt on between the time that the crash was obviously imminent and when the injury was sustained.

4) What about the statutory obligation to use seat belts or helmets?  Interesting question.  To whom does that duty run?  Does my duty to wear a helmet run to the state or society generally3)to decrease public obligation to pay hospital bills, does it run to me, or does it run to the person who hit me?  It does not seem reasonable that I should owe a duty to the person who hit me.  If it does not run to the person who hit me, s/he should not gain the benefit of said duty.

It may seem unfair that a tortfeasor should pay for an injury that could have been avoided by the prudence of the victim.  But which is more unfair?

 

Consider the following scenario:

A 30 year old single mother of two is riding as a passenger on a motorcycle and is not wearing a helmet.  At a stop light, a car rear-ends the bike, ejecting our victim.  She clearly is not at fault for the accident.   She dies as a result of a traumatic brain injury from the accident.  It is likely that she would not have been severely injured if she had been wearing a helmet.  Do we really give the driver of the car a break because the person he killed might have lived if she was wearing a helmet?  Does that really lessen his fault in the accident?  As a society, where is it just to assign the burden of the loss?  On the innocent victim who knows that there is some risk of an accident every time she goes on the road, but does not consent to being hit?  Or on the tortfeasor who actually has committed a wrongful act?

Any simple Coasian4)Read The Problem of Social Cost here analysis would conclude that haphazard driving of the tortfeasor is adding no utility to society, so why should s/he be shielded from liability? Although we would prefer that all folks wear seat belt or helmet, but the primary objective of the law in these instances is to encourage people to drive with prudence, regardless of their fellow road travelers are helmeted/wearing a seat belt.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Naturally, it makes sense to let the product manufacturer argue that its product did not cause the injury because the victim was not using the product at the time
2. as most 7 year olds think they have
3. to decrease public obligation to pay hospital bills
4. Read The Problem of Social Cost here
Young Couple Riding Motor Scooter Along Country Road

The Rights of a Scooter to Drive on the Shoulder

A client recently received a traffic citation for driving his motorized scooter on the shoulder of a city street in Las Vegas, Nevada, after an accident with another vehicle. The citation listed 0610 “restricted access” as the violation. I have seen many scooters drive on the shoulder of a road in the Las Vegas area; thus, I wondered whether the officer was correct in asserting that it is illegal for scooters to drive on the shoulder.1)For purposes of this blog post, “shoulder” means the area of the road to the right of the right-most lane, on the opposite side of the white, solid line.

The short answer is “most likely.” There is ambiguity in the law, but for the reasons stated below, an officer is most likely supported in citing a scooter driver for violating the law if driving to the right of a solid white line on a shoulder. However, if the scooter driver is involved in an accident while driving the scooter that was not his fault, he may not be precluded from recovering damages from the accident.

 

The rights of motorized scooters are not fully defined in the NRS

The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) that pertain to traffic laws and are found in NRS 484A-484E, and they do not contain a provision or law that appears to match the violation of “restricted access” cited by the police officer in my client’s case. A statute that refers restricted areas that may be the closest to the relevant situation is found in NRS 484B.510, which is titled “Stopping, standing or parking in restricted parking zone.” The NRS does not specifically define restricted parking zone, but the text of this statute makes such a zone sound like an area that has signs marking it—such as a 10 minute loading zone or similar. This is not the typical roadway shoulder found in the Las Vegas valley.

The violation of crossing a white line on the freeway is governed by NRS 484B.587, but there is no reference to non-freeways. Thus, while an officer may be supported in believing there was a violation for the driving of a scooter on the shoulder of a non-freeway, the “restricted access” violation likely does not match with the alleged improper actions.

 

Applying statutory definitions of moped, vehicle, roadway, and shoulder to better understand the rights of  a motorized scooter

My conclusions that scooters are nonetheless not permitted to drive on the shoulder are almost exclusively based upon the definitions found in the NRS with some corroboration with the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC) and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Case law on the topic in Nevada is silent. The main definitions upon which I rely are “moped,” “vehicle,” “roadway,” and “shoulder,” the last of which is only provided in the NAC.

Under Nevada law, a motorized scooter is identified as a “moped,” which is defined under NRS 484A.125:

a motor-driven scooter, motor-driven cycle or similar vehicle that is propelled by a small engine which produces not more than 2 gross brake horsepower, has a displacement of not more than 50 cubic centimeters or produces not more than 1500 watts final output, and

1. Is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground but is not a tractor; and

2. Is capable of a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on a flat surface with not more than 1 percent grade in any direction when the motor is engaged.

 

NRS 484A.125 specifically states that “moped” does not include an electric bicycle. On the other hand, a moped is a “vehicle” under NRS 484A.320 because it is a transportation device that may be used on a highway and is not moved by human power: NRS 484A.320 defines a “vehicle” as follows:

“Vehicle” means every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except:

1. Devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails; and

2. Electric personal assistive mobility devices as defined in NRS 482.029.

 

Since a moped is a transportation device not moved by human power nor is it an electric personal assistive mobility device, it is a vehicle under Nevada law. There is some circularity in the definitions here because the definition of highway under NRS 484A.095 states that it designed for vehicles, and the definition of vehicle states it is a device allowed on a highway. However, to say that a moped is not a permitted on a highway would lead to an absurd result of not allowing a moped on the road at all; therefore, my conclusion assumes that mopeds are permitted on the highway and are thus vehicles. This means that any law that applies to vehicles also applies to mopeds unless there is an exception.

It is important to recognize that a highway in Nevada is defined very broadly as follows:

“Highway” means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way dedicated to a public authority when any part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic, whether or not the public authority is maintaining the way.2)NRS 484A.095

 

Many people may think of a highway as a major street or road that is not a freeway, often due to famous highways such as Highway 69 or 101. As shown by the above statute, when dealing with the Nevada laws on traffic, the word “highway” is specifically defined and is simply the entire publicly open surface available for “vehicular traffic.” Under NRS 484A.215, a “road” is basically the same as a highway except that it is “outside the territorial limits of a city.”

On the other hand, a “roadway” is narrower in scope than “highway” because it includes just the improved portion of the surface that excludes the shoulder. NRS 484A.220 defines “roadway” as “that portion of a highway which is improved and ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, exclusive of the shoulder.” (emphasis added). The definition of roadway thus shows that the shoulder is not a part and it is for vehicles, which includes mopeds. It does not state that vehicles are not permitted to travel in the shoulder. The term “shoulder” is not defined in NRS 484A-484E.

It is a false inference to think that because the roadway is for vehicles, the shoulder is not. The fact that the roadway excludes the shoulder just differentiates the roadway from the shoulder, but there is nothing that states that the roadway is the only area for vehicular traffic or that the shoulder is not for vehicular traffic; the roadway is ordinarily used for vehicular traffic as opposed to the traffic of horses, pedestrians, bicyclists, sheep, or other possible roadway users, all of which may be permitted but are not the ordinary users. Just because the roadway’s ordinary use is for vehicular traffic does not mean that the shoulder is not also for a similar use.

The same logic may be applied to NRS 484A.300, which is titled “Traveled portion of highway” and is defined as that portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.” Just because the traveled portion of the highway is designed for or used by vehicles does not mean that the shoulder is not. The exclusion of the shoulder as part of the roadway or traveled portion of the highway is a physical characteristic of the respective public thoroughfares, and the use by vehicular traffic is a characteristic of its intended use.

There is no statute that specifically states that vehicles, including mopeds, are not allowed on the shoulder; however, there would be an absurd result if vehicles were permitted to travel on the shoulder. The shoulder is separate because it has a different function; it is also usually marked with a solid white line. If the shoulder were permitted for vehicular travel, then why paint the solid white line at all or even refer to it as a shoulder? Frequently, the shoulder is not large enough to safely drive a vehicle while remaining entirely on pavement and not encroaching on a neighboring lane.

Thus, logically, the shoulder is different from a regular vehicle travel lane, and since it has no specifically stated purpose, it is likely not a lane designated for ordinary vehicular traffic. It is a commonly accepted rule that cars and trucks are not permitted to drive on the shoulder. The law establishes that mopeds are vehicles. If you put the two together, mopeds are not allowed to drive on the shoulder.

 

The Nevada Administrative Code is instructive

The Nevada Administrative Code3)NRS 408.215 [4] grants authority to the Director of the Department of Transportation to “adopt such regulations as may be necessary to carry out and enforce” the intent of the NRS with regards to transportation regulation, while not a direct authority, provides more specific guidance. It defines “roadway” and “traveled way” similar to the NRS but also includes a definition of “shoulder.”4)NAC 408.245, 408.260 NAC 408.250, it states that “Shoulder” means the portion of the roadway contiguous with the traveled way for the accommodation of stopped vehicles, emergency use and the lateral support of the base and surface.

Thus, when read with the NRS definition of vehicle to include mopeds, NAC 408.250 shows that shoulders are not available for moped travel and may only be used for stops and emergencies.

The DMV Driver’s handbook contains a more thorough statement regarding the purpose and function of solid white lines. It states that “a solid white line is also used to mark the edge of the highway as well as the boundary between a travel lane and a highway shoulder.”5)DMV Driver’s handbook, page 30, July, 2014 While the DMV handbook is not an authority, it would be persuasive in its interpretation of the law.6)particularly because the term “boundary” is not defined in the NRS

While it is likely that a traffic citation issued to a driver of a scooter or moped for driving on the right side of a solid white line is likely proper. The law is not clear that mopeds are not allowed to drive on the shoulder, but the law identifies mopeds as vehicles, and vehicles should not drive on shoulders.

Even if a person violates that law by driving on the shoulder on a scooter, other drivers have a duty to drive safely and watch for other users of the highway. Just because the scooter driver was driving on the shoulder at the time of the accident does not mean that they will be found at fault for the accident. In 2005, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that a violation of a traffic statute by a victim of a vehicle accident will not preclude the victim from recovery.  You can read Langon v. Matamoros here.

The outcome of every case is fact sensitive. Please contact an attorney if you have questions about this or any related matter as this is not legal advice.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. For purposes of this blog post, “shoulder” means the area of the road to the right of the right-most lane, on the opposite side of the white, solid line.
2. NRS 484A.095
3. NRS 408.215 [4] grants authority to the Director of the Department of Transportation to “adopt such regulations as may be necessary to carry out and enforce” the intent of the NRS with regards to transportation regulation
4. NAC 408.245, 408.260
5. DMV Driver’s handbook, page 30, July, 2014
6. particularly because the term “boundary” is not defined in the NRS
Cost of health care

Medicaid Liens on Personal Injury Settlements and Awards

Anyone who practices in personal injury for very long faces issues with Medicaid liens.  As a basic framework, Medicaid is a state health insurance program that receives federal funding and is subject to federal law. In Nevada, Medicaid is administered through the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.  The DHHS allows third party HMOs to manage the healthcare for some Medicaid recipients.  These third-party organizations are known as Medicaid Managed-Care Organizations (MCOs).  Nevada currently contracts with two national for-profit MCOs: Amerigroup Community Care and Health Plan of Nevada, owned by UnitedHealthcare.

Medicaid, and by extensions, MCOs, have a statutory lien on personal injury settlements.  Pursuant to NRS 422.293, Medicaid has a lien against “the right of the recipient [injured victim] to the extent of all such medical costs [paid by Medicaid].”  Under NRS 422.293(4), Medicaid may reduce its lien in consideration of an attorney’s services.  This is a statutory acknowledgment of the Common Fund Doctrine, though it couches the doctrine with the term “may”.  As a practical matter, attorneys would not collect funds if subrogating third parties would routinely ignore the Common Fund Doctrine’s principles.

On its face, NRS 422.293 seems to be a lien against the entirety of the settlement, up to the amount paid by Medicaid.  However, in 2006 and again in 2013, the United States Supreme Court held that a state’s Medicaid lien must be limited in proportion to the ratio of medical bills to the total value of the claim if unlimited funds were available.

 

Ahlborn and Medicaid Liens

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Arkansas Dep’t of Health & Human Servs. v. Ahlborn1)547 U.S. 268, 126 S. Ct. 1752, 164 L. Ed. 2d 459 [2006].  Ahlborn had been in a car accident and sustained injuries for which Medicaid paid providers $215,645.30.  Ahlborn sued in state court and later settled all claims for $550,000.00, presumably, for all insurance limits available.  The settlement did not apportion the settlement between categories of damages, such as past medical payments, future medical payments, pain and suffering, lost income, and so forth.  Medicaid did not participate in the litigation. Medicaid attempted to exert a lien against $215,645.30 of the settlement, but acknowledged that the pro-rata value of the medical expenses to the unreduced value of the claim would have been 1/6th, or $35,581.47.  Medicaid and Ahlborn fought over whether Medicaid’s lien should be for the full amount paid or for medical specials proportion of the settlement

The Supreme Court held that, pursuant to Medicaid’s anti-lien provision of 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(a)(1), Medicaid’s lien is limited to the portion of the settlement designated for medical payments.  Thus, if the parties designate that the value of the medical expenses are 1/6th of the settlement, then Medicaid’s lien is limited to 1/6th of the settlement.

The Supreme Court recognized that there was some danger of manipulation of settlement apportionment, but did not view it as an overriding concern.  Naturally, parties should not abuse apportionment.

 

Wos and Medicaid Liens

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed Ahlborn in Wos v. E.M.A. ex rel. Johnson2)133 S. Ct. 1391, 1393, 185 L. Ed. 2d 471 [2013].  In Wos, the Court addressed what happens when the parties to a settlement do not apportion the settlement.  Presumably in response to Ahlborn, North Carolina had implemented a presumption that, unless otherwise specified, a settlement consisted of 1/3rd medical expenses and 2/3rd other categories of injuries.  Thus, Medicaid would exert its lien against 1/3rd of the settlement.  The Wos court held that such a presumption was not definitive, and that a Medicaid recipient must have an ability to challenge the presumption.

 

Application of Ahlborn and Wos in Nevada to Medicaid Liens

Under Ahlborn and Wos, it is clear that a Medicaid lien is limited to the medical portion of the settlement.  Interestingly, there have been no reported cases in the Nevada Supreme Court, the Federal District Court of Nevada or the Ninth Circuit Court addressing either Ahlborn or Wos.  Naturally, the courts would have to accept controlling law, but it is unclear whether any of these courts would interpret these cases in an unexpected way.

The next question is how Ahlborn and Wos interplay with the collateral source doctrine3)the collateral source doctrine, as defined by Black”s Law Dictionary, is known as the principle in which “compensation paid by some source to an injured plaintiff cannot be deducted from the damages a defendant has to pay. The source, such as an insurance firm, cannot be a party to the litigation”. Is a Medicaid lien exerted against the entire medical specials portion of the settlement/judgment, or is the lien limited to the ratio of the actual Medicaid payments to the unreduced value of the case?  At least one federal district court has held that the lien is limited.

 

The Fairness of Ahlborn and Wos

Ahlborn and Wos make sense from a basic fairness principle.  Case valuations involve many different factors, and always involve pain and suffering.  In significant cases, pain and suffering is the largest part of a settlement.  Why should Medicaid, which has an obligation to pay for medical expenses anyway, be able to collect against an injury victim’s settlement for lost income, for property damage, or for pain and suffering?  Ahlborn and Wos provide an equitable result.

 

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014

In 2013, President Obama signed into law an amendment to the Medicaid anti-lien provision that would allow Medicaid to exert a lien against the entire settlement through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.  Needless to say, this amendment is grossly unfair.  As stated above, why should Medicaid be reimbursed out of an injury victim’s recovery of lost income?  It makes no equitable sense.  Nevertheless, the amendment passed and the law changed.  The amendment was originally slated to go into effect October 1, 2014.  In April 2014, Congress passed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, which postponed the implementation of the new Medicaid super lien until October 1, 2016.  I have not yet done an analysis on whether the new super lien will apply retroactively to injuries that occurred prior to October 1, 2016.  I sincerely hope that Congress reevaluates the Medicaid super lien and returns to the more equitable and fair application of Ahlborn and Woz.  In the meantime, Ahlborn and Wos apply until October 1, 2016.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. 547 U.S. 268, 126 S. Ct. 1752, 164 L. Ed. 2d 459 [2006]
2. 133 S. Ct. 1391, 1393, 185 L. Ed. 2d 471 [2013]
3. the collateral source doctrine, as defined by Black”s Law Dictionary, is known as the principle in which “compensation paid by some source to an injured plaintiff cannot be deducted from the damages a defendant has to pay. The source, such as an insurance firm, cannot be a party to the litigation”
settlement offers, negotiation, confidentiality, lawyers, privacy, nevada

Confidentiality vs. Confidential Settlement Negotiations to Further Your Case

As a general premise, private settlements of lawsuits are encouraged and often regarded as the quickest and most efficient way to either avoid or end a lawsuit. Typically, if settlement negotiations break down, they are considered confidential and cannot later be used during litigation of the matter. This prevents parties from alleging that the other side admitted liability by offering to pay a settlement. If offering to pay a settlement could be used against someone during litigation, then parties would be discouraged from making settlement offers, and the courts would be even more overwhelmed with cases than they are now.

By way of example, if you are involved in a car accident and you offer to pay the other driver a small sum of money to avoid making an insurance claim, that gesture cannot later be used against you as evidence that the accident was your fault. If it could, why would anyone ever try and be the nice guy?

 

When settlement negotiations might be used against you

However, as with all areas of law, there are certain exceptions to this rule. These exceptions apply if you want to use evidence of settlement negotiations to prove or show something other than the liability or fault of the party who made the offer.

For instance, you can use evidence of settlement negotiations to show that a party was aware of a dispute if they try to deny it. A situation like this may arise when a business owner and an injured patron fail to reach a settlement but then the business owner later claims they were not ever made aware of a dangerous condition.

Another proper instance to cite a settlement negotiation in court is for an insurance company negotiating in bad faith. If an insurer makes an offer to settle a claim that the injured party does not accept, evidence of the insurer’s offer pre-litigation may be used as evidence of bad faith if they try to deny the claim post litigation.

Another use in the bad faith context would be an insurance company using pre-litigation settlement offers to prove they did negotiate in good faith with an injured party when they are accused of stonewalling. The Ninth Circuit has noted that sometimes parties try to couch correspondence as a “settlement offer” to keep it confidential even through the true nature of the document was not really a settlement offer, and in this situation, the evidence will be admitted. 1)See Cassino v. Rechhold Chemicals, 817 F.2d 1338 [9th 1987]. In that case, an employer tried to condition payment of a severance package on an employee’s signing a release of all potential claims against that employer. The Court held that evidence surrounding that exchange could validly be presented because a wrongful conditioning of payment was not a good faith “settlement offer.”

Although a true settlement offer is generally kept confidential, there can be instances that evidence of the offer may be exposed. For that reason, circumstances may arise where it is best to make a verbal offer or not document a settlement offer if you think your actions surrounding the offer could be used in some way to your detriment. With that in mind, settlement offers are more often than not a very useful tool in avoiding costly litigation. Each and every scenario is unique, so if you find yourself faced with a legal dispute of any sort, contact our attorneys at Clear Counsel Law Group for a free consultation.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. See Cassino v. Rechhold Chemicals, 817 F.2d 1338 [9th 1987]
product liability, consumer rights, nevada, discovery, joint and several liability

Vetoed Changes to Nevada’s Product Liability Laws

The governor recently vetoed changes to a statute that would have implemented a major change to Nevada’s product liability law making it more difficult for consumers to sue retailers in certain cases. Traditionally, when a person is injured from a defective or dangerously designed product, that person can sue the retailer, distributor, manufacturer, and any other party in the supply chain who took part in making that product and getting it out to the consumer. Usually, though, unless the end seller has altered the product in some way, it is only the manufacturer and designer who ultimately have responsibility to the injured consumer. For that reason, many states have now altered the common law to allow for sellers and distributors to be sued only in cases where for some reason the manufacturer was not available to compensate the injured person. As of May 2015, the Nevada lawmakers were poised to pass regulation that would have added this hurdle for injured consumers in Nevada.

 

What the proposed product liability law says

The proposed NRS 41 would have read that only a manufacturer can be sued for product liability unless certain exceptions apply including :

  • when a seller has control over the design and making of a product,
  • when the seller alters the product,
  • when the product was re-sold in a modified condition,
  • when the seller failed to exercise reasonable care which caused the harm,
  • when the seller knew of a defect in the product,
  • when the seller created certain warranties which the product did not meet,
  • when the manufacturer cannot be sued within Nevada,
  • when the manufacturer cannot be found,
  • when the manufacturer is bankrupt.

In essence, unless there is some basis for independent liability against a seller, sellers would no longer be sued simply for being part of the supply chain. Often, the only result of suing a seller was to cause an innocent seller to incur attorneys’ fees when ultimately, the manufacturer was liable for causing the defect to exist.

Consumer concerns

However, the governor appears to have sympathized with consumer friendly concerns raised during senate hearings. Injured parties may not know whether a seller altered a product, and for that reason, they need to sue before the statute of limitations runs out, allowing discovery to begin and the culpable party to come to light. The new law would have made it more costly for consumers to bring lawsuits by requiring them to sue manufacturers, conduct discovery to see if the product was altered, and then go back and amend their complaints if the retailers could properly be added. As the law stands now, the seller can be named from the outset, and if they did not alter the product or do anything other than just sell it, they will get dismissed and the manufacturer will bear liability. Assuming the manufacturer can be found and has funds to pay the injured party, it is much simpler to dismiss a seller then to add them to a suit, begin new phases of discovery, push back deadlines, and create a complicated mess of a lawsuit.

So, Nevada continues to be a consumer friendly state wherein the hurdles that some states are implementing to protect sellers will not exist. Hopefully this is a trend we will continue to see so injured consumers can continue to get fair compensation and not be deterred complicated legal hurdles.

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