Tag Archives: lawsuits

Controversy Swirls as Circus Comes to Las Vegas

The circus is back in Las Vegas, performing this weekend at the Orleans in Las Vegas.  The Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus arrived Tuesday night for their annual visit, but this year is different. The circus is awaiting a decision by a federal judge about whether it can continue to use endangered elephants in its act. elephant

Animal welfare groups have alleged for many years that what Ringling Brothers does is inherently cruel to elephants. Now, they’re waiting to see if a federal judge agrees with them. They hope this is the end of the line for more than a century of animal cruelty. The Ringling folks are just as confident that the show will go on. 

Animal activist Linda Faso has helped organize protests against every circus to hit Las Vegas for the last two decades, arguing it is inherently cruel to endangered Asian elephants to force them into the life of a traveling carny, and the proof is in the chaining of their feet. 

Some of the most pointed testimony to emerge in a six week federal trial focused on the feet of Ringling elephants. Nearly all of the animals have foot problems to one degree or another, not only because they spend most of their lives in chains, either in rail cars or on asphalt parking lots like the Orleans in Las Vegas, but also because elephants simply aren’t built to perform the kind of tricks they are taught for the circus. 

Former Ringling elephant handler Tom Rider was one of the star witnesses in the federal trial. He told the court there is only one way to get large, intelligent creatures to don funny outfits and perform amusing tricks, and that’s thru the use of pain and fear, as manifested in the use of the infamous bullhook. Ringling has compared the bullhook to a leash for dogs, but video captured around the country shows otherwise. 

The federal trial ended last March. The judge could decide that Ringling can no longer put elephants on the road and in the show. Even if the circus prevails in the case, the groups that sued believe they’ve already made an impact. 

At the Las Vegas unloading, the traditional bullhooks were nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by smaller, less menacing devices. It’s not enough, animal groups say. “I would assume that in various cities there are a lot more people watching now, so they are being more careful, and it’s just behind the scenes. I’m sure the elephants are being chained still, in boxcars which the general public doesn’t get to see,” said Nicole Paquett, attorney for Born Free USA. 

Paquett says the federal judge has scheduled more oral arguments to be held in July, so a decision won’t happen until after those sessions. But can Ringling carry on without its elephants? The animal welfare folks say yes and they point to the success of Cirque De Soleil shows in Las Vegas and throughout the world as an example.

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Las Vegas Adult Entertainment Club Class Action Lawsuit Claims Taxi, Limo Company Extortion, Illegal Kickbacks

A class action lawsuit filed on June 2 alleges a wide-ranging extortion scheme involving Las Vegas’ most prominent adult entertainment clubs and taxi and limousine companies.  The suit, which was filed in federal court in Las Vegas, alleges that taxi and limousine companies extorted more than $40 million in illegal kickbacks from local strip clubs.   

According to the legal complaint, Las Vegas taxi and limousine drivers demanded payments from the clubs of as much as $100 per male passenger.  If the clubs refused to pay, the drivers would simply divert passengers to a different club. The lawsuit claims that the kickback scheme hurts Las Vegas at a time when the city is already suffering economically.   

“Vegas has been one of the top tourist destinations in America for families, but its position is being threatened,” says Jay Edelson, lead attorney for the lawsuit.  “This is precisely the type of activity that keeps families away.” 

As taxi drivers prefer to pick up men who are more likely to go to strip clubs, the suit claims that families and women were snubbed by drivers and found it hard to hail a cab at  night.  The suit also claims that millions of dollars in tax revenue have gone unpaid to the local, state, and federal government. 

The allegations of a wide-ranging extortion scheme have been hotly discussed locally.  An recent expose by George Knapp, a nationally recognized Las Vegas  investigative reporter, found that cabbies routinely lied to  passengers—telling them that certain clubs are undesirable or unsafe (“riddled with bullet holes” was one description) in hopes of diverting them to a “paying” location.  After Nevada state  legislators attempted to put an end to this practice, the cab drivers responded by flexing their muscles.  They shut down the Strip and threatened to crash ground transportation at the airport. 

“The vast majority of taxi and limo drivers are honest and hardworking people, but this minority has a stranglehold on the city,” says Edelson. “It is finally time to put this practice to an end.”   

The suit is being brought on behalf of Theodore Trapp who lives in Southern California, and as a nationwide class. The suit names more than two dozen defendants including, Deja Vu Showgirls, Spearmint Rhino, Cheetah’s, Yellow Cab Co. and Checker Cab Co. It also references Tony Chong, an individual taxi driver who, according to the suit, has publicly admitted his involvement in the extortion scheme. 

To download a copy of the lawsuit filed:  http://www.prnewschannel.com/pdf/Trapp-Big_Poppa.pdf

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Paris Hilton to Stand Trial for Breach of Contract

Socialite extraordinaire and frequent Las Vegas partier Paris Hilton is like no other.  She just slipped up and didn’t honor a deal to promote herself as part of the film Pledge This!, according to its producers. ParisHilton3

A Miami judge ruled that he will not throw out a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought against the filthy rich ho-tel heiress by the distributors of the 2006 drivel. 

Investors claim Paris’ failure to abide by her contractual obligation to adequately plug the straight-to-DVD sorority flick resulted in a loss of $8.3 million. 

Ironically, she’s now indirectly doing more to promote it – testifying how she has to Google herself daily to remember what she said or did, rather than keep records, and so on – more than marketing managers could have possibly dreamed of. 

Her attorney recently claimed Hilton to be “the single busiest person on the planet,” but still the logic escaped the  judge that didn’t throw out the case, telling her she must stand trial June 8. 

As for her other projects less likely to result in lawsuits, she’s now soaking up the sun in Europe, with beau Doug Reinhardt, promoting the upcoming documentary Paris, Not France appearing this week at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Hilton is also already hyping the forthcoming Season 2 of My New BFF that kicks off on June 2 on MTV, something that seems to hearken back to her Pledge This! days. 

“It was basically Paris’ sorority house,” Hilton tells E! News.  “It’s about sisterhood – there’s pledging, there’s crazy challenges. We had the best time. We started out in Las Vegas, and these kids really were up for anything.”

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Grammy Winner Toni Braxton Sues Lloyd’s of London

Former Flamingo headliner and Las Vegas resident Toni Braxton is suing insurance giant specialist Lloyd’s of Londontonibraxton for refusing to pay her for the months of work she missed entertaining in Las Vegas because of her alleged heart condition. 

The six-time Grammy winner is suing for undisclosed damages, claiming she bought “non-appearance” and “cancellation” insurance which protects entertainers in case of cancellations. 

Published reports indicate Braxton discovered she had pericarditis, an inflammation of the sack surrounding the heart, after the birth of her second son, Diezel, on March 31, 2003. 

However, not long after leaving the Flamingo – still having nine months on her entertainment contract – Braxton competed on ABC TVs “Dancing with the Stars.”

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Las Vegas’ CityCenter Project Facing Collapse?

The very survival hangs in the balance for Las Vegas’ largest employer and the city’s largest construction project- and arguably one of the world’s largest and most expensive buildings.   MGM Mirage, operating nine Las Vegas Strip resorts and employing more than 61,000 workers, is now embroiled in a contentious lawsuit over the $9.1 billion, 76-acre CityCenter development with its half-shared partner, Dubai World through its Infinity World financial subsidiary.  dubaiworld

Analysts said the lawsuit filed Sunday casts a damaging dark cloud over the project and sends more negative signals on the overall financial health of MGM Mirage.   According to the lawsuit, Dubai World, a 50-50 joint venture partner in the CityCenter project, is seeking unspecified damages and wants to be relieved of its obligation under the companies’ agreement, which was struck in August 2007. 

Dubai World, a world-leading business conglomerate suffering from a two-thirds drop in their oil prices – leading some to question if the lawsuit is merely trying to sever their joint venture agreement or simply gain more project control – said MGM Mirage, which is CityCenter’s managing partner, is responsible for mismanagement and cost overruns with the project.  Dubai World further contends that statements by the MGM Mirage in the company’s financial filings last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission constitute a breach of the joint-venture pact and has put the project at risk. 

The lawsuit took the MGM Mirage reportedly by surprise, but theirspokespeople responded vehemently yesterday that they are doing everything they can do and are ready, willing, and more than able to meet all financial obligations and debt holder payments. 

Despite the lawsuit, CityCenter still plans to open in stages, starting in October with Vdara, a nongaming condominium and hotel tower, and Aria, CityCenter’s centerpiece 4,004-room hotel-casino, scheduled to open on December 16.  

MGM Mirage continues to accept job applications, having over 90,000 job applications for the CityCenter project and planning to hire 10,000 employees to boost the staganant Las Vegas economy. 

However, MGM Mirage and Dubai World are still seeking the remaining $1.2 billion in financing to finish the project. 

MGM Mirage received from its lenders last week a two-month waiver to avoid violating its loan covenants.   Some financial analysts believe that MGM Mirage might have to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure their $13.5 billion in debt.

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Junk for some is $900,000 art for others

Two San Francisco artists are suing a Gerlach farm-owner claiming he torched La Contessa, a replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon that often appeared at the annual Burning Man festival.contessa

Simon Cheffins, an artist, and Greg Jones, a mechanical engineer who helped build it, said in their suit that Mike Stewart, owner of Orient Farms, considered their creation “junk” and destroyed it on Dec. 5, 2006.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, claims Stewart violated a federal law that prohibits the destruction of art work and seeks $900,000 in damages and also punitive damages and legal fees.

Although the ship was kept on property that Stewart had later acquired, the “Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990” protects and artist’s work regardless of where it’s housed, said Paul Quade, a Reno lawyer representing Cheffins and Jones.

Stewart, an outspoken opponent of Burning Man, never tried to contact the artists, Quade said, and had the debris left after the burning hauled away for “scrap.”
 
Quaid said that it took about 100 people more than 9,000 hours to build the galleon in 2001 and 2002 using donated funds and grant money.

“Performances of theatre, music and trapeze took place on La Contessa during Burning Man and other festivals,” Quade said. It was also featured as “a significant work of art” in numerous media outlets, he said, including Rolling Stone Magazine, the Discovery Channel, and the San Francisco Guardian.

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Wynn’s Lace Up Sparing Gloves

Steve Wynn and wife Elaine have selected their lawyers for their divorce battle.   In Elaine’s corner will be lawyer Don Schiller, who represented Juanita Jordan in her divorce from NBA icon Michael Jordan. 

In Steve’s corner will be attorney James Jimmerson, who handled Wayne Newton’s divorce and Mike Tyson’s bid to regain his boxing license.

With Forbes magazine announcing this week in its annual ranking of billionaires that Steve Wynn’s worth is pegged at $1.5 billion, down from $3.9 billion a year ago, the trial will assuredly provide the backdrop for one of the biggest divorce settlements in U.S. history. 

Chicago-based Schiller won a $168 million settlement for Juanita, which was ranked by Forbes magazine as “the most expensive in entertainment history.”

But Steve Wynn, who filed for divorce from Elaine on March 5, now reportedly being in love with British divorcee and socialite Andrea Danenza Hissom, will probably give up more than that.  The split is thought not be an amicable one.

In comparison, like billionaire Rupert Murdoch coughed up $1.2 billion in assets to former wife, Anna.

This has lead some to believe that the Wynn’s will eventually settle by splitting up the two huge Las Vegas casino-hotels – Wynn Las Vegas and Encore -that they opened in the past five years, renaming them Steve’s and Elaine’s.

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