You are the manager of a restaurant in Ohio. Your boss, the regional manager, just called you in to her office and told you that one of your customers has accused one of your hostesses of sexual harassment. Your boss does know a friend who owns a restaurant in Florida who was sued in a similar circumstance and lost. Your boss is worried that this customer might sue but does not want to spend the money on an attorney just yet. To help your boss understand how your case might be different from her friend’s case, explain the different types of legal authority that an Ohio court may use to decide a suit against your company and how the Florida case may or may not impact that decision.

Expert Answers

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According to the question, we are supposed to determine reasons why what happened with a case in one state might not apply in a different state.

The most important takeaway here is that each of the states has its own state legal system, while they all simultaneously participate in the federal legal system as well. Each state's constitution, statutes, and case law are particular to that state. Even where a Florida court found liability, it is certainly possible that the pertinent laws or cases in Ohio would not recognize a similar fact pattern as problematic.

Moreover, Ohio and Florida are not in the same federal appellate circuit. Even if the case somehow made it over to federal court, the federal appeals court decision in Florida would not necessarily control the potential Ohio case, especially since federal courts apply the state's law in state law cases. Only the US Supreme Court could decide for both, if it came to that.

Issue spotting in law questions can be tricky. It may indeed matter to the outcome of a case that the Florida defendant owned the restaurant, while in Ohio it is the regional manager who is concerned. It also may matter that the cases are not identical, but similar. Those things should be noted in the answer. But the main thing to grasp here is that different states have different, sometimes very different, legal systems, and what applies in one state may not in another.

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