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  • General Motors Has Set A New Precedence For Auto Recalls This Year

    General Motors (GM) has set a new precedence for auto recalls this year, as the first cavalcade of auto recalls quickly turned the safety notices into background noise ignored by many of the effected car owners. GM started the avalanche on February 2014, when they announced that they had to fix a fatally flawed ignition switch on some of their small cars. That was quickly expanded twice and now numbers 2.6 million cars worldwide. The defect is linked to 13 deaths and 54 accidents.

    Hoping to clean house and avoid more government fines for recall foot-dragging, GM has announced 38 recalls this year through June, covering 14.4 million U.S. vehicles. GM alone will far exceed the past decade’s annual auto industry average of 21 million cars and light trucks.

    GM’s stepped-up recall pace could continue into midsummer, said GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In the past month, GM had announced four more recalls, with the largest for 464,712 Chevrolet Camaros. The Camaro ignition key can be bumped out of position, a problem linked to three crashes and four minor injuries.

    Meanwhile, other automakers are clearing their cupboards of safety-related issues to stay out of the sights of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is promising tougher oversight to prevent a repeat of GM’s 13-year dawdling before the switch was recalled. So far this year, other auto manufacturers have announced 47 recalls, covering 8.54 million U.S. vehicles, according to government records. That’s a lot, even though it seems otherwise when contrasted with GM’s overwhelming numbers.

    The millions of recalls that have been issued this year made the situation worse and owner response rates even lower. The typical consumer reaction seems to be, “My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?” The fact is, car owners should be bothered, but getting them to grasp that fact is a bit like trying to push a piece of string.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that about 75% of recalled vehicles eventually get fixed, depending upon the value and age of the vehicle, how serious the problem seems and how likely the owner thinks that the issue might effect their vehicle. The agency believes toning down recall commotion would hurt, not help; safety is their number one concern and they want to increase and improve ways to reach consumers, not limit the number of recalls.

    It’s easy to see why car companies are quicker to pull the recall trigger on issues now when in the past they might have studied them longer. They do not want lawsuits such as those piling up against GM or a Justice Department criminal investigation such as GM’s or even a Securities and Exchange Commission probe that looked at whether GM was truthful with its investors. So far, GM has announced $1.6 billion in charges against its earnings for the first two quarters in order to pay for the recalls.

    Some less immediately life-threatening issues might takes months to be fixed as dealers wait for the parts needed to repair the problems. Owners must either trust that the problems are not life threatening or leave their vehicles at the dealership for weeks, incurring the expense of rental cars, taxis and altered plans. Affected owners should be aware that they may need to consider seeking legal redress for economic damages including the costs associated with repairs as well as a decline in the resale value of the effected vehicles.

    In a roundabout way, recalls can improve overall auto safety beyond the recalled and repaired cars. Good dealers can turn recalls into sales of new cars with the latest safety features as they have an influx of customers waiting for their recall repairs to be completed. With the assistance of qualified salespeople this can turn a misfortune into a major sales opportunity.

  • Traffic Ticket Quotas

    The policy of assigning quotas for the number of traffic tickets each officer must issue officially ended in Illinois after Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation in June. This is good news for some drivers but ending the policy could have an effect on how Illinois police are evaluated as well as how much money some municipalities will earn from ticketing motorists.

    In many jurisdictions, ticket quotas were one of those traditions like doughnuts – always around but hidden in a drawer and not on the top of the desk where visitors might be able to see them. Quotas do have an upside for municipalities as traffic tickets generate income through fines. They also serve as an easy performance-measuring device for supervisors in police departments, since ticket numbers are verifiable. But the practice drew the fury of drivers who would often complain – unsuccessfully – that they were victims of an arbitrary rush on the part of police to meet a numerical goal. Some drivers argued that the number of tickets had risen at one point as a means of building public pressure to resolve tense labor negotiations between the police union and the city.

    Quinn was noted as saying that the law, which was overwhelmingly backed by both houses of the legislature, will allow police to exercise judgment when deciding whether to ticket a driver rather than simply pursuing a fixed number of citations during every shift. The law, which immediately went into effect, applies to local, county and state law enforcement officers.

    Law enforcement officers should have discretion on when and where to issue traffic citations and not be forced to ticket motorists to satisfy a quota system the Governor said in a news release; “This new law will improve safety and working conditions for police officers and prevent motorists from facing unnecessary anxiety when they encounter a police vehicle.”

    The Illinois law applies to the range of citations that police issue, including parking, speeding and other functions. It also specifically bars municipalities from using the number of tickets issued by an officer in their performance reviews. In a statement in April, as the measure was still being discussed, John H. Kennedy, executive director of the Illinois Assn. of Chiefs of Police, issued a statement opposing the bill.

    While law enforcement executives strongly agree with eliminating the imposition of arbitrary traffic ticket quotas, the bill also eliminated vital data-driven performance measures used to assist in the performance appraisal of police officers. This bill could essentially strip the ability of law enforcement leaders to establish expectations for officers and to hold officers accountable for certain minimum performance standards. The bill does address the concerns of drivers who felt that law enforcement officers had arbitrarily targeted them in order to maintain their ticket quotas.

     

     

  • Boating Safety Issues

    Most people already knows that drinking alcohol and driving a car is a dangerous combination, however, there is less awareness of the same dangers while operating a boat. Mix water, a boat and throw in alcohol and the results can be deadly.

    That’s why Governor Pat Quinn signed new legislation in July to improve boating safety. “This is something that never should have happened, there should have been more enforcement out there,” Jim Borcia said. Their 10-year-old son Tony was killed two years ago on the Chain-of-Lakes while tubing with his family. A boater, operating his boat while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, ran the boy over as his family watched in horror. Tony and his family frantically waved their hands to the boater to get his attention, but he never slowed down. Tony’s family used their tragedy to change laws.

    “We know there are other Tonys out there that are in danger every weekend, every day, said Jim Borcia. “Unless things change, the mindset of boats shouldn’t be associated with partying, it should be associated with responsibility.” Since the tragic accident, the family has created the Y-Not Project in Tony’s name, and raised enough money to buy a boat for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to patrol the Chain-of-Lakes.

    In July, Gov. Quinn signed three new bills into law to increase boating safety. The first law will make punishment for boating under the influence more in line with driving other vehicles under the influence. The next bill will require boaters 16 and younger to pass a boating safety course and have a valid certificate, and the third law will require the operator of any boat to display a bright orange flag if they are towing a person. “From a little boy’s death has come the beginning of reform for boating safety in Illinois,” Morrison said. “Part of your pain has been turned into purpose,” she said to his parents, who have been pushing for changes in boating laws since his death.

    The bills, signed in July, increase the power of law enforcement officials and put new restrictions and requirements on boaters. Under one of them, a persons’ watercraft can be seized after multiple DUI offenses. In another, all people born after January 1998 will be required to take a boater safety course and hold a boater safety certificate before they can operate a boat with an engine over 10 horsepower, according to Quinn’s office.

    The final bill requires any watercraft towing a person to display a bright orange flag no less than 12 inches per side in size. In 2014 so far, there have been 16 boating fatalities reported on Illinois waterways. It is hoped that these new laws will help to reduce that number during the boating season on the local waterways.

  • Juveniles Records Expunged

    Juveniles are now able to get their records expunged because of the new “Clean Slate” law. The new law will now expunge the arrests records of many teens with minor offenses.

    Juveniles who were arrested for non-violent crimes, for less serious reasons or never actually charged, will automatically get a clean slate as soon as they turn 18. Lawyers and state officials say this law will help these kids get into schools and get jobs without arrest records hanging over their heads.

    Private corporations are able to buy or mine data from local jurisdictions all over the country, not just here in Illinois. Employers are using the data from young people with minor offenses in order to turn them down for jobs that are often completely unrelated to their juvenile records.

    The “Clean Slate” law will help keep young adults from being pigeonholed by something they did in their teenage years and that should have remained a part of their juvenile records.

    The legislation stipulates that the teen can’t have been criminally charged, and the arrest can’t be tied to felonies or sex assault cases.

    Youth Courts have been established downstate as a way to keep kids out of criminal court proceedings. The arrest record would be cleared by a person’s 18th birthday if that arrest didn’t result in criminal charges.  Eligible juveniles must also not have any other subsequent arrests or juvenile delinquency petitions.

    This isn’t the first change seen from the State when it comes to juvenile offenders. The entire department is undergoing an overhaul, primarily to cut costs by keeping kids out of the system.

    This bill will give teens a second chance to get onto the right path. It is another tool that gives a minor, and future adult, the ability to be in a positive position as they’re starting college or entering the workforce.

     

     

  • Vehicular Homicide

    Several states have laws referred to as an assault by auto or vehicular homicide as it is considered in Illinois. As the driver of a truck, there is a lot of responsibility; the greatest concern is safety and keeping fatigued drivers off the highway and freeways. There are regulations for when and how long a driver may drive.

    You don’t know when an accident can occur; recently a tractor-trailer rammed into a limousine bus, because the driver dozed off, setting off a chain-reaction crash. The truck driver was charged with death by auto in the crash that killed a man; two people were seriously injured and flown from the accident scene to a local hospital, where they were left in critical condition.

    If a driver unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification, they commit Involuntary Manslaughter; if their acts, whether lawful or unlawful, cause the death, are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and it is performed recklessly, it is considered to be Reckless Homicide. A person commits Reckless Homicide if he or she unintentionally kills an individual while driving a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.  Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide are each considered to be a Class 3 felony.

    In cases involving Reckless Homicide in which the defendant drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne and caused the deaths of 2 or more persons as part of a single course of conduct, the penalty is a Class 2 felony.

    In cases involving Involuntary Manslaughter or Reckless Homicide resulting in the death of a police officer being killed while on the job as an officer, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. Reckless Homicide includes cases in which the defendant unintentionally kills an individual while driving in a posted school zone, while children are present or in a construction or maintenance zone. According to the Illinois Vehicle Code, when construction or maintenance workers are present, that fact may infer that the defendant’s actions were performed recklessly especially where he or she was also either driving at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit or violating Section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

    Except in cases involving Reckless Homicide in which the offense was committed as result of a violation of a subsection of the Illinois Vehicle Code, the penalty is a Class 2 felony, for which a person, if sentenced to a term of imprisonment, shall be sentenced to a term of not less than 3 years and not more than 14 years.

    Many states hope that increased criminal penalties will act as a deterrent to reckless drivers and make people aware that they need to be alert when operating a motor vehicle.

     

     

  • Home Kitchen / Chloe Stirling’s

    Twelve-year-old Chloe Stirling’s started a cupcake business, called “Hey Cupcake!” in her parent’s kitchen. On June 10th, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill in her family’s kitchen in downstate Troy, just east of St. Louis MO, that will allow home bakers to start a business in their home and be freed from some government health and business regulations.

    “Hey Cupcake!” was started by Chloe to sell cupcakes at fundraisers and to friends and family. When the Madison County Health Department got wind of the cottage industry, they shut it down because Chloe Stirling didn’t have the proper business license and the Stirling’s kitchen wasn’t commercially certified.

    Chloe and her mom went to Springfield where they lobbied for a bill to make it easier for small “home kitchen operators” to sell their goods without having to jump through so many government hoops. Lawmakers passed a bill that creates a new state business category for people who make less than $1,000 per month producing food in their own homes to sell by themselves or for a religious, charitable or nonprofit organization.  House Bill 5354 says home kitchen operators cannot be regulated or shut down by local governments or health departments unless there is a complaint or a health safety issue.

    The bill defines a “home kitchen operation” and authorizes the state or county health department to inspect a home kitchen operation only in the event of a complaint or disease outbreak. Chloe Stirling and her mother worked tirelessly to get the law passed so home cooks could do what they love, cook and bake.

    Quinn thanked Chloe for standing up for small entrepreneurs. Quinn has been quoted as saying “Democracy is for everyone and I salute Chloe Stirling for getting involved and making a difference for a cause she believes in.”

     

     

  • Pradaxa and Actos: Is Non-Preservation of Documents an Emerging Trend?

    When a US District Court judge fined Boehringer Ingelheim almost $1 million at the end of last year for failure to preserve documents regarding the blood thinner Pradaxa, the decision served as a precursor to a similar position taken by the Court in regards to the Actos portfolio. The Actos manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, was cited for failure to preserve documents deemed important to legal proceedings. It seems this was the case for Pradaxa lawsuits as well.

    Pradaxa is a new-age blood thinner approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); it was hailed as a safe and effective alternative to a product that had been on the market for nearly 60 years, a blood thinner that required rigorous and regular monitoring.

    Pradaxa was seen to effectively prevent blood clotting – an important attribute for patients at risk for stroke. However, a problem with Pradaxa bleeding, characterized by uncontrollable bleed-outs that could not be stopped, quickly put Pradaxa under a cloud.

    Unlike the older drug Coumadin, where the side effects of bleeding could be reversed with the intervention of Vitamin K and plasma, there is no known or effective reversal protocol for Pradaxa. When Pradaxa bleeding occurs, from a simple cut or bruise, there is no antidote. More than 500 Pradaxa deaths were attributed to the new-age blood thinner over a two-year period, according to various reports. Plaintiffs in Pradaxa lawsuits, which numbered about 1,700 according to a report in Bloomberg News (12/10/13), but is now thought to be closer to 2,000 – allege that dabigatran Pradaxa manufacturer Boehringer knew about the potential bleeding profile of Pradaxa, but withheld their concern from doctors and patients.

    Pradaxa (generic dabigatran) is a relatively new blood thinner that was introduced as a replacement for warfarin in the prevention of strokes among individuals suffering from atrial fibrillation. However, the potential risk of Pradaxa bleeding side effects has caused serious concern surrounding the drug.

    Symptoms of Pradaxa internal bleeding may include:

    • Unusual Bruising or Bleeding
    • Pink or Brown Urine (which may be a sign of blood in the urine)
    • Red or Black Tarry Stool (which may be a sign of blood in the stool)
    • Coughing up Blood (which may include vomit resembling coffee grounds)
    • Headaches, Dizziness or Lethargy
    • Bleeding from the Gums or Frequent Nose Bleeds
    • Weakness and Swelling of the Arms, Hands, Feet, Ankles or Lower Legs

    Side Effects of Pradaxa

    Pradaxa is part of a class of drugs known as “direct thrombin inhibitors”, which inhibit the enzyme in the blood that causes blood to clot. While the medication is promoted for stroke prevention caused by blood clots for individuals with atrial fibrillation, Pradaxa’s side effects may make it nearly impossible for blood to clot when necessary.

    Research of Pradaxa suggests that there are serious concerns about gastrointestinal bleeding especially among elderly patients and those with kidney problems; they may face a greater risk of Pradaxa bleeding problems as the drug is excreted through the kidneys. When the kidneys are unable to process the drug out of the body, the result may be abnormally high levels in circulation, causing an even greater risk. The risk of GI bleeds with Pradaxa may also be higher for users taking other medications linked to an internal bleeding risk, such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other blood thinners.

    The FDA approved Pradaxa a few years ago; adverse event reports immediately surfaced that suggest the Pradaxa bleeding side effects may be more significant than first believed. While there has been no indication that a Pradaxa recall will be issued, regulators in the United States and other countries are closely monitoring this new prescription medication.

    According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices report, more than 307 adverse events involving Pradaxa were filed with the FDA during the first three months the drug was on the market. This exceeds 98.7% of the other drugs monitored by the organization and is 50% more than those associated with warfarin, an older and cheaper blood thinner that Pradaxa was designed to replace.

    While the clinical trials, known as RE-LY, used a double blind method of comparing two doses of Pradaxa, a non-blinded comparison was used between Pradaxa and warfarin, allowing bias and errors to potentially impact the results.

    A few years ago, the FDA issued a drug safety communication to inform the public and medical community that the potential Pradaxa internal bleeding risk was under review as a result of post-marketing reports of problems. While the agency indicated that bleeding is a known risk with all blood thinners, the agency is examining whether there is anything abnormal about the side effects of Pradaxa that could be considered an unreasonable risk to consumers.

    If you suspect that yourself or a family member has experienced a serious injury from Pradaxa bleeding side effects, request free consultation and claim evaluation to determine whether compensation may be available through a Pradaxa lawsuit.

     

     

     

  • Employee Misclassification Act

    The Employee Misclassification Act is a hot button topic at both state and federal levels. The act currently only applies to employers in the construction industry. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division launched an employee misclassification initiative several years ago and has taken steps to increase enforcement, including an information-sharing agreement with the IRS to ensure violators pay employment-related taxes

    Law abiding employers face a competitive disadvantage when they compete for business or bid for jobs against employers who misclassify. Misclassifying employers have artificially low costs because they have not covered the cost of unemployment insurance contributions and workers’ compensation for their employees. Law abiding businesses that properly classify their employees subsidize businesses that misclassify and they can end up paying higher unemployment insurance contributions, workers’ compensation premiums, and taxes than would be required if all employers followed Illinois law.​

    How Misclassification Occurs:

    • Misclassification occurs if any employer treats workers as “independent contractors” when they are actually employees.​ Some employers use this tactic to avoid compliance with the Employee Classification Act and fail to pay:
      • Unemployment benefits for individuals Unemployment Insurance (UI)
      • Workers’ Compensation
      • Minimum wage and overtime
      • Social Security
      • Tax withholding

     

    Service performed by an individual for an employing unit, whether or not such individual employs others in connection with performing such services, shall be deemed to be employment unless and until it is proven in any proceeding where such issue is involved that:

    1. Such individual has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of such services, both under his contract of service and in fact; and
    2. Such service is either outside the usual course of the business for which such service is performed or that such service is performed outside of all the places of business of the enterprise for which such service is performed; and
    3. Such individuals are engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business.

    Consequences of misclassifying employees as “Independent Contractors” may include:

    • Interest on delinquent unemployment insurance trust contributions at an annual rate of 24 percent
    • Financial penalties for failing to report wages paid to employees
    • Financial penalties for willfully failing to make contributions to the unemployment insurance trust.

    Additionally, officers and employees who willfully cause a business to fail to make payments into the system can now be held personally liable for the payments due from the business.

    An employer that knowingly and willfully fails to obtain insurance may be fined up to $500 for every day of noncompliance, with a minimum fine of $10,000. Corporate officers can be held personally liable if the company fails to pay the penalty. In addition, corporate officers who are found to have negligently failed to obtain insurance are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor; if they are found to have knowingly failed to obtain insurance, they are guilty of a Class 4 felony. An employee who is injured during the time the employer was uninsured may sue the employer in civil court, where damages are unlimited.​​

     

     

  • Reproductive Medicine

    According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine In 2010, 61,000 babies were born through assisted reproductive technology; a few State higher courts have addressed what happens to the frozen embryos once a couple separates.

    The Illinois court has ruled on an embryo case but the ruling still allows many of the issues to remain unresolved because Justice Patrick J. Quinn wrote that the trial court judge should have sought arguments and rendered an opinion on the validity of the first and second contracts rather than ruling on the arguments about the parties’ rights to become a parent.

    The circumstances began in March 2010 when Karla Dunston was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was told that treatment would likely leave her infertile. With her then boyfriend, Jacob Szafranski, they decided to attempt in vitro fertilization. Szafranski donated sperm samples and Dunston donated eggs on April 6, all of which were fertilized before the couple ended their relationship in May 2010. Both signed an agreement stating that, “[n]o use can be made of these embryos without the consent of both partners (if applicable).” A second agreement was drawn up several days later stating that Dunston would have sole control of the eggs and pre-embryos in case the two split up, and that Szafranski “agrees to undertake all legal, custodial, and other obligations to the [c]hild regardless of any change of circumstance between the [p]arties.” This second contract was never signed.

    In 2011, Szafranski tried to stop Dunston from using the pre-embryos, arguing that he had a constitutional right not to father a child against his will.

    Dunston argued that her ex-boyfriend was bound agreement terms because he had donated sperm, thereby performing his obligation and making her believe he was committed to the undertaking. She also argued that Szafranski had intended to sign the second contract giving her control of the pre-embryos but Szafranski disagreed with that, as well as the idea that his sperm donations made the agreement legitimate.

    A Cook County trial court awarded the rights to the embryos to Dunston but Szafranski appealed. A higher court sent the case back, explaining that the case focuses on prior agreements rather than the interests of either party.

    The case now concerns whether the pact occurred when Szafranski gave the sample or when they signed the medical consent form requiring joint consent for the use of the embryos.

    A New York state couple froze embryos and signed an agreement stating they could only be used with the consent of both parties. The wife, who became infertile, requested sole custody of the embryos and the husband opposed her request. The Court of Appeals ruled that the contract should stand and the embryos were donated to research. Last year, a Pennsylvania appeals court gave frozen embryos to a woman who wanted to give birth even though her ex-husband wanted the embryos destroyed. Similar to Illinois case, the ex-wife was infertile following treatment for cancer. There, the court ruled that her desire to be a mother outweighed the man’s desire not to be a parent. Legal experts are watching to see how the Illinois court will resolve this issue.

  • Firearm Concealed Carry Act

    On July 9, 2013, the Firearm Concealed Carry Act became state law and Illinois became the 50th state to enact concealed-carry legislation. The Illinois law allows concealed guns on private property and places of work and worship unless property owners post signage that indicates otherwise; it prohibits guns in schools, parks, child care facilities, government buildings, public transportation, and establishments where the majority of revenue comes from alcohol sales, among other places.

    Since Illinois is the last state to adopt a concealed carry law, a bureaucracy needs to be built to process applications — which could number in the hundreds of thousands in the first year — screening out people with prohibitive criminal records or conditions of mental illness that police believe could make them dangerous if armed.

    The Firearm Concealed Carry Act (Public Act 098-0063) permits licensed individuals to carry a concealed firearm in certain circumstances. However, public and private community colleges, colleges and universities are still off-limits for individuals carrying concealed firearms. While many property owners are required to post signs in order to prevent the carrying of concealed weapons on their property, the Act specifies certain categories of places where licensed individuals may not carry a firearm.

    Licensed individuals may not carry firearms into any property that is owned, leased or controlled by a public or private community college, college or university. This includes areas that might be frequented by the general public, such as parking lots, sidewalks, common areas, university hospitals and athletic stadiums.

    While the Firearm Concealed Carry Act does not change the status quo for institutions of higher education, institutions should be prepared to answer questions about the Act’s applicability on-campus in light of the significant public attention this new law has garnered. To prepare for inquiries, institutions should review existing policies relating to firearms to ensure compliance with the Act. Even more importantly, institutions may consider enacting policies that specifically address the areas of the Act that authorizes institutions to dictate rules and regulations relating to the carrying and use of firearms.

     

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