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  • Illinois Injured Worker Awarded Over $30 Million

    Image by Joe Gratz via Flickr A former employee of a popcorn plant was recently awarded the largest verdict of this type by a Chicago jury. The plaintiff, Gerardo Solis, had been a worker in a Chicago popcorn plant owned by Flavorchem Corp for 8 years from 1998-2006. In 2006 he was diagnosed with Popcorn Lung (also known as Bronchiolitis obliterans). This life-threatening illness inflames the lung’s small airways, called bronchioles, resulting in scarring that permanently obstructs the airways. The only known cure is a lung transplant. Popcorn lung is caused by a chemical called diacetyl , which is used in the butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn. As explained in this Newsinferno blog post, the link between diacetyl and Popcorn Lung was reported  by the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health in 2003. In the Illinois personal injury lawsuit, Solis sought recovery for his injuries which resulted in him being 100% disabled. He has just 25% of normal lung capacity and there is the strong possibility that he will need a lung transplant during the next decade. Following trial he was awarded a verdict of $30.4 million.

  • Illinois Strip Club’s Liability for Automobile Accident at Issue

    Image via Wikipedia In a recent post we discussed an Illinois court’s decision that addressed a homeowner’s potential liability for an automobile accident that occurred after an underage teenager drank alcohol at his friend’s home and was involved in a fatal car accident later that evening. The Illinois Supreme Court recently addressed a similar issue in Simmons v. Homatas,  236 Ill.2d 459, 925 N.E.2d 1089. At issue in Simmons was was whether the owners of a Chicago strip club could be held liable for the deaths of a pregnant woman, her unborn child and another person, where their deaths resulted from a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver who had been a patron of the club earlier in the evening. The club did not serve alcohol, but allowed patrons to bring their own alcohol and provided glasses, ice and mixers for drinks. On the evening of the automobile accident, John Homatas and his friend left their car with the club’s valet parking and brought alcohol to the strip club. Over the next few hours they purchased mixers from the club and poured drinks using the alcohol that they brought with them. Homatas was later discovered by club bouncers in the bathroom, where he was vomiting and was visibly intoxicated. Club bouncers ejected the pair from the club and escorted them to Homatas’ car, which had been parked at the front of the club by the valets and its engine was running. Homatas drove off in the vehicle and, 15 minutes later, collided with a vehicle being driven by April Simmons, resulting in the unfortunate deaths of Simmons, her unborn child and Homatas’ passenger. One issue considered by the Court was whether the common law negligence claim against the strip club owners was preempted by Dramshop  Act, especially given that the club did not actually provide alcohol to Homatas. After a full analysis of the relevant law, the Court concluded, in part, that the owners of the strip club could be held liable for the deaths of those killed in the collision: We hold..that…a defendant is alleged to have removed a patron for being intoxicated, places the patron into a vehicle and requires him to drive off, such facts are sufficient to state a common law negligence cause of action that is not preempted by the Dramshop Act. Following the Court’s decision, the case quickly settled, as reported in this[READ MORE…]

  • Illionois Court Considers Parental Liability for Accident Stemming from Underage Drinking

    Image via Wikipedia Bell v. Hutsell is a recent decision out of the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, that involved allegations that homeowners were responsible for the death of an 18-year old who died in an automobile accident after drinking alcohol at the home of the defendants. In Bell, it was alleged that the defendants’ son, who was also 18, hosted a party for his underage friends at his family’s home. The plaintiff’s deceased son attended the party. Although the defendant’s parents provided only soft drinks, alcohol was brought to the party by others who attended the party. The basis of the civil complaint was that the defendants were liable for the plaintiff’s son’s death since they voluntarily agreed to ensure that no underage partygoers would drink alcohol and likewise violated the Liquor Control Act. Specifically, the plaintiff asserted that common law liability arose because the defendants’ son assured the plaintiff’s son that there would be no alcohol at the party and and that his parents would monitor the party to ensure that no drinking occurred. At the outset, the court rejected the defendants’ defense that they were “social hosts” since the defendants “did not supply the alcohol, store the alcohol, or affirmatively permit its consumption.” Thus the court concluded that the case could proceed on the common law theory that the defendants negligently performed the duty to monitor alcohol intake at the party. However, the court dismissed the counts alleging violations of the Liquor Control Act since the defendants did not supply the alcohol that was present at the party. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Illinois Court on Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Authority to Subpoena Copies of Medical Records

    Image by A Gude via Flickr The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, recently addressed the issue of the proper scope of a subpeona duces tecum issued by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. In Holtkamp Trucking Company v. Fletcher, M.D., one of the issues before the court was was whether the Illinois Workers’ Compensation had the authority to issue a subpoena duces tecum to a physician, wherein the subpoena required that the physician photocopy medical records for a fee and send the records to the employer of an employee who had filed an Illinois workers’ compensation claim. In reaching its conclusion, the court acknowledged that the Commission was authorized by Section 16 (820 ILCS 305/16 which authorizes the Commission to “issue subpoenas duces tecum requiring the production of such books, papers, records[,] and documents as may be evidence of any matter under inquiry and to examine and inspect the same…” However, the court noted that the statute doesn’t provide the Commission with the authority to require a party to photocopy records; rather, the Commission can require that a party appear on a certain date and produce any requested records relevant to the proceeding. The court, after noting the limitations in the current statutory framework, encouraged employers to attempt to work out an agreement with physicians whereby physicians would copy and mail medical records to employers for a reasonable fee that would compensate the physicians for their costs. Finally, the court suggested that the Commission should consider amending its rules to facilitate such an arrangement: Perhaps the Commission should consider promulgating a rule whereby a subpoena issued by the Commission could offer an alternative to appearing at the hearing with the original records in hand. The alternative, for example, might be photocopying the records at a certain price per page, which the Commission could specify, and mailing the photocopied records by a certain date. The Commission would be wise to heed the court’s advice, since workers’ compensation proceedings are complex enough as it is. Anything that would simplify the procedure would be a welcome addition to the statutory framework. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Round Up

    Image by Benimoto via Flickr Here’s what other personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers have been talking about over the past few weeks: “New Jersey Task Force Recommends Privatization of Workers Compensation“-Workers’ Compensation Blog “Facebook Discovery in Litigation”– Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog “California high court OKs public contingency fees”–Overlawyered “New Test for Brain Injury on Horizon”–Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer “Tainted Food Sometimes Remains on Shelves Despite Recalls”–Personal Injury and Social Security, Disability Blog Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Illinois Supreme Court Considers CTA’s Obligation to Remove Accumulated Snow and Ice

    Image via Wikipedia In Krywin v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 108888, the Supreme Court of Illinois considered the issue of whether the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) was liable for a passenger’s injuries that occurred when she exited the train and slipped on snow and water that had accumulated on the train platform. The injured plaintiff alleged, in part, that the CTA was liable for her serious injuries as a result of its failure to remove the snow and ice that accumulated on the platform and that the CTA also failed to warn her of the dangerous condition presented by the accumulated snow and ice. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, holding that the CTA was not liable for her injuries. Importantly, the Court reaffirmed that the natural accumulation rule, which relieves a property owner from liability for injuries caused by the natural accumulation of ice and snow, applies even if a storm is not currently in progress: We note that the general rule that property owners have no duty to remove natural accumulations of ice or snow from their property has been applied without regard to any ongoing precipitation (see Sheffer, 261 Ill.App.3d at 152, 198 Ill.Dec. 458, 632 N.E.2d 1069 (the weather was “bright and sunny” at the time the plaintiff fell on the ice)) or the length of time the natural accumulation has existed. Judge Freeman issued a strongly worded dissent, arguing that the natural accumulation rule, which was originally intended to shield municipalities from liability, should not be extended to common carriers that provide public transportation, such as the CTA: In view of both Illinois statutory and common law, I would hold that a common carrier’s standard of care trumps the natural accumulation rule. That is, the duty of care should extend to the kind of risk encountered by plaintiff here, a risk which is not only foreseeable but is likely to cause injury to passengers. His rationale was based, in part, on the fact that Chicago officials encourage citizens to use public transportation during snow storms in order to facilitate snow removal and the smooth flow of traffic, thus putting those law abiding citizens “who follow officials’ directions in potential harm’s way with no recourse for the damages they might incur if injured on an icy CTA platform.” Judge Freeman raises a valid point. The arguable public policy contradiction is difficult to reconcile and seemingly requires[READ MORE…]

  • Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds Homeowners Responsible for Snow Accumulation

    Image via Wikipedia In July, as explained in this Business Week article, Massachusetts highest court overturned a long standing rule that absolved property owner’s from liability for failing to remove snow accumulation on their property. As explained in Papadopoulos v. Target, SJC-10529, the overruled holding was referred to as the “Massachusetts rule”, and stood for the proposition that property owners were not responsible for removing the natural accumulation of snow and ice. In Papadopoulos, the plaintiff was injured when he slipped and fell on a patch of ice located in the parking lot of a Target Store. The parking lot had been plowed, but the snow had been plowed into a pile on a median strip. He sustained serious personal injuries, including a broken pelvis. He retained a personal injury lawyer and commenced a lawsuit against Target, seeking compensation for his injuries. In defense of the lawsuit, Target argued that the ice was the result of a natural accumulation from the pile of snow located on the median. Specifically, either the plaintiff slipped on ice that had “run off” from the snow on the median or had slipped on a chunk of ice that had fallen from the snow pile. The court rejected this argument and in the process of doing so, overturned the long standing “Massachusetts rule”: We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to “act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.” Young v. Garwacki, 380 Mass. 162… This introduces no special burden on property owners. If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect lawful visitors against the danger… This is undoubtedly a victory for those injured in Massachusetts, especially since the court held that the decision applies retroactively to all pending lawsuits. Property owners should be held responsible for conditions under their control that may cause others to be injured. This decision ensures that stores such as Target will[READ MORE…]

  • Ex-Chicago Bears Players Receive Large Workers’ Comp Awards

    Image via Wikipedia Two former Chicago Bears players have received sizable workers’ compensation awards from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Board. First, former All-Pro safety Mike Brown sought compensation after suffering from foot and leg injuries sustained while playing  the Chicago Bears. As detailed in this BusinessInsurance.com article, Brown, who is now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was awarded $140,000. Another ex-Chicago Bears player, tight end Gabe Reid, received a workers’ compensation award that is reportedly the highest ever paid to a pro athlete in Illinois. Reid, who injured his right knee while playing for the Bears from 2003-2006, was awarded $325,000. Most workers’ compensation awards are not as large as Reids’, but hiring a good Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer is the first step toward obtaining the compensation you deserve for your work-related injuries. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

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