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  • Is a Plaintiff’s Immigration Status Relevant In a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

    The United States District Court recently issued an interesting decision in an Illinois personal injury case.  In Zuniga v. Morris Material Handling, Inc., 2011 WL 663136 (N.D.N.Y 2011), the plaintiff was injured while working at a construction site when  the hoist assembly of an overhead crane fell and struck him. Zuniga sought recovery of expenses for medical expenses, damages for pain and suffering and compensation for loss of earnings and loss of future earning capacity as a result of the injuries he sustained from the incident. During the deposition, Zuniga was asked about his immigration status in relation to his wage claim. Zuniga asserted his Fifth Amendment privileges and refused to answer that line of questioning. This motion followed, in which the defendant sought to compel Zuniga to answer the immigration-related questions. At issue was whether Zuniga’s immigration status was an issue that was relevant during the deposition stage of discovery. The Court concluded that is was: In summary, Morris’s motion is granted to allow discovery of Zuniga’s immigration status during the period for which he seeks the subtopics Morris has identified are relevant. Zuniga’s immigration status the subtopics Morris has identified are relevant. Zuniga’s immigration status prior to the time period for which he claims damages for lost earnings or earnings capacity is not relevant. As for the Fifth Amendment invocation, the Court noted that generally speaking, the privilege may be asserted in a civil proceeding, but an adverse inference may be drawn from the refusal to respond. As for the specific facts of this case, the Court held that: Zuniga has a right to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege, but this record has not yet been developed sufficiently to evaluate whether his invocation is proper as to any particular questions. Accordingly, the Court remanded the matter for further discovery proceedings. 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.

  • Recalled Rental Cars–a Continuing Problem

    A while back, we reported that rental car agencies regularly lease recalled cars without fixing the underlying safety issue behind the recall. As we explained in our earlier post, last August, two consumer groups filed a joint petition with the FTC, asking that the FTC investigate the situation and require that Enterprise Rent-a-Car, one of the largest car rental agencies in the U.S., refrain from renting cars  that are subject to safety recalls  and have not yet been repaired. Now, federal legislation is being considered that would require rental agencies to immediately remove from circulation all recalled cars. Once fixed, the cars would then be able to be rented again. The bill was introduced by Senator Charles Schumer. As explained in this LA Times article, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently conducted a study that supports this legislation: Schumer also pointed to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that is still underway. Looking at 10 recalls by General Motors and Chrysler from 2006 to 2010, the study showed: Hertz Rent-a-Car fixed only 34% of its vehicles affected by those recalls within 90 days. Avis Car Rental and Budget Rent a Car fixed 53% and Enterprise fixed 65% in the same time frame. “The study suggests that tens of thousands of rental car drivers have unknowingly rented vehicles under recall, posing a serious threat to safety on the roadway,” Schumer said in a statement this month when he offered his bill, the Safe Rental Car Act. Not surprisingly, the car rental agencies oppose this legislation, claiming that the data used in the study is inaccurate. Nevertheless, requiring rental car agencies to keep recalled cars off the road simply makes sense. Unsuspecting customers shouldn’t have their lives placed at risk simply for the convenience and profit of rental car agencies. Safety should always come first. Hopefully, this legislation will be passed, automobile accidents involving recalled rental cars will be prevented and lives will be saved. 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. Related articles Cracking down on rentals of recalled cars (seattletimes.nwsource.com) NY bill would end leasing of rental cars in recall (seattletimes.nwsource.com) Schumer Demands Fix to ‘Dangerous’ Rental Car Loophole (abcnews.go.com)

  • Are Children’s Car Seats Safe?

    According to recent reports, it’s unclear whether car seats are safe. Current testing methods for car seats are inadequate and based on insufficient test data. Nevertheless, despite questionable data, new standards are being issued. However, the reliability and accuracy of the new standards is remains to be seen. For example, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), the federal agency tasked with setting safety standards for automobiles, doesn’t test children’s car seats for side impact crashes, nor does it set standards for car seats made for children who weigh over 65 pounds. According to this Washington Post article, the reason for this testing failure is due to difficulties in developing life-like child dummies for testing: That’s because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to develop a lifelike child crash test dummy that can accurately ensure that seats for heavier children provide the protections promised. Problems with developing child dummies are also a key reason why seats for all children have no federal requirements for effectiveness in side-impact, rear-end and rollover collisions, car seat experts said. However, despite the NHSTA’s inability to test child seats, it just issued new child car seat safety guidelines, as reported in this WTAE.com article: The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have released new guidelines for car seats. The groups now say children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old. The new guidelines also state that some kids should ride in booster seats until they are as tall as 4 feet 9 inches, 12 years old, or the lap-belt fits them. The uncertainties regarding appropriate recommendations and the insufficient guidelines issued based on guesses and estimations are simply insufficient.  Ensuring the safety of our children and protecting them in the event of an automobile accident should be one of the NHSTA’s top priorities. Let’s hope that the testing of car seats improves in the very near future. The current state of testing is nothing short of shameful. Our children, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, deserve better. 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. Related articles New guidelines: Kids safest in rear-facing car seats until age 2 (charlotte.news14.com) Babies are safest in rear-facing car seats until age of two, safety experts say[READ MORE…]

  • IKEA Recalls 26,000 cribs

    Chicago Product Liability Attorney Illinois Personal Injury Attorney Approximately 26,000 IKEA SNIGLAR cribs were recently recalled in the United States and Canada.  IKEA Home Furnishings recalled the crib after finding that the four bolts provided with some of the cribs that are used to secure the mattress support are not long enough, which may cause the mattress support to collapse and create a risk of entrapment or suffocation. The recalled SNIGLAR cribs are non-drop-side, full-size cribs with the model number 60091931.  The model number is printed on a label attached to the mattress support.  The mattress support and crib frame are made of a natured-colored wood. The recalled cribs were sold at IKEA stores nationwide from October 2005 through June 2010 and were sold for approximately $80. What to do if your stroller has been recalled If you own this crib, you should immediately stop using the crib and check to see if the mattress support bolts extend through the nut and that the bolts are the proper length.  If so, the crib is not included in the recall.  If the bolt does not extend through the nut, the crib is included in the recall and you should contact IKEA at (888) 966-4532 or www.ikea-usa.com for a free repair kit.  You should use an alternate, safe sleeping environment for your child until you have received the free repair kit and repaired the crib. If you or your child has been injured using one of the recalled cribs, you may wish to contact the experienced Illinois product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC to learn about a possible personal injury or product liability claim. 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.

  • Bruesewitz v Wyeth: Supreme Court Limits Liability of Vaccine Manufacturers

    Chicago Product Liability Attorney Illinois Personal Injury Attorney The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling in the case of Bruesewitz v Wyeth that severely limits the liability of vaccine manufacturers, thereby decreased accountability for producing safe vaccines. The question presented before the Court was whether or not the preemption provision in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) prevents a plaintiff from bringing a state law design-defect product liability claim against vaccine manufacturers.  In a 6-2 decision, the Court held that the NCVIA does, in fact, bar all state law design-defect claims against vaccine manufacturers that are brought by plaintiffs seeking compensation for injuries caused by vaccine side effects. Passed in 1986, the NCVIA was enacted to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines available for the public while holding vaccine manufacturers responsible for notifying consumers of various risks associated with a respective vaccine.  It includes a provision stating that no vaccine manufacturer can be held liable for vaccine-related injuries associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and included proper directions and warnings. The Court interpreted this provision to mean that if the vaccine was properly manufactured and included adequate warnings, any remaining side effects, including those resulting from design defects, are deemed to have been unavoidable and the vaccine manufacturer cannot be held liable under state-law design-defect claims. Justice Sotomeyer’s dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsberg, raised concerns about the ability of product liability laws to promote safe vaccines.  The two justices fear that the Court’s decision “disturbs the careful balance Congress struck between compensating vaccine-injured children and stabilizing the childhood vaccine market” and creates an environment in which “no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements when designing or distributing their products.” The Chicago product liability law firm of Ankin Law Offics, LLC is committed to protecting the interests of those injured by dangerous and defective products, including unsafe vaccines.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a vaccine, or other defective product, contact one of our Chicago product liability attorneys to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible product liability or personal injury claim. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be[READ MORE…]

  • Study Reveals Cell Phone Radiation Affects Brain Activity

    Chicago Product Liability Attorney Illinois Personal Injury Attorney Despite claims to the contrary by the cell phone industry, a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed that there is, in fact, be a link between cell phone use and brain activity. In conducting its study, researchers from NIH examined 47 participants who underwent two brain scans – one scan while a cell phone connected to a muted call was attached to the right ear and another scan while the phone was turned off.    The scans were conducted using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET scan).   Neither the participants nor the researchers were aware of whether the cell phones were turned on or off while the scan was conducted. The study found that when the phone was turned on, the glucose metabolism (or energy conversion rate) in the section of the brain closest to the phone’s antenna was approximately 7% higher than when the cell phone was turned off. Essentially a cell phone acts like a radio – when talking on a cell phone, voices and sounds are transmitted through the antenna as radio frequency radiation.  Depending on how close the antenna is placed to a person’s head, anywhere between 20% and 60% of the radiation transmitted by the cell phone is transferred to the user’s brain. Because of the potential injuries associated with exposure to radiation, it is advisable to take certain precautions when using a cell phone in order to decrease exposure to harmful radio frequencies. Use your cell phone on speakerphone as much as possible. Do not use your cell phone as an alarm clock.  Cell phones can emit radio frequency radiation even when you are not talking on the phone. Text, instead of calling, since texting keeps the phone farther away from your head. Use a radiation-blocking cell phone case. 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.

  • The Debate Continues Over Lawsuit Loans

    In December we predicted that the issues surrounding lawsuit loans (where banks make loans to both attorneys–to help them with costs related to litigating the claim–and to the litigants themselves) would be a hot topic throughout 2011. And, sure enough, lawsuit loans made the news earlier this month. The New York Times reported that companies that advance lawsuit loans were lobbying for legislation that would exempt them from usury limits on interest rates and other state laws intended to protect borrowers. As explained in the article: (T)he lawsuit lending companies want to adopt a separate and less rigorous set of protections. Since February, they have persuaded legislators in at least five states, including New York, to introduce bills based on the industry’s own proposals.The campaign is drawing strong opposition from chambers of commerce, insurance companies and others who worry that lawsuit loans encourage litigation by emboldening plaintiffs. These critics also argue that the bills would strip protections from borrowers. One major criticism is that lawsuit loans take advantage of personal injury plaintiffs, as explained in this article from Gazette.net: (W)hile the…lenders claim to offer financial help to those in need, their fees often are so high that consumers who use their services end up with nothing, or worse, end up in debt even after receiving their lawsuit award or settlement. Of course, there are two sides to every story. The lenders assert that they’re entitled to charge higher interest rates because they take large risks when making the loan. This article from allgov.com elaborates on their position: These lawsuit lenders, which include banks and hedge funds, argue that their efforts should not be subject to usury laws, even though they are known to charge high interest rates on their loans. They’re entitled to demand exorbitant rates, they say, because of the risk of many plaintiffs losing their cases. Known in the business as “alternative litigation financing” (ALF), the rules prevent lenders from charging plaintiffs if the case is lost. And so, the debate continues with no end in sight. Only time will tell how this issue will play out. Perhaps some states will regulate it and others will not. In the meantime, the American Bar Association is studying the issue and is expected to weigh in with their opinion in the fall of 2011. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr.[READ MORE…]

  • Malfunctioning Car Seat Heaters Can Pose a Serious Threat

    Malfunctioning car seat heaters are an increasing problem, especially for paralyzed individuals. People with limited or no feeling in their lower extremities can unknowingly suffer severe burns when car seat heaters overheat. For these people, this issue is a matter of serious concern. As reported in this USA Today article, a 2003 study highlighted the need for tighter controls and regulation of car seat heaters and the risks posed when these devices malfunction: Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, says 105 degrees is the maximum temperature a seat should ever reach. Greenhalgh, co-author of a 2003 study on the issue, has treated a patient who received third-degree burns after 20 minutes in a car seat where the heater reached 120 degrees in one spot. Medical literature shows these burns can occur within 10 minutes at 120 degrees. In part because of the concerns raised by Greenhalgh, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to review the issue and determine if any actions need to be taken in regard to car seat heaters: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday that it will analyze its data to see how widespread the problem of burns from car seat heaters is and whether heaters that can burn people pose “an unreasonable risk to safety.” In the meantime, in order to avoid serious injuries, it is recommended that people with lower-body sensory deficits disconnect the heaters. Additionally, automobile manufacturers are being asked to consider setting a maximum temperature for heaters and install timers that automatically turn them off, steps that some automakers have already taken. 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. Related articles Car seat heaters become safety target (usatoday.com) Hot Cross Buns: NHTSA reportedly set to investigate seat heater burns (autoblog.com)

  • President Obama and Medical Malpractice Reform

    Last month, in a move that many trial attorneys believe will reduce the quality of patient care, President Obama submitted a budget that calls for a major revamping of medical malpractice laws. As explained in this NPR article, Obama’s proposed reform includes provisions that will substantially change the current process, if enacted: President Barack Obama’s budget calls for $250 million in state grants to revamp medical malpractice laws. The grants would allow states to set up health courts — courts where medically-trained judges, not juries — would decide malpractice cases… Under a health court system, judges would undergo special medical or scientific training. The court would also hire so-called neutral experts to help judges decide cases. To further streamline the process, judges, not juries would decide these claims… However, as explained in the article,  disposing of jury trials in medical malpractice matters may very well be unconstitutional: Eliminating a jury is unconstitutional in most states. The U.S. Constitution’s Seventeenth Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in federal civil cases and some state constitutions, including Minnesota’s, also ensure that right. It remains to be seen whether his proposed changes will be adopted. But, in the meantime, this is an important issue to keep track of, for if his amendments are successful, the litigation of medical malpractice lawsuits could be dramatically changed–and not necessarily for the better. 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

    Here’s what other personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers have been talking about over the past few weeks: Truck Driver Has A Duty Not To Park Along Roadside (Day on Torts) Does Michigan have more truck accidents because it doesn’t allow punitive damages? (California Punitive Damages Blog) New York To Cap Medical Malpractice Awards? (An Open Letter to the Legislature) (New York Personal Injury Law Blog) New Sideline Test Could Help Coaches Determine if Players Suffered Concussions (Brain Injury Lawyer Blog) Homeless Shelter Sued for Wrongful Death (TortsProfBlog) 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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