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  • Illinois Court Upholds $3.9 Million Verdict in Favor of Train Injury Victim

    In a recent case, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, was asked to overturn a jury trial verdict in favor of a teenager who was severely injured when attempting to jump onto a freight train that was traveling 9-10 miles per hour. The train ran over his foot, injuring it so badly that it was later amputated below his left knee. His parents brought a personal injury lawsuit on his behalf, seeking to recover damages for his injuries. The case was tried before a jury and the jury returned a verdict in his favor in the amount of $6.5 million, which was reduced to $3.9 million based on a finding that he was 40% comparatively negligent. The defendants appealed on a number of grounds, in part alleging that jumping aboard a moving train presented an open and obvious danger that the defendants owed no duty to prevent and that the plaintiff failed to prove what measures the defendant could have taken to prevent the accident from occurring. In Choate v. Indiana Harbor Belt Railway Company, No. 1–10–0209, the Court disagreed. After analyzing relevant case law, the Court held that it was foreseeable that a child might attempt to jump onto a moving car and that the evidence established that there were reasonably affordable remedial measures that could have been taken by the defendants which could have prevented the accident from occurring: Our holding…affirms a jury verdict finding the railroads 60% liable to a trespassing child who foreseeably did not appreciate the dangers and full risk of harm from jumping aboard the slow-moving freight train and to whom a duty was owed…(and) affirms a jury verdict based in part on Dr. Berg’s testimony that defendants were required to take remedial measures only along the 6,000–foot corridor between Central Avenue and Ridgeland Avenue. The total cost of the remedial measures (i.e., chain-link fence plus overpass), as testified to by Dr. Berg, was approximately $175,000, which would not unduly hamper railroad operations having a high utility to the general public. All in all, a favorable verdict for Illinois personal injury litigants, since it sends the message that when it is foreseeable that a child might be attracted to and injured while on property owned by a business, steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of unfortunate and preventable accidents. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and[READ MORE…]

  • Are Work-At-Home Employees Entitled to Workers’ Compensation?

    A New Jersey appellate court recently considered a very interesting case where the husband of a woman who died of a pulmonary embolism while working from home for AT&T was seeking workers’ compensation benefits related to her death. He alleged that her pulmonary embolism was caused by her sedentary work lifestyle. As an employee of AT&T, she had worked from home and spent most of her time working sitting in front of a computer screen. In defense of the claim, her employer alleged that her work was no more a contributing factor than her less than active day-to-day lifestyle, along with her weight (300 lbs.) and the fact that she took birth control pills. The court, however, disagreed, as explained in this NJ.com article: The appellate court upheld a lower judge’s decision that Renner’s fatal condition, known as a pulmonary embolism, was caused by her work and that her husband, James, is entitled to benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation law…”Cathleen led a sedentary life in and out of work,” the court wrote in its ruling. But the evidence showed her work inactivity was greater than her non-work inactivity, the court said. Her husband, James, testified that his wife, who weighed more than 300 pounds, never sat around and “was always up and out.” This is a significant holding in light of the increasing number of telecommuting employees. These employees, although working from home, are arguably “on the job” if injured while performing work-related tasks, just as employees injured while traveling for work-related purposes are “on the job.” Employees working from home should not be treated any differently and should be entitled to the same job-related benefits, such as workers’ compensation benefits, as those working on site. 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.  

  • New Laws Seek to Reduce Illinois Automobile Accidents and Injuries

    In recent months, two new laws were passed in Illinois, both of which are intended to make Illinois roads safer. First, on June 27th, Governor Pat Quinn signed a a bill that requires everyone in a car to wear a seat belt. Previously, back-seat occupants over 18 years of age were exempt, but no more. As explained in this State Journal Register article, the goal behind this law and other recent laws enacted in Illinois, is to increase vehicle safety: Officials said it was the latest measure to improve safety on Illinois roads. Others actions by the state have included a ban on texting while driving and increased training for student drivers. Secretary of State Jesse White said making rear passengers wear seat belts will protect not only them but those people in the front seat as well. Another law passed earlier this year that will make Illinois roads safer for motorists is the new speeding law. Under the new law, those who drive more than 30 mph over the posted speed limit will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and will face a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. More information about the penalties for speeding can be found here at the Illinois State Police website. These laws are a step in the right direction and will make Illinois roadways safer for everyone by preventing automobile accidents and encouraging drivers to operate their vehicles more safely. 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 Addresses Liability for Train Engineer’s Injuries

    Can a locomotive engineer recover for injuries sustained while on a cab car that was not connected to an assembled train? That’s one issue considered by the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, in Balough v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, No. 1–09–3053 (2011). In Balough, the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant. The testimony at trial established that he was a locomotive engineer at the time that he was injured. His job was to “to coordinate the dispersal of cars after the morning rush hour and to coordinate the assembly of trains for the evening rush hour.” He was injured while on a cab car, which he had boarded with the intent to move the car in order to position it for use during rush hour traffic later in the day. As he did so, a trapdoor fell open and struck his head, requiring him to be hospitalized. He received stitches to a cut on his head. The defendants argued on appeal that the cab car was not “in use” as defined in the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) (one of the the statutes that Balough claimed the defendant violated) when Balough was injured. The essence of the defendant’s argument was that the car was not “in use” because, at the time of the injury, it did not have a crew, departure was not “imminent” and it was not transporting passengers. The Court disagreed after analyzing decisions of other courts that had addressed the issue whether a car was “in use.” The Court concluded that precedent required that the totality of the circumstances be considered, including the location of the locomotive at the time of the injury and what the plaintiff was doing when injured. Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court correctly determined that the car was “in use” when the personal injury plaintiff was injured: Thus, the Mechanical Department was releasing trains and plaintiff was on his way to put car 1579 on a train to be placed in use. Also, although Metra consistently refers to plaintiff as a “hostler,” FN2 apparently in an attempt to portray plaintiff’s job as consisting of moving trains to service areas, plaintiff’s testimony at trial that his position was locomotive engineer and that his duty was to place trains for use on the commuter lines was unrebutted by Metra. There were no blue flags on car 1579 and the[READ MORE…]

  • Laws aim to prevent injuries from accumulated ice on trucks

    Ice that accumulates on commercial vehicles such as trucks can prevent a dangerous hazard to other motorists on the road. In fact, last year, an Illinois man suffered severe facial injuries when ice blew off of a passing truck and crashed into his windshield, shattering it into pieces. A similar situation occurred in Massachusetts earlier this year. Incidents like these are what prompted the legislature in Suffolk County, New York to enact a new law designed to protect innocent motorists. The law requires that operators of commercial vehicles remove accumulated snow and ice before traveling on public roadways. As explained in this Huntington Patch article, the law does not apply to snow and ice that accumulates while the vehicle is being operated and the penalties for failure to comply with the law increase if an injury occurs due to failure to comply: The law exempts drivers already on the road during a storm when ice accumulation occurs on vehicles and does not apply to parked vehicles, school buses, public transit buses and paratransit vehicles… Failure to comply to the new law will result in a $150 fine. If personal injury or property damage results from the failure to properly clear vehicles, fines between $500 and $1,500 may apply. The legislation prevents commercial vehicle owners from passing fines to workers. Although the Suffolk County law is the first of this kind in New York state, Suffolk County, New York is not the only jurisdiction concerned with this problem. Many other states have also passed similar laws, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. Hopefully more states will follow this example. As the cases above show, ice and snow build up on large commercial vehicles, like trucks, creates a dangerous hazard for unsuspecting motorists that share the road with these vehicles. Requiring the drivers to take the simple step of clearing off their vehicles is a simple step toward preventing traffic accidents and making the roads safer for everyone. 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: Can Medical Malpractice Plaintiff Can Access Hospital Records Before Filing Suit?

    In Zangara v. Advocate Christ Medical Center, 2011 WL 2342736, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, the plaintiffs contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureas (MRSA) while patients at Advocate. One person died and the other survived. The medical malpractice lawsuits filed on their behalves alleged that the defendant was negligent in its management of infection and infection-control procedures. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court improperly concluded that certain information requested by the plaintiffs in support of their claim was privileged under the Medical Studies Act (735 ILCS 5/8–2101 (West 2008)) (Act) and thus did not have to be provided to the plaintiffs at that stage of litigation. The information at issue consisted of hospital records regarding the rates of MRSA infections during a specific time frame. The defendant argued that the records did not have to be turned over because the records were privileged under the Act and because the request exceeded the scope of discovery available prior to filing a 2-622 affidavit (the affidavit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by a physician wherein the physician states that there appears to be a meritorious cause of action). According to the defendant, discovery at that stage of the proceeding was limited to the plaintiffs’ personal medical records. The Appellate Court disagreed: (W)e believe that discovery before filing a section 2–622 affidavit is not confined to the plaintiffs’ personal records but is subject to the Act and the discretion of the trial court…(W)e also find…that the disclosure of the number of MRSA infections at Advocate between October 5, 2005, and January 13, 2006, does not conflict with the Act’s purpose: to ensure members of the medical profession will engage in the effective self-evaluation of their peers in the interest of advancing quality health care…Advocate is not entitled to use the Act as a shield to protect it from potential liability by simply claiming that the MRSA data is privileged because it was later reviewed in a committee meeting. Accordingly, the medical malpractice case was remanded to the trial court for the release of the records at issue and for further 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.

  • FDA’s Special Report on Product Safety and Quality

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a special report on product safety and quality designed to meet the challenges imposed by the increasing number of FDA-regulated imports and a complex global supply chain.  The special report, entitled “Pathway to Product Safety and Quality,” reports that between 10 and 15% of all food consumed by households in the United States is imported from abroad, with nearly 2/3 of all fruits and vegetables and nearly 80% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. imported from abroad. Due to the expansion of food imports and globalization of the food supply chain, the FDA has expanded its regulatory capabilities and oversight functions through legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act. For example, the FDA has opened additional offices overseas in key international locations and increased the number of inspections of international drug manufacturers.  Because of the challenges brought about by a global food supply, the FDA seeks to take additional actions with respect to product safety and quality. Key Challenges of Today’s Global Supply Chain The FDA’s special report cites several challenges facing the global supply chain today, including the following: Demographic shifts among emerging markets Tension between resource consumption and environmental sustainability Increased pressure on companies to reduce prices and increase productivity Increased risks of fraud and economic adulteration of food and medical products due to pressures to maintain lower prices and changes to the global product flow Movement of companies to production facilities overseas in order to reduce production expenses Increased safety and quality risks due to flow of products through complex multi-step supply chain before reaching the U.S. market How the FDA Plans to Overcome These Challenges The FDA states in its special report that it is “committed to addressing its challenges and those of the future by implementing a strategy to enhance global product safety and quality, and in doing so more effectively fulfill its mission.”  In order to fulfill these goals, the FDA plans to “engage all stakeholders” in a transformation and reform process that will take several years and require “boldness, creativity, and patience.” The “Pathway” report cites four core building blocks upon which the FDA plans to implement changes in order to effectively meet the challenges of today’s global marketplace: Assemble global regulatory coalitions that are dedicated to expand and strengthen product safety around the world. Develop a global data information system and[READ MORE…]

  • Recall of 375,000 Circo Booster Seats

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Target announced on June 15, 2011 the voluntary expansion of the Circo booster seat recall after receiving additional reports of injuries.  The recall covers approximately 375,000 Circo child booster seats, including 43,000 booster seats that were originally recalled in 2009. The booster seat was recalled because of reports that the restraint buckle can open unexpectedly, which can result in the child falling out of the seat and becoming injured.  Target has received reports of 10 additional incidents of the buckle becoming unhooked, including three reports of the child suffering from bumps and bruises after falling from the booster seat. The recall includes all Circo booster seats sold between January 2005 and June 2009.  The booster seats are blue with green trim and a white plastic restraint buckle.  The booster seat attaches to a chair and allows a child to sit at a table more comfortably. What To Do If You Own a Circo Booster Seat Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled Circo booster seats and return them to any Target store for a full refund.  If you own the Circo booster seat and have questions regarding the recall and how to receive a full refund for the product, you can contact Target at (800) 440-0680 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or visit the company’s website at www.target.com . If you or your child has been injured using one of the recalled booster seats, you may wish to contact the experienced Illinois product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices 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. ANKIN LAW OFFICE LLC Chicago Workers Compensation | Chicago Personal Injury | Chicago Motor Vehicle Accidents Chicago Wrongful Death | Chicago Social Securi ty Disability | Chicago Class Act ion Lawsuits

  • HBO’s “Hot Coffee”: The Perils of Tort Reform

    Part of HBO’s summer lineup includes “Hot Coffee,” a documentary that investigates the principles behind tort reform and how it “threatens to restrict the rights of everyday citizens and undermine the civil justice system.”  The documentary, which aired on June 27, was directed and produced by Susan Saladoff, a former public interest lawyer and first time filmmaker. The documentary highlights the importance of our country’s civil justice system and focuses on the ways that tort reform threatens the system.  The series discussed four high profile lawsuits, beginning with the infamous McDonald’s “hot coffee” lawsuit in which a jury awarded Stella Liebeck $2.86 million when she sued McDonald’s after spilling hot coffee on herself in 1990 and suffering severe burns. The documentary includes “man-on-the-street” interviews in which each of the respondents expressed an initial opinion that the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case was egregious, at least to some degree, on the part of the plaintiff.  After being shown gruesome photos of the plaintiff’s burned pelvic area, however, the respondents’ opinions seem to vacillate. The series goes on to showcase three other exceptional lawsuits and political tactics: (1) the case of a 16-year-old whose severe brain injury was due to medical malpractice but whose damages were limited to only 1/5 of what the jury determined his family was owed due to the state’s cap on malpractice damages; (2) the smear campaign against Justice Oliver Diaz, an anti-tort reform state supreme court justice from Mississippi; and (3) the case of a young Halliburton employee who was drugged and raped while deployed in Iraq and sought civil damages against her employer but was denied a jury trial due to a mandatory arbitration clause in the employment agreement she had signed. The documentary’s overarching theme focuses on how the public, consumers and voters are being fooled by the arguments of tort reform advocates.  Our civil justice system and the Constitution afford us the right to a jury trial, but tort reformists are attempting to remove, or severely restrict, this right through measures such as damage caps and mandatory arbitration. The film exposes Corporate America’s manipulation of the public to think that “freeloaders” have flooded the civil justice system and that the majority of civil lawsuits are frivolous – until, that is, they have been wronged and their access to the civil court system is restricted.  The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are[READ MORE…]

  • CPSC’s Pool Safely Campaign

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives campaign recently released its 2011 summer snapshot of the number of drowning and near-drowning incidents across the country.  Since Memorial Day, there have been 48 drownings and 75 near-drowning incidents in 35 states.  Driven by the high number of drownings and near-drownings, the CPSC is calling for additional vigilance at pools and spas this summer and beyond. Common Pool Injuries Some common pool injuries include: Drowning Near-drowning and brain injuries Slip and falls Sunburn Broken bones Ways to Minimize Drowning Risks Drownings, near-drownings and other swimming pool accidents can be prevented by following certain safety measures.   When using a residential or community pool, swimmers should make sure to: Learn basic lifesaving techniques Learn how to perform CPR on both children and adults Never leave a child unattended Teach children water safety basics Keep children away from pool drains and other entrapment hazards Keep a telephone nearby Legal Responsibilities of Pool Owners Swimming pool owners are obligated to provide a safe swimming pool area by taking certain precautions and the failure to do so may subject the swimming pool owner to premises liability for any drownings or injuries that occur on the pool owner’s property.  Swimming pool owners should take the following safety measures in order to provide a safe swimming environment: Install a fence that is at least four feet high around the pool with self-closing and self-latching gates. Install pool and gate alarms. Ensure that pool drain covers comply with the latest safety standards. Maintain pool covers that are in good working order. Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm.   If you or a loved one has been involved in a swimming pool accident, you may be able entitled to compensation from the swimming pool owner or operator through a premises liability or wrongful death lawsuit.  Contact the Chicago swimming pool accident attorneys at Ankin Law Offices at (800) 442-6546 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your premises liability or wrongful death 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. ANKIN LAW OFFICE LLC Chicago Workers Compensation | Chicago Personal Injury | Chicago Motor Vehicle Accidents Chicago Wrongful Death | Chicago Social Securi ty Disability | Chicago Class Act ion Lawsuits

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    Our firm handles workers' compensation and personal injury claims in Chicago, Berwyn, Joliet, Cicero, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Aurora, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Aurora, Niles, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield and all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry, LaSalle, Kankakee, McLean and Peoria Counties.