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  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Launched

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act), is a federal government agency that is responsible for ensuring that consumers receive the necessary information to make informed financial decisions – whether applying for a mortgage, selecting a credit card, or using any other consumer financial product.  The CFPB seeks to promote fairness and transparency so that prices and risks are disclosed up front, with no hidden costs or risks, thereby allowing consumers to make direct comparison among products without being subjected to unfair, deceptive or abusive practices. Core functions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau The CFPB strives to provide consumers with the information they need in order to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies, such as credit card companies, banks and mortgagors. According to the CFPB website, among other things, the bureau seeks to: Conduct rule-making, supervision, and enforcement for federal consumer financial protection laws Restrict unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices Take consumer complaints Promote financial education Research consumer behavior Monitor financial markets for new risks to consumers Enforce laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance Financial Providers Subject to CFPB’s Oversight The CFPB monitors, supervises and enforces the conduct of consumer financial providers including: Banks Credit unions Payday lenders Mortgage brokers and services Foreclosure relief service providers Debt collectors How Consumers Will Benefit The CFPB was officially launched last month in July 2011, but it has already performed many consumer protection tasks.  Currently, the bureau helps consumers in the following ways: Provides access to HUD-approved housing counselors to those home owners that are having trouble paying their mortgage; Allows consumers to submit complaints regarding credit card companies or other financial service providers; Has combined two federally required mortgage disclosures into simpler form, titled “Know Before You Owe,” to make the costs and risks of the loan more clear ; and Releases reports on the variation in credit scores sold by certain consumer reporting agencies Consumer Complaints The CFPB maintains a website that allows consumers to submit credit card complaints or other financial product complaints.  The Dodd-Frank Act requires the CFPB to report all consumer complaint information with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other state and federal agencies in order to help agencies coordinate their enforcement of consumer financial protection laws. To do so, the[READ MORE…]

  • Ford’s Recall of Trucks with Defective Fuel Tank

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on July 29, 2011 that Ford is recalling 1.1 million pickup trucks due to defective fuel tanks.  Reports have indicated that prolonged exposure to road deicing chemicals may cause severe corrosion of the fuel tank straps that secure the tank to the vehicle, allowing the fuel lines to separate from the tank and, in some cases, causing the tank to contact the ground, which poses a fire hazard. Ford will soon begin notifying the owners of vehicles affected by the recall, instructing them to take their vehicles to a Ford or Lincoln dealer where the fuel tank straps will be replaced with straps that have increased corrosion protection.  If replacement straps are not available, the dealer may install a cable support under the strap as an interim repair until a replacement strap is available or install a steel reinforcement over the existing strap as a permanent repair.  The fuel tank strap repair will be performed free of charge. Which Ford Trucks Are Affected By the Recall? The recall involves the following Ford vehicles: Certain Ford F-150s for model years 1997 to 2003 2004 Ford F-150 Heritage Ford F-250 for model years 1997-1999 2003 Lincoln Blackwood vehicles manufactured between June 29, 1995 and August 4, 2004 What Is the Status of Other Ford Vehicle Defects? A circuit court judge in Florida recently set aside the decision of a jury finding that Ford was not liable for damages and injuries caused by the sudden acceleration of its Aerostar van.  Judge Swigert found that Ford’s misconduct had amounted to “a “fundamental error” that had deprived plaintiffs of a fair trial and ordered a new trial on the issues of compensatory and punitive damages.  Judge Swigert’s opinion found “clear and convincing evidence” that Ford had engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and other misconduct that justified setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Ford and issuing a new verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs.  For more information on the decision in Stimpson v. Ford, see our recent blog post. Ford also recently recalled more than 26,000 vehicles, as well as service parts shipped to dealers for the affected vehicles, due to a risk that the multi-function switch can become deformed and prevent the turn signal, tail lights, hazard warning flashers and brake lights from activating, which could in turn increase the risk of a collision.  The recall[READ MORE…]

  • Turkey Salmonella Outbreak

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health officials across the country and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to determine the cause of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections that is likely caused by eating ground turkey.  To date, 77 persons from 26 states, including 7 persons from Illinois, have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg between March 1 and August 1, 2011.  Because the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, the risk of hospitalization or treatment failure may be increased. Who Has Been Infected? The illnesses reported to date began on or after March 9, 2011 and those infected with the Salmonella Heidelberg strain range in age from less than one year to 88 years old, with a median age of 23 years.  Nearly half (48%) are female and, of the 58 infected persons with available information, 22 (38%) have been hospitalized and one death has been reported. Those that became ill in the past 2-3 weeks may not be reported yet due to the lag time between a person becoming ill and the time that the illness is reported. How Is the Outbreak Being Investigated? The CDC believes that the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak strain has been caused by ground turkey because nearly 50% of the ill persons for whom there is available information have reported eating ground turkey, a percentage that is significantly higher than the results from a survey of healthy persons. In addition, cultures of four ground turkey samples purchased from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27, 2001 indicated the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.  Preliminary information has shown that three of these samples originated from the same production facility, with the fourth sample still under investigation. In order to determine the specific cause of the outbreak strain, the CDC and public health investigators are using DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. They are also examining data collected from a network of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.  Product information, such as the date and location of purchase, is also being collected from ill persons to help with the public health agencies’ investigations. What Are[READ MORE…]

  • Macy’s Fined for Selling Dangerous Children’s Clothing

    Last month, Macy’s agreed to pay a $750,000 fine imposed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) based on allegations that the retailer knowingly failed to immediately report to the CPSC, as required by federal law, that it had sold children’s sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets with drawstrings at the neck between 2006 and 2010.  Drawstrings on children’s upper outerwear, such as sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets, have been shown to pose a risk of strangulation that can result in serious injury or death. Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers, such as Macy’s and other department stores, to report to the CPSC within 24 hours of discovering information that reasonably supports a conclusion that the product contains a defect that could create a substantial hazard, that could create a unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or that fails to comply with an consumer product safety rule.  The CPSC alleges that the sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets that are the subject of the fine were sold by Macy’s and other Macy’s affiliates, including Bloomingdale’s and Robinsons-May, after a recall had been issued, which violates the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.     The CPSC had issued guidelines regarding drawstrings on children’s clothing in 1996 and cited children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings as defective and posing a substantial risk of injury to young children.  In 2006, the CPSC, along with several manufacturers and distributors, recalled the following children’s clothing with drawstrings: Quiksilver Inc. Hide & Seek hooded sweatshirts Jerry Leigh of California Inc. Harajuku Lovers Hooded Jackets La Jolla Sport USA Inc. O’Neill children’s sweatshirts Dysfunctional Clothing LLC children’s hooded sweatshirts Macy’s Merchandising Group Inc. Epic Threads hooded sweatshirts and Greendog sweaters C-MRK Inc. Ocean Current boys’ hooded sweatshirts NTD Apparel Inc. Hello Kitty hooded sweatshirts S. Rothschild & Co Inc. girls’ coats VF Contemporary Brands Inc. Splendid girls’ hooded jackets and vest sets Although Macy’s has agreed to the settlement, it continues to deny the allegations that it knowingly violated the law. The Chicago product liability law firm of Ankin Law Offices, LLC is committed to protecting of consumers from dangerous and defective products, including unsafe children’s products.  We regularly update our blog to include information on important children’s product recalls.   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[READ MORE…]

  • 13-Year Old Tobacco Settlement Still the Subject of Disputes

    $7.1 billion Payment Dispute A proposed settlement between big tobacco and the states to resolve a $7.1 billion payment dispute was rejected the states last month.  The deal requires the approval of a “critical mass” of states in order to be finalized, and certain states, including Utah, New Jersey and Missouri, representing more than half of the market share have rejected the deal, thus putting the parties at an impasse. The proposed settlement have allowed large tobacco companies to recoup approximately $2 billion from funds that have been withheld from states or otherwise disputed under the 1998 master settlement agreement, with the states collecting approximately $5.1 billion of the disputed payments.  In exchange for allowing the allowing cash-strapped states to collect several billion dollars of the disputed payments, the 1998 master settlement agreement would be revised with respect to how the states collect fees and taxes from smaller companies that have not joined the 1998 master settlement. The tobacco giants argue that they should not be required to pay on sales from 2003 through 2010, calling into question an amount totaling more than $7.1 billion.   The tobacco conglomerates also argue that they have lost market share because the states have failed to seek payments from smaller tobacco companies that are not party to the 1998 settlement. Those familiar with the matter are growing increasingly doubtful that the parties will reach a finalized settlement agreement.   Profit Reporting Dispute Sales in Mississippi The $7.1 billion dispute between big tobacco and the states isn’t the only tobacco settlement dispute currently playing itself out in the legal system.  On July 25, 2011, a Mississippi judge heard arguments from R.J. Reynolds and the State of Mississippi regarding whether or not the tobacco giant failed to fulfill obligations under the master tobacco settlement when it failed to report profits from the sale of 7.8 billion cigarettes made by one of its subsidiaries to the independent tobacco company Star Tobacco, which sold the cigarettes in Mississippi under the brand names Gunsmoke and Vegas between 1999 and 2002. An attorney for R.J. Reynolds, which manufactures six of the 10 best-selling U.S. cigarette and moist snuff brands and is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, argued that, because the sales of those cigarettes were not directed at customers’ whose health could be affected, the sales should be exempted from the master settlement agreement. Mississippi Attorney General[READ MORE…]

  • Stimpson v. Ford: Judge Orders New Trial Based on Ford’s Misconduct at Trial

      A circuit court judge in Florida recently set aside a jury verdict in favor of Ford Motor Co., finding that Ford’s misconduct had amounted to “a “fundamental error” that deprived plaintiffs of a fair trial and justified a new trial.  The lawsuit alleged that plaintiffs’ Aerostar van suddenly accelerated during gear engagement and traveled more than 100 feet before hitting a utility pole, causing disabling injuries to plaintiff Peggy Stimpson.  Plaintiffs asserted liability by Ford based on strict liability, negligence and punitive damages for fraudulent concealment of a defect.  Ford denied the allegations and, following a four-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in Ford’s favor. Plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing requesting that the court vacate the judgment and order a new trial.  At the heart of the plaintiffs’ appeal was whether or not Ford had repeatedly used fraudulent tactics to conceal the truth about risks associated with electromagnetic interference with the cruise control function of vehicle, which has caused numerous injuries and deaths. Judge Swigert’s opinion harshly criticized Ford Motor Co. and found that that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Ford had engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and other misconduct that justified setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Ford and issuing a new verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs.  Specifically, Judge Swigert found that Ford Motor Co. had engaged in the following misconduct: (1)   Ford had destroyed Service Investigation Reports within one year even though they were required by federal law to retain the reports for 5 years and had concealed years of research and evidence dating back to the 1970s that indicated a possible electromagnetic interference problem that could cause sudden acceleration – information which, if disclosed, would have allowed the federal government to become aware of the electronic defects with the cruise control function that can cause sudden acceleration problem sooner. (2)   Ford made false claims regarding its knowledge of the electronic defect and knew that the 1989 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report was based on false information. (3)   Despite its request to exclude testimony from an expert witness of the plaintiffs, Ford introduced the testimony on cross-examination and insinuated that plaintiffs’ counsel had concealed certain information. (4)   Ford had generally presented false and misleading testimony to the jury. Judge Swigert also reprimanded Ford’s attorney for insinuating that plaintiffs’ lawyer had concealed information by excluding the testimony of one of plaintiffs’[READ MORE…]

  • Should seat belts on school buses be required?

    The United States National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t think so. In fact, the NHTSA recently denied a petition from safety groups, consumer advocates and doctors that sought to make the use of seat belts on school buses a requirement nationwide. The reason? The projected cost of adding lap belts to buses, which was predicted to be $5,485 to $7,346 per bus, would outweigh expected “benefits”. As explained in this LA Times article, the NHSTA is basically saying, in a very clinical and detached manner, that a few dead children aren’t worth the added costs: School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S., NHTSA said, with an overall fatality rate almost six times lower than for passenger cars. Fewer than 1% of school transportation-related fatalities occur in school buses, versus 12% walking and 79% in cars, the agency said. Whether to install belts as an added safety measure should be left to state and local governments, NHTSA said. The cost for each fatality prevented would be $23 million to $36 million, the agency said. Some school districts may be able to afford the more expensive buses, while others would be forced to pare service, it said. Fortunately, a number of individual school districts place more value on the the lives of children than the NHSTA. For example, a handful of school districts in Massachusetts have now installed lap belts on school buses and at least one offers courses which teach children how to use the seat belts, as described in this Boston.com article: The School Committee voted unanimously in March to support the seat belt initiative, which a local group, Waltham4Seatbelts, had been promoting for about two years. The new safety system will add about $105,000 to the cost of leasing the buses this school year, officials said… Waltham appears to be the first public school district in the state to adopt the safety measure for all its buses, although several districts, including Newton, already use lap belts. These school districts are on the right track and are taking proactive steps to prevent unnecessary school bus fatalities. Childrens’ lives are more than a statistic and installing lap belts in an effort to prevent injuries from school bus accidents is an admirable step. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at[READ MORE…]

  • What is a Class Action Law Suit?

    You may have heard on the news a number of times that a group of people are bringing a class action suit against a corporation, but most people do not know what a class action suit actually is.  Basically, a class action suit is when a group of people who have the same kind of harm (i.e. side effects from a drug) come together and file a suit against a corporation.  However, unlike in common civil law suits where one person files a suit against another party or corporation for some harm that has been done, the representative in a class action suit represents the whole class that has been harmed by the defendant.  Additionally, class action suits can be brought in federal court, or in state courts. Can I be part of a class action law suit? Yes.  Ordinarily, once a court certifies the class—allows the class action suit against the defendant—the attorney(s) who are representing the class will send opt-out forms to the members of the class.  These opt-out forms are what potential members of a class action suit may receive in the mail.  Basically, if you receive an opt-out form, you can choose not to be part of the class action suit.  If you decide to opt-out, you are not bound by the decision the court reaches in the class action suit.  Therefore, if the decision comes out against the classes favor or vice versa, you may still bring your own suit against the defendant at a later time.  However, if you choose to be a part of the class action suit, you are bound by any decision the court reaches regardless of whose favor it is in.  Therefore, a single plaintiff may no longer bring a separate case against the defendant if he/she was already part of a class action suit against the same defendant for the same harm.  In a small number of rare cases, members of a class action suit must opt-in to the suit.  However, these are few and far between, usually, members of the class must opt out of the suit so as not to be bound by the court’s judgment. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a class action law suit? There are many advantages and disadvantages to taking part in a class action lawsuit.  As mentioned above, if you are part of a class action suit and the court[READ MORE…]

  • Zachs’ Law Helps To Prevent A Child from Being Injured on The Soccer Field

    Zach’s Law, which was passed by the Illinois legislature this summer, protects children on soccer fields. In 2003, 6 year old Zach Tran became the 36th victim in the United States to die as the result of unsafe soccer goals; many more have been injured. The sad reality is that most of the goals that are in existence have been designed and manufactured using metal for the top and sidebars. This design makes these movable goals top-heavy and easy to tip over. Players of all ages, from grade school to adults, have been injured or killed when an unanchored goal fell on them.

  • If a child is hurt by another child: Can that child be considered contributory or at fault for the accident and also be contributorily at fault for the accident?

    There are a number of considerations when determining negligence on the part of a child. Children can be contributory negligent depending on their age. Children under the age of 7 cannot be held contributory negligent under the “tender age doctrine.” Children between the ages of 7 through 14 can be contributory negligent depending on their age, capacity, intelligence and experience.

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