Retail stores and coupon sites such as Groupon now have to comply with the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act that states that gift cards and gift certificates cannot expire for five years. One commuter is determined to hold Metra to the same standards. In a lawsuit filed in May, the plaintive claims that limited ride passes should be treated in the same manner as a Groupon. The plaintive in this class action suit states that the refund policy for the 10 Ride Tickets that was purchased over the last three years is illegal as the refunds for unused tickets or portions of tickets expire in less than one year. The May 10, 2012 article in Courthouse News quoted the plaintive “…sellers – like Metra – who set artificially short redemption periods are planning in advance to make money by not providing the very services for which buyers have paid in advance. By doing so… they also get to earn interest on the money buyers hand over to them for services never to be rendered.” The plaintive is seeking, among other things, an injunction to prevent the sale of limited ride tickets with expiration dates of less than five years. The Chicago Tribune reported that, in 2011, Metra sold 1.9 million 10-ride passes. His lawsuit also suggest that as fares rise, Metra, like the U.S. Postal Service, could create a system for handling fare increases by allowing riders with unused tickets to purchase stamps covering the price increase. Whether a semi-government body is treated the same as a private company we will wait to report.
In November 2011, a new Illinois law became effective that allows Illinois born adult adoptees to obtain non-certified copies of their birth certificates from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Adoptees must be at least 21 years old to apply. In most cases, the original birth certificate will list the first and last names of one or both birth parents. The exception is that the birth parents of adopted persons born after January 1, 1946, may have their names deleted from these copies. To remain anonymous, birth parents have to complete a Birth Parent Preference Form. Birth parents also have the right to indicate if they wish to have direct or indirect contact with their adult birth child as well as provide adoptees with non-medical background. Adoptees do not have to sign-up with the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange get a copy of their birth certificate but, if a birth relative has signed up and shared information, the Registry will inform the adoptee and send the forms to sign- up. If an adoptee signs up, any information that has been submitted will be sent to them. There is a $15 registration fee to sign-up on the Registry, but participants who complete the two-page medical questionnaire on genetically-transmitted diseases don’t have to pay the fee. If birth parents request that their information be removed from the copy of the birth certificate, adoptees can still request a copy that doesn’t include information regarding the birth parent who wants to remain anonymous; wait until a copy of the death certificate of the birth parent who requested anonymity has been filed ; or request that an intermediary from Confidential Intermediary Services of Illinois does a search for the birth parent after five years have passed since they requested anonymity. This state appointee will request updated medical information and reconfirm whether or not the birth parent is willing to release identifying information. This new law allows adoptees to access their records and answer questions about their past. While the information may be incomplete in order to protect the privacy of their birth parents, it is often enough for an adoptee to learn something as simple as the name they were born with.
The Internet offers a wealth of opportunities to learn, shop, and locate friends while simultaneously posing an alarming array of potential threats and scams for the unwary. In May of this year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled on the case of Paula Bonhomme v. Janna St. James, 2012 IL 112393, deciding that the defendant’s misrepresentation of her sexual identity and affections did not constitute fraud, as there were not business or financial transactions. In 2005, the plaintiff, Paula Bonhomme began an on-line conversation on the website Deadwood Boards, for fans of the television show Deadwood, with the defendant Janna St. James. Several months later Ms. St. James registered on the site under the male name of Jesse James. Under the pseudonym of Jesse James, Ms. St. James struck up a conversation with the plaintiff while continuing to correspond with her under her female user name. The plot thickened as the relationship between Ms. Bonhomme and the made-up Jesse James became romantic, involving letters, gifts and even telephone calls where Ms. St. James technologically disguised her female voice. Ms. St. James also established additional on-line personas for the fictitious Jesse James including family and friends, continuing for almost two years to craft various scenarios to keep Ms. Bonhomme from discovering the truth. The court documents read like a television script including Ms. St. James killing of the imaginary Jesse James, which allegedly contributed to the plaintiff’s ongoing mental and medical conditions. Only when Ms. St. James came to visit the plaintiff as herself was the actual truth discovered. The plaintiff sued the defendant for complaints including intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and false light. The trial court dismissed all of plaintiff’s counts with prejudice except for fraudulent misrepresentation, which it dismissed without prejudice. Ms. Bonhomme filed motions to reconsider, which the trial and appellate courts denied as well as additional challenges and appeals, all of which failed. Finally the Supreme Court took up the case and, while much of the discussion of the case was based on failures to adhere to procedural and language issues, the court determined that the crucial question was whether the facts were personal in nature or whether or not there was some commercial or regulatory component to the case for fraud. They determined that the relationship, while deceitful was a personal one between two private people. The plaintiff and defendant were[READ MORE…]
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…” a popular lyric from the 1971 FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND but what do those signs that read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” or “No shirt, no shoes – no service” really mean? Generally there are no laws that ban bare feet in public but a restaurant may refuse to serve you if you walk in with bare feet, because they have the right to make the rules about who they serve. Store owners are exercising their right as a property owner to determine what does and does not happen on their premises so long as those refusal-of-service guidelines are equally enforced, reasonable, and appropriate for the business, and not violating the civil rights of patrons. Malls are also considered to be private property and they can exercise similar options in denying entrance to patrons dressed inappropriately as long as the rules are enforced consistently. The “no-shirt no-shoes-no-sevice” sign advises the rules, of the premises owner to all those entering uniformly. Establishments cannot refuse service to customers based on race, color, religion, or natural origin. Businesses cannot refuse to serve someone because they have a disability or because they are dressed in a religious manner that differs from the owner or management’s religious beliefs unless the provision is enforced among all patrons. As an example, an establishment cannot ban hajibs worn by Muslim women unless they ban all head scarves worn by all women including veils worn by nuns as well as babushkas worn by older ladies. Business owners have the right to set the rules for what happens within their businesses; the general common sense rule for patrons is that they should not be doing anything that is not normal behavior for a customer of that type of business.
According to the Pew Research Center more than 50% of Facebook users are older than 35. While most are not posting images of themselves wasted at a party or a springbreak trip they believe that their Facebook page enjoys a reasonable amount of privacy; at least until current and potential employers began asking for their log-in IDs and passwords. In response to this potential invasion of privacy, on August 1st Illinois Governor Quinn signed legislation into law that makes it unlawful for an employer to ask for or require current or prospective employees to provide login information to their social media sites. In fact, the law allows employees to file a lawsuit if their current or potential employer demands access “in any manner to their social media profile or account.” HB 3782 goes into effect January 1, 2013 and prevents employers from screening applicants or punishing current employees based upon private information from their social network accounts. While the fundamental right to privacy has been preserved, there is a concern among employers that the new law does not allow for exceptions and could make it difficult for employers to investigate alleged workplace misconduct or harassment. The law’s definition of social networking sites does not include email nor does it prevent employers from obtaining information about current or potential employees that is in the public domain, so always exercise care when posting information on the web.
Parents do everything they can to protect their children but if something horrible does occur, no parent is prepared to discover that they must not only deal with their grief, but they must also contend with the fact that their deceased child’s identity has been stolen. According to Bloomberg.com, more and more parents have discovered that someone had stolen their child’s social security number directly from the government through the Social Security Administration’s on-line public Death Master File. The file is used by the agency to stop benefits for the deceased as well as to pay survivors for benefits that they may be due. It has also become an ideal place for identity thieves to search for information they can use to file false income tax returns. Parents often don’t discover that their deceased child’s identity has been stolen until they file an income tax return. The IRS claims that as an agency they must carefully balance accuracy with the need to process returns efficiently. Once the IRS sends a refund, even if it is in response to a fraudulent return, the money is gone. The same file also creates another problem by erroneously listing living individuals as deceased. This creates what is known as credit zombies. This is most often due to data entry errors which are easy to make but almost impossible to correct. Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll Jr. testified that from January 2008 to April 2010 more than 35,000 people were placed in credit limbo when they were declared dead in the system. This keeps these innocent people from opening bank accounts, obtaining loans or even getting a driver’s license renewed. Lawmakers have heard from their constituents about identity fraud and error and are trying to change or limit access to the Death Master File as well create a more effective system for correcting errors. Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Growth, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson recently convened hearings on tax refund fraud as did a panel in the U.S. House of Representatives. Until a legislative solution can be reached, the IRS is attempting to stem tax fraud identity thefts by flagging deceased taxpayer’s final returns and preventing any one else from using their Social Security numbers.
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