Archive for General Legal

Revisiting the Chinese Drywall Crisis

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Since 2001, Chinese drywall has created problems for homeowners in the United States. A specific kind of drywall imported from China that contained sulfurous compounds left many people in a state of distress. From health complications to visible damage in household appliances made with copper and/or metal, the installation of Chinese drywall has proved to be disastrous. The sulfurous compounds contained in the drywall have been identified by The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and carbon disulfide are just a few that have been found in the drywall testing.

The manufacturing of Chinese drywall consisting of sulfurous compounds has stopped since 2012 due to the Drywall Safety Act.

Most of the people affected by the negative side effects linked to contaminated Chinese drywall are located down south in states like Florida and Louisiana.

The hotter the air is, the more humid weather conditions are, which in turn causes the emission of said sulfurous compounds to be released from the drywall. When temperatures rise, the sulfurous compounds emit a rotten-egg like smell, and also corrode appliances like air conditioners and fire alarms causing appliances to fail and be replaced.

Though sometimes the sulfurous smell cannot be detected, it is still damaging to homeowners who are unaware of the complications that can arise from the defected Chinese drywall. Sulfurous compounds not only damage household appliances, but they also create serious health issues for people who are living in a house built with Chinese drywall. There have been reported complaints linked to homeowners living with Chinese drywall that include dry eye, headaches, sinus infections, nosebleeds and difficulty breathing.

Problems have and will keep arising if the Chinese drywall is not replaced.

In order to detect if you’re experiencing a Chinese drywall problem, a threshold inspection must take place. If the inspection validates that you’re indeed suffering from Chinese Drywall Syndrome, then legal action may be taken in order to receive compensation for any issues you’ve experienced while living with the defected Chinese drywall.

Photo Credit: Georgia National Guard, photo

U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Sues For Gender Discrimination

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The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) were the talk of the country last year bringing home the gold medals. Their stories and names became part of the sports lore as they battled tough teams to reach the pinnacle of soccer. They beat Germany in the Women’s World Cup Finals in Canada and being treated to a ticker tape parade in New York City Much to their dismay, they have to continue fighting but this time in a court room against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). According to various news reports, the USWNT filed suit against the USSF for wage disparity between the men’s soccer team and the women’s soccer team. The grievance was filed with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This lawsuit has caused conversation about the wage parity issue across the world and on other issues affecting female athletes. The USWNT has been more successful then the USMNT and according to the reports are paid four times less than the men. Hope Solo, one of the superstars on the team, was quoted as saying to Associated Press

“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.

The wage disparity complaints aren’t new from the USWNT. In fact, women soccer players all over the world have been battling for equality in pay and stature. As bad as the pay disparity is in the United States, some women’s national teams have it much worse. The fight for equality among the sexes never ends, but because sports is primarily merit based people may not understand the fight female athletes have to wage. In addition to pay, they have less sponsors, shoddier equipment, and less marketing devoted to their activities. In these past few years, underrepresented groups are making their voices heard on a range of issues. Women, especially, have become more vocal about the issues affecting them like work life balance and pay equity. The book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg touched on these issues. There has been proposed legislation for equal pay among the sexes.This lawsuit announces to the world that the USWNT is now part of the fight to end the wage disparity between the sexes.

Photo: DSC_2429, Photo Credit: SuzieBlue8

Civil Lawsuits Are Dropping Across The Country

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According to the Court Statistics Project, civil lawsuits are dropping across the country. The Illinois Trial Lawyer Association cited that statistic as well as another statistic  specifically focusing on the the drop of civil lawsuits in Illinois. The statistics are between the years 2010-2014. Some of the eye popping stats are tort cases dropping seven percent nationwide. Tort filings dropped 25 percent in the last decade. In Illinois, the number of civil cases dropped 33 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Civil lawsuits are ways the general public can remedy a wrong through the legal system. Class action lawsuits regarding pharmaceuticals, dangerous products, even the water we drink have all been improved by the actions some people take in court. It’s a bad sign if civil lawsuits are dropping because it could be mean people are not pursuing legal remedies for issues they are facing. But, there could be a lot of reasons why the lawsuits are dropping perhaps the cases are weak, the cost of litigation is too high, the plaintiffs have not found willing plaintiffs’ attorneys that are going to take the case. Whatever the situation, if this trend continues it could embolden defendants to do or continue bad actions because they know they will not suffer the consequences.

In addition to making a complaint public, civil lawsuits serve a purpose as part of the legal process to remedy a wrong and be compensated for suffering. They also serve as warnings to other companies engaged in similar actions that they may face the possibility of lawsuit. Civil lawsuits is a vital part of the legal ecosystem and for that system to work, it has to maintain its importance in that system.

American Association for Justice’s Reports On Insurance Company Tactics For Denials & Non-Payments

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The American Association for Justice released two reports about the tactics insurance will try to use to avoid paying their policyholders despite them paying premiums for in case bad situations occur or undercut policyholders on what should receive. The first report titled, Pattern of Greed 2007focused on the actions some insurance companies used during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina against people who had claims because of the damage to their property. According to the report, Katrina caused an estimated $135 billion in damages. The damage left by the storm was shown worldwide and captured the attention of the world. The storm took place right after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, where the world responded with supplies and personnel very quickly. Hurricane Katrina seemed to catch many government and emergency personnel off guard especially in New Orleans. After the immediate aftermath, the hard work of rebuilding was to begin and claims needed to be paid for that to commence. However, insurance companies started to push back and slow down the claims process. In the report, insurance companies are said to have “promoted” the flood damages angle and not wind damage because they wouldn’t be responsible for paying flood claims. In addition, the insurance companies would publish misleading statistics where they touted paying 90% of claims. Statistics which were disputed from government officials and policyholders. Some of the biggest companies in the insurance industry were named in the report. Companies like Nationwide, State Farm, and All State all had incidents where they denied policyholders what was owed to them.It is even claimed in the report some companies committed fraudulent actions to avoid paying their policyholders. The historical practices of the insurance companies is also mentioned in the report as well as their donations to different politicians.

The American Association for Justice’s second report was titled How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse, and Refuse. That report was more of a general overview of how the industry avoids keeping their end of the bargain. Generally, people get insurance to protect their property against any foreseen or unforeseen disasters. It is pitched as a hedge because no one knows what damage a storm or the after effects of a storm will do property. Insurance is sold as a peace of mind for the policyholder. However, according to the report, insurance companies actively deny valid claims, discriminate over credit scores, delay payment, and confuse policyholders. In this report, AAJ published first account testimonials from people in these kinds of situations with insurance companies. To end the report, they offer advice to anyone with insurance: Know your policy, Fill out the forms carefully, Don’t cash premium refund checks, Put everything in writing, Contact  your state insurance department, and Don’t give up.

 

The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association & Medical Malpractice

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An infant can be hurt before it actually is born. Childbirth is a very intense and traumatic event for both the mother and child. There are cases where the infant is hurt during and that can cause neurological injuries after it is born. There could be a myriad of reasons why the child is hurt during the childbirth experience and sometimes it can be due to the hospital and/or other medical officials. In those situations where a medical professional or establishment is at fault, lawsuits are sure to follow. The state of Florida came up with a way to avoid what they call “the costly legal proceedings and compensate the effected families”. The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association or NICA was created by the Florida Legislature in 1988. NICA’s compensation plan pays for the medical care of infants with certain kinds of neurological injuries. The goals of NICA were to foster obstetrician services by physicians, fix what the issues they saw with medical malpractice insurance, and provide direct assistance to the injured children.

In general, Medical Malpractice is a huge driver of litigation in the courts. Especially in a place like Florida, where the demographics of the population would mean the residents would need more medical services. For years there have been movements against lawsuits against medical malpractice. The opponents tend to be huge hospitals and insurance companies that are constantly being sued in court over the malpractice allegations. So they have pursued and supported litigation seeking to limit the scope of medical malpractice. They were even successful through legislation in getting caps placed on medical malpractice awards. In 2003, the medical malpractice law was overhauled and the caps were put in place. That severely limited what a family could get should they pursue litigation. That legislation may have caused some families not pursue litigation on medical malpractice because of the caps. In 2014, The Florida Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling struck down the caps on medical malpractice awards. The justices said “the caps saved a modest amount for many by imposing devastating costs on a few.”

While the medical malpractice caps have been removed, the issue of medical malpractice and NICA came together when article was published by The Florida Bar Journal in 2011. The title of the article was Twelve Ways To Avoid A Determination Of NICA Compensability In A Medical Malpratice Case.  In the article, the author Jon Gilbert lists the factors a plaintiff attorney should apply to a case where it is deemed acceptable in a NICA court for determination on compensation.

The New Film Spotlight Digs Deep On The Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

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A newly released film titled “Spotlight” focuses on the story of some Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the cover-up of sexual abuse of boys by a priest within the Roman Catholic Church. When the stories by the Boston Globe and other media outlets exposed the sexual abuse by priests and cover ups that allowed them to continue their heinous behavior, it caused a huge uproar worldwide. Those issues are still lingering today. The cast of the highly touted film include top notch actors like Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.

The effects of the Catholic Sex Abuse scandal have been wide-ranging and ongoing for decades. Sex Abuse alone is a huge issue, but combined with religion can cause a huge explosion. That is exactly what happened in the 1990s and 2000s. Once the victims were able to tell their stories, the floodgates opened and pretty soon Catholic dioceses from all over the world were dealing with similar allegations of sex abuse by priests and the cover up of those crimes by church officials. Many of the victims have pursued litigation against the church and sought compensation by the church for the crimes committed against them. It has been reported that the sex abuse scandal has cost the United States Catholic Church nearly $3 billion. It has also been reported there are an estimated 100,000 sex abuse victims in the United States alone. After the Catholic Sex Abuse scandal was exposed, Protestant, Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities have had to deal with sex abuse scandals of their own.

As victims tell their stories to the general public, their advocates continue to push for justice in the courtroom. On behalf of their victims, they are making the case in court that the kind of long standing abuse the victims have suffered deserves justice and compensation. Many of the victims have been living with the mental, physical, and emotional scars their entire lives. Plaintiff attorneys have been able to make that case in court which has led to millions of dollars in settlements compensation. Even though there have been numerous settlements over the Catholic Sex Abuse issue, there are still many more cases working their way through the court system. There are probably some that have yet to be filed on behalf of other victims who are just now telling their story. In these kinds of cases, it is important that the plaintiffs’ attorneys are prepared for the long timeline and expenses that come with litigating sex abuse cases within religious institutions. Resolution of these cases can take a long time and even after a settlement is reached or a verdict is handed down, compensation can still take a long time before it is distributed.

Photo Credit: Bertknot 

Photo Name: Holy Cross Catholic Church Redcliffe

 

A New Film Starring Will Smith Takes On NFL Concussion Issue

football helmetIf the latest film the actor Will Smith is starring in becomes a hit, it will continue to keep the NFL Concussion issue in the headlines for a long time. The film titled “Concussion” will focus around the doctor who first discovered the effects some football players experienced as a result of playing football. The film follows the doctor played by Will Smith and his journey in exposing the problem and the push back he received when he sought to expose it. In reality, the doctor (Dr. Bennet Omalu), who discovered and exposed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) dealt with many issues including being criticized and discredited for what his work showed. Omalu’s story has been covered by numerous outlets like the New York Times, PBS’s Frontline, ESPN’s Outside The Lines, and HBO’s Real Sports With Brian Gumbel.

Initially, the NFL settled with plaintiffs from the lawsuit for $765 million with additional compensation for medical benefits and concussion testing, but the judge wasn’t satisfied and the cap of $765 million was dropped with the other parts of the settlement still in place. Arguably, that settlement wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for the findings of Dr. Omalu. Omalu is currently a Volunteer Associate Clinical Professor for the University of California, Davis, the Chief Medical Examiner of San Joaquin County in California, and the President of Bennet Omalu Pathology. In certain respects, Omalu can be considered a whistleblower because of his findings and his willingness to reveal them to the general public. The NFL is arguably the most popular and profitable sport in the United States. His findings threatened the entire league and its future and his fight to expose the truth is covered in the movie “Concussion”. In addition to threatening the league, Omalu’s findings sparked an ongoing discussion among fans and parents of children who play in little league, high school, and college. If those parents decided to prevent or stop their child from playing football that would be detrimental to the league.

The settlement was eventually approved by the Judge with a majority of plaintiffs being satisfied with the deal. Even though there are a some objectors and lawsuits aside from this settlement proceeding against the NFL, most agree that the settlement is good for the plaintiffs. A trial would have been long and drawn out and would bring some uncertainties. The film “Concussion” is expected to be released in December 2015.

Overtime Violation Lawsuits Stay In The Headlines

Overtime Lawsuit ChartRecently, it seems more employees are suing their employers over their rightful payment for the work they have done. The battle over overtime compensation continues between employers and employees. Overtime is something employees look to get compensated on and sometimes they have to sue to get it. Anyone reading the news will notice the huge settlements from companies on the overtime issue. Halliburton just settled a lawsuit with some of its employees for $18 million. According to some news stories, Halliburton has to compensate more than 1,000 employees with the money. The company claimed the overtime fiasco was due to an accounting error on their part. However, the overtime issue is a trend that is prevalent among many employers of different sizes. According to an article on Law360.com, C&C Salons settled a lawsuit with its workers for $800,000. The reason cited by the salons for the overtime oversight was bad record keeping.

“According to their complaint, the salons failed to keep accurate records with respect to hours that the hairstylists worked each day and total hours worked each week as required by federal regulations. They said the litigation would determine whether that was done intentionally.

The lawsuit sought reimbursement, with interest, for overtime wages, as well as an injunction against the business to prevent them from underpaying employees in the future.”

When litigation concerning overtime takes place, it puts into direct contention the battle lines of employers and employees. There is a natural tension between the two categories and arguably one of the main trigger points is payment. Fair payment for work provided can get overlooked sometimes. Once things are moving, its a constant battle to stay on top of things and the proper reporting of employees can get lost in the shuffle.

In 2012, the United States Government Accountability Office published a chart about Fair Labor Standard Acts lawsuits in Federal Court. The chart showed overtime violation was the number one complaint in lawsuits filed. Overtime lawsuits are part of the Wage & Hour category. These lawsuits generally takes years to resolve and focus on one the most sensitive touch points for employees. Any employee who goes beyond their required duties looks to get compensated properly. Some employer look to cheat their employees and others are simply skirting their obligations by not doing the proper paperwork. Many people think these issues are long gone but they are still alive and very prevalent in today society. Even the on-demand type of companies are facing allegations concerning overtime. Companies like Uber, Lyft, GrubHub and others are fighting litigation on this very issue.

Photo: Figure 4: Estimated Percentage of FLSA Lawsuits Filed In Federal District Court in Fiscal Year 2012, by Type of Allegation

Photo Credit: U.S. Government Accountability Office 

The Contamination Tragedy at Camp Lejeune

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The United States Marine Corps: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten. For those who were stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina from 1953 – 1987, this modified motto rings true. “The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten” is a term coined by an advocacy group for those marines and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune. Unlike other marines, who are not typically manhandled by their governments, those who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during this 35-year span were exposed to water contaminated with multiple toxic materials.

Between 1953 and 1987, marines and their families lived at Camp Lejeune and bathed and drank in contaminated water. Contaminants included TCE, which is a chemical typically used as a degreaser; PCE, which is a dry cleaning solvent; and benzene, an industrial solvent. These are all shown to be human carcinogens, which are chemicals that tend to promote cancer. At Camp Lejeune, these carcinogens led to increased prevalence of lung cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, and leukemia. Many have since died of these complications. Children who were conceived and / or born on base tended to suffer from birth defects including cleft lip and low birth rates, while women experienced infertility, or experienced birth complications including premature births and miscarriage.

Contamination at Camp Lejeune was never a secret. The EPA labeled the camp as a major polluter in 1970, and the military added new regulations in 1984 on the proper techniques for disposing toxic and hazardous waste. Despite the apparent knowledge of these existing issues, drinking water was not tested until 1982, thirty years after the camp had opened and was established as a home base for hundreds of men, women, and children.

The Associated Press (AP) investigated the contamination long after the camp was closed due to the contaminated water. It appears that the levels of toxic chemicals had been underreported. For example, an original contractor had reported that benzene appeared in the water supply at a toxic 380 parts per billion. A later report, however, stated that the contaminant was only present in a still toxic 38 parts per billion. An even newer report failed to mention benzene at all.

While the Veterans Affairs division recognizes that the water contamination has lead to serious diseases and complications amongst those who lived at Camp Lejeune and offers medical care and other resources to those who can provide records of residency and suffering, there is no established program to compensate families for all previous suffering from ailments and fatalities caused by living in this toxic environment for up to 35 years.

Photo Credit: Randy Son Of Robert via Compfight cc


Written by Shayna Keyles & Lulaine Compere

Shayna Keyles is a blogger and social media marketer based in Louisville, Kentucky. When not working with RD Legal, she helps small businesses manage their online profiles and explores uncharted areas. You can follow her on Twitter at @SKLiaison or contact her at skeyles@gmail.com.

Lulaine Compere is a writer and analyst for the origination team at RD Legal Funding.

Nassau County DA Wants To Push Texting While Driving Off The Road

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Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk or driving while exhausted. This is one of the many points that New York’s Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice highlighted in a five-point plan that she distributed to smartphone device manufacturers, as well as other policy makers and industry leaders, in a bold move to reduce phone-related auto accidents.

In the Five Point Plan to Reduce Driving While Texting, DA Rice urged tech companies Apple, Google, Microsoft and Blackberry to work with third-party developers and incorporate safety devices into their products that would prevent texting capabilities during vehicle operation. She further addressed insurance providers, suggesting discounts for drivers who used devices where such text-blocking third party applications were in use.

DA Rice also communicated with law enforcement agencies and local courts, suggesting that mandating text-blocking applications could be as useful a preventative measure for those who text while driving as transdermal alcohol monitoring alcohol bracelets or personal breathalyzers are for DUI offenders. Rice also contacted the local police department and proposed new techniques for enhanced enforcement against texting while driving. Furthermore, DA Rice is in the process of creating a public awareness campaign, which will include a web page complete with a variety of safe driving resources, and will update her “Choices and Consequences” high school education program.

Rice’s concerns are not unfounded. Driving while texting (DWT) causes the same level of distractedness as driving blind for five seconds, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration. The NHTSA also states that DWT causes the same impairment as driving after having 4 alcoholic drinks, and is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than a DWI. DA Rice has been on a mission to reduce traffic-related crimes for years now, and her aggressive approach to stopping DWT will likely gain momentum as many of her other campaigns have in the past.

Photo Credit: Lord Jim via Compfight cc


Written by Shayna Keyles