Archive for General Legal

Bike Buffer Laws Seek to Assure Cyclists A Safe Passing

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Adding bike lanes is more than just a clean air initiative. For Pennsylvania Rep. Ron Miller, adding a buffer for cyclists – the goal of his “Safe Passing” bicycle bill – is intended to make the road safer for bikers and drivers alike.

A majority of the state legislature passed the law in February, 2012, winning Miller the support of many bike advocates and reaffirming Pennsylvania’s stance as a Bike Friendly State. However, the effectiveness of the law is arguable, as only 42 citations have been issued since the law took effect over two years ago.

The law requires drivers to leave a 4 foot margin between themselves and cyclists at all times. They must reduce their speed when passing bicycles, and cannot cut of a cyclist by making a sharp turn. Likewise, cyclists are bound by the law to make all possible efforts to maintain the regular flow of traffic. Violations result in a $25 fine.

Miller anticipated difficulties enforcing this law, especially because it can be difficult to determine the exact distance between moving vehicles at a moment in the past. However, he had hoped that the law would have a more marked effect on reducing car-related bike accidents. At the present, it is unclear whether or not that has happened.

Though it’s difficult to enforce, and the progress is difficult to track, Miller and the Pennsylvania State Legislature have high hopes for the new bike buffers. Even if citations are being handed out left and right, the law should make bother drivers and cyclists aware of their responsibilities on the road, teaching them to take personal accountability for their actions.

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Written by Shayna Keyles

Illinois Concussion Law Demonstrates Effectiveness of Class Action Lawsuits

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Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois has obviously been keeping up to date on the ongoing NFL settlements, because this past week, he signed a bill into law that would require all high school coaches and athletic directors to take concussion training courses in order to prevent student athletes from incurring any head trauma.

Under this new law, the Illinois High School Association will be developing an online certification program for coaches and athletic directors that will educate the educators about the dangers of head trauma. Quinn says that the goal is to reduce the overall number of concussions and traumatic head injuries among high school athletes.

Multiple studies show that the incidence of head injury in children and teenagers has increased over the past few years. Fortunately, awareness of these issues has also increased. Multiple lawsuits regarding head injury have been in the news in recent months, including the NFL concussion lawsuits and NCAA lawsuits.

Quinn’s law is a great example of the impact a class action lawsuit can have. The prevalence of athletes filing concussion lawsuits inspired the Illinois governor to take preventative action, which will not only protect state schools from similar legal action, but will also, and more importantly, protect students from concussions.

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Written by Shayna Keyles

Ferguson, the First Amendment, and the Freedom to Film

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The week following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer has been met with protests and rioting. Reports from the Ferguson police department indicate that law enforcement officers have been brusque in their treatment of media representatives who have filmed protest events on cameras or smart phones. Some officers allegedly confiscated a phone and erased footage of a fatal beating.

Journalists Wesley Lowery, Pulitzer Prize winner from the Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, representing the Huffington Post, were arrested on August 13th at a protest in a Ferguson McDonald’s. Lowery tweeted that they were arrested because the police “decided we weren’t leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them.”

Legally, citizens have the right under the First Amendment to film public events. Protests and riots are public events, and as such, police behavior at these events is considered public. The only instance where filming an officer at a public event is illegal is if the act of filming obstructs the officer in the line of duty.

Active duty officers often treat this type of First Amendment issue fluidly. Clay Calvert, Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Florida, saw no evidence that the journalists were impeding with police work and saw no legal basis for the officers to arrest the journalists. However, according to Calvert, officers who are under extreme stress or who fear their authority will be undermined in a sensitive situation will often overlook First Amendment issues.

While events in Ferguson are still unfolding, the NYPD is all too aware of its officers having a disdain for being filmed. Shortly after the strangulation of Eric Garner by an officer, which was filmed by a witness and released online, the NYPD department chief released a memo to all officers.

“Members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions. Intentional interference such as blocking or obstructing cameras or ordering the person to cease constitutes censorship and also violates the First Amendment.”

Experts seem to agree that filming police activities is legal. But Christopher Pisciotta, Eric Garner’s attorney for his previous legal troubles, advises caution. While he believes that when used properly, taping police incidents can serve as a valuable courtroom tool, officers can still view the act of filming as interference and use it as grounds for arrest. “If you do it too close…they will arrest you.”

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Written by Shayna Keyles

ClaimStat Claims Management Tool

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New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer is planning to roll out “ClaimStat”, a data-driven claims management tool that will help the city identify patterns and practices that lead to lawsuits against the City. The goal is to help protect citizens and save taxpayer dollars.

Comptroller Stringer was quoted in the media saying that legal claims against the city are out of control. According to the “ClaimStat” website, judgments and settlements against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 2013 totaled $137.2 million. In addition to the NYPD, “ClaimStat” tracks claims against other city agencies like the Department of Parks and Recreation, Health and Hospitals Corporation, Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Sanitation.

“ClaimStat” has an interactive tool on the website where users can zoom in and see where the greatest number of claims are coming from. They also segmented the types of claims from personal injury, tree-related claims, sanitation vehicle property damage claims, and sewer overflow claims. According to the Comptroller’s office, other cities like Portland, Oregon are using similar data-driven approaches to better deal with claims management.

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Written by Lulaine Compere

Medical Misdiagnosis

blue caduceusMedical misdiagnosis is a serious issue which can result in a patient’s death. In general, medical misdiagnosis can lead to lawsuits against the doctor and the hospital from the affected family. It falls under medical malpractice. Village Voice published a story titled Type Miscast: An Elmhurst Doctor’s Type 2 Diabetes Misdiagnosis Results in the Death of a Six-Year Old Girl, where Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor died because her doctor misdiagnosed her diabetes.

Nicanor’s story includes issues her doctor (Dr. Arlene Mercado) had in regards to her record, the suffering Nicanor went through just before she died, and how Mercado’s fatal misdiagnosis led to Nicanor not receiving the treatment she needed. Nicanor’s family ended up suing Mercado and winning their lawsuit. According to the story, Nicanor’s family won $100,000 for economic loss, $400,000 for her daughter’s pain, and $7.5 million in punitive damages.

The judge still has to decide the total amount Mercado has to pay. The story ends with Mercado keeping her license and administering treatment to a room full of patients. Medical malpractice is extremely dangerous and should have consequences. People who have suffered because of malpractice should push for their rights and demand justice and compensation in civil court.


Written by Lulaine Compere

9/11 Activist Sally Regenhard Appears on Tavis Talks

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On his new program “Tavis Talks,” Tavis Smiley interviewed activist for 9/11 victims, Sally Regenhard, whose son Christian was killed at Ground Zero on September 11th, 2001. She spoke to Tavis about the National September 11th Museum and her opposition to the unidentified remains being placed in the museum at the site. Tavis also recently interviewed 9/11 activist John Feal of the FealGood Foundation.

Regenhard is one of the most well-known activists for 9/11 families. She has been a vocal critic of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. As a result of her activism, she has become more involved with politics. She testified at the 9/11 Commission and was part of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.


Written by Lulaine Compere

National Directory of State Trial Lawyer Associations

scales of justiceThe American Association for Justice (AAJ) formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) has a national directory of state trial lawyer associations. For any trial attorney looking to add some heft to their resumes, there is an association in all 50 states. They are separate from the national organizations like AAJ and the National Trial Lawyers organization (NTL). So take a look at this directory, find your state trial attorney organization, and join them.

For trial attorneys just getting started, it is important for them to network with attorneys in their practice areas because opportunities are bound to come from a local source. Especially in the south, there has been and still is a “help your neighbor” mentality. Any organization, national or local, is all about networking and in the legal industry, attorneys refer cases to people they know. Aside from getting some tips about court, there are also educational classes that local trial attorney chapters offer to their members. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity.


Written by Lulaine Compere

H.R. 3143: Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

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The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is a bill currently working its way through Congress that would amend the federal judicial code to impose liability on, and grant U.S. District Courts personal jurisdiction over any person who commits-or aids, abets, or conspires with a person who commits-an act of international terrorism that injures a U.S. national. It would also repeal provisions prohibiting civil actions against foreign states or foreign officials for damages related to acts of terrorism.

This bill would make it easier for the families of victims of terrorism to sue financiers of terror, including states. The bill is receiving support from the 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism organization. Their membership is made up of family members of GovTrack.US, a government transparency website that tracks bills in U.S. Congress and gives a percentage on the likelihood of the bill passing committee and being enacted.

The bill was introduced in 2013 by New York Congressional Representative Peter King. It currently has 18 co-sponsors. The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast have both published stories related to the issue of terror financing and the need for a bill like this.

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Written by Lulaine Compere

H.R. 4361: Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2014

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The proposed legislation, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives-if passed in both the House and the Senate and signed into law by the President of the United States-would prohibit any court from restricting the disclosure of stated information which was obtained through discovery, or approving a settlement agreement that would restrict such disclosure or restrict access to those court records.

The supporters of the bill say it’s in the public’s interest that such disclosure be made available and that disclosure far outweighs the interest of confidentiality. The bill was sponsored and introduced by New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

GovTrack.us is a government transparency website that tracks the bills in the U.S. Congress. They give the bill a 5% chance of getting past the committee and a 2% chance of being enacted. Nadler said, “This would prevent companies like General Motors and others from concealing evidence of wrongdoing that puts our public health and safety at risk.”


Written by Lulaine Compere

The Customer Has Rights: Customers’ Bill of Rights to Prohibit Profiling In Our Stores

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In 2013, The New York Daily News reported a bill of rights for black shoppers to protect them from racial profiling at luxury retail stores. The bill gained momentum after several stories were published detailing the issues several customers had at stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Lord & Taylor.

The bill has the support of Al Sharpton, Marc Morial of the National Urban League, and several other civil rights organizations. The bill doesn’t name any one store in particular but is a blanket document stating the rights a customer has.

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Written by Lulaine Compere