August 11, 2016

Preventing the Derailment of Train Accident Victim Claims

by Levin & Perconti

As each day passes, experienced DuPage County Attorneys hear and learn about various types of vehicle accidents that occur throughout the State of Illinois. Although accidents at highway-railway intersections involving trains and automobiles are uncommon, they tend to be devastating when they occur.

The Facts & Figures

The Illinois Commerce Commission reported in 2012 that 89 accidents occurred at highway-railway intersections which resulted in 25 deaths and 34 injuries. Within the state of Illinois, there are over 7,300 miles of railroad tracks with more than 8,400 public crossings and just over 4,500 private crossings. Unfortunately, not all highway-railway crossings are made equal and some present more dangers than others.

Most highway-railway crossings have flashing lights and gates to inform motorists that trains are approaching, some only have reflective signs that advise motorists to use caution when crossing and few have no markings at all. (See the Illinois Railroad Safety Fact Sheet – 2013). Counties located within the Chicago area, including DuPage, are at the highest risk of experiencing a train-vehicle collision, due to the constant flow of daily trains and commuter traffic. Currently, DuPage County has 140 public highway-railway intersections and 18 private highway-railway intersections with a mix of the features identified above, but most have flashing lights and gates.

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July 28, 2016

HIPAA Rights Foil Wrongful Death Lawsuit

by Levin & Perconti

A wrongful death lawsuit related to a shooting at a Long Island pharmacy has hit a snag related to the patient privacy rights of the shooter. A husband and wife team undertook an armed robbery of a Haven Drugs in Medford, Long Island with the goal of recovering prescription painkillers. The armed robbery resulted in the deaths of four people, including a cashier and the pharmacist. The pharmacist’s widow brought a lawsuit against, among others, a doctor who had been prescribing the couple with painkillers.

The lawsuit alleged that the pharmacist's wrongful death occurred because of the couple's addiction to painkillers, and that the physician should have been monitoring his patients more closely in order to watch for signs of addiction. However, a judge was recently forced to throw out the lawsuit after the shooter exercised his rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

What Are HIPAA Rights?

HIPaA is a 1996 Act that contains a variety of provisions related to patient privacy. The crux of the act relates to personally identifiable patient health information (PHI) and the need to keep it confidential. PHI is any piece of health information, such as a disease or record of treatment, that could be matched back to a specific person. Patient records with names attached fall into this category, but things like addresses or even just a patient's age, in some circumstances, are enough to trigger the law's protection.

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June 11, 2016

The Future of the Alien Torts Statute

by Levin & Perconti

Should American federal courts maintain Article III jurisdiction for wrongful tortious conduct occurring overseas? Traditionally, the Alien Torts Statute (“ATS”) provided such redress. Recent court decisions have curtailed ATS’s reach.

Historically, ATS first provided redress for foreign dignitaries for injuries they suffered in the US. It was first codified in 1789.

The History

In 1980, the plaintiffs in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala successfully applied ATS in their wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant ordered the decedent’s kidnapping, torture and subsequent murder in retaliation for his father’s public condemnation of the Paraguayan paramilitary government. The Filártiga case established that American federal courts have jurisdiction for cases involving torture and human rights violations. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/justice/law_background_filartiga.html Smith, Amanda Trial History: Filartiga v. Pena-Irala)

The Torture Victim Protection Act {TVPA} signed into law in 1991 is considered an important addition to ATS. TVPA specifically states “ An individual who, under actual or apparent authority, or color of law, of any foreign nation- (1) subjects an individual to torture shall, in a civil action, be liable for damages to that individual; or
(2) subjects an individual to extrajudicial killing shall, in a civil action, be liable for damages to the individual's legal representative, or to any person who may be a claimant in an action for wrongful death. Thus, in contrast to the ATS, the TVPA is not jurisdictional in nature, but rather creates a substantive cause of action. “

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May 15, 2016

Don’t Overlook Your Vehicle’s Diminished Value after an Accident

by Levin & Perconti

Being in a car accident can be frightening, painful, and devastating. But sadly for accident victims, the actual “accident” is rarely the end of the story. More often than not, accident victims are forced to swim in a deep pool filled with calls from insurance representatives, questions from police, and added stress and pressure that can result from the loss of a car. All of this does not even include the pain and life-altering consequences involved with physical injuries.

Making the Victim Whole

Under Illinois law, accident victims are entitled to just compensation for the pain and suffering inflicted upon them. In fact, Illinois courts consistently state that accident and injury law is “concerned with making the victim whole by making the tortfeasor [person at fault] pay[.]” Kunz v. Little Company of Mary Hospital and Healthcare Centers. But when so much is going on after an accident, how can victims know whether they are being treated fairly or not? How can they know whether they are being offered the type of compensation that makes them whole? These are the types of questions every accident victim should be asking after an accident.

Diminished Value of Property Part of “Making the Victim Whole”

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April 20, 2016

“Share the Road” Makes for a Great Slogan But Somewhat Confusing Laws

by Levin & Perconti

There are millions of vehicles that travel on Indiana roads each day. And as the summer months continue, those roads are becoming ever more crowded with the increasing number of Hoosiers utilizing the state’s bike laws while enjoying the warm weather. Undoubtedly, some of those cyclists have seen the various license plates encouraging one another to “Share the Road.” It is indeed a catchy slogan, but laws had to be passed in order to accomplish that lofty goal.

Here is the catch: the laws that have currently been passed can often be confusing, and have not been clearly articulated by anyone. This lack of basic understanding of the rights and responsibilities of riders, pedestrians, and cyclists alike will inevitably lead to more accidents in the streets all over this state. For example, if a cyclist and a motor vehicle both arrive at an intersection, who has the “right of way”? Or can a cyclist ride in a middle lane, or should she try to stay as close to the curb as possible if there is no bike lane present? The answer that you get for these questions really does depend on who you ask, and when you ask them.

A few of the obstacles to getting to the bottom of these quandaries include the overall novelty of the law, coupled with the lack of test cases that have presently gone through the courts. Unfortunately, some accidents may have to occur before the laws on the books (and the attitudes and responses of road travelers) finally sort themselves out.

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March 11, 2016

Malpractice Lawsuit Settles for $30 Million Against Chicago Doctor

by Levin & Perconti

Chicago has a reputation for its phenomenal hospital system and top tier medical universities. Patients go to Chicago area hospitals trusting that they will receive the most expert care. Families bring their seriously ill loved ones to Chicago hospitals with the hope that bringing them to the best facilities with top notch doctors will help them heal and their conditions improve.

Not only should doctors live up to this reputation to represent their city and place of work, but because it is their legal duty to do so. When patients see a doctor, they are literally putting their life in the hands of the doctor. Because patients entrust themselves to a doctor, a doctor must use the utmost care and responsibility when providing healthcare to a patient. When a doctor fails in this regard, they can be held liable in a lawsuit for medical malpractice. A doctor commits malpractice when their actions or lack of actions cause a patient to suffer injury or their condition to worsen, and this would not have occurred but for the action or inaction of the medical provider.

According to a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, a family that filed a lawsuit in regards to their 6-year-old son settled a medical malpractice lawsuit for $30 million against a doctor who allegedly performed experimental surgeries on the patient. The Chicago doctor performed 25 surgeries in all on the child, and the final surgery left the boy with an irreversible brain injury and cerebral palsy. These 25 surgeries took place over a mere 17 months. The doctor utilized unproven methods to treat non-life-threatening conditions. The doctor was a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a staff member at Rush University Medical Center. The child will now require lifelong medical care.

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February 19, 2016

Keeping an Eye on Chicago Public Transportation Safety:

by Levin & Perconti

Our team of lawyers is dedicated to keeping Chicago a safe place for the members of our community, and part of that job is alerting our readers to recent events, safety concerns, and local area legal knowledge. One important issue that should be consistently on all of our minds is public transportation safety. Chicagoans, and those who live in the surrounding suburban greater metropolitan area, rely on Chicago public transportation a great deal.

Every day in the Windy City, thousands of people utilize public transportation, including our CTA buses and el system, and Metra commuter trains. When riding Chicago public transportation, riders should be able to trust that they are on a vehicle that is safe, in fully operational and functioning condition, and that they are in the hands of a fully capable and competent driver. Riders should not have to distrust the public transportation system or fear that their safety may be compromised.

Not only should riders feel comfortable on the city’s public transportation system, but employees should be kept safe as well. For instance, according to a recent article by CBS Chicago, a CTA Yellow Line derailed. The train was southbound and derailed close to the Dempster-Skokie station in the evening time. Service was not restored until the next day’s morning. The worst part about this instance though, is not the loss of service, but that two CTA employees required medical attention for injuries. Not only are passengers owed a legal duty of care while riding public transportation, but the city of Chicago and the management of CTA owe a legal duty to their employees to keep them safe in their line of work and while on duty. Employees are legally required to provide their employees with a safe working environment, warn them of known dangers, and to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.

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February 5, 2016

Britax Recalls 71,000 Car Seats Due to Dangers Posed to Infants

by Levin & Perconti

Our attorneys cannot stress enough the importance of product safety. We have frequently discussed how imperative it is that manufacturers and sellers comply with product liability laws. This might be of the greatest importance though in regards to creating and selling safe children’s products. Children and babies are at an even greater risk than adults when exposed to danger and brought in harm’s way due to a dangerous product. Where adults may have some awareness of the situation and may be able to defend themselves from danger, children are completely innocent and have no reason to expect that they are in danger. In addition, with being so small and undeveloped, they are much more easily harmed than grown and strong adults.

Product safety in regards to children’s products has been in the spotlight in the news. According to a recent report by ABC, nearly 71,000 Britax brand infant car seats are being recalled. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently announced this recall in wake of the knowledge of the great danger these defective seats pose. According to the CPSC, there have been over 74 reports of car seat handles breaking while in use. The handles have reported to easily develop fractures and cracks while they are used. These cases of broken handles have been so serious that they have caused infants to fall from their carrier to the ground. In one instance, an infant fell to the ground and suffered an injury to the head.

Our attorneys urge our readers to please take note of the models at issue in this recall. The car seats involved in this recall are the Britax B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite infant car seats. Consumers are advised to immediately cease use of these car seats, and to especially not use them by the handle. Reports indicate that right now these seats are only safe to use when secured in a vehicle or stroller, but that they should never be used by the handle until further notice is relayed of repairs or new parts.

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January 15, 2016

Coffee Stand Explosion Kills Barista

by Levin & Perconti

Workplace accidents, especially those that occur in work environments that are not inherently dangerous, are all too common and tragic. They are particularly tragic because there is a common theme among these accidents of preventability. Oftentimes, these accidents occur because of the negligence of a party in charge or with some authority. In these instances, but for the negligence, the danger would have never been present and the accident never would have occurred.

Common forms of negligence in the workplace can widely vary. One example is when business operators fail to perform proper inspections of the premises. Such inspections can make business owners and operators aware of unsafe conditions and put them on notice to fix these dangers. However, a business owner cannot be willfully blind to the fact that dangerous conditions could exist but fail to attempt to discover these conditions by not having an inspection performed. Another example is when a business owner is fully aware of safe procedures to implement in the workplace but fails to require that these guidelines be followed. Lastly, a business owner may be fully aware of a dangerous condition on the premises, but neglect to attend to and fix the danger, ignore it, and continue to allow it to pose harm to others.

According to an article by Komo News, a barista died in a coffee shop explosion. The article reports that the flames overtook the shop so quickly that the barista had no chance to escape. She suffered extensive burns, which were ultimately the cause of her death. The victim had two children, who unfortunately lost their mother as a result of the accident.

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January 8, 2016

Suburban Train Accident Takes the Life of Two Vehicle Occupants

by Levin & Perconti

We have all, for the most part, been there before. We have all been in a rush to get somewhere important. We have all been running late before. We have all been in that situation where you are trying to travel somewhere as quickly as you can, and every obstacle seems to be thrown your way. However, while inconveniences and running late are a huge annoyance and can greatly damper plans, in perspective, they are never worth risking your life for.

Far too often, people are reckless in common traffic situations due to being behind in time or being impatient. Too often though, the actions people take in order to save time and beat the clock put them in “life or death” situations. It is important people realize that a few saved minutes or being exactly on time is not worth the same value as being alive.

It is also far too often that people do not appreciate the risk of the situation or the recklessness of their actions. People too often feel invincible or that the scary stories they hear in the news are not likely to happen to them. The truth of the matter is though, that negligent and reckless driving, especially around large vehicles like semis, buses, and trains, puts a driver and passengers in serious danger.

According to a recent article by CBS, a southwest suburban train accident caused the death of two vehicle occupants. Four others were injured.

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December 29, 2015

Chicago Christmas Eve Hit-and-Run Kills Pregnant Woman

by Levin & Perconti

The Christmas season is meant to be a happy and joyous time of year. It is meant to be a time for family, friends, and loved ones to gather together and celebrate time together inside from the cold with delicious drinks and food. It is meant to be a time to reminisce over the past year and look forward to the upcoming year ahead. It is meant to be a time to exchange gifts to show appreciation to those you care about. Unfortunately, this is also a time of year where many people are traveling, and when drivers are negligent and reckless, they put a stop to all of the things this time of year is meant to be.

A recent article by the Chicago Tribune relayed some tragic news that on Christmas Eve a hit-and-run pedestrian accident killed a pregnant woman. The young woman was walking across the street in the 4200 block of West Ogden Avenue on the evening of Christmas Eve. She was hit by a westbound motor vehicle, which then failed to stop and fled the scene of the accident. The victim, a resident of the 3000 block of South Keeler Avenue, was taken to the local hospital and then pronounced dead. Miraculously, after the crash, medical personnel successfully delivered the baby, who is in stable condition and expected to survive.

The driver at fault was a resident of the 2700 block of South Harding Avenue and has now been charged with the death of the victim as a felony count of aggravated driving under the influence in a fatal accident, a felony count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence. In addition, he was cited for driving with an open container of alcohol and a defective windshield. After appearing in court, the judge ordered that he be held in lieu of $750,000 bail at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

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December 18, 2015

Chipotle: A Case of Food Poisoning That Seems to Never Find an End

by Levin & Perconti

One of the most popular casual restaurants in the country has recently been in the spotlight in recent news over the past few weeks. However, the spotlight has not been a positive one. Chipotle Mexican Grill has been the focus of attention for a case of food poisoning that has not only affected a high volume of people, but has also been extended in length with no solution as of yet.

An article by Forbes discusses the recent outbreak of food poisoning and the popular restaurant’s negative criticisms. For instance, this past month, approximately 140 people mainly from Boston College, were recovering from a serious case of norovirus-caused gastroenteritis. The foodborne illness stemmed from eating Chipotle’s meat and produce.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been tracking this outbreak, which has shown to be widespread throughout the country. There have been incidents of Chipotle food poisoning in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. While we have previously blogged about how in many instances those most vulnerable to foodborne illnesses are the very young, very old, or those with weakened immune systems, this outbreak has been so significant that it has impacted people all across the board in age. According to the same article, the victims have ranged in age from one year old through 94.

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