June 12, 2015

Illinois Plaintiffs Weigh in on Tort Reform

by Levin & Perconti

Recently, tort reform became a topic of discussion in Springfield. Our attorneys believe this is an especially important topic because these lawsuits give injured victims of negligence access to the courts and allow plaintiffs to recover compensation and obtain justice for wrongdoing committed against them. When we bring lawsuits against negligent parties, we use the legal system as a vehicle of change to make our communities a safer place. When verdicts are granted in favor of the plaintiffs, not only are negligent parties held accountable, but the legal examples set by medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits deter other potential negligent parties from committing wrongs and placing innocent parties in harm’s way in the future.

Some look to deny victims access to the courts by calling for tort reform. If we reform the tort system by placing a limit on jury awards, the legal system is thereby weakened and can no longer strongly deter tortfeasors as it has in the past. When there are caps, negligent parties are aware of the maximum they can be punished, regardless of how horrendous the act. The legal system we have in place currently operates successfully in a way to not only provide retribution for victims and their families but to punish negligent parties and prevent future negligence. The Illinois legislature is once again revisiting the issue of tort reform after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional.

A recent article by The Herald-News discusses how Illinois lawmakers recently debated whether to make changes to the state’s tort laws. Plaintiffs in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases have spoken out saying that limits should not be placed on jury awards after Illinois’s new governor, Bruce Rauner, announced tort reform was a priority, claiming that it is pro-business and a way to save employers money. What supporters of tort reform fail to consider is the well-being of those who suffer at the hands of negligent parties. According to this article, over 4,000 deaths in Illinois have been linked to preventable medical errors.

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June 5, 2015

Jury Awards $2.5 Million to Family of Oswego High School Student

by Levin & Perconti

Our attorneys are always saddened to hear of tragic loss of young people in our community. It is all too often that young people are entrusted in the care of others, and even though these people or entities are aware they owe a legal duty to care for these young people, they breach that legal duty with negligence or disregard for the young person’s safety, resulting in wrongful death.

In 2008, according to a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, a young man member of the community and Oswego High School student, died after he suffered an asthma attack and collapsed in his English class. He was rushed to the emergency room, but unfortunately did not regain his breath and had no pulse. According to the hospital autopsy, the cause of death was bronchial asthma. Being only months from high school graduation, his mother then had to bury her son with the money she had set aside for his graduation party and college tuition.

Several months later, the victim’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Oswego-based District 308 and the teacher who was instructing the class at the time of her son’s collapse. In the lawsuit, the victim’s family argued that the district and teacher failed to get quick and appropriate medical care after he suffered an asthma attack, which resulted in his death. Both the district and the teacher denied these allegations. While the teacher was eventually dropped from the lawsuit, just this last month this case went to trial. After four days of deliberation, the jury found that the school district “acted with utter indifference or conscious disregard for the safety” of the victim.

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May 28, 2015

Several People Suffer Personal Injuries in Evanston Porch Collapse

by Levin & Perconti

Summertime is a favorite season for many Chicagoans. After our notorious cold and harsh winters, we gladly embrace the summer warmth and pleasant temperatures. Chicago citizens tend to flock to outdoor activities throughout the city, from festivals to the lakefront paths and especially neighborhood barbecues. However, when the places we go to relax with friends and family are unsafe, summertime fun can quickly turn dangerous, putting our loved ones in harm’s way.

According to a recent article by ABC 7, an upper level deck in Evanston collapsed, injuring several people. According to building inspectors, the porch was not properly attached to the home. The inspectors further stated that when porch collapses like these occur, they normally occur where the deck meets the house, which is what happened in this incident at hand. According to one building inspector, the deck was not properly adhered to the structure.

The incident occurred in Evanston in the 1900-block of Darrow Avenue on Memorial Day. Several people were on the second-floor porch when it gave way and fell down to the first floor. One of the seven victims described how she heard a cracking, and the floor suddenly dropped. She elaborated that no one had any time to grab onto anything. She was knocked unconscious from the fall and then awoke finding cuts to her head and an injured knee. Another victim described how the porch suddenly collapsed and everyone fell on top of one another, with debris from the porch, including a hot grill, falling on top of them too. The family said their landlord had told them that he was going to fix their deck.

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May 11, 2015

Advocacy Group Highlights Retailers with Highest Recall Rates

by Levin & Perconti

Having children is a joy to families. These youngest members of families are a lot of fun, especially in helping them learn and grow. Part of being a kid is having a fun and educational environment that helps you learn about the world around you, grow physically, and expand your mind. Families should not have to worry about kids being harmed by products and toys aimed at helping children do so.

Retailers have a legal duty under product liability law to provide safe goods that will not cause harm or injury to the users. Even though children may not be the ones purchasing the product, they are the foreseeable users and recipients of toys and other children’s goods. This means that companies have a duty to inspect all products for defects, warn of known defects, and remove dangerous products from the marketplace. Where they fail in this regard and do not abide by this standard of care and injury results to a child, they can be held liable in a product liability lawsuit for injuries they have caused.

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May 8, 2015

On the List of Companies Doing Food Recalls, Whole Foods Is at the Top

by Levin & Perconti

According to a recent article by Yahoo! Health, there have been 737 recalls of food since January 2014 alone by the Food and Drug Administration. Many of the recalls have been due to undeclared allergen ingredients (ex: nuts) or a confirmed contamination.

However, some companies have sold contaminated food more often than others. According to that same article, Whole Foods is at the top of a list of companies that have been forced to recall food. Since the beginning of 2014, Whole Foods has had 26 store-brand products recalled. What is alarming is that even though Whole Foods accounts for the store with the highest number of recalls, they still only account for 3% of all recalls issued in the United States during that time period. This means that recalls are not just centralized by one offender, but are unfortunately spread out among many grocers and sellers, suggesting that there may be no one seller that hasn’t been culpable of providing dangerous products to consumers.

Recently, food safety has been a major issue throughout the United States. According to the same article, just in the month of April, a large and diverse array of food products has required recall for food poisoning and safety concerns. These have included hummus, ice cream, and a variety of dairy products. The article relayed that many recalls have also involved prepared foods. Since 2014, 10% of recalls have included ready-made meals – a type of convenience food where you can purchase an already prepared meal from your local grocery store that they have prepared for customers.

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April 28, 2015

Listeria Outbreak Prompts Recall of Blue Bell Creameries Ice Cream

by Levin & Perconti

Now that the weather is getting warmer and spring is hitting Chicago, it’s about that time of year for a warm-weather favorite treat: ice cream. Soon lines will start forming on hot summer nights at neighborhood ice joint favorites. Ice cream trucks will start driving through town with their catchy jingles to alert you of their delicious treats for sale. Unfortunately a recent recall draws attention to potential food poisoning risks associated with one popular store bought ice cream brand.

According to a recent article by the New York Post. Blue Bell Creameries has issued an all-product recall for potential listeria contamination. They issued this recall after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria, which is a potentially deadly bacteria. The recall includes ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks. The recall affects 23 states and international locations, including Illinois. The illness was eventually tracked to two different company locations in two different states.

The article elaborates about a rather unsettling fact: the company cannot even say how the bacteria was introduced into the facilities. This begs the question about quality of the safety regulations and oversight within the company and its production area. The most recent contamination was discovered only after a testing program was initiated by the company after the first recall. It is interesting to ponder why this testing was not already in place. Last month the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the contaminated ice cream to three deaths and five illnesses occurring in more than one state. This is a serious and widespread case of foodborne illness. However, this is the first recall in the company’s 108 years of operation. Blue Bell is now implementing a new process to test all of its products before releasing them to the market. However, under product liability law, it is already the legal duty of companies and manufacturers to inspect their products to discover dangers.

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April 20, 2015

Beech-Nut Baby Food Recalled for Glass Contamination

by Levin & Perconti

A new baby is a joy for families. There’s a brand new member of the family and a tiny life to take care of and protect. Babies require different care than grown people too, such as different sleeping schedules, different entertainment, and different food and drink. As not being fully grown and so young, they need special diets in order to receive the right nutrients and in a consistency that their tiny bodies can chew and digest. That is why there are specially made baby foods and formulas on the market and available at our local grocers. Because companies specialize in producing foods particular to the diet of a baby, we grown adults trust that the company is providing a proper nutritious and safe food since they are selling a product and calling themselves experts in that field. Unfortunately, just as instances of negligence occur in our everyday adult foods, manufacturers of baby food have been found to be negligent in their production as well. What is most unfortunate about this though is that a baby is so young and fragile that this negligence can impact them far worse than it would to an adult, and a baby is unable to communicate with language when something is wrong like an adult can.

Unfortunately, recent reports relay that Beech-Nut baby food has been recalled for glass contamination. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that Beech-Nut Nutrition is recalling approximately 1,920 pounds of baby food that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass. The food was produced on December 12, 2014, and are 4-oz. glass jars labeled as “Stage 2 Beech-Nut CLASSICS sweet potato & chicken.” The product also has the establishment number “P-68A” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products expire in December of 2016 with product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821.”

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April 17, 2015

Blinds Recalled Due to Strangulation Hazard

by Levin & Perconti

Companies have a legal duty to provide safe products to consumers. This includes inspecting all products for dangers, removing dangerous products from the market, and warning consumers of known dangers. These dangers can manifest in everyday products. It takes only the slightest negligence or lack of attention to details for a product to be unsafe and dangerous. These dangers can be even more hazardous to the youngest members of our families too, like children and babies. That is why it is especially important that companies and manufacturers thoroughly inspect all consumer goods they produce and sell.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Blinds To Go has recalled window shades due to a strangulation hazard. The report states that the custom-made window shades’ chain or cord loop can slip out of the hold-down device, which poses a strangulation hazard for small children. The hold-down device for the cord is a clear P-shaped plastic hook, and the cord or chain loops of the shades clips into this device. The plastic hook is screwed to the side of the wall or window when the shades are installed. It was shipped with the Blinds To Go custom-made roller shades, including Sidewinders Smartlift pleated and cellular shades, Panel Tracks shades, and Serenity Shades.

The shades at issue were sold in Blinds To Go showrooms and online from January 2009 through November 2014. Consumers should stop utilizing the shades with the hook to avoid the strangulation hazard and contact the company for a retrofit kit and new hold down device.

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April 3, 2015

100 Restaurant Patrons Suffer Food Poisoning

by Levin & Perconti

Going out to a favorite restaurant is a way for many to spend quality time and socialize with their family and friends. When we go to a restaurant, we expect this to be a fun and relaxing time. What we do not expect though, is to become ill or injured from food poisoning from the restaurants we patronize.

According to a recent post by ABC News, 100 restaurant patrons recently suffered food poisoning. Because the law of the state where the injuries originated does not allow disclosing the source of the food or contamination, it is being labeled as the “food source.” Dozens of lawyers and law students became ill after dining in an establishment in the local area’s Chinatown. Some were bedridden and others had to seek medical attention. The owner of the restaurant has denied responsibility, claiming that maybe they could have all gotten a cold or drank too much. However, two weeks prior to this outbreak, a Health Department employee cited the establishment for multiple violations, such as lack of soap and paper towels in the employee restroom. This was also a repeat violation.

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April 1, 2015

Patron Sues Chicago Restaurant for Sidewalk Slip and Fall

by Levin & Perconti

Chicago residents know that our city often has very intense weather, which can even switch between extremes in one season. Our winters are cold and snowy, and our summers can really heat up. At some times, we can even see both of these weather patterns in the same month. If you are the owner or operator of a restaurant, shop or other public space in Chicago, you should know to expect the unexpected with weather and to be prepared. This can mean having salt and shovels on hand for snowy days or mats available during a hard rain to provide a surface with traction. While the temperatures may be sunny and pleasant one day this can always change the next. What does not change though, is the duty that owners owe to visitors and customers to provide safe premises where they will not be exposed to dangers that may cause them injury.

A recent report by the Cook County Record reports that a patron filed suit against a Chicago restaurant for a 2013 slip and fall accident. The patron is alleging premises liability in her suit, which she filed last month in Cook County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges the defendant sprayed water on the pavement, which created an unsafe condition and/or unnatural accumulation of snow and ice that caused her to fall and sustain injuries. In her complaint, she argues that this condition was unapparent to her and that the defendants were aware of the hazard, failed to remedy it, and increased the probability that pedestrians and patrons would fall and suffer injury. The plaintiff is alleging personal pecuniary and permanent damage, and seeks compensation in excess of $50,000.

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March 27, 2015

Late March Unexpected Snow Causes Many Accidents & Injuries in Chicago

by Levin & Perconti

Just when we thought spring was finally here to stay, Chicago surprised us with some snow early in the week. Despite it being late March, temperatures plummeted after a prior week of warmth. Unfortunately, the sudden heavy snow fall caused problems for many travelers on the roads, airport, and trains.

According to a report by NBC Chicago, the snow and icy conditions really caused a rough Monday for Chicagoans. By the afternoon, over 450 flights were cancelled at O’Hare International Airport, and those flights that weren’t cancelled reported delays of up to 90 minutes. At Midway Airport, over 50 flights were cancelled, with others delayed up to an hour.

On the roads, the snow and icy conditions created dangerous situations, especially for morning commuters. Several accidents were reported throughout the Chicagoland area, several of which included school buses. LaPorte County alone received over a dozen calls reporting motor vehicle accidents within two hours of snowfall. Then, a South Central School bus that was carrying 33 students was involved in a crash when it was rear-ended while waiting to turn into the school. A second school bus accident involved an East View Elementary School bus carrying seven students where a car crashed into the bus. A third accident involving a school bus occurred on Orchard Road in Montgomery where the bus was rear-ended by a car. Three other motor vehicle crashes were reported near County Road 400 N on U.S. 35, and another on U.S. 35 near Schultz Road.

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March 25, 2015

Major Recall Continues Over Amy’s Kitchen Frozen Entrees

by Levin & Perconti

Often, when we think of food poisoning, we think of under-cooked or contaminated meat or meat products. However, as our readers know from our recent blog post, food poisoning is actually extremely common as the result of eating contaminated produce and vegetable-based food products. Shockingly, food poisoning is actually higher from consuming produce than from consuming meat. In summary of that post, studies have shown that food poisoning may now be more common from produce consumption because of a decrease in meat consumption, the fact that produce is more often eaten raw than cooked which does not always remove bacteria, and that produce can be cross-contaminated by meat from being produced at the same facility.

A recent listeria outbreak exemplifies the dangers of foodborne illnesses stemming from contaminated vegetable-based products. According to a report by ABC News, Amy’s Kitchen frozen entrees are in the midst of a major recall for listeria-contaminated spinach. The organic food company is undergoing a major recall of over 74,000 items because of listeria found in its spinach. Three other companies are also undergoing a recall for their spinach products too, including Rising Moon Organics, Superior Foods, and Twin City Foods. Amy’s Kitchen and these three companies all received listeria-contaminated spinach from the same organic spinach supplier: Coastal Green. The supplier discovered listeria during testing, and realized that some of its products that were already shipped out were at high risk of contamination as well.

It is important to understand how serious listeria is. According to the same article by ABC, listeria is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tracts of animals but is likely to cause the illness listeriosis when humans consume it. Like we discussed in our recent post mentioned above, this occurs when produce is contaminated by animal waste, such as by dirty wash water through tainted irrigation, animals were in the field, or through cross-contamination when meat and produce are manufactured in the same facility.

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