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A study by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) found that Illinois is indeed a very good place to conduct business. Summarizing the findings in a recent fact sheet, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) reports that since a 2011 push to cut workers’ compensation payouts in Illinois, our state has done just that while padding the pockets of the insurance companies who should be paying these claims. The efforts to reform workers’ comp came as businesses put pressure on lawmakers to make our state more hospitable to businesses. Businesses and insurance companies are winning, while injured workers and the doctors who treat them are paying the price.

In a state-by-state analysis, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) found that Illinois

  1. Had the largest decrease in medical benefits paid out of any state
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This month, the New York Times online and print editions both ran a piece on the surprisingly unregulated medical device industry. Although now under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, devices only became their responsibility in 1976. Bogged down with prescription drug approvals, the government organization made the decision to allow all previously marketed medical devices to continue to be sold under something called a 510(k) provision. A secondary provision called a PMA Supplement (Premarket Approval) gives companies the ability to pay a fee for an ‘FDA review’ of a new product that promises to be similar to a company’s previously marketed device. By calling it a supplement and not a new product, they are able to bypass already lax rules for medical devices. Again, no studies or testing required. It seems unbelievable that devices implanted in hips, hearts, knees, eyes, uteri, and just about every other part of the body are able to exist with such minimal supervision and regulation. Unfortunately it’s the truth.

Perhaps it is worth noting that there are devices that have indeed saved lives. Many heart attack patients are enjoying healthy lives thanks to stent placements. Millions of those who struggled to walk and move around are now freely mobile due to hip, knee, and other joint replacements. But what about those devices that haven’t lived up to their intended purpose?

Doctors and Patients Left in the Dark About Known Complications

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The American Association of Justice (AAJ) has compiled a list of the 9 largest corporate scandals and coverups of the past year. Their report, titled “Worst Corporate Conduct of 2017,” outlines bad behavior on the part of United Airlines, Monsanto, Wall Street’s big banks, Wells Fargo, Fox News, Equifax, Johnson and Johnson, Takata, and McKesson.

AAJ is a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on preserving American’s right to a jury trial and ensuring the ability of those injured by others to pursue legal action in a court of law.

Below is their list of the unethical and illegal measures each of the 9 corporations or groups took to protect both their reputations and their profits, all at the expense of us, the consumer.

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In late October, Senate Republicans voted to overturn a rule that would prevent banks and big financial institutions from blocking class action lawsuits. The rule, set to go into effect in 2019, would’ve forced banks and credit card companies to do away with arbitration clauses embedded in lengthy agreements between a financial institution and the consumer.

Wells Fargo Scandal: Why Class Actions Are Necessary

With last year’s Wells Fargo scandal still fresh in Americans’ minds, overturning the block on class action lawsuits is unwelcome news. Wells Fargo employees were discovered to have opened over 3.5 million fake accounts and to have enrolled consumers in their auto bill-pay program without their consent. Close to 200,000 customers also paid fines on these fake accounts.  As part of a class action settlement, Wells Fargo must pay $142,000,000 back to consumers whose names were used to open fake bank and credit card accounts.

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Last month, an ABC News-Washington Post poll found 54% of women have been sexually harassed.

68% of those harassed said the harassment occurred at work, and a quarter of these women said their sexual harasser was a man who had influence over their career. 95% of those subjected to sexual harassment said they did not report the incident. In response to the poll, Forbes magazine called workplace sexual harassment a “full blown epidemic.”

Despite many companies touting human resources-developed policies about no tolerance workplaces and so-called encouragement to bring these situations forward, many women are fearful. Fearful of losing their job, becoming an outcast among peers, or being retaliated against by superiors. The list of worries could go on and on.  Maybe this explains why a sexual predator such as Harvey Weinstein was able to intimidate and terrorize even the most in-demand, bankable actresses in Hollywood since at least the 1980s. After all, even as children we’re taught that ‘no one likes a tattletale.’ Now that women are beginning to blow the lid off the frighteningly common occurrences of workplace sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape, we’re beginning to see that just maybe we women have created a big enough firestorm to finally convince corporate America that it’s time to make workplaces safe from sexual harassment and to bring harassers to justice.

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A story about a 23 year old UK woman battling malignant mesothelioma recently made international news. Danielle Smalley was diagnosed with a type of mesothelioma that comes from ingesting asbestos, the now-known carcinogen that leads to the disease. Though Ms. Smalley and her family are unsure where she could’ve eaten asbestos, it is believed that the disease typically takes 20 years to show symptoms, meaning she was just a toddler when the incident or incidents happened. She says they have ruled out her elementary school as a possibility, but that it could’ve happened at a friend’s house or anywhere else. Danielle is only one of 3 under 25 years old that has been diagnosed with the disease in the last decade. Danielle is scheduled to have tumors surgically removed, an operation that also involves receiving ‘hot chemo.’ Hot chemotherapy is the bathing of organs in chemotherapeutic medicine to kill cancerous tumors. Treatment will leave Danielle infertile at just 23 years old.

What is Malignant Mesothelioma?

According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma originates in the cells of the abdomen, chest, the area around the heart (rare), or the area surrounding the testicles (very rare). Organs and the aforementioned areas of the body are covered by cells that join together to form a lining referred to as mesothelium. Cells that turn cancerous in this lining are called mesothelioma (specifically malignant mesothelioma).

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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.

Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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Earlier this month, a woman was awarded $500K by a Georgia jury who found that the homeowner was liable for a deck collapse that caused the woman to break her leg in two places. The woman, Monica Conover, was a party guest at the rented property in 2014. The homeowner, Tyson Martin, was found 85% responsible, while the tenants hosting the party were found to be 15% liable.

The deck was said to be over 30 years old and photos taken prior to Mr. Martin purchasing the home showed that he had since repaired certain parts of the deck, indicating that he was aware of the deck’s structural problems. A contractor who came in after the collapse to repair the damage said that the deck was not properly secured to the house and that much of the wood was rotten. Ms. Conover’s attorney quoted the contractor’s testimony, saying that “He said that deck was completely unsafe and that, had a qualified person… inspected it, there’s no way he would’ve let anybody go out there. No way.” Conover’s attorney also asked the jury “Is it reasonable for a landlord to inspect a deck that is 35 years old before they rent it out? And you all get to make that decision.”

Deck and Porch Collapses – Do You Have a Reason to Sue?

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Last week, the mother of a non-verbal 7 year old boy with autism made public a sickening incident that happened while her son was in his first grade class at Thomas A. Hendricks Elementary Community Academy on Chicago’s south side. Holley Cornwell-Vaca received a call from the school’s principal that a substitute teacher’s aide had hit her son, Paulie, after the boy kicked the aide, but the principal wouldn’t say exactly when or where the incident took place. She was told that two aides were suspended because of the altercation, but she says she wasn’t told by the principal, but instead by the media. Ms. Cornwell-Vaca said the principal would only tell her that the incident had transpired and that it was being investigated. She told WGN that she would not allow her son to return to the school.

Teacher’s aides, also called paraprofessionals, can have a wide range of duties that include working individually with students who require more one-on-one support and remediation and supporting the teacher in all aspects of classroom teaching, student discipline, class preparation and even grading. Under no circumstances are teachers, classroom aides, or other paraprofessionals allowed to use physical abuse as a means of discipline or restraint.  According to the Illinois State Board of Education, paraprofessionals are required to be at least 19 years old and have either an Associate’s Degree, 60 semester hours of coursework (unspecified), a GED plus a score of 460 or higher on the ETS ParaPro test, or a GED with a score of 4 on both the ACT Work Keys Applied Mathematics test and the ACT Reading for Information test. They must also work under the supervision of a certified teacher. While many work with students with special needs, they are not certified as special needs educators, nor are they required to undergo specialized training to handle and respond to the specific needs of students with certain cognitive, behavioral, social or emotional conditions and diagnoses.

If you have a loved one that you suspect has been physically mistreated while a student at any educational institution, you should take action. Our schools are meant to be a safe environment where teaching and learning are conducted with mutual respect between students, teachers and other staff. Parents and guardians are an integral part of ensuring that our children’s education is a positive experience, and information should never be withheld by teachers and administrators, especially when a child is unable to personally communicate that something has happened.

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A St. Louis-based class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over claims their talc powders (officially called Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower) cause ovarian cancer has continuously revealed evidence that the company has been aware for years of the dangers of using the product. Late last month, a Johnson & Johnson training memo become public that revealed that the company knew that asbestos was present in their talc and told the medical community and employees that asbestos “has never been found and it never will.” This is a striking revelation, considering another document last month contained a 1974 recommendation from the Director of Research and Development at a Johnson & Johnson talc mine in Vermont that the company consider using citric acid to eliminate or lessen the presence of asbestos in the talc mined from the site. In the memo, the employee strongly recommended the use of citric acid  “to provide protection against what are currently considered to be materials presenting a severe health hazard and are potentially present in all talc ores in use at this time.” Both documents were presented during an April deposition of Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Medical Officer, Joanne Waldstreicher.

A 1973 Johnson & Johnson report also said that they were working with federal officials at their Virginia mine to ensure that their talc was asbestos-free, because samples revealed trace amounts of asbestos fibers.

As part of the lawsuit, Johnson & Johnson has submitted records of asbestos testing beginning in 1972. According to those records, no asbestos was ever found in their baby powder and a spokesperson says that their products have been tested by the FDA and independent researchers frequently over the years.