Articles Posted in Current Issues

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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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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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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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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Most often we blog about and discuss motor vehicle and truck accidents in and around the City of Chicago. Chicago is a large geographic area with a high volume population. This means there are many vehicles on the road at any given time, including people traveling in their cars, large semi-trucks en route on business, taxi cabs transporting people downtown, and CTA buses carrying commuters. However, it is not just the city of Chicago itself that is high density in population, and as a result motor vehicles, but the entire area of Chicagoland as whole is a high population and busy traffic region.

While Chicago may be the largest city in Illinois, the nearby southwest suburb of Aurora is second largest in the state, according to Newsmax. In fact, several cities in close proximity to the Chicago area all have populations in the hundreds of thousands, which means there are millions of motorists on the Chicagoland roads every day. Our firm represents clients throughout the state and region, including those in Kane County, and are proud to have recovered the largest settlement ever recorded in a Kane County wrongful death case.

For this reason our attorneys feel that it is important to discuss, not just the dangers of traffic in Chicago itself, but in the suburbs too. According to a recent article by CBS, the city of Aurora has reported its 10 most accident-prone intersections. Just through the end of August, the city reported 360 crashes in these intersections alone. The intersection that ranked at the top of the list – Route 59 and Liberty Street – experienced 51 crashes. This intersection is a popular shopping destination, near many big-box and grocery chains, as well as a large local area shopping mall. The next most accident prone intersections, in respective order are Eola Road and Aurora Road/Indian Trail Road, Frontenac Street and Ogden Avenue/U.S. Route 34, Galena Boulevard and Orchard Road, Ogden Avenue and Illinois Route 59, Eola Road and Ogden Avenue, Eola Road and New York Avenue, Eola Road and Liberty Street, Indian Trail Road and Lake Street, and Farnsworth Avenue and Molitor Road. What is especially alarming is that the majority of these intersections are in very close vicinity to one another, some just blocks apart.
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We have often talked about the dangers of food poisoning, and how sometimes food poisoning isn’t just like a bout of the flu. In fact, in some cases, food poisoning is so intense that it can leave people with permanent injuries and the need for hospitalization and serious medical care. In one food poisoning case, our attorneys represented individuals who were injured from the food they ate at a conference, and they suffered injuries so severe that they incurred crippling arthritic injuries.

However, many of the times we’ve discussed food poisoning, we’ve discussed it in regards to meat. As many of us are aware, when meat is not properly handled or cooked the proper temperature, it can cause serious illness such as salmonella poisoning or e.coli. Furthermore, the manufacturers and grocers from which we buy our foods have a legal duty to inspect food for contamination and remove it from the stream of commerce where they find dangerous defects, or where a food is inherently unsafe for consumption unless properly handled (such as meats), then the seller must properly label the food product with instructions and warnings. When a danger is not removed or a customer is not warned, the consumer may suffer illness and injury as a result. However, the same goes with vegetables.

According to a recent study by the Centers For Disease Control and analyzed in an article by Vox, fruits and vegetables actually cause more instances of food poisoning than beef and chicken. The CDC analyzed cases of food poisoning from 2008 to 2012 and examined the four most common pathogens: E. coli, Campylobacter, salmonella, and listeria. Produce actually causes nearly half of all foodborne illnesses. Dairy and eggs cause approximately 20% of illnesses, fish are the cause in 6% of cases, and meat is the cause in a surprisingly 22% of cases.
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Reports of present dangers in our vehicles and recalls from major manufacturers have been frequent in the news as of lately. A variety of parts have been reported as faulty or in need of recall for posing a danger to the driver and passengers. According to a recent report by NBC Chicago, BMW has joined other automakers in a recall. The automobile manufacturer has announced an expansion of its air bag recall. After demands from the U.S. government, BMW has agreed to replace the driver’s side air bags. The decision to do this recall affects 140,000 BMW 3 Series cars that were made between January 2004 and August 2006. Earlier in the year, the company also took 574,000 cars off of the market in the United States.

According to the same article, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been urging companies to recall their older cars with air bag inflators made by Takata Corp. These air bags can explode with too much force and then spew shrapnel at drivers and passengers. There have been at least five deaths due to Takata air bag inflators. In total across all automakers, 15 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States. Initially, recalls were only done in states with high humidity because the air bag inflator propellant could burn faster than designed when exposed to prolonged airborne moisture. What that occurred, the propellant would blow apart a metal canister meant to contain the explosion.

Furthermore, the article explains that Takata has refused a request for a nationwide recall of driver’s side inflators, which are about 8 million in total. There are 10 automakers in total that use Takata driver and passenger air bags. There could be as many as 30 million vehicles nationwide with these air bags.
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Being a major metropolitan city, Chicago is a hub of transportation of all types. Chicago also acts as an epicenter for statewide and interstate with its two major airports and large train and bus terminals. Bus transportation is widely used by commuters and travelers alike, and these groups have many options including CTA, Pace bus system for local travel and commercial buses like Greyhound and Megabus. Because these transportations systems service large volumes of passengers frequently, it is important that these vehicles of transportation are in their best working order and that they are operated by drivers who practice caution and safety and avoid negligent and reckless driving behaviors. Since these services are so widely used, it is imperative that these companies abide by their legal duty to their patrons by being safe and keeping their passengers free from danger and injury.

When mass transportation operators act with negligence, passengers’ lives are put at risk and crashes can occur, endangering the safety of passengers who placed their trust in these companies and drivers. So was the case early Tuesday when a Chicago-bound Megabus flipped over and caused injuries to dozens of passengers, according to recent articles by the Chicagoist and the Chicago Tribune. The accident occurred as the bus was traveling on Interstate 65 near Indianapolis en route to Chicago. According to reports, the two-level bus flipped on its side. The driver explained that he tried to swerve to avoid colliding with another vehicle that had crashed early, and this overcorrection caused the bus to flip over. One state police sergeant explained that the driver could not see the oncoming accident because of rain or another factor and swerved to avoid.

Many of the passengers suffered injuries from this crash. At least six passengers were seriously injured, and 20 more sustained minor to moderate injuries from the rollover crash. One passenger described how the man next to him was cut and bleeding and that another woman was trapped between seats. Another individual’s hand was pinned underneath the bus. There were approximately 56 people total on the bus, according to the state police. At this time, at least six had to be taken to hospitals for emergency care.
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It is far too often that we report and inform our readers about the dangers of defective designs in automobiles causing and accidents tied to these products that result in personal injury or death. For instance, just earlier this year we reported on safety issues surrounding General Motors vehicles and Congressional hearings to bring these issues to light. However, we are always happy to hear news about vehicles with exceptional performance and safety ratings, these vehicles proving that producing safe cars and trucks is possible.

According to news by the Financial Post, a recent crash involving a car made by Tesla Motors has surprised safety experts. A Los Angeles man stole a Tesla model car from a service center and continued in a high speed chase with police, eventually colliding with several vehicles before crashing into a light pole. This sequence of collisions resulted in the car breaking into two parts and its battery catching fire. However, safety experts are surprised because a crash of this intensity that involved multiple collisions should have killed a person. In this instance, the individual was driving at extremely high speeds while running from authorities in pursuit of him. Such recklessness and negligence may have resulted in a multitude of crashes with both vehicles and objects. However, the driver only suffered injuries.

The article includes an interview with a with an expert who studies automotive fires for the National Fire Protection Association – an organization dedicated to helping firefighters and emergency responders improve safety. This expert called this crash one that should have been non-survivable.
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Lately, we have informed our readers about product liability as it relates to the large automakers, and the defective vehicles that have gone into the marketplace and endangered consumers. Now, we bring you news of yet another automaker that has put dangerous products into the stream of commerce, and as a result, into the daily lives of people who are unknowingly in harm’s way.

In a recent article by USA Today, the American automaker, Chrysler, is involved in a large recall for various Jeep and Dodge SUVs for brake problems. This is the second recall in the same month for the company, but is much larger than the first. The current recall involves a brake defect in Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos, and involves 867,795 vehicles of the 2011 to 2014 models. These vehicles were built between January 5, 2010 through September 8, 2013. Of the 867,795 vehicles, 644,354 were sold within the United States. Reports have stated that brake booster corrosion in the vehicles can let water inside of the booster, which as a result, can cause freezing and impair braking capabilities.

Investigations originally began last year in May. Complaints were received regarding pedal pressure. It was later discovered that the brake boosters have small crimp joints that can corrode, which results in decreased brake vacuum boost and then needs excessive pedal pressure. After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contacted Chrysler about brake and corrosion complaints, the auto company completed investigations finding that the freezing cut brake function and increased the risks of a crash.

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