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Here is some great news for those suffering any type of memory issues or brain damage. New research has successfully restored memories in brain damaged mice. This could have great potential benefits for those injured in a car accident and sustaining a head injury. This is worth the read if you have time.
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It is becoming more popular in the home to have either an Amazon Echo, frequently called Alexa, or a Google Home. These devices tell us jokes, put things on our to-do lists, etc. Did you know that it can call the police?
In New Mexico, a man and woman were having a domestic dispute. The man had a firearm and threatened to kill the woman. He attacked her. At some point during the fight, the man asked "did you call the sheriffs?", which a smart device (the exact model unknown) heard the question and called 911. The sheriff's department received the call and took it seriously, sending a car to the home and basically saving the woman and a child in the home.
I know the Amazon Echo does not do this yet. Maybe it was the Google Home speaker in this particular home. Either way, I think this, like anything, is good and bad. I think it is a great idea for home in case there is a domestic dispute, like above, or even if there is an intruder. We frequently read about someone breaking into a home and assaulting someone in their bedroom. Imagine if you could yell, "Alexa, call 911" and the police just show up. No more trying to get to the phone to make a call, assuming you even have a home line anymore. Imagine being attacked, trying to find your cell phone, unlock it and dial 911. It just seems so much quicker and easier to be able to shout to the device to call for help. The intruder will hear the cry, hopefully run, and your life may be saved as well. Here is one for technology!
For any of you that watch Jane The Virgin, you will remember that Rose Solano aka Sin Rostro had a business happening at the hotel where criminal appearances were changed with the use of plastic surgery. Sounds far fetched of course. However, I'm sure deep down you thought this was a brilliant idea and if you ever became such a wanted criminal, this is what you would do.
Well, it actually does happen! Turns out about 30 years ago a Brazilian drug lord named Luiz Carlos da Rocha had the same idea. He was wanted for being one of the biggest cocaine kingpins in South America. He had an estimated $100 million in assets and decided to use some of that fortune to change his appearance to avoid being captured. Well, after 30 years running and hiding, likely in plain site, he was captured.
We are all familiar with the ongoing police killings that seem to be a recurring event. The news highlights the event, follows up with maybe an arrest or charge against the officer. And the boom; story is over. We rarely get to see what the outcome is for the family. Did the family sue? Did the family settle the lawsuit? Was there a trial? Recently, we were afforded the opportunity to see what happened in the end for two families.
In the case of Michael Brown, who was shot by the Ferguson police, the family recently settled for $1.5 million. That may seem like a lot, until you compare it to another family.
In a Maryland shooting, where the family was white, instead of black like Mr. Brown, the family received $1.26 million. At first, you may say it was because they were white. But before you do, you should know that the victim in the Maryland case was a dog. The officer was confronted by the dog in the homeowner's front yard as he was investigating a burglary in the neighborhood. The officer said he was attacked by the dog and as a result, shot the dog. Later in court, the officer admitted that the dog did not attack or injure him before he pulled out his weapon. That family received $1.26 million.
Yes these are two different states where the events occurred. Yes these states may have drastically different law concerning police shootings or wrongful death. But it still begs the question what is a life worth.
In case you have not been following or missed this story, the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Playboy model Katie May is quite interesting. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the model's young daughter for the loss of her mother.
While attending a photo shoot, the model hurt her neck and complained about pain. As a lot of people in this situation do, she went for an adjustment at a chiropractor. However, based on her condition, the maneuver performed by the chiropractor seemed to have done more harm then good. The coroner's report claims that the chiropractor tore one of the arteries in the model's neck, which essentially cut off blood flow to her brain, causing death.
This story is interesting because a lot of people go to a chiropractor for neck or back pain thinking they will fix it. Like any doctor, they could make a mistake or not appreciate the full picture before performing a maneuver. Most times, a chiropractor does not do a neck or back xray before an adjustment. They feel the affected area and make a determination as to what is wrong. Sometimes we do not think about what could happen and assume the doctor always knows best.
In 2013, a woman was fired from working at Novartis Pharmaceutical Company. She claimed it was due to discrimination. She filed a lawsuit against the company claiming her commute to work caused back pain and as a result she could not travel to her assigned location site each day for work. She filed her discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The case proceeded through the court system and during discovery, the pharmaceutical company discovered that the woman had a side job doing consulting work for two potential competitors. I guess she forgot to tell them about that. Turned out the woman also lied on her job application about her previous supervisor and salary at her last position.
After review, the court penalized the woman for filing a fraudulent claim and wasting the court's time and resources. The woman was ordered to pay $2 million in sanctions and legal fees.
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When buying a new car, a lot of people do not consider paying for GAP insurance. Instead, they purchase the standard automobile insurance they would typically buy, drive the car home and never realize that if that car were totaled that night, they would end up owing money on the car. This is because the act of just simply driving the car off the lot diminishes its value as compared to the price you just agreed to pay. Consequently, new car buyers will often obtain GAP coverage, which stands for Guaranteed Auto Protection, to cover the difference between the loan on the car and what the car is worth.
However, sometimes when you buy your new car, you still owe money on the car you are trading in. In an effort to speed things along, the helpful car salesman and dealership will roll the amount you owe on the other loan into your new loan. That is great if you think about it in terms of having just one payment to deal with. However, GAP insurance does not cover what you owed on your old loan. Therefore, when you get into that accident and your new car is totaled, you could end up paying off the loan for the new car but still be left with a few thousand due depending on the size of your prior loan that was rolled over.
s patients, we put our life and trust into a doctor's hand. We assume that they have taken an oath and are there to do what is right for us. We assume that when we are in a vulnerable state, a doctor will not take advantage of us. This past week, there have been at least two news worthy matters in which doctors have breached that trust. The first involves a Virginia man being mocked by an anesthesiologist while having a procedure performed. The man knew he was getting anesthesia for the procedure and wanted to make sure he remembered what the doctor said. He taped the conversation before the procedure began, but forgot to turn it off. To his dismay, after the procedure he heard the tape of the doctor mocking him during the procedure as he lay in a gown on the table. The doctor even went as far as to say the man had hemorrhoids, when he didn't, and stated it would be placed on the patient's chart. It is a shame when we can't trust the doctor who is there to diagnose. In this case, the man filed a lawsuit against the doctor and was awarded $500k in court.
In another recent news story, a Michigan doctor who specialized in cancer treatment was found to either be over treating patients or treating them for no reason. The doctor has now been arrested and charged with numerous crimes. However, that doesn't fix the fact that he convinced innocents that they were sick and needed treatment in order to fatten his own wallet. While one person received radiation for no reason, the doctor bought a bigger house.
The message you receive from these stories is that greed is everywhere. As individuals, we are programmed to have an instinct. We use that when we meet people for the first time and gauge our feelings about the interaction. Don't ignore your instinct. If you are unsure of what someone has told you, get a second opinion from someone in a different location.
You know those annoying intersections that have red light cameras? I know you do because we all despise them. The ones that make you slam on your brakes to avoid crossing that line that makes the picture take. Well, some of those cameras were removed. A new study shows that of 19 intersections in Newark, New Jersey that had cameras, the number of vehicles running red lights has increased by 107%! City officials are looking at the numbers to see if the number of accidents has increased or decreased at these intersections or if the revenue data has changed. Maybe the city has lost money from not having the cameras issue tickets. When the program was running, the city reporting collecting about $3.2 million dollars in revenue each year the program ran. That is a lot of money to give up, especially if it turns out less accidents were occurring.
When companies feel threatened that their bottom line will be affected, they label personal injury attorneys as "greedy" or "ambulance chasers". They claim the lawsuit is frivolous and the company did not purposely take shortcuts to make the product unsafe. Yet somehow, the evidence shows a different story and the company ends up paying to stop the story from continuing. The company then settles the case for a number the injured party cannot refuse and make the settlement confidential. Does this sound familiar?
Here is a list of the top five cases fitting this category:
David v. Signal International: In 2005, Signal International, a large contractor in Alabama and Mississippi, was hired to help rebuild the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. It recruited nearly 500 pipefitters and welders from India with promises of good jobs and permanent U.S. residency. The recruits paid $10,000 to $25,000 just to be considered. But Signal brought them here on guest worker visas, with no possibility of residency; forced them to live in “man camps” on “the reservation,” with up to two dozen workers in a trailer with one bathroom; and deducted $1,050 monthly from their pay to do so. When Signal learned some workers were organizing to take action, they locked those workers in a trailer, terminated the leaders of the organizing movement and attempted to forcibly deport them. One became so distraught he attempted suicide.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and a team of public interest and private attorneys fought for seven years – and continues to fight – to hold Signal accountable. When the judge would not let the case proceed as a class action, the SPLC recruited an extraordinary group of lawyers to represent hundreds of workers in a dozen related lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions on a pro bono basis. David v. Signal International was the first to go to trial. Led by Alan Bruce Howard of Crowell & Moring in New York, with other attorneys from that firm, the SPLC, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Louisiana Justice Institute in New Orleans, and Sahn Ward Coschignano & Baker in Uniondale, NY, the lawyers navigated numerous complex challenges, including explaining immigration law to jurors and presenting testimony from workers who did not speak English. They won a unanimous $14 million jury verdict for five workers in a four-week trial. The jury found Signal had engaged in labor trafficking, fraud, racketeering and discrimination. This is the largest labor trafficking litigation in U.S. history. The David verdict is just the beginning. The claims of the other workers have yet to be heard.
Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania v. Wetzell: Solitary confinement can be a harrowing experience for any prisoner. For those with mental illnesses, it is especially brutal. Forced to spend 23 hours each day alone, locked in a tiny cell, prisoners with pre-existing mental health conditions can be utterly destroyed. An exhaustive investigation by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania discovered that one-third of the 2400 prisoners in solitary confinement in the state had serious mental illnesses. Those prisoners suffered sleeplessness, hallucinations, and paranoia; refused to leave their cells; declined medical treatment; covered themselves with feces; banged their heads against the walls; injured themselves and prison staff; and repeatedly attempted suicide. DRN tried to engage directly with officials at the state Department of Corrections, but when talks proved unsuccessful, it gathered a team and sued.
Led by Robert W. Meek, Kelly L. Darr and Jeffrey M. Skakalski of DRN, with co-counsel from Kairys Rudovsky Messing & Feinberg, LLP, in Philadelphia; Covington and Burling, LLP, in New York; the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project in Philadelphia; and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, the lawsuit was so meticulously executed that, within weeks of filing, the DOC agreed to negotiate. The resulting settlement is remarkable. It ensures prompt and regular mental health evaluation for all Pennsylvania prisoners, ends solitary confinement for those with serious mental illness absent “exceptional circumstances,” and places limitations on disciplinary measures and the use of force and restraints for prisoners with serious mental illness. The settlement also establishes three types of new mental health treatment units. It won state-wide reform of mental health treatment for 52,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania, including over 4,000 total prisoners in the Pennsylvania correctional system with serious mental illness, when nothing else would work.
Elwin v. NS Home for Colored Children & Province of Nova Scotia: The Halifax Home for Colored Children was founded in 1921 to care for African-Canadian orphans in the province. That is not what it did. Children there were subjected to unspeakable treatment – physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse – for nearly a century. Deanna Smith, placed there at age ten for four years by child welfare social services when her mother died, was just one example. Told she was “stupid,” “useless” and “would amount to nothing,” she was fondled by staff members and forced to perform in “sex shows” with other girls and boys there for the staff’s entertainment. Other children were shockingly mistreated in numerous different, hideous ways. The period of abuse spanned nearly 70 years.
Between 2000 and 2003, Wagners, a personal injury law firm in Halifax, Novia Scotia, filed 60 individual lawsuits on behalf of former residents. Even then, the provincial government, responsible for placing children in the home, refused to acknowledge the truth. So, in 2011, the Wagners team, led by Raymond F. Wagner and Michael Dull, filed the Elwin case, a class action. Ending a 14-year battle, the government and orphanage conceded what was taking place and entered into two different settlements totaling $34 million. To date, over 300 former residents have come forward to receive compensation, access to mental health care, and financial counseling. Nova Scotia’s Premier issued a formal apology and promised to “cast an unflinching eye on the past as we strive toward a better future.” The home is now a short-term residential facility providing proper care for children of all races.
In re McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise and Salaam Litigation: The beating and rape of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park made national headlines in 1989. Five young boys ages 14 to 16 were arrested for the crime, convicted, and sent to prison on the basis of coerced confessions. The boys, all of whom were black or Hispanic, served from 7 to 13 years behind bars and, upon their release, were required to register as sex offenders. Then, in 2002, a convicted serial rapist came forward and claimed responsibility for the attack. When the District Attorney’s office investigated his claims using DNA analysis, they found he was telling the truth. The “Central Park Five” were left to rebuild their lives.
For 13 years, attorneys for the wrongfully convicted young men fought New York City lawyers in their quest for justice. The team was led by, for different clients, Myron Beldock, Karen Dippold, and Jonathan C. Moore of New York’s Beldock, Levine & Hoffman and Jane H. Fisher-Byrialsen, David Fisher, and Alissa Boshnack of New York’s Fisher, Byrialsen & Kreizer, with co-counsel from the Michael W. Warren Law Office and Thomas Wareham & Richards in Brooklyn. After hundreds of depositions and hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery, the city agreed to pay a record $41 million settlement, more than $1 million for each person for each year served in prison. The young men are publicly speaking out about the lessons to be learned from their case and the need to videotape interrogations of juvenile suspects. In 2013, award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns featured the five in his acclaimed documentary, the “Central Park Five.”
Navajo Nation v. U.S.: The United States government holds in trust 14 million acres of land belonging to the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the country. As part of its agreement with the Nation, the U.S. government leases parcels of that land for farming, housing, timber operations and oil and coal exploration. For nearly seventy years, however, the government conducted its operations without any accurate accounting of the funds, failed to get fair market value for what it leased, and failed to monitor the extraction of natural resources from the Navajos’ land. So the Navajo Nation never received the true royalties it was owed.
Navajo Nation v. U.S. was filed to hold the government accountable. Led by Samuel J. Buffone (who passed away just before he was nominated) of BuckleySandler in Washington, D.C., and Alan R. Taradash of the Nordhaus Law Firm in Albuquerque, with co-counsel from both firms and the Attorney General’s Office for the Navajo Nation, the case lasted for eight years. The lawyers spent enormous time and resources compiling evidence of the government’s misconduct over decades. Finally, in what then-Attorney General Eric Holder called a “landmark resolution,” the United States agreed to pay $554 million to the Navajo Nation. It is the largest settlement ever obtained by a Native American tribe from the federal government.
Kristy L. Bruce enjoys the satisfaction of helping change someones life for the better. She hopes you enjoy this blog.