In May Laird appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court as co-counsel in a seminal case involving a class of taxpayers and individuals and institutions who pay foreclosure fees in the State of Illinois. The case challenges the Illinois Housing Development Act that imposes a fee on litigants as a prerequisite to their access to Illinois courts. The plaintiffs argued equal protection violations and that the offending legislation constitutes a general welfare program that permits the Executive Branch and even municipal officials, including City of Chicago officials, to use the funds for general revenue rather than restricting the use of those funds solely to address persons already within the court system. Consistent with his tireless efforts on behalf of plaintiffs, Laird believes that this legislation should be set aside because it actually imposes a tax, not a fee, on litigants that is used support a general welfare program.
The Illinois Appellate Court reversed a Lake County Court’s dismissal of a personal injury and wrongful death action filed for the death of a child against the boat driver’s girlfriend. The child fell off of an inflatable tube while tubing and was struck by a cigarette boat driven by one of the defendants who was significantly impaired by cocaine and alcohol. The plaintiff’s case against the defendant’s girlfriend was reinstated because it adequately stated a claim under the theory of in-concert liability. The defendant’s girlfriend could be liable because she, 1) actively encouraged him to continue operating the boat at speeds in excess of 40 mph, 2) provided him with money for cocaine and alcohol, and 3) knew of his history of drug and alcohol abuse. Under an in-concert theory, the girlfriend was deemed a contributing tortfeasor whose encouragement of the boat operator constituted substantial assistance and a proximate cause of the child’s death. The court also upheld the plaintiff’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress on behalf of the child’s sister who was riding on same tube in the direct path of the boat less than 50 feet from the collision. She saw the collision and feared that she would be struck by boat. While the common sense endemic in the law usually holds adults responsible for their own risky behavior, i.e. alcohol and drug consumption, this represents a departure when another person is an active contributor to the risky behavior that leads to injury. It also presents another potential avenue of recovery for plaintiff’s attorneys to pursue on behalf of injury victims. Borcia v. Hatyina, 2015 IL App (2d) 140559 (April 14, 2015).
With every signature, every click and broken seal, you are potentially waiving a fundamental right—to have your dispute resolved by a jury. The American Association for Justice (AAJ), I am a former Parliamentarian, recently published a report revealing the extent to which American jurisprudence, federal statutes, and corporations have conspired to force consumers to arbitrate their claims rather than bring them to court (view here).
Personal injury plaintiffs have the most to lose in this equation. Arbitrations traditionally favor the defendant in form and procedure. For instance, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities will include a binding arbitration agreement in admission or resident agreements. However, when a loved one is entering into this transaction, they are hardly attentive to their rights in the event that they fall victim to professional negligence, rather they are concerned about the level of health care in their new home.
Consumers need to look at the fine print, especially when they could be injured at the hands of another. Don’t be afraid to ask about the details of the transaction and even reject the arbitration agreement. In many cases, it may not be a condition of providing goods or services but you certainly won’t know until you ask; it is always the best time to consult your attorney, before you give up your rights.
Stunningly high healthcare costs are a constant topic of public debate. The blame gamers cast aspersions far and wide targeting the claimed impact of medical malpractice lawsuits. Time and time again independent studies have disproved this theory. Most recently Johns Hopkins University published a study that demonstrates what little impact medical malpractice claims have on healthcare costs. Studying six years worth of data compiled by the National Practitioner Data Bank, researchers found that high verdicts and settlements in medical malpractice cases account for less than one percent of the annual amount expended on healthcare in the U.S. The data showed that plaintiffs predominantly recovered high verdict and settlement amounts in cases where the patient was killed or injured while under the age of one; develops brain damage, quadriplegia or requires lifelong care; or suffers an anesthesia error. Research also shows that states with damage caps on malpractice claims do not see a commensurate reduction in malpractice insurance rates that would incentivize physicians to practice in the state. Illinois attempted to impose such caps on damages but the measure was struck down by our state supreme court.
The reality is that humans practice medicine on humans and medical mistakes are going to be made. Medical malpractice insurance exists to protect both the doctor and the patient for these inevitabilities. Patients should not be deterred by the phantom impact that medical malpractice claims have on the healthcare system when deciding to pursue a claim for an incident of suspected medical malpractice. Knowledge is power; investigating your potential claim and understanding the options for obtaining compensation for your losses is integral to making an informed, responsible decision about your future. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a mistake by a healthcare provider or medical professional, you owe it to yourself to consult an experienced Illinois attorney regarding your case. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
Laird Ozmon recently attended the American Trial Lawyers (ATLA a/k/a AAJ) Board meeting and met with key candidates addressing compelling social justice issues, including Angus King of Maine and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, among others. We pledged our commitment to keep the constitutional safeguards protecting plaintiffs.