COVID Delivers Fraud to the Trucking Industry

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The trucking industry and its insurers were already vulnerable to predatory schemes in a pre-COVID-19 society. The current economic uncertainty and anxiety caused by the virus is unfortunately exacerbating that problem.

Last month, the Justice Department issued new indictments against several individuals in Louisiana, alleging a conspiracy to defraud the trucking industry. The defendants allegedly staged accidents in order to recover money from the trucking company’s carrier. That one case has now led to the indictment of a staggering number of 28 individuals who defrauded insurance companies out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. More »

The Application of the Doctrine of Collateral Estoppel to Bar Legal Malpractice Claims Following Allegations of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

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In a recent unpublished decision, Miles v. Dickstein, unpub op, Docket No. 350136 (Sep. 10, 2020), the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel (sometimes referred to as “issue preclusion”) in a legal malpractice case arising out of an underlying criminal lawsuit. The Miles Court held that because the standards for evaluating an attorney for ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal setting and legal malpractice in a civil suit were “equivalent” and “virtually identical,” that collateral estoppel bars a subsequent legal malpractice claim if the trial court evaluated an ineffective counsel claim in the underlying criminal matter. Miles, unpub op, at 1. More »

Prefabricated Construction Liability

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Introduction

Prefabricated residential and commercial construction brings both new building opportunities and new legal concerns. Building with prefabricated components provides for greater efficiency in cost, development, and installation than traditional building methods – allowing entire commercial and residential structures to be assembled at a worksite like building blocks consisting of prefabricated “units” or “modules.” However, this shift from field construction to field assembly also shifts the scope of potential liability for all parties involves – from engineers designing prefabricated components through component manufacturers and down to contractors completing installation and assembly. Below, we consider how changes to construction from prefabricated components affect liability and coverage in the realm of construction liability. More »

Seventh Circuit Recently Clarifies Article III Standing in BIPA Cases

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One longstanding debate among U.S. District Courts lies at the very heart of the judicial process—what, precisely, is sufficient to confer Article III standing in lawsuits alleging violations of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”)? The Seventh Circuit has now provided clarity for certain BIPA claims. More »

In Defense of Long-Term Care Facilities: Immunity, and What to do if There is Not Any

COVID-19 cast the entirety of the healthcare system into uncertainty. This is acutely evident in the long-term care setting, where per capita fatality rates remain high. The reasons? (1) The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are most susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19; and (2) those in close quarters, unable or unwilling, to observe social distance parameters, are also at increased risk. When you combine those two risk factors in one setting, this explains the reason that long-term care facilities were, and continue to be, hard hit by COVID-19.  More »

Changes to Punitive Damages Coming to Missouri

Last week, the Missouri legislature passed comprehensive changes to the assessment of punitive damages in Missouri. The bill, SB 591, outlines new pleading requirements, a clear burden of proof, and a heightened standard with regard to punitive damages. The bill will now head to the desk of Governor Mike Parson, who is expected to sign these new measures into law. More »

Retro-Fitting Reservations: The Re-Opening of Restaurants Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

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The restaurant business, a staple of American life. Eating out offers the opportunity to skip the cooking, be waited on and enjoy a variety of foods you would not otherwise prepare at home. Restaurants also provide the venue for those special occasions with friends and family - birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other memorable events. The establishments providing these services are known not just for their food, but for their ambiance, entertainment and social value. However, as the COVID-19 Coronavirus began impacting the United States, governments of the various states immediately took action to stem the spread of the virus. First and foremost, social distancing measures were implemented to ensure that individuals maintained a "safe and healthy distance" from one another - this required restaurants to immediately close their doors to the public. During the pandemic, restaurants began to adapt and allowed patrons to purchase food "to go", albeit via delivery or pick-up, but pick-up mostly required people to remain outside while employees, donned in surgical masks and gloves, brought the food to your car. Where does this leave us now? As the various states begin to "re-open," will restaurants return to what we consider "normal" or will the dynamic of the restaurant industry change in an effort to keep its employees and customers safe, and prevent liability for the unintentional transmission of COVID-19 or any other disease? After all, eating is one activity that cannot be accomplished whilst wearing a mask. More »

Florida's Religious Re-Opening: Guidance For Faith Based Institutions To Mitigate Liability In Epidemic/Pandemic Events

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The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the daily lives of Floridians in every capacity - from socialization to merely shopping for groceries. However, one of the most salient affects has been on the ability of Floridians to gather for religious purpose and prayer. Mass gatherings of any kind were limited or prohibited throughout Florida and the ability to physically gather for religious purposes was hindered dramatically. As Florida begins to systematically re-open places of gathering (i.e. parks, boat ramps, recreational facilities) on a piecemeal basis, religious institutions are beginning to plan for their re-openings as well. Part and parcel of this planning is the need to mitigate liability should a congregant, employee or other individual contract the virus whilst inside the premises of a religious institution. This note focuses on the standard of care utilized in Florida, and the methodologies a religious institution may utilize to meet and exceed that standard of care necessary in order to raise a viable defense to any claim alleging negligence or liability on the part of the religious institution. More »

The Future of E-Cigarette Litigation: Is There One?

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I. Introduction

While e-cigarette smoking, or vaping, as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes is generally regarded as a healthier option, some claim that the long-term effects of vaping are unknown and that inevitably researchers (and habitual vapers) will learn that e-cigarettes have their own risks and hazards. Plaintiffs’ attorneys seem to see tort litigation over e-cigarettes as a “when” and not an “if”. Thus far, the lawsuits against e-cigarette manufacturers have primarily been filed by governments and center on consumer fraud allegations and the manufacturer’s advertising techniques, particularly alleging that young people are the targets of the advertising. Other lawsuits have revolved around specific defective products, as some e-cigarettes catch fire or explode due to a malfunctioning battery, or inadequate safety controls or warnings, as children are poisoned from accidentally ingesting e-liquids.[1] What the lawsuits have yet to allege is that e-cigarette smoking caused a specific plaintiff to develop an illness, and certainly e-cigarette litigation has not yet developed into the latest mass tort. This article will review the various risks that are being evaluated with respect to e-cigarette smoking and whether the science is moving in a direction where e-cigarette mass tort litigation is inevitable. More »

Re-Opening States and Businesses and the Role OSHA May Play

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As a handful of states declare their intentions to lift stay-at-home orders and allow some or all businesses to re-open, the federal government has largely taken a hands-off approach, citing federalism and a deference to governors who better understand the threat of COVID-19 in their respective states. While President Trump and his medical experts have warned that re-opening for business is ill-advised, some states seem determined to ignore the warnings and do just that.  Yet, even if states allow businesses to re-open, state government lacks the power of course to force individual businesses to open, employees to go to work or the public to patronize open businesses. These are all difficult personal decisions, balancing economic needs and the perceived threat to one’s personal health and the health of others. One factor that has not received much attention but that could impact the economic component of the equation, not to mention the role of the federal government in state and business owner decisions, is the potential for OSHA to get involved if it feels that employers who elect to conduct business are failing to adequately protect employees. The idea is hardly far-fetched, as OSHA has already published influenza pandemic guidelines. This article will review those guidelines, how they could be modified to apply to the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential impact OSHA might have on business owner decisions whether to re-open for business during an ongoing pandemic.  More »

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