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Animals out of Control

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Earlier this week, a wrongful death lawsuit was revived in the case of a man who was drowned after he was attacked by a nesting swan in 2012. The suit, brought by his widow, alleges that the property management company which owned and managed the property (and a pair of mute swans located there) was liable for the death. The current suit is actually a refiling of a 2014 action making substantially similar accusations.
Although the circumstances of this particular claim are particularly tragic and eye-catching, the case does highlight the level of responsibility that animal owners have in the injuries (and in this case, death) caused by the creatures, both exotic and domestic, under their care.
In fact, the law surrounding such animal-caused injuries has several layers. In the first place, Illinois has actually mostly outlawed the private ownership of certain particularly dangerous animals, including lions and tigers and bears. And wolves. And poisonous lizards. If you choose to keep a hyena and it injures someone, not only will you be responsible for the injuries it causes (except in certain specific circumstances such as the injured party assuming the risk of coming into contact with the animal, or outright provoking the attack in some way) but you also may be subject to criminal penalties. Judicial decisions will also hold you strictly accountable if your animal isn’t commonly domesticated, such as the swans mentioned above.
In the past, injuries caused by “normal” pets created liability only if there was reason to believe that the animal was unusually dangerous or mischievous. However, the Illinois Legislature found such law to allow too much leeway for animal owners to claim ignorance about the danger their pets posed to others. They passed the Illinois Animal Control Act, which holds owners to account if there is (1) proof of injury by the animal; (2) lack of provocation; (3) peaceable conduct; and (4) presence of the injured party in a place where he or she had a right to be.
Of course, there is plenty of grey area in even these fairly comprehensive laws. In one 2016 case, Coe v. Lewsader, the fourth appellate district was called upon to determine whether a motorcycle accident caused by a dog lying in the middle of a road fell under the Animal Control Act or not. Since the dog hadn’t taken any action in the injury, the cyclists could not hold the owner responsible. In a less intuitive case before the same court, 1997’s Docherty v. Sadler, the question was whether an injured child who was “babysitting” a neighbor’s dog had “control” of the animal, preventing him from holding the neighbor responsible. The court found that the child had assumed temporary ownership over the dog in caring for it, and thus couldn’t collect against the absent neighbor for the attack. Cases like this demonstrate the importance of seeking qualified legal counsel even in situations that appear straightforward.

– Travis J. Dunn, Attorney


Christmas Season Safety

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Today is December 1st which means Christmas is only 23 days away. This is my favorite time of year. I cannot get enough of Christmas music, peppermint mocha coffee or Christmas decorations. During this time of year, there are celebrations, holiday parties and family gatherings. This is also the time when most people are putting up Christmas decorations and buying Christmas trees. I love buying a live tree. We go to the Christmas tree farm and cut down our own. However, there are many safety hazards that go along with a live Christmas tree.

Did you know that Christmas trees alone result in 13 million dollars, annually, in property damage? These fires can cause a huge risk to family and friends when visiting your home. By having a live tree in your home, a deadly combination can exist with tree dryness, electrical malfunction with lights and poorly located heating sources.

Follow these precautions if you have a live tree to avoid a hazard:

  • Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily.
  • Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out.
  • Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety, and throw out any damaged lights.
  • Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement, and be sure to plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
  • Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor.
  • Bedtime means lights off! ­ Don’t forget to turn your Christmas tree lights off each night.            In addition, putting up Christmas decorations result in 15,000 injuries during the holiday season. Follow these safety tips for putting up those Christmas decorations that put us in the festive holiday spirit:
  • When your tree begins to drop its needles, it’s time to say goodbye to your evergreen foliage until next year.
  • “Angel hair,” made from spun glass, can irritate your eyes and skin; always wear gloves or substitute non-flammable cotton
  • Spraying artificial snow can irritate your lungs if inhaled; follow directions carefully
  • Decorate the tree with your kids in mind; move ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks toward the top
  • Always use the proper step ladder; don’t stand on chairs or other furniture
  • Lights are among the best parts of holiday decorating; make sure there are no exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets
  • Plants can spruce up your holiday decorating, but keep those that may be poisonous (including some Poinsettias) out of reach of children or pets; the national Poison Control Center can be reached at (800) 222-1222
  • Make sure paths are clear so no one trips on wrapping paper, decorations, toys, etc.; NSC provides tips for older adults on slip, trip and fall protection

If you suffer any personal injury or worker’s compensation accident during the holiday season, the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti would be happy to set up an appointment for a free consultation through our toll-free number at 888-488-4LAW or via email at pferracuti@peterferracuti.com

The Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

– Kendall E. Hodges, Attorney


KEEPING SECRETS LIMITS AVERGAE WEEKLY WAGE

Friday, November 24th, 2017

Under Illinois las, if a worker is injured and unable to work, his employer is required to compensate him for lost wages, during his period of disability.

The same law provides that if you work more than one job, an employee’s average weekly wage is determined by how much an employee earns form all jobs collectively, if the employer has knowledge of such employment prior to the injury.

Recently the Illinois Appellate Court took up a case where an employee had a second job as the pastor of his church, of which his employer was aware, but the employer claimed it was not aware that the employee received compensation for his work as pastor.

The employer claimed that while it was aware of the employee’s work as a pastor, it was unaware that he received compensation for those services and assumed he did so on a volunteer basis.

The Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission found that the employee’s average weekly wage should be determined without including his wages as pastor.

On appeal the Worker’s Compensation Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, upheld the decision and the employee’s compensation were thereby limited.

Prosecuting a case before the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission can be a tricky process. Had this employee handled matters differently, the outcome may have been more favorable.

Whether it is in court or at the Commission, if you have a dispute and are seeking redress, its always better to have a skilled and knowledgeable advocate guide you through the process.

The attorney’s here at the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti have the knowledge, skills and experience to help you obtain all the benefits to which you are entitled. If you find yourself needing assistance with a work injury or other lawsuit, we offer a free initial evaluation and stand ready to assist you with all your litigation needs.

 

– Dennis Both, Attorney


(Traveling) Home for the Holidays

Friday, November 17th, 2017

It seems almost unbelievable that Thanksgiving, and the “holiday season” that follows it, is already here. Maybe it’s the odd weather. Perhaps it’s the fact that Thanksgiving falls a little earlier in the month than it generally does. Regardless of the reason, and regardless of whether you classify this time of year as lively and bustling or busy and hectic, it bears keeping in mind that few things put a damper on holiday plans like a personal injury. Every little bit helps when it comes to preventing accidents, from ensuring that your vehicle is in good working order to planning your trip to avoid uncomfortable travel situations.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that almost 51 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, the highest number since 2005. The vast majority of those will be on the road, and unfortunately the AAA is predicting that Chicago will be getting the worst of it, with delays on Tuesday evening potentially causing drives to take triple their normal amounts of time.
In traffic like that it’s important to drive defensively, leaving the recommended two second cushion of stopping time between your car and the car in front of you (which is generally a lot more distance than you might think), and to be aware of the effects of that unpredictable weather on your vehicle and the road surface. Use your turn signals properly, and resist the urge to use your cell-phone to distract you on those long drives- not only is hand-held cell-phone use illegal in Illinois while you are driving, but if you are under 19 you may not use hands-free cell phone devices either. Even if you aren’t responsible for an accident, distracted driving is a very real negative in a personal injury claim.
It also helps to make sure that you’re getting off on the right foot even before you hit the road. It’s easy to do a simple safety check on your vehicle before a drive. Turn on the lights and walk around the vehicle to ensure that all lights are in working order. Also check your turn signal for proper operation. All of these things are not only important for avoiding an accident in the first place, but also for making sure that, in the unfortunate circumstance of an accident, it’s clear that you (and your vehicle’s upkeep) are not at fault.
Of course, accidents and collisions do happen despite the best, careful efforts of drivers. If you are injured in a car accident, or suffer any other sort of personal injury, we would be happy to set up an appointment for a free consultation through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or via email at pferracuti@peterferracuti.com.

– Travis J. Dunn, Attorney


Heroes

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

My hero passed away this week. My dad was the entire reason I became an attorney in the first place. This post is probably the most difficult one I’ve ever written, but it’s time to honor a life well lived and that means doing the things we feel are difficult or impossible.

 

Dad was a fighter. He was strong in ways that I can’t even explain to you. He woke up every morning at 4 am to prepare himself for his work day. He was dressed and at work by 530 most mornings and worked until 7 or 8, often times without even a lunch break. He was tough when he needed to be, but knew exactly what each client needed to hear in order to be successful in their claim and to provide them comfort during one of the most difficult times of their life.

 

He was incredibly intelligent and, in my opinion, hysterical. He graduated at the top of his class in the pursuit of both his undergraduate and law degrees. He set the majority of the existing workers compensation case law in Illinois. That constitutes an absolutely incredible amount of hard work and intelligent arguments over his 64 years of practice. And he was funny. At least in my opinion, but I’m his repete so he and I shared a lot of the same values and the same sense of what is funny and what isn’t. Others may dispute that point, but the other great part about dad was that he didn’t care what others thought of him. He did what he felt was right in his heart without hesitation. He saved so many lives over the years just by knowing and being exactly who he was at all times.

 

The thing I love the most, and that I think I want people to remember, is the quality of his heart, his valor, and his intentions. He changed this world one case at a time, and though the history books may not have a chapter about his life in them, thousands and thousands of families will remember him as the man who helped them find the good in a terrible situation. A man who helped them when no one else could or would. And that’s pretty special.

 

The world lost a hero this last week. I’m obviously heartbroken, but my sadness is turned to strength by the idea of him entrusting his practice to me two years ago when he made me the managing partner. I have the opportunity to be a hero and make a real difference just like dad did, and I’m grateful everyday for the guidance, love, and support I received from him every day for the last 28 years of my life. I look forward to continuing his legacy, expanding upon it, and helping this community now and in the many years to come. Thank you for your support in the past, in the present, and in the future.

– Alexis P. Ferracuti, Attorney


APPRARENTLY JUDGES ARE PEOPLE TOO

Friday, October 27th, 2017

In an ironic turn of events, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit (the appeals court for federal cases in Illinois) recently used an opinion by one of its own judges, to overturn a decision by that same judge.

Judge Richard Posner recently retired from the bench amidst a dispute with his colleagues over the way in which pro se litigants (people who represent themselves without a lawyer) are treated when they prosecute appeals before the 7th Circuit.

Apparently Judge Posner feels the many prose litigants are not given a fair shake and his fellow judges are apparently dismissive of those who represent themselves.

According to an interview Judge Posner gave following his abrupt retirement, this dispute could not be resolved so he retired.

Judge Posner is legendary for his opinions and his criticisms of those who he sees as being on the wrong side of an issue.

Earlier this year he took a Cook County Judge to task for the way in \which the Judge handled a trial involving a disabled pro se litigant.

Here’s the irony. Although appellate judges do not ordinarily preside over trials, Judge Posner was designated to preside over a case where the self-represented defendant was accused of receiving fraudulent tax refunds.

After the jury ruled against the defendant and he appealed to the 7th Circuit, Judge Posner’s comrades ruled that comments made by the Judge during the trial, about the defendant, impaired the defendant’s credibility in the eyes of the jury as to deprive him of a fair trial.

In reversing Posner and remanding the case for a new trial the 7th Circuit relied on a decision that Posner himself had written in an earlier and unrelated matter.

Apparently, although they would never admit it, federal judges have feet of clay just like the rest of us.

The real moral of the story is that procedural and evidentiary rules are tricky. Lawyers go to school for three years to learn them, and then spend a lifetime mastering them, and if you are sued, or desire to sue someone, it is better to trust your representation to a trained professional.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti have years of experience in protecting and fighting for the rights of their clients. If you find yourself being sued or needing to file suit we offer a free initial evaluation and stand ready to assist you with all your litigation needs.

 

– Dennis Both, Attorney


Amicable Divorce?

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Clean, simple, not complicated and not messy are usually words that are not used in describing divorce. However, due to a new divorce process, these words might be used more frequently in discussing divorce. Collaborative divorce is a new divorce process which is an alternative to the traditional litigation. With collaborative divorce, the only time court is involved is when the divorce is completely finalized. Typically, with a divorce, the couple is required to appear at almost every court proceeding.

Collaborative divorce is gaining the attention of Illinois lawmakers who recently passed the Illinois Collaborative Process Act. This is a law that sanctions this team-based approach to amicable divorces outside the courtroom. The passage of this act creates standards that more divorce attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists are likely to adopt and make available as an option to their divorcing clients.

So what is collaborative divorce? In the collaborative process, the two divorcing people hire attorneys solely for the purpose of settling the case. Then, different professionals are brought in. For example, a neutral financial specialist, mental health professional and/or child specialist. All the of professionals’ efforts are directed at supporting the family in solving the problems and creating agreements. Basically, collaborative divorce is a series of meetings with the couple divorcing and their attorneys and a financial professional. In this meeting, everyone begins to negotiate and split their assets. The collaborative process is meant to look towards the future and solutions. In addition, it can be quicker and cost less than traditional litigation.

The collaborative divorce sounds like an ideal situation, however, some couples are not meant for the collaborative process. This process is geared more towards couples who want to remain civil or co-parent.

We offer free initial consultations, and we’d be happy to set up an appointment through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or via email at pferracuti@peterferracuti.com.

– Kendall E. Hodges, Attorney


A Real Class Act

Monday, October 16th, 2017

The field of law surrounding class action lawsuits, and collective litigation generally, consistently makes waves in the legal community, but in many cases it can seem a bit dry to those not actively involved in the litigation. Many of us have received notices indicating that we are or may be a class member of a class action, and oftentimes think little of it again until a check comes in the mail. A recent, although contentious, example of this type of litigation is the claim against Subway restaurants that their Footlong sandwiches were not, in fact, a foot long. The federal Seventh Circuit of Appeals rejected a proposed settlement of that case this August, when it determined that the class members of the suit wouldn’t really be receiving much of a benefit from the result of the suit.
However, collective action and class actions can arise in many, more personal circumstances. One of the cases that the United States Supreme court is considering this term, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, in large part concerns whether employees can waive their right to participate in or receive benefit from any class, collective, or representative proceedings as a requirement of their employment, or whether such waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act protecting the ability of employees to engage in “concerted activities.”
Which brings us to a class action lawsuit filed earlier this week in Cook County against the Mastro’s restaurant chain, a group of high-end steakhouses based in Arizona. The claim, filed by a busboy, alleges that the chain illegally retains a portion of the tips paid to its employees, causing the actual wages paid to some staff to violate the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
This isn’t actually the first time that this claim has been brought against the chain. In 2015 an action was brought on behalf of the class in federal court in Illinois, and similarly claimed that Mastro’s was paying some employees less than the minimum wage by taking an illegal proportion of the employees’ collective tips before redistributing the money to them.
Class actions can be an important tool in ensuring that companies are held accountable for small wrongdoings that add up to serious problems, and also act as a means of carrying out justice in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Individually, the cases against Mastro’s may not have been economical to file in court given the amounts of money involved, but acting on behalf of the entirety of the “tip pool” in the restaurant allows the actions to move forward, and hopefully for all of the members of the class to benefit.

– Travis J. Dunn, Attorney


NO STALKING ALLOWED

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Although it is not well known, or widely used, in 2010 the Illinois Legislature found that stalking, is a serious crime in Illinois.

For statutory purposes, stalking includes conducting surveillance of the person, appearing at the person’s home, work or school, making unwanted phone calls, sending unwanted emails or text messages, leaving objects for the person, vandalizing the person’s property, or injuring a pet.

Unlike the Domestic Violence Act, which requires some form of familial relationship with the offender for that act to apply, the anti-stalking law does not even require that the victim and offender know one another.

While statistics suggest that 70% of victims know the individuals stalking them, only 30% of victims have dated or been in intimate relationships with their stalkers.

Stalking includes any course of conduct that causes emotional distress. If the victim is elderly, disabled or otherwise able to seek redress on their own, the Act allows pursuant of a no stalking/no contact order on that person’s behalf.

The Clerks of the various circuit courts throughout the state are instructed to accept petitions for no stalking/no contact orders without a filing fee and the Sheriff of every Illinois county is instructed to serve those orders and any related summons, without fee.

No contact orders can be issued on an emergency basis without notice for up to a month and to issue such orders for a period of up to two years after notice and a hearing.

Violation of a no contact order may be prosecuted as a criminal offense and while the Act does not create a civil remedy it does provided for an award of attorney’s fees to a successful petitioner.

Although a violation of the Act does not create a new civil remedy, the offender’s actions may otherwise allow for a civil action for damages for emotional distress or physical injury.

The Act intends to create a streamlined system to allow victims to file petitions seeking no contact orders on their own, as with any legal action self-representation is not recommended.

Knowledge of the rules regarding civil procedure and evidence are imperative to a successful outcome in any litigation and it is always advisable to seek assistance from an attorney.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of stalking, our team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can help. We offer free initial consultations, and we’d be happy to set up an appointment through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or via email at pferracuti@peterferracuti.com.

– Dennis Both, Attorney


Social Media and Injury Claims

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Today, social media has become the norm. Social media provides a platform for people to share their thoughts and experiences. Social media allows people to show photos of what they ate and what they did that day. However, social media can play a negative role in your personal injury or worker’s compensation claim especially using social media in the midst of the claims process. I am going to discuss how social media can have an impact on your ongoing personal injury or worker’s compensation claim.

People who are pursuing a personal injury claim or workers compensation claim are doing so because they have suffered a physical injury such as broken leg, soft tissue injury, chronic pain, etc. As such, they are seeking damages for medical expenses incurred because of the injury and in personal injury, the noneconomic damages for pain and suffering that resulted because of the personal injury. The defense attorney’s job is to find evidence that you are not as injured as you claim to be. This can be done by medical testimony or as becoming more common today, your social media profile. For example, if a person is claiming some loss of mobility or chronic pain and thus an inability to enjoy physical activities that he or she once loved, such as hiking. But then that person posts on social media photographic evidence that shows that person on top of a mountain, smiling and with friends – this can cause a negative impact on your personal injury or worker’s compensation case. As a result, the judge may rule that the claimant is not entitled to compensation for these damages as the photograph shows that he or she is enjoying life and is not at the claimed level of disability. The Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission recently ruled on a case, Morris-Velazquez v. Brightstar Healthcare, that the claimant made several Facebook posts of her posing in a way that were contrary to her claimed level of disability, thus she reached her maximum medical improvement two years prior. Thus, the claimant was not entitled to benefits for two years following the accident.  The Facebook posts showed her engaging in an activity that did not relate to the level of disability she was claiming.

Moreover, social media postings are a part of the public record. Anything that you post publicly on the internet or that others post about you, may be used as evidence and therefore used against you in a personal injury or workers compensation claim.

After you have been in an accident, it is best to temporarily suspend all of your social media accounts. You should also make sure that your account is set to private and that you do not accept any new friend requests during the time period after your accident. In addition, you should your family and friends not to post anything relating to you or the accident and to set their profiles to private as well.

If you have any questions about your personal injury or workers compensation claim, our firm offers free initial consultations, and we’d be happy to set up an appointment through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or via email at pferracuti@peterferracuti.com.

– Kendall E. Hodges, Attorney


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