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THAT’S THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Recently, an employee union sued Mondelez International, which manufactures Oreos, Chips Ahoy and other cookies and crackers in federal court regarding an interpretation of Illinois’ wage and hour laws.

The federal judge determined that while Illinois law prohibits from forcing Illinois workers to work 7 days per week, it does not prevent them from doing so voluntarily in order to earn overtime.

In other employment news, an employee of the debt collection firm Harris and Harris, who collects debts for the City of Chicago and others, sued claiming she was not paid for all of the hours she worked. She alleges she was told to clock in early, and regularly worked beyond her scheduled end time and Harris and Harris would improperly round down her time and not compensate her for all hours worked.

Despite efforts to have the suit dismissed, the federal judge has ruled that the case may continue.

These cases are just a few recent examples of the continuing struggles employees face in simply seeking to be paid what the law requires for their efforts.

If you believe your employer has not paid you in accordance with applicable wage and hour laws you should consult an attorney.

The knowledgeable and skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti 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


What Happens After You Are Injured

Friday, July 28th, 2017

If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you are injured whether it is a car accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice, there are certain things you need to do and certain things you need to know.

The first thing you should do after getting injured in an accident is to get medical treatment. If you are hurt, go to the hospital or doctor. This is the right thing to do for your health. In addition, medical treatment is considered a compensatory damage in personal injury.

The next thing that you will have to do is choose a lawyer. You should choose the lawyer soon after the injury. Our office is equipped with knowledge and experience to help you and your claim. When you first come to the office, we will ask you in detail how the accident happened, your background, and your medical condition and treatment you have received. The more information we know the better we can do our job. In addition, we always ask our clients to bring in as much information for their claim as they have. This not only speeds up the case but also helps us better understand what happened and the treatment involved. Moreover, we always ask our clients to document their treatment in a notebook that is provided to you at the consultation.

After hiring our office, we begin to gather your medical records and medical bills for any treatment that you have ever had relating to the condition at issue in the case. The process of gathering a client’s medical records and bills does take some time.

Once a client is done treating, we gather together a demand. This demand includes all the medical records and bills, pictures, wage loss and an accident report if there is one. With the demand packet, we send a letter summarizing the accident, the medical treatment and the pain and suffering. We send the demand to the other attorney or the other side’s insurance company. If we are unable to settle the claim this way, we will then file the lawsuit in court.

If the lawsuit is filed in court, we then begin the court process. It could potentially take two years before a case goes to trial.  However, we first begin with the discovery phrase of the lawsuit. This involves written questions and depositions. Once discovery is finished, we generally begin to take settlement negotiations or mediation. If this doesn’t settle the case, we schedule it for trial.

Getting injured in an accident is often a very traumatic and stressful time in your life. However, by hiring an attorney, they can take away some of the stress by assisting you throughout the entire process. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of a personal injury, 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


Beverage Tax Blues

Friday, July 21st, 2017

It seemed simple enough. On November 10, 2016, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to pass the Cook County Beverage Tax Ordinance. The tax, as envisioned, would be a flat one cent per ounce of “sweetened beverage” sold by applicable distributors to consumers in Cook County. In what looked like a fairly straightforward “sin tax,” in the vein of that on cigarettes or gasoline, the county stated that the ordinance might act as something of a deterrent to the consumption of unhealthy sugary drinks and help reduce obesity, and was written to go into effect on July 1st. Of course, the county also estimated that the tax would raise a fairly astonishing $67.5 million dollars by the end November this year.
But the tax never went into effect. On June 27th, a group of stores and grocers, headed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, filed a lawsuit alleging that the ordinance was a violation of the Constitution of the State of Illinois. A judge agreed to put the tax on hold until a more full hearing could occur, and that hearing, over a motion by the County to dismiss the lawsuit, is scheduled for today.
The stores attempting to block the tax have two primary arguments. First, they argue on a section of the Illinois constitution that states that, for the purposes of taxation, any discrete “classes” of taxable subjects must be reasonable, and all subjects and objects within each “class” must be uniformly taxed. The purpose of this section would seem to be to guard against arbitrary taxation. Since, by the language of the ordinance, the tax would apply to “ready-to-drink, pre-made sweetened beverages” but not “on-demand, custom sweetened beverages,” the stores argue that the tax applies to an unreasonable class. That is, the argument goes, why should the county tax sweetened ice tea in a bottle or coming out of a machine when it does not tax the same ice tea mixed by a waiter or barista?
A slightly more complicated argument pursued by the Association is that the tax is unconstitutionally vague. This argument actually encompasses several difficulties that the Association points out in the actual implementation of the law itself, ranging from the problem of knowing how much of a sugary drink someone is actually taking out of a soda fountain vs. how much ice they are putting in their drinks (which would, after all potentially have an effect on how much tax they should be charged), to the fact that any food or drink bought with SNAP benefits are actually federally barred from being locally taxed, to problems with the tax being mandated as being included in the selling price of the drinks, not added on as a separate tax.
The County, on the other hand, is now effectively being prevented from collecting income that has been budgeted for nearly a year at this point. The county has already laid off hundreds of workers whose salaries were expected to be paid from the tax money, with the prospect of the total reaching 1100, a significant portion coming from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. Having millions of dollars of revenue cut off at the last minute has created something of a small crisis itself.
Short of a very generalized tax increase on drinks, it’s difficult to imagine a more straightforward tax on sugary drinks. Opponents of such taxes have not had much luck in other contexts. A similar tax in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania passed during the Summer of 2016 was ultimately upheld in court, although retailers continue to fight it there, too. It’s possible that the Illinois Circuit Court will give Cook County a definitive win here, as well, but ultimately that comes down to the intersection between a legislature’s ability to tax and the ability of the Illinois state constitution (and most people don’t realize it, but the current Illinois state constitution only dates to 1970) to limit that ability.

– Travis J. Dunn, Attorney


Finding the Right Doctor for You

Friday, July 14th, 2017

There are a lot of physicians out there for treatment. They’re all board certified for the most part, and if that’s the case then they are able to perform medical procedures on your person, but does that mean they’re the right doctor or physician for you? Not necessarily.

                Not every doctor is the right doctor for the job. Just like not every attorney is the right attorney for every case that is presented to them. It depends on a lot of factors. Specialty is a huge part of the equation. You cannot treat with a cardiologist for an orthopedic injury just like you can’t go to your primary care physician for an issue with your intestines that requires a specialist’s knowledge in that area.

                It is the job of your family doctor to help you find the doctor who is right for you. Whether that doctor is right for you can depend on how you interact with your family doctor, what your needs are, and what insurance you have, so be sure to ask the right questions when you are speaking to your family doctor regarding your injuries.

                Most importantly, be sure to document thoroughly and consistently with every doctor you treat with how your injury occurred and what treatment you’ve had so far. Make sure to tell them exactly how the accident happened, to walk them through your daily work life, and through the specifics of what your job was at the time of the accident. If you have questions as you continue to treat with your physician about whether you are receiving the proper care, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-888-4LAW.

 

Best Regards,

 

– Alexis P. Ferracuti, Attorney


WIN FOR THE LITTLE GUY

Friday, July 7th, 2017

It is not often that the taxpayer or the little guy wins when dealing with the government. We all witnessed this recently when the State voted to increase income taxes by 32%, without addressing any of the fundamental flaws in the way the State spends our money or runs its business.

However, the courts have recently handed down some decisions that go against the Illinois governmental grain.

In this state there exists certain legislation that is commonly known as the Tort Immunity Act. The only reason this law exists is to make it difficult, or in some cases impossible to collect for injuries caused by wrongful acts of the government or its officials.

The only purpose for this legislation is to create artificial roadblocks to recovery. If you are injured on private property or through the negligent acts or a private citizen the law says you are entitled to recovery. However, if you are injured on public property, property that you hard earned dollars go to maintain through your taxes, you may not be entitled to recover, no matter how serious the injury.

However, in two recent decisions handed down by the Illinois Appellate Court, the taxpayer has come out on the winning side.

One of the artificial hurdles that the Tort Immunity Act erects is a reduced time to file suit. The basis forth reduction is the contrived argument that the government needs cases to be filed promptly so it can investigate. Well that argument is true is all cases, not just those involving units of government. The real motivation is just another form of the Illinois money grab. The reduced time period is simply a way for the government to take more of your money by saying sorry you are too late with your claim.

But now in a case brought against the City of Chicago for the wrongful demolition of a woman’s home, the court ruled that the reduced time period for bringing a claim for damage to property does not apply to cases of wrongful demolition.

Illinois also has a statute known as the False Claims Act. This statute is commonly referred to as a whistleblower act because it authorizes citizens to file suit when they become aware of fraud against the government. If they succeed the citizen who brings the suit can collect a portion of any funds recovered. As with many actions this State takes what they give you with one hand they take away with the other, and whistleblower claims are no exception. If the information on which the claim is based is published or made available through documents publicly available then the enterprising citizen can be denied recovery.

Now the appellate court has determined that when a citizen requests information through the Freedom of Information Act, and that information is the basis of a whistleblower claim, the “publicly available” exception does not apply.

If a conscientious citizen examines how public funds are spent and uncovers improper expenditures or worse, outright fraud, they can still bring suit to collect the over or wrongful payments even though they obtained the records that support the claim through a freedom of information request.

These are two examples of regular citizens, the “little guys” prevailing against big government.

We here at the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti concentrate our practice in protecting the rights of the little guys who have been wronged or damaged through the negligent or intentional acts of others. If you have suffered damage, whether by governmental acts or otherwise we are here to assist you in obtaining the compensation you are due.

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.

– Dennis Both, Attorney


4th of July

Friday, June 30th, 2017

The 4th of July is one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States. It is a time when families and friends gather together at a beach, boat or a barbeque all dressed in their red, white and blue apparel. However, the 4th of July can also be one of the most dangerous American holiday weekends. The danger stems from car crashes, swimming incidents and firework accidents. This year, celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in a safe way.

Here are some safety measures to take this holiday weekend:

Sparkler & Fireworks Safety

More than 50,000 fires are caused by fireworks every year. Take the proper precautions when operating fireworks.

  • Never disassemble or try to make your own fireworks.
  • Don’t point sparklers, or fireworks at yourself or others, especially while they’re being lit.
  • Only light fireworks on the ground and in areas that are dry and fire resistant.
  • Don’t attempt to light multiple devices at the same time.
  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks or sparklers.
  • Always keep a portable fire extinguisher close by. Also keep a water hose or buckets of water nearby to put out fires.

Water Activity Safety

As July is one of the hottest months of the year, many families turn to water activities to beat the heat. However, even fun water activities have serious risks if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

  • Review safe boating practices.
  • Never consume alcohol while driving a boat.
  • Before boating, always check that there are enough life preservers on hand for every passenger.
  • Set water safety rules for your family.
  • Pools should be enclosed completely with a fence to restrict access to the area. Consider installing wireless outdoor sensors that will alert you via phone or with a chime inside your home if the sensors are activated.
  • Keep a first aid kit near the pool.

Grilling Safety

July is one of the peak months for grilling fires. Enjoy grilling your favorite meals this summer while also keeping your family safe.

  • Check gas grill hoses for cracks, holes and leaks.
  • Keep children away from grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
  • Never grill indoors, in the garage, in any enclosed area or on a surface that might catch fire.
  • Keep the grill at least two feet away from decks, siding, branches and any outdoor equipment that can catch fire quickly.

If you do suffer any injury while celebrating the 4th of July, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Peter F. Ferracuti are here to help. If you have any questions, please call our office toll free at 1-888-488-4LAW (4529). The first consultation is free.

**Read more at http://www.protection1.com/resources/4th-of-july-safety-tips/

– Kendall E. Hodges, Attorney


SUMMER IS HERE

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Summer, and long overdue warm, sunny weather have finally arrived. As school ends our thoughts all turn to vacation and leisure time activities. Here in LaSalle County we are blessed with some of the best recreational lands and activities in the entire state.

With rivers and lakes and the finest parks in Illinois, recreational opportunities are endless, but before you plan that float down the Fox or that hike at Starved Rock you should know that the law provides special protections to owners and operators of recreational property.

Most parks and recreational lands are owned by the state or local government, and they have special protections under the law.

For instance, the statute commonly called the tort Immunity Act provides that neither a public entity, nor a public employee is liable for injury from a condition of property that is intended for recreational purposes, unless they are guilty of willful or wanton misconduct.

Wilful and wanton is a higher standard than simple negligence and means they showed an utter indifference for your safety.

Moreover, governments and government employees are not liable if the danger is obvious or if they failed to provide supervision.

Similarly, The Recreational Use of Land and Water Areas Act limits the personal liability of private landowners for injuries sustained on their property. When landowners make their property accessible to the general public, they are protected from liability for all but a willful and wanton failure to warn the public of unsafe conditions.

Take advantage of all LaSalle County has to offer and take that canoe trip, picnic in the park, or ride the trail on horseback or your quad, but stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.

If you do suffer any injury while enjoying these opportunities, the experienced attorneys at Peter F. Ferracuti and Associates are here to help. Our helpful, knowledgeable staff has obtained compensation for clients who have suffered injuries in all types of settings, and will provide you with a free consultation to review your claim.

 

– Dennis Both, Attorney


Supreme Court Crunch Time

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

The Supreme Court will be wrapping up the 2016-2017 term at the end of June. During these final weeks, the major decisions are being handed down.

Two items on the docket for the justices include political gerrymandering and whether religious institutions have a right to taxpayer funds. The court case, Cooper v. Harris, challenged the constitutionality of political gerrymandering. A decision was made in that case last week. The court ruled in a 5-3 decision that two Congressional districts were racially manipulated in North Carolina. Another case, Gill v. Whitford, comes out of Wisconsin and involves political gerrymandering. Wisconsin Republicans won the complete control of Wisconsin’s government and redrew the state assembly’s legislative map. An appeals court ruled that the map was designed to make it more difficult for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats.

However, the primary focus will be when the court decides the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s order banning travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries. On Thursday night, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to allow the President’s travel ban that blocks entry from six Muslim-majority countries to go into effect. Previously, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jurisdiction against Trump’s revised band. In the filings, the Trump administration asked the nine justices to consider the legality of President Donald Trump’s executive order, a move that appeals the ruling by the 4th Circuit that upheld a nationwide stop to the ban. Last month, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals largely affirmed a federal judge’s decision from March, which found that the ban violates the Constitution because its primary purpose was to disfavor Muslims. The 4th Circuit held that the executive order is composed of vague words of national security but in context “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.

Now that Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, is on the bench the court is back to five conservatives and four liberals. However, it is questionable as to whether the justices will break down along ideological lines. The travel ban touches on more than immigration and involves issues such as authority of the executive and the issue of religious freedom.

So far, it is likely that the court will eventually hear the government’s challenge, but the question is what happens in the meantime. If there are five votes, then a stay would be granted and allow the ban to into effect or everything can remain frozen until the court has the last word. This ban has been the talk since Trump was elected into office. It will be interesting to see what happens with this highly controversial ban.

– Kendall E. Hodges, Attorney


Workers’ Compensation Changes Headed for the Governor’s Desk

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

On Friday, May 26th, the Illinois Senate voted (mostly along party lines) to pass two potentially significant pieces of legislation concerning the Workers’ Compensation system in Illinois. These weren’t exactly the “grand bargain” reforms that legislators have been circling around for the recent past. Indeed, the current tenor in the statehouse being what it is, discussing these might be something of a case of “counting chickens before they hatch.” It is very likely that Governor Rauner will veto the measures and it is equally unlikely that such a veto would be overturned, but as this is arguably the closest that Illinois has come to significant changes to the system since 2011, the laws are still worth discussing.
Separate from the structure of the structure of the Worker’s Compensation system proper, HB 2622 would create a non-profit state-chartered Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company, which would compete with private insurers in hopes of tempering the current employer insurance rates in the state through competition. Similar state-sponsored entities exist in other large-states like California and Texas, and neighboring states such as Missouri.
More substantial changes to the text of the Worker’s Compensation law itself come with HB 2525, which combines legislative codification of some judicial interpretations of the previous law with more substantial oversight of insurance rates themselves. Some of the biggest changes include:
• Requiring pre-filing of employer insurance rates with the Department of Insurance, and a prohibition against excessive rates.

• Additional penalties for undue delay of medical treatment.

• Further transparency requirements for self-insured employers.

• Reclassifying hip and shoulder injuries so that they are considered to be injuries to the leg and arm.

• Clarifies the American Medical American impairment rating guidelines’ use in the determination of Permanent Partial Disability benefits.

Again, the laws don’t have any effect unless they make it past the Governor. While the odds of that happening at this point are slim, both sides in Springfield agree that the Workers’ Compensation system isn’t perfect, and the bill passed on Friday can, at least, give insight into the Democrats’ negotiating position.

– Travis J. Dunn, Attorney


PRESIDENT TRUMP ‘S MOST IMPORTANT EXECUTIVE ACTION MAY BE HIS STAMP ON THE HIGH COURT

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Justice Antonin Scalia was the intellectual leader of the conservative bloc of the United States Supreme Court. As has been discussed at length in the media, he died suddenly last year leaving the high court without a full complement of justices.

Republicans and Democrats alike were keenly aware that the replacement of Justice Scalia would likely shift the balance of power on the court.

Ultimately President’s first action of substance was nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch. Judge Gorsuch is widely admired in judicial circles, despite what has been reported in the media. Being only 49 years old he is likely to keep the majority of the court conservative for years to come.

Perhaps more importantly though is the rumor that 80year old Justice Anthony Kennedy may resign this year.

Justice Kennedy has long been considered a moderate and a swing vote on the court. Many court observers say he will step down this year. If so that will give the President a second nomination in a relative short period and allows the conservative bloc of the court to solidify.

This year the court takes up many controversial issues such as whether the Second Amendment permits citizens to carry guns, even when state laws prohibit the same.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a member of the liberal wing of the court is 83 and has been in ill health for many years. It seems unlikely that she will continue to serve on the court for the President’s entire term giving him the opportunity to make a third appointment, all of which will have an impact on the direction of the court years after President Trump leaves office.

Much has been made of his stance on immigration, the legality of which may ultimately be decided by his nominees. Likewise the news has been filled with discussions of tax reform and repeal of Obama Care, the rebuilding of the military and punishment of cities and states that violate federal law by harboring illegal immigrants, but it may be that Trump’s most lasting impact is the one he has on the Supreme Court.

 

– Dennis Both, Attorney


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