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Parents file wrongful death lawsuit against school after daughter’s suicide

The parents of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Public School District, claiming that the district failed to take action to address bullying.

McKenzie Philpot, a sixth grader at Pierce School of International Studies, left behind messages on social media that revealed the extent of the bullying she endured. According to her parents, bullies chased McKenzie, pushed her face up against a fence and hit her with a frozen water bottle. 

According to the family’s attorney, McKenzie’s mother discovered that the girl had hanged herself.

McKenzie’s parents informed school administrators repeatedly about the incidents, the family’s lawyer said. However, the parents claim that the school district failed to follow protocols set by the Chicago Board of Education.

Shortly after the girl’s death, the school district conducted its own investigation and said that no credible evidence of bullying was found.

According to parents of students at Pierce School of International Studies, the school has instituted a new anti-bullying program.

Teen suicide is a significant problem. In 2009, among people aged 10 years and older, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death. Suicide accounted for 36,891 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Smart Cars May Improve Safety, but Will Present Their Own Issues

Automobile manufacturers are now developing autonomous vehicles that promise to save thousands of lives. Despite auto safety advances, each year, more than 30,000 people lose their lives in car accidents. Most of those crashes are attributable to human error.

New safety features address the problems caused when fallible humans are left in charge. Technology such as car-to-car wireless communication, advance crash detection and automatic braking could prevent car accidents when drivers fail to take action quickly enough to stop a crash from happening. 

In the near term, these features will assist human drivers, who will still bear the primary responsibility for operating their vehicles. In a later stage of development, cars may drive themselves, allowing passengers to focus on other things while in the vehicle. Cars may even be able to park themselves, dropping passengers off at their destination before going to search for a parking spot.

Autonomous and semi-autonomous cars may indeed prevent accidents and save lives, but they also raise unique safety issues of their own.

One problem is obvious: computers can fail, and they can be hacked. Giving up control of a vehicle to a computer means that a computer malfunction or a malicious hacking attack could cause a crash. While thousands of lives may be saved by autonomous vehicle technology, it seems likely that at least some injury and loss of life will be directly attributable to the new features as well. 

The situation may be analogous to the early development of air bags. Designed for adults, the explosive impact of air bags ended up causing the deaths of about 175 children and smaller adults in the 1990s, before improvements were introduced. During the same period, air bags saved about 6,400 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Another problem may arise with the mix of autonomous vehicles and human-operated cars that can be expected on the road as the technology is introduced. Research has indicated that human drivers may unconsciously mimic the actions of the vehicles around them. Driverless cars may be able to drive very close together at high speeds with the ability to stop quickly, and human drivers may be tempted to follow suit, driving closer to other vehicles than is safe, given their slower reaction times.

Illinois Teen Driving Deaths Decline

Illinois teen driving deaths have declined, and officials say it is because of more stringent regulations for teen driver’s licenses.

Seven years ago, Illinois put a more restrictive program of graduated driver’s licenses in place for teenagers. Teen driving deaths have dropped five percent since then. According to the office of the Illinois Secretary of State, the restrictions have improved driving safety.

The graduated driver’s license program has three phases.

In the initial permit phase, upon reaching the age of 15, a person may obtain a restricted driving permit, with a parent’s permission. The permit is valid for two years, and it must be held for a period of at least nine months before moving to the next phase. During the permit phase, a teenager must practice driving while supervised by an adult age 21 or older with a valid driver’s license. Each teen is required to complete a minimum of 50 hours, including 10 nighttime hours. A teenager with a driver’s permit must also complete a driver education course before moving on to the next phase.

In the initial licensing phase, available for drivers age 16-17, a teenager may drive unsupervised, but he or she is subject to nighttime curfews. In addition, for the first year or until the driver turns 18, the driver is limited to only one passenger under the age of 20, not including family members. Moving violations during this period may extend the period of time before a driver may move on to the full licensing phase.

In the full licensing phase, there are no age-related restrictions on driving. But drivers age 18-20 who did not take a high school driver education course must complete a six-hour course before they may obtain a driver’s license.

Wrongful death lawsuit dismissed in death of David Koschman

A wrongful death lawsuit over the death of David Koschman has been dismissed. The lawsuit accused Chicago authorities of a cover-up after Koschman died following an altercation with a member of the Daley family. A federal judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said the lawsuit by Koschman’s mother against City Hall, Chicago police and prosecutors was “extraordinary,” but that civil rights violations have a two-year statute of limitations, which had run out.

The lawsuit stems from an altercation that took place in April 2004 between Koschman and Richard Vanecko, a nephew of Richard Daley, the former mayor of Chicago. Koschman fell and hit his head on the street after Vanecko punched him. He died in the hospital 11 days later.

The lawsuit alleged that someone closely connected to the Daley family alerted police that the mayor’s nephew was involved in order to prevent Vanecko from being charged with a crime or sued. The lawsuit, which relied in large part on the findings of a special prosecutor, alleged that police altered official files and fabricated evidence in an attempt to make it appear that Koschman was the aggressor in the confrontation.

However, Nanci Koschman waited until March to file the lawsuit after Vanecko pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter for Koschman’s death. The judge ruled that the statute of limitations began to run in December 2011, when Ms. Koschman asked for a special prosecutor to investigate.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed over one-punch death

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Cook County by the family of a Palatine man who died after he was punched outside a bar and hit his head on the sidewalk.

The family of Ryan Flannigan, 26, filed the lawsuit against Michael Platt, 35. Authorities said that Platt punched Flannigan on the night of July 18, outside of Pop’s Bar and Grill in Palatine. According to witnesses, Flannigan was attempting to defuse an altercation. Police said Platt’s attack was unprovoked. Flannigan died 10 days later. Platt was charged with first degree murder and is free on bond.

Trazom Inc., the corporation that owns Pop’s Bar and Grill, was also named as a defendant, under the Illinois Dram Shop Act, which provides for the liability of a business that continues to serve a patron who is intoxicated. According to the lawsuit, the bar also failed to protect Flannigan. The family seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages.

The Flannigan family’s attorney said that discovery in the case would proceed during the pendency of the criminal case, but the wrongful death lawsuit will likely not be resolved until the conclusion of the criminal case. If convicted, Platt faces up to 60 years in prison.

In medical malpractice case, Illinois Supreme Court defines “Good Samaritan”

“Good Samaritan” laws exist in many states to ensure that people who volunteer to help in an emergency are not sued for damages if they negligently cause harm to another. Good Samaritan laws create an immunity where liability would otherwise exist, so that people are not discouraged from helping others out of a fear of being sued. In Illinois, the statute provides that licensed medical professionals who provide emergency care “without fee” are not liable for damages.

A recent Illinois Supreme Court case tested the meaning of the phrase “without fee.” In Home Star Bank and Financial Services v. Emergency Care and Health Organization, Ltd., the Court unanimously held that an emergency room doctor was not entitled to immunity under the Illinois Good Samaritan Act when he responded to a “Code Blue” emergency in a different part of the hospital.

The case involved a physician working in the emergency room who responded to a Code Blue emergency in the intensive care unit. The doctor attempted to intubate the patient, and the patient suffered severe brain injuries. Plaintiffs sued the doctor and his employer for medical malpractice, and the doctor moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to immunity under the Good Samaritan statute because the patient was not billed for the doctor’s services. Plaintiffs argued that the issue of billing was irrelevant and that the doctor was not volunteering, but doing his job.

The trial court granted summary judgment, but the Appellate Court reversed, and the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision.

Scrap metal recycling facility fined $497,000 after worker’s death

After a worker was killed when his arm became trapped by a conveyor belt, the owner of the Illinois scrap metal recycling facility where he worked has received a fine of nearly half a million dollars for numerous safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that the conveyor belt should not have been running at the time of the worker’s death.

The scrap metal recycling facility is owned by Behr & Sons, which has been cited for previous safety violations at its facilities in Illinois and Iowa. However, despite that pattern, OSHA had never inspected the facility where the worker died until after the incident in March.

OSHA said in a press release that the company has now been deemed a severe violator and will be subject to additional inspections. According to OSHA, the company has shown a pattern of neglecting worker safety and requires a “culture change.”

However, OSHA’s budget has been cut significantly over the years. Statistics show that in 2011, there were not as many OSHA inspectors as there were in 1981, despite the fact that there were twice as many workplaces to inspect.

According to OSHA regional administrator Nick Walters, Behr & Sons let the conveyor belt run at unsafe times because it increased efficiency.

Woman who lost all four limbs awarded $25.3 million in medical malpractice case

A Milwaukee County jury awarded $25.3 million to a woman and her husband, finding that the loss of all four of her limbs was caused by medical malpractice.

In 2011, Ascaris Mayo had a Strep A infection, which causes strep throat. The infection went undetected, resulting in septic shock. Because of the damage caused, the woman’s limbs were amputated. Mayo is a 53-year-old mother of four.

Experts said that the case could lead to a challenge to Wisconsin’s cap on non-economic damages. The jury’s award included $1.5 million for the husband’s loss of companionship and $15 million for pain and suffering. However, Wisconsin law limits such damages to $750,000, and the defense attorneys are expected to ask the judge to lower the non-economic damages to that limit.

The jury found that the doctor and physician’s assistant failed to provide Mayo with alternative diagnoses that would have led her to pursue other treatment. In March 2011, Mayo spent nine hours in the hospital being treated for severe abdominal pain, fever and rapid heartbeat. She was discharged and instructed to contact her gynecologist the next day regarding fibroid issues. However, the next day, she collapsed at home. She was then treated for septic shock, but the vascular damage led to the amputation of all four limbs.

How the Illinois Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund works

Illinois workers who are injured on the job have the right to workers’ compensation benefits for hours of work lost and for medical expenses. If the employer fails to pay the compensation owed, then the benefits can be paid by the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund (IWBF).

The IWBF was created in 2005 to compensate injured workers whose employers fail to pay workers’ compensation benefits. It is funded directly from penalties that employers must pay if they fail to carry required workers’ compensation insurance, and the money is used to help workers who may not otherwise receive benefits due to their employer’s uninsured or underinsured state. Cases are reviewed, and funds disbursed, by the Illinois Division of Insurance Compliance. If there are insufficient funds to cover all the claims that are submitted, then distribution of benefits takes place on a pro rata basis.

Injured workers may apply for IWBF benefits if they have already received a final workers’ compensation award, and their employer failed both to pay the benefits and to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance.

Specific procedures and requirements apply to IWBF benefits. If you were injured at work, consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.

Illinois Governor Vetoes Truck Safety Bill

A bill to increase the speed limit for trucks on some non-urban Illinois highways, which was passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois state legislature, has been vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn.

The trucking industry supported the bill, claiming that a high speed differential between cars and trucks is dangerous. The top speed for cars on nonurban highways in Illinois is 70 mph, an increase from 65 mph that went into effect on January 1, after Governor Quinn signed a measure raising the limit. Trucks in most Illinois counties may travel at the same posted speed as automobiles, but they are limited to 55 mph in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, which the Illinois Trucking Association (ITA) says is dangerous.

The ITA said that it did not support raising the speed limit for cars, because it would increase the speed differential between cars and trucks. It now supports raising the speed limit for trucks for the same reason.

In a letter to Illinois legislators, Quinn said that the increased speed for trucks would lead to an increase in highway fatalities.

Russ Rader, a representative of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that research does not support the idea that a high speed differential between cars and trucks is dangerous. He said that lower speed limits for trucks are safer, as they reduce stopping distance and allow cars to pass trucks more easily.

Matt Hart, the director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said that he expected legislators to call for a vote to override Quinn’s veto.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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