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Illinois Circuit Court Dismisses Malaysia Airlines Petition on Point of Law

A Cook County Circuit Court judge has dismissed two discovery petitions filed in her court over the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The Rule 224 discovery petitions were filed prior to expected wrongful death lawsuits against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines. Boeing, based in Chicago, built the missing 777. A Chicago law firm filed the petition on behalf of Januari Siregar, an attorney who claims to be the uncle of Firman Siregar, one of the passengers on the plane, and the legal representative for the family.

However, Judge Kathy Flanagan stated that the filing was improper and warned that the court would impose sanctions on the firm if it made a similar filing again. A Supreme Court Rule 224 petition, the judge said, is to be used only to ascertain the identity of a defendant. When at least one potential defendant can be identified, then a lawsuit should be filed (rather than a pre-lawsuit petition).

Even if it had been properly filed, the lawsuit would have faced questions about the plaintiff’s status. According to the Wall Street Journal, a confirmed spokesman for the family of Firman Siregar said that Januari Siregar is a “distant relative” of the man listed as a passenger on the missing plane and is not authorized to represent the family. The Chicago Tribune reported that a spokesman for Firman Siregar’s father stated that the Chicago law firm did not have authorization from him to take legal action.

Also according to the Tribune, the law firm first issued a press release stating that Januari Siregar was Firman Siregar’s father, then issued a corrected press release stating that he was his uncle.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Likely After Park Forest Officer Charged in Death of 95-Year-Old

Cook County prosecutors have charged a Park Forest police officer with felony reckless conduct after the death of a 95-year-old resident of a senior citizen home.

The charges were filed against Officer Craig Taylor. Taylor shot five beanbag rounds at the elderly man with a shotgun after the man allegedly wielded a knife. The senior citizen, John Wrana, began bleeding internally and died the next day.

Police were called to the senior citizen home in Park Forest after Wrana allegedly threatened other residents and struck a medical technician with his cane. The technician was attempting to transport Wrana to a hospital where a psychiatric evaluation was to be conducted. When police were called, Wrana allegedly threatened to stab officers with a knife.

Taylor’s attorney stated that the officer was acting on behalf of his superiors and was not making unilateral decisions about how to handle the standoff.

An attorney for Sharon Mangerson (Wrana’s stepdaughter) said that the family was glad that Taylor had been arrested and that he should have been charged with the more serious crime of involuntary manslaughter. The lawyer stated that the family would “likely” file a wrongful death lawsuit but would wait for the outcome of the criminal case.

In court, a prosecutor said that the officers made the decision to attempt a violent extrication within seven minutes of arriving at the senior citizen home, and that other viable options to resolve the situation were ignored.

Montreal Maine trustee rebuffs wrongful death claimants’ reorganization plan

The bankruptcy trustee for Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd said that a recent reorganization plan — filed by families of people who died when one of the company’s trains derailed and exploded — is “not a serious plan.”

Robert J. Keach, the trustee, said that the plan, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Bangor, Maine on January 29, “will go nowhere” and is “facially non-confirmable,” according to Bloomberg News.

A group of wrongful-death claimants submitted the plan, which would allocate 75 percent of $25 million in insurance to the families of people who died in the July accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Claimants seeking compensation for property damaged in the derailment and subsequent fire would receive the other 25 percent.

Keach said that the plan relies on the assumption that insurance proceeds, a Canadian asset, could be transferred to the United States. An attorney for the official victims’ committee said that proceeds from the Canadian insurance policy would not be turned over to a U.S. court without an agreement between both countries’ courts.

Keach also said the plan would be a bad deal for the majority of claimants. He said the plan was proposed by a “splinter group” not participating in the official victims’ committee, and that it was a tactical move related to their resistance to Keach’s plan to move the wrongful death lawsuits from Illinois to Maine.

Railroad companies ordered to pay back wages to injured workers after whistleblower investigation

After a whistleblower investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency ordered two railroad companies to pay back wages to five injured, suspended workers.

OSHA found that Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. violated federal law by disciplining and/or suspending the five employees after reports of workplace illnesses or injuries. The companies disciplined the workers and suspended them for between one and 60 days with no pay after they reported illnesses or injuries.

An OSHA spokesperson said that companies may not retaliate against workers for reporting a workplace injury, and that this type of retaliation was far too prevalent in the railroad industry.

The companies were ordered to pay the employees compensatory and punitive damages, back wages plus interest and attorney’s fees. In addition, the disciplinary information must be removed from the workers’ personnel files, and the companies must post information about whistleblowers’ rights in the workplace.

Grand Trunk Western was ordered to pay four workers, including three conductors and a carpenter, a total of $85,580. Union Pacific was ordered to pay one worker $11,289.68 along with interest and attorney’s fees.

OSHA is responsible for enforcement of the whistleblower provisions of 22 separate statutes that protect workers who report specific violations of the law in certain industries. Workers who believe they have been victims of retaliation may request an OSHA investigation.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Caseyville nursing home

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a Caseyville nursing home over the death of a resident who developed gangrene and had her leg amputated.

Stephanie Strickland filed the lawsuit in St. Clair County Circuit Court as the special administrator of Carolyn Strickland’s estate. The defendant is Caseyville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Inc.

The lawsuit claims that while Carolyn Strickland was a resident of the nursing home, she received negligent care and developed osteomyelitis, ulcers and gangrene, which necessitated the amputation of her leg. The lawsuit also claims that she developed a post-surgical wound infection and sepsis, which contributed to her death.

The lawsuit claims that the nursing home was negligent in caring for Strickland. Stephanie Strickland, her daughter, is seeking over $50,000 in damages. She is currently represented by attorney Staci M. Yandle. However, Yandle currently has a pending nomination to serve as a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois in Benton.

Nursing home neglect and abuse may be more prevalent than was previously thought. A recent study revealed that more than 30 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. have been cited for abuse. It is estimated that 2.1 million older Americans are the victims of abuse in nursing homes each year. Other evidence suggests that more than 90 percent of nursing homes fail to deliver needed care to residents.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed by wife of toll worker killed in truck crash

The wife of an Illinois Tollway employee who was killed in a fiery crash on I-88 in January has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver alleged to have caused the crash and against his employer.

Sandra Petrella, wife of Vincenzo Petrella, filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. Vincenzo Petrella died in an accident on the Reagan Memorial Tollway.

Petrella was helping with a disabled semi trailer at about 9:45 p.m. on January 27 when a second semi struck the parked vehicles. Douglas Balder, an Illinois State Trooper, was also at the scene, suffered serious injuries. The lawsuit claims that both vehicles were parked in the right lane and shoulder and were flashing emergency lights.

The driver of the second truck has been charged with operating a motor vehicle while fatigued, with driving longer hours than federal rules allow and with falsifying work records. Prosecutors allege that the man had been driving for 37 hours straight when the crash occurred.

The driver and the trucking company that employed him have both been named as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Sandra Petrella.

Her husband also left behind a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son, according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleges that the truck driver was driving while sleep-deprived. He failed to look out for hazards and failed to yield to emergency vehicles. The complaint also claims that the trucking company was negligent in allowing the driver to drive while fatigued and in failing to verify compliance with federal regulations on driving hours.

Transit districts claim immunity in bicyclist’s wrongful death lawsuit

Two Illinois transit districts have claimed immunity in a wrongful death case filed by a woman whose husband was killed while riding his bicycle along a trail.

The Agency for Community Transit in Edwardsville and the Madison County Mass Transit District have claimed immunity under the Tort Immunity Act.

According to the lawsuit, William Beltz was riding his bicycle along Schoolhouse Trail in Madison County when he was struck by a vehicle traveling along Route 111. Beltz died of his injuries. His wife, Mary Beltz, filed the wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that bicyclists must navigate the intersection of the trail with Route 111 by means of a crosswalk lacking signage warning of the intersection’s dangers. According to the complaint, William Beltz had no notice of the hazards he would encounter at the intersection. The lawsuit also alleges that prior to its reconstruction, the Schoolhouse Trail was 560 feet south of the intersection.

In a motion to dismiss, the two transit districts argued that, as public entities, they are immune under the Tort Immunity Act.
The defendants said that local public entities and employees are not liable under the Act for injuries caused by the failure to provide traffic control devices or by the condition of riding trails.

Judge Barbara Crowder of Madison County Circuit Court took the motion under advisement.

The lawsuit seeks a judgment of more than $400,000.

More legal twists in decade-long wrongful death case

A wrongful death lawsuit involving a seven-year-old girl who witnessed her mother being run over by a Greyhound bus has returned to Cook County Circuit Court after more than a decade and more than 25 appeals.
Its legal twists involve allegations of improper conduct by judges, among other factors.

In 2013, the Illinois Appellate Court invalidated a $2.1 million settlement in the lawsuit, which had previously been valued at more than $8 million. The appeals court sent the case back to the Circuit Court, making the unusual finding that there had been unsound rulings by Judge Daniel Locallo, and that Judge William Maddux should not be involved in the reassignment of the case to a new judge.

Maddux had earlier acknowledged a “substantial” conflict of interest because his personal attorney was involved in the lawsuit. However, Maddux did not disqualify himself.

In December, Maddux reassigned the case randomly to Judge James Flannery, Jr. The attorney for the plaintiff objected, saying that the appeals court had instructed that Maddux have no involvement in reassigning the case.

Cristina Zvunca and her mother, Claudia Zvunca, immigrated to Chicago from Romania. In January 2002, they were waiting to reboard a Chicago-bound Greyhound bus after visiting family in Nevada and California. When the bus began moving, Claudia mistakenly believed it was leaving without them and ran to stop it. She was struck and killed. Another passenger grabbed Cristina and pulled her to safety.

Cristina was seven years old when her mother was killed. She plans to enroll in college this year.

Southwestern Electric Responds to Wrongful Death Suit

Southwestern Electric Cooperative has denied allegations brought against it in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Nancy Mechochko filed the lawsuit, claiming that her husband, Gregory Mechochko, was in contact with a concrete mixer as he was working on January 23, 2013, when an uninsulated power line collapsed and touched the concrete mixer. The man died on February 12.

The power line, which was the property of Southwestern Electric Cooperative, allegedly collapsed when it was struck by a track hoe.

The lawsuit claims that Mechochko was working on a construction site in Maryville, Illinois — near the intersection of Lakeview Acres Road and State Route 162 — when the incident occurred.

On September 12, 2013, Southwestern Electric Cooperative brought allegations against Thiems Construction Company as a third party defendant. The construction company responded by arguing that contribution is barred by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusive remedy provision.

Nancy Mechochko claims that the electric cooperative did not properly maintain the power line or the reclosers protecting it. Furthermore, she stated that Southwestern also failed to suspend the line at the proper height. The plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

The electric cooperative has denied that a cause of action has been properly stated or that the plaintiff has suffered damages to the extent claimed.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Police-Involved Shooting

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the city of Chicago over the death of a man shot by an off-duty Chicago Police officer. The shooting took place at a Chicago Housing Authority building on the Near West Side in September 2013.

Jarrod Horton filed the lawsuit in Chicago’s U.S. District Court, claiming that police did not have any reason to arrest or shoot his brother, Marlon Horton, after he left the building as a security guard had requested.

According to authorities, the off-duty police officer, who was working as a security guard, came to the building to assist a female security guard in removing Marlon Horton from the lobby, where he was sleeping.

Authorities say that Horton left, but that the guards confronted him again when they saw him urinating on a truck outside. During the confrontation, Horton allegedly knocked the officer over and pulled the guard’s hair, and when it appeared that he could reach the guard’s gun, the off-duty officer shot him in the chest.

The lawsuit claims that police had no reason to arrest Horton and that excessive force was used against him. The suit claims false arrest, wrongful death, emotional distress and civil rights violations.

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The 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. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg also represents injured people throughout Wisconsin, including Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Madison.
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