In some cases, a subcontractor’s employee who is hurt at work due to inadequate job site safety measures may have limited avenues of recovery. That is not always the case, however. Sometimes, the specific factual details of a case may dictate that the site’s owner or the general contractor may be liable for the worker’s injuries. In one recent case from the First District Appellate Court, that’s what happened. The general contractor had retained control over safety measures at the work site, so, when a subcontractor’s employee slipped and fell on a snow-and-ice-covered roof, the appeals court concluded that the worker should be allowed to pursue his claim against that general contractor.
The ridesharing services Lyft and Uber have become extremely popular in recent years. Users may find these services to be more convenient and more economical than using traditional taxi services. But Lyft and Uber drivers are still drivers and still have the possibility of causing an accident due to their own negligence. Thus, with that in mind, what happens if you’re injured in an accident, and the person who hit you is a Lyft or Uber driver? Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may have a legal claim against Uber or Lyft for your injuries.
Several people have launched lawsuits against the ridesharing entities for personal injury damages or sometimes wrongful death. One of the first occurred in the wake of a fatal New Year’s Eve 2013 crash. Six-year-old Sophia Liu, her brother, and her mother were walking in a crosswalk (and with a green light) in San Francisco when they were struck by an Uber driver who was attempting to make a right-hand turn, according to sfgate.com. The crash killed the girl.
A resident’s recent death at a Chicago-area nursing home has triggered a lawsuit against the facility, according to the Cook County Record. The deceased resident’s wife, who was also the special administrator for the estate of her husband, filed an action accusing the nursing home of his wrongful death. Unfortunately, acts of negligence occur too often in nursing homes around Illinois. In this case, the nursing home staff allegedly overdosed the man on his own medications, and that overdose contributed to his death.
The case arose from the death of John Hobart. After Hobart died, his wife sued Whitehall of Deerfield, the nursing home where her husband was a resident. The nursing home, the complaint alleged, committed negligence by failing to provide proper care to the now-deceased man. Specifically, the nursing home’s staff was negligent by failing to administer Hobart’s medications in a proper manner. Due to this lack of proper attention to the delivery of Hobart’s medications, the staff gave the man an excess of medicine, and, according to the lawsuit, this overdose contributed to Hobart’s death.
The Hobart case is not the only time recently that Whitehall has faced litigation for its alleged negligence. Last year, the Cook County Record reported on a woman named Helen Grilli, who also sued Whitehall in Cook County for negligence. According to Grilli’s lawsuit, Whitehall staff, over a period spanning roughly two and a half months, injured her by practicing careless judgment.
If you travel much, you’ve been there. You’re at the car rental counter, answering the clerk’s questions regarding whether you will or won’t purchase insurance on the car you’re renting. Many people, of course, decline this coverage. So what happens if you’re injured, and the at-fault driver declined coverage on his rental car and has personal insurance with a low policy limit? According to a recent decision from the First Appellate District, your own insurer must pay (if you have underinsured motorist coverage) just the same as if the other driver was driving his own vehicle, rather than a rental.
The Supreme Court Decision of William Bremer v. The City of Rockford, 2016 IL 119889 filed on December 30, 2016 denied William Bremer, a City of Rockford firefighter’s claim for health insurance benefits under the Illinois Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA) (820 ILCS 320/10(a) (West 2008). The Act provides the following:
(a) an employer who employs a full-time law enforcement, correctional or correctional probation officer, or firefighter, who, on or after the effective date of this Act suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty shall pay the entire premium of the employer’s health insurance plan for the injured employee…. Bremer was awarded an occupational disease disability pension under Section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/4-110.1) (West 2004)), based on a Board finding that the preponderance of the medical evidence established that Bremer’s cardiomyopathy resulted from the performance of his duties as a firefighter. Subsequently, Bremer filed for his continuing health insurance benefits under Section 10 of PSEBA which The City of Rockford denied. Bremer prevailed in his Summary Judgment Motion in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County and the City of Rockford was ordered to pay benefits under PSEBA. The City of Rockford appealed and the Appellate Court reversed, denying benefits. The primary issue in the case was whether the phrase “catastrophic injury” in Section 10(a) is also synonymous with an injury resulting in an occupational disease disability pension under Section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code. (40 ILCS 5/4-110.1) (West 2008)). Bremer contended that an occupational disease disability pension awarded under Section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code is a line of duty disability pension because, by definition, it results from service as a firefighter and arises out of the course of employment. Bremer argued that his disability arose in the line of duty as a matter of law and is, therefore, a “catastrophic injury” within the meaning of Section 10(a) of PSEBA. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that it had previously interpreted that the legislative history is such that the legislature intended the phrase “catastrophic injury” in Section 10(a) to be “synonymous with an injury resulting in a line of duty disability under Section 4-110 of the Pension Code.” What remains unanswered is if the legislature intended to limit benefits to recipients of a line of duty disability pension. Why would they have not used that phrase instead of “catastrophic injury” in Section 10(a)? Katz Friedman attorneys Richard K. Johnson and Frank J. Bertuca on behalf of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association in a “friend of the court” brief, argued that the legislature’s interpretation of the phrase “catastrophic injury” must have intended more than just a line of duty disability pension and furthermore that any recipient of an occupational disease disability pension should be allowed an opportunity to establish a right to continuing health insurance coverage under PSEBA. Justice Kilbride, concurring in part and dissenting in part, stated the case should be remanded for further proceedings to give Plaintiff such an opportunity. Frank J. Bertuca commented, “I am thrilled that Justice Kilbride stood out from the majority recommending that Bremer should not be denied the opportunity to present his case. It just seems fundamentally unfair, when there is a chance that he could prove entitlement to coverage.“ Richard K. Johnson stated “the tone of this decision is that the legislature intended to provide less protection to firefighters disabled from heart disease, lung disease and cancer than firefighters injured in a single act of duty. I’m not so certain the legislature clearly intended to deny benefits to these injured firefighters and their families.”
WILL SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS BE SAFER, SOONER?
With all the talk about self-driving cars lately, it is surprising not to hear more about self-driving tractor-trailers. Given that trucking collisions cause massive harm across Illinois Expressways every day, most people would welcome self-driving trucks if we knew that they would make our highways safer or at least decrease the number of accidents. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the number of traffic crash fatalities has surpassed each of the totals for the past 5 years. In fact, Illinois has eclipsed 1,000 traffic deaths even before the start of the final two weeks of the year. Of these fatalities, 247 have taken place in Cook County while each Winnebago, St. Clair, Will, Kane, DuPage, and Lake Counties suffered nearly 40 deaths in crashes.
Many of the motor vehicle crashes that we see on the news or in the courtroom involve tractor-trailers, but the vast majority of winter time crashes occur between passenger cars. For those of us who are not truck drivers, there are many lessons to learn to avoid accidents and to be safe during dangerous weather. Generally speaking, when driving in poor weather, truck drivers put themselves in a position ahead of time to maneuver a big rig around unpredictable drivers who usually have far less experience on winter roads. To do this, commercial drivers are taught to think defensively at all times. Being a defensive driver means that you need to leave a way out when other drivers make mistakes or when a driver notices trouble ahead.
Certainly, we all know that we must slow down on winter roads to prevent needless harm or death, but reducing speed cannot be overstated. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the first rule of winter driver safety is to slow down. When a truck driver is at fault in a winter collision, it is most often because the driver was going too fast even if the crash took place on icy roads. Safe truck drivers compensate for poor traction by slowing down. This includes taking off the cruise control when traveling on wintry roads. Everyone expects that there will be traffic delays during the winter, which means that no one should hesitate to reduce their speed even if it means arriving late for work or if a truck driver is unable to make an important delivery on time. Don’t feel that you’re letting anyone down by not meeting a scheduled appointment. Give yourself extra time when you get on the road in the winter by leaving earlier than usual. Most importantly, use solid judgment when driving during the winter. If the weather is so severe that you feel like you cannot safely operate your vehicle, simply get off the road until traffic conditions improve. This includes if you are too tired from driving in adverse weather to continue to operate your vehicle safely.
Besides slowing down, there are several other steps that professional drivers take to prevent collisions on our roads and protect the safety of others sharing the highway. The second important safety rule for all of us is to keep a safe following distance. It is important to remember that keeping a safe following distance requires more thought than it seems. For most of us, leaving several car lengths of room between our vehicles and the vehicles in front of us seems practical. However, given the size and substantial weight of tractor-trailers, many professional drivers keep up to ¼ of a mile of following distance while traveling on highways. As a rule of thumb, many truck drivers double or triple their following distance and maintain a 10 second following distance on slippery roads. These rules of thumb would serve all of us well when sharing the roads with others. Moreover, during snow showers that limit visibility, if someone is following the tail lights of the vehicle in front of their car, they are simply following too closely. Thus, never follow tail lights becomes part of the safe following distance rule. Furthermore, another part of the safe following distance rule is to never travel in a pack despite how convenient it may seem. Keep in mind that if the leader of a pack of vehicles makes a mistake, the vehicles behind it tend to make the same mistake, which is why we see so many pileups this time of year.
Any form of litigation can be difficult and may require you to make your case multiple times. In the case of one East St. Louis firefighter, even armed with three independent doctors who declared him to be entitled to a disability pension as a result of on-duty injuries, he had to pursue his case before a board, Circuit Court, and Appellate Court. Both the Circuit Court and the Appellate Court agreed that, based upon the strong evidence in the firefighter’s favor and the flawed evidence against him, the board should have declared him entitled to the disability pension.
Music concerts can be exciting events for the performers and especially for their fans, who flock by the tens of thousands to see their favorite artists perform. This excitement can turn into something much worse when a concert promoter fails to do a proper job of ensuring the safety of concert attendees. A woman who was injured at a Kanye West and Jay-Z concert in Chicago recently won a victory in the First District Appellate Court, with the appeals court giving the woman a renewed opportunity to pursue her damages claim, deciding that the issue of the foreseeability of the woman’s injuries was still in dispute.
When you patronize a business, you probably have a reasonable estimation of which types of risks do and don’t await you. The law says that business owners must protect you against certain risks of harm, but only those risks that are reasonably foreseeable and would not require unreasonably burdensome steps to prevent. In the case of one famous Chicago eatery known for its wild and often belligerent late-night antics, the First District Appellate Court revived a customer’s lawsuit against the establishment, concluding that the restaurant’s “schtick” had an elevated risk of harm and that the owners did not reasonably act to safeguard customers.