Adult Supervision is the #1 Way to Prevent Playground Injuries

John Romano of The Romano Law Group in Lake Worth, FL.

John Romano of The Romano Law Group in Lake Worth, FL

By John Romano, a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 200,000 children age 14 or younger are treated in emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries. More than 10 percent of these are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and the rate of TBIs is rising.

Because public playgrounds are numerous and easily accessible, most kids spend their time on these rather than private playgrounds. Thus, the largest percentage of playground injuries take place on public facilities. Monkey bars and climbing equipment are responsible for the highest number of injuries.

But despite the risks, we know kids love playgrounds and benefit from the exercise and social interaction. The good news: Adults can play a key role in keeping kids safe on their favorite playgrounds with these tips and resources:

Keep Your Kids Safe With These Tips

Here are four top risks that cause playground injuries. Click for full size.

  • Areas underneath the equipment, known as fall surfaces, should be made of soft material such as wood chips, mulch, sand or rubber.
  • Inspect equipment for any piece (especially metal) that may be hot from the sun.
  • Watch for hazards or protrusions like bolts, hooks, stumps or rocks that could trip or cut children.
  • Look for neglected maintenance, such as rusty or broken equipment.
  • Make sure kids wear safe clothing. No loose scarves or hoodies with drawstrings, as these can become a strangulation hazard if entangled with equipment. Shoes should be comfortable for play and protect feet, like sneakers. Tie long hair back as well.
  • Make sure there are strong and sturdy guardrails to prevent falls.
  • Your children should be using age-appropriate equipment. Read all playground signs for warnings and instructions.
  • Most importantly, the best way to prevent injuries is parental supervision. Talk to your kids about appropriate playground behavior before you visit the playground and watch them while you’re there.

More Resources for Safe Playgrounds

To ensure your local playground is safe, the National Recreations and Parks Association has a network of Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI). The CPSI certification program provides comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues, including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods. To find your local CPSI, click here.

A thorough playground safety checklist and ranking tool, created by the National Program for Playground Safety, can be found here. If you see safety hazards or poorly maintained equipment, reach out to the owner as soon as possible. In most cases, this will be a school or park district.

Keeping our kids safe while out on the playground is an issue we can all get behind, and one that benefits the community as a whole. So let’s all get out there and have some fun!

What You May Be Missing in the Analysis of your Client’s Insurance Policy

“Knowing the policy language and coverage better than the defense attorney is not a high bar to scale,” says Bruce Heffner.

By Bruce P. Heffner, Esq.

As an insurance regulator and as an insurance company general manager, I was often amazed at what I could only discern as an argument by a plaintiff’s attorney concerning an insurance claim. He had never bothered to read the policy or have a true of understanding of insurance.  Not only was it clear that there was not coverage, but the statutes under which an insurance company must operate contradict the very argument being made by the attorney.

Perhaps my favorite example was when working for a “farm mutual” insurance company. Statutorily, a Texas farm mutual is prohibited from writing any third party liability contract as well there is no third party liability coverage in any policy written by this farm mutual. 

A call comes from the plaintiff’s attorney alleging fault of our property insured being responsible for a fire.  I explained to him that the policyholder had no liability coverage and that the company would not be responding to a complaint.

This same attorney later called with ….  “Where is my money?”  I explained again that the policyholder did not have coverage for which the company will be assuming control of the claim or responding to a complaint.

Next argument from him:  “But he is at fault and caused the fire,” and in fact then sends a local rural volunteer fire report that confirmed that there was a fire but it had nothing else.   I explained again that his property insurance company did not cover his liability and in fact the state statutes prohibit it from writing liability coverage. I then provided him the statute chapter citations.  

He calls again, very upset and that he has never heard of such a thing as a homeowners policy without a liability section, (it was not a homeowners policy, it was a dwelling policy covering only property) and he was going to report the company to the insurance department. Needless to say, the insurance department did not chastise the company for not writing what it was prohibited from writing and I do not know if the plaintiff attorney pursued an uninsured claim. I was, however, curious if this attorney ever heard of FRCP 11(b) in his practice?

Read the insurance policy

Besides moving the claim along faster if you understand what the policy says and can articulate coverage for your client’s position, you won’t look like a fool and subject yourself to sanctions for filing a bogus complaint.

 This is a rather long way of saying:

  1. Read the insurance policy.
  2. In fact, read the statutes for which an insurer must operate.

Insurers are notorious for amending their policies to follow dicta in adverse rulings trying to say just what needs to be said in the new policy, in hopes that future rulings go their way.  Many insurance policies are not written by attorneys. If the policy is written by the insurance company itself or a service, you want to know what the law actually says about what the insurance company must write, its flesch (readability) score and if it was approved by the insurance regulatory body itself. 

Think about it this way, if you don’t  think that judges write opinions at the average juror education level and insurance companies rely heavily on judicial dicta opinion in the policies, the chances of it being “readable” by the jurors is somewhat low.  What efforts did the writers take in making the judge written dicta more readable?  Judicial opinions are for the benefit of the courts and dicta is not the law. If you do the research, a plaintiff’s attorney should be able to out think and out argue the insurer if there really is coverage…that is unless you don’t want to settle as soon as possible with the insurance company.

The logic you are facing

It is the position of mutual Insurance companies that “attorneys across the country continue to pursue anti-civil justice initiatives,” chief among them first and third-party bad faith proposals in state capitols. That is, mutual insurance companies specifically oppose any attempt by trial attorneys to enact laws that would benefit the policyholder after they have had a loss, but may “endanger the economic welfare of the mutual insurer company itself.” (https://www.namic.org/issues/badFaith.asp).

The insurance company’s position is:

What they say: Tort reform is good for the policyholder because it supposedly keeps policyholder premiums lower.

What they don’t tell you: If you get injured, you will not be able to collect your full damages; it changes your constitutional right to sue the tortfeasor and is actually contrary to the “civil justice” we say we want.  

What they say: If the insurance company does not have to pay for its bad faith, your premiums might be lower than if we were held accountable for our wrong actions.

What they don’t tell you: If the insurance company does not have to pay for its bad behavior and wrongly handles your claim, too bad, you as the policyholder suffer the consequences, not the company. That is what insurers mean when they talk about “civil justice.”

Buzzword: commoditization

You are dealing with organizations that have sold a bill of goods to their policyholders based on the premise that policyholders will put up with anything if insurer’s promise that it might lead to lower insurance prices.  Because “civil justice” is argued by the insurer and because insurers run quickly to incorporate dicta into their policies, you need to introduce a dose of logic into the recovery equation for your client and not take part in any fantasy world of illogic, and explain to the jury the reality of the Insurer’s position against its insured.  

Insurance companies have so bought into this argument through price alone to increase sales, that little else matters, including the truth. In fact the buzz word in insurance now is commoditization, when a product is differentiated only by price. (Selling the idea by insurance companies that insurance is fungible)  If only price matters, why then is there any advertisement on service? Have you considered that “accident forgiveness” is really nothing more than prepaying in your rates for the accident?

Joining this bandwagon is the insurance regulator himself, who will post the costs charged by the various companies on the regulator website for a policy without differentiating policy language coverages. If the insurance company with the regulators blessing is focused on nothing but price, do you really think the regulator is actually assuring the insurance company’s service to your client?

Therefore, it is really left to the plaintiff counsel to regulate the behavior of insurance companies, because the insurance regulator is in lock step with the insurance companies. When a state regulator does not in fact truly regulate, then the federal exemptions to the antitrust laws do not apply to the insurance company.   See “Time to Revisit State-Based Regulation?”

Insurance companies should want good state oversight. Clearly demonstrated is the non-standardization of the various states to oversee and protect its policyholders. The failure of some states to actually regulate puts the insurers in that state in jeopardy of enforcing the antitrust laws against them, held in abeyance only by true state regulation of Insurance per the McCarran–Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1011-1015, passed by Congress in 1945.

The McCarran–Ferguson Act does not regulate insurance, nor does it mandate the state regulation of insurance. Section 2(b) of the Act specifies that the business of insurance is exempt from the antitrust laws only if it is regulated by the states. While I understand the logic by some insurers celebrating the lack of regulatory oversight by its state, perhaps an enterprising lawsuit demonstrating its violation of antitrust law applicable by the states’ failures to truly regulate may change that attitude.

The insurer’s defense attorney is not a coverage attorney. Believing that he has superior knowledge of insurance coverage is a mistake. The defense attorney defending an insurer is no more an insurance expert than an attorney defending a doctor is a medical expert.

Knowing the policy language and coverage better than the defense attorney is not a high bar to scale.  Writing a complaint only in hopes to get insurance coverage within the four corners is an sign that you may be wasting your time.  If their loss is clearly covered, and you need to understand what is and is not covered, articulating a rational argument is your best basis for a quick settlement. All other things being equal, an insurer would prefer to argue coverage than damage amount.  If there is no coverage, then damages really don’t matter to them

Having started my career in insurance and then only later in life attending law school Giving a coverage opinion without first reading the policy is a great way to test your own E&O…all policies are not the same.  A wise attorney once told me that medical malpractice claims will drop once physicians stop malpracticing.   So too bad faith claims will drop once insurance companies stop acting in bad faith.


Bruce P. Heffner, Esq., CPCU, ARM-E, ARe, ASLI, CSRP, AIC, has more than  35 years of experience in the insurance-reinsurance industry, regulatory work as Deputy Commissioner and Counsel, and is a licensed attorney in Texas and Arkansas.

11 Surprising Factors that Mean You’ll Get Hurt in a Car Crash

By Duncan Garnett.

The number of traffic deaths and injuries are up by 7.2 percent, according to the US Department of Transportation. It’s more dangerous than ever to on the road. Are you likely to get hurt in an auto accident? Check out these danger factors to see if they fit you.

  1. You are a young guy or an old-timer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At all ages, men had higher per capita crash death rates than women in 2015. Males ages 20-24 and 85 and older had the highest rates of crash deaths, and women ages 12 and younger had the lowest rate.
  2. You are crossing a street on foot in Washington, DC. 15 percent of crash fatalities in 2015 were pedestrians. Pedestrian accidents are up nationwide by 9.5 percent. The percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in Washington, DC.
  3. You drive in one of the 9 most dangerous states: Most fatal vehicle crashes occurred in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
  4. You use a cell phone for any reason while driving. Drivers using mobile phones are 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone, according to the World Health Organization. Hands-free phones are not much safer and texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.
  5. You drive a pickup truck in a rural area. Pickup truck, vans, and SUV occupant fatalities increased by 4.7 percent. Wyoming and North Dakota had the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups.
  6. You drive on the fatal 5 days of the year: July 4, August 2, November 1, October 11, and January 1, according to the IIHS.
  7. You drive during the deadly hours of the day: 3 pm to 9 pm. Saturday is the most dangerous day.
  8. You drive more than 55. Fatalities in speeding-related crashes increased by 3 percent. Speeding where the limit was 55 mph was a contributing factor in 48 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths, according to the DOT.
  9. You ride a motorcycle without a helmet. The proportion of motorcyclist fatalities increased to 14 percent in 2015. In states without universal helmet laws, 58 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 8 percent in states with universal helmet laws.
  10. You drive high or drunk. About one-third (29 percent) of the total fatalities were in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. In the case of drink-driving, the risk of a road traffic crash starts at low levels of blood alcohol concentration and increases significantly when the driver’s BAC is more than 0.04. In the case of drug-driving, for example, the risk of a fatal crash occurring among those who have used amphetamines is about 5 times the risk of someone who hasn’t
  11. You don’t wear a seatbelt. 88.5 percent of drivers do wear seat belts all the time. But almost half (48 percent) of passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in 2015 did not wear a seat belt.

Duncan GarnettDuncan Garnett is an owner of Patten Wornom Hatten & Diamonstein LC in Norfolk, Virginia. If you or someone you know was hurt or killed in a traffic accident, please contact him on his direct line at (757) 233-4550 or via email  at DGarnett@pwhd.com.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds $55 Million Seat Belt Defect

Plaintiff attorney Stewart Eisenberg of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck.

Plaintiff attorney Stewart Eisenberg of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has affirmed a record-setting $55 million jury verdict against Honda Motor Company from a product liability lawsuit involving a seat belt defect.

The plaintiff in the case, Carlos Martinez, is represented by Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck attorneys Stewart Eisenberg and Daniel J. Sherry, Jr.

Following the trial court verdict, Honda appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and contended there should be a new trial for multiple reasons. Honda claimed that the trial court should have allowed Honda to present evidence that the 1999 Acura Integra complied with industry and federal standards.

However, the Superior Court rejected that argument, agreeing with the trial court that the evidence was inadmissible. The Superior Court also determined that the trial court properly charged the jury in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex. Furthermore, the Superior Court rejected Honda’s contention that the jury was improperly instructed on the correct legal standards pertaining to warnings, and refused Honda’s request to reduce the amount of the jury’s verdict.

Defective design

Stewart and Daniel secured the $55 million jury verdict for Mr. and Mrs. Martinez against Honda after a Philadelphia jury determined that the seatbelt installed in the 1999 Acura Integra was defectively designed and caused Mr. Martinez to strike his head on the vehicle’s roof during a low-speed rollover.

This caused Mr. Martinez, a beloved husband, father, and wage-earner, to become a motorized wheelchair dependent quadriplegic who is now forced to rely on others for all activities of daily living. The jury also determined that Honda failed to adequately warn Mr. Martinez of the dangers associated with the seatbelt, given that Honda knew, since 1992, that that seatbelt would not protect occupants of the Integra in the event of a rollover.

When asked for his thoughts on the case, Stewart Eisenberg said, “On behalf of our clients, we are pleased with the unanimous decision by the Superior Court affirming the verdict that was handed down by the jury in Philadelphia almost three years ago.”

Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck has offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, NJ.

Maryland Jury Awards $17 Million to Pilots Killed in Midair Plane Crash

A jury in Maryland awarded a total of $17 million to the families of helicopter pilots killed in a midair collision in Frederick, MD, in 2014.

Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, the contractor that runs the tower at Frederick Municipal Airport, was found liable.

The families of Christopher Parsons, 29, of Westminster, recovered $5 million and the family of William Jenkins, 47, of Morrison, Colorado, recovered $12 million for the fatal midair crash of their helicopter and Cirrus plane on Oct. 23, 2014.

Economists working on behalf of the families estimated that Parsons would have contributed around $3.3 million to the family if he worked until age 70. They calculated the financial loss of Jenkins, president of his family business, Allegany Coal and Land, at around $4.5 million. In a second estimate that included the value of dividends from the company, the loss was as great as $12.2 million.

Midwest blamed the crash on pilot error.

Parsons’ widow, told the Frederick News-Post, “The biggest thing I wanted was for my husband’s name to be cleared,” Ashlee Parsons said. “He was an amazing pilot.”

Archdiocese of Chicago To Pay $3.15 Million Settlement in Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Chicago plaintiff attorney Lyndsay A. Markley

Chicago plaintiff attorney Lyndsay A. Markley

Chicago plaintiff lawyer Lyndsay A. Markley marks another victory as she settled three more lawsuits against theArchdiocese of Chicago, involving the sexual abuse of minors by defrocked priest Daniel McCormack in the amount of $3.15 million.

Markley settled a separate lawsuit representing another victim with the Archdiocese for $2.3 million earlier this year.

Attorney Lyndsay Markley of The Law Office of Lyndsay A. Markley, Ltd.represented the following three victims who alleged that McCormack sexually abused them during their participation in an after-school program, which was ironically named ‘S.A.F.E.’

John M. Doe (15 L 3700) sued the Archdiocese of Chicago in April of 2015. He alleged that McCormack sexually abused him on two occasions on or about the years 2000/ 2001 when he was 13/14 years old. This case was scheduled to proceed to trial in July 2017.

John T. Doe (2015 L 3702) sued the Archdiocese of Chicago in April of 2015. He alleges he was abused on more than one occasion between 2003 and 2005.

John J. Doe (originally filed as 2015 L 6864 before consolidation for discovery and trial with 15 L 3702) sued the Archdiocese of Chicago in July of 2015. He alleged that McCormack sexually abused him during his attendance at the after-school program at Our Lady of the Westside Catholic School. The victim alleges that he was sexually abused on more than one occasion on or about the years 2003 through 2005.

Unfit to work with children

All of the lawsuits alleged that, although the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George had credible information confirming McCormack’s unfitness to work with children as early as 1994, they still allowed him continued access as a teacher, basketball coach and priest. McCormack was not removed from the public ministry until his second arrest in January 2006. He was permanently removed from the priesthood in November 2007 and pleaded guilty that year to abusing five children.

The parties settled these cases on March 17, 2017.  Dismissal orders were entered on John J. Doe and John T. Doe before Judge John P. Callahan of the Cook County Circuit Court on April 10, 2017.

A dismissal order for 2015 L 3700 (John M. Doe) was entered on April 11, 2017, before the Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Chicago-based attorney, Lyndsay Markley (www.lmarkleylaw.com) has dedicated her legal practice to fighting for persons who suffered injuries or death as the result of the wrongful or careless conduct of others. She set up her own law practice in February 2014 after serving as a named, equity shareholder at another established Chicago law firm.

Her awards include:

  • Acknowledgment as an Illinois SuperLawyer for 2017 by SuperLawyer: SuperLawyers & Chicago Magazine
  • 10 Best Under 40 2014-2016 Award from the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys
  • Top 100 Trial Attorneys in Illinois and a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney for 2014-2016 by the National Association of Trial Lawyers
  • A Super Lawyers Illinois’ Rising Star in 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016
  • A Top Women Lawyer in Illinois in 2014 by Super Lawyers and Chicago Magazine.

$11.25 M Verdict Obtained for Family of Young Mother Killed in 2015 Double Fatal Crash

Attorneys Eirene N. Salvi, Patrick A. Salvi, and Patrick A. Salvi II of Chicago.

Attorneys Eirene N. Salvi, Patrick A. Salvi, and Patrick A. Salvi II of Chicago.

A Winnebago County, Illinois, jury award  $11.25 million jury verdict on behalf of the family of a 33-year-old mother who was killed in a 2015 double fatal crash.

Attorneys Eirene N. Salvi, Patrick A. Salvi, and Patrick A. Salvi II of the Chicago personal injury law firm Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. represented the plaintiffs. Patrick Salvi is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorneys.

On February 6, 2015, around 8:45 a.m., an employee of Anderson Automotive, Inc. was driving a 2004 Mazda RX8 westbound in the 5200 block of Guilford Road near Roxbury Road when he swerved into the eastbound lane of traffic, striking a 2001 Ford Taurus driven by 33-year-old Chamicwa Black.

The Anderson Automotive employee was pronounced dead at the scene. Ms. Black was taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, where she later died.

Ms. Black’s son, Jaquan, who was 8 years old at the time of the crash, was taken in by his grandmother, Venus Black. Jaquan has suffered significantly and was forced to transfer schools due to bullying regarding his mother’s death.

Company admits negligence

“Chamwica was a loving and protective mother whose life was cut too short because of this driver’s negligence. Chamwica’s son has had to go through life without the guidance and support of his wonderful mother,” The Black family’s attorney Patrick A. Salvi said. “I am so glad the jury recognized the magnitude of this loss.”

Anderson Automotive admitted negligence for the collision. On Friday, March 31, 2017 a Winnebago County jury awarded the family of Chamicwa Black $11.25 million. The case is Estate Of Chamicwa Black, Deceased, By Venus Black, Administrator; Plaintiff, V. Anderson Automotive, Inc. Defendants, Case No. 15-L-82.

“This award will help take care of young Jaquan and pay for any counseling,” Mr. Salvi said.

The defendant, Anderson Automotive, Inc., was represented by Harvey Paulsen and William Nickol of Paulsen, Malec & Malartsik, and were insured with Sentry Insurance for over $15 million. The defendant’s last offer was $2 million.

The plaintiffs were also assisted by attorney Aaron D. Boeder of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.

Jury Awards $11M Against Center That Let Juvenile Escape, Later Shooting A Man

Plaintiff Dominic Guerrini of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia

Plaintiff Dominic Guerrini of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – A Court of Common Pleas jury awarded $11 million in finding a national health and behavioral rehabilitation chain, Devereux Foundation, liable in the shooting of a Philadelphia man by a resident who had escaped from one of its juvenile placement facilities.

The incident occurred at 2 a.m. on June 23, 2011 as Eric Johnson, now 47, returned home from his job as a nursing assistant and technician at St. Christopher’s Hospital. He was shot in the side as Shykir Crew attempted to rob him only hours after Crew walked out of a Devereux facility in Glenmoore, Chester County.

The bullet fractured several ribs and lodged in Johnson’s spine, where it remains, causing incomplete paraplegia with paralysis that leaves him walking only with great pain and often confined to a wheelchair. He also suffers from bowel and bladder problems as well as post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident.

“I’m happy that Mr. Johnson will be able to now get the care he needs. This verdict will hopefully send a message to Devereux that they need to do a better job supervising these vulnerable residents,” said Dominic Guerrini, of Philadelphia-based Kline & Specter, PC, who represented Johnson with co-counsel Colin Burke.

Scene of earlier escape

Crew was convicted of aggravated assault and related offenses and is in prison. At the time of the 2011 incident, Crew had been ordered to the Devereux facility by a judge because of behavioral issues, including prior arrests for burglary and drug possession.

The Devereux facility in Glenmoore is the same facility from which a 17-year-old boy recently escaped and allegedly went on to attack a 72-year-old woman in her Chester County home. She was found, dehydrated and bruised, after four days, bound and locked in a closet. The teenager was arrested earlier this month.

The Devereux Foundation employs more than 7,000 people and operates a network of clinical, therapeutic, educational and employment programs across 13 states, including Children’s Behavioral Health Services in Glenmoore.

The civil lawsuit claimed that Devereux was grossly negligent and reckless in its supervision of juveniles at the facility and was responsible in part for the injuries suffered by Eric Johnson by allowing Crew to simply walk from the facility, which he had done once before. It noted that the lack of supervision occurred despite the knowledge that the juveniles housed there posed a threat to the community if they left.

U.S. Chamber Pursues Its Anti-Consumer and Anti-Environmental Litigation

us chamber commerce

The Chamber’s litigation supports almost any action to increase corporate profits no matter the effect on workers, consumers or the environment.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has played a leading role in many of the most notorious civil cases of recent years, according to a new report from Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch. Seemingly willing to support almost any corporate litigant, no matter how egregious its conduct, the Chamber uses its busy litigation practice to advance a reactionary agenda.

This evening, the U.S. Chamber’s Litigation Center will gather corporate interests for its 40th anniversary. At the core of the Chamber’s agenda is the notion that big corporations should be above the law. The Chamber litigates to:

  • Limit the right of consumers, investors and small businesses to use the court system to hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing.
  • Limit government enforcement actions against corporate bad actors.

The Chamber’s litigation consistently favors big businesses over small businesses, seems to support almost any action to increase corporate profits no matter the effect on workers, consumers or the environment, and opposes commonsense regulations that would correct market failures.

Egregious examples

U.S. Chamber Watch analyzed approximately 500 cases over a roughly three-year period in which the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center – a Chamber affiliate – was either a plaintiff or an amicus. The cases cited below stand out as some of the most egregious examples of the U.S. Chamber’s devotion to pro-corporate influence and profits at any cost.

What’s more, Public Citizen’s review of the Chamber’s filings in these cases revealed that the arguments it makes in one case often are at odds with the arguments it makes in another case. Indeed, hypocrisy is an almost pervasive feature of the Chamber’s legal filings.

Among the most shocking cases Public Citizen examined, the Chamber:

  • Sided with British Petroleum over thousands of American small businesses in litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chamber filed a total of four briefs in support of BP in Deepwater Horizon-related litigation;
  • Filed an amicus brief in support of the CEO of the company that sold Buckyballs, a toy that injured more than 1,700 young children. The Chamber argued that the CEO shouldn’t be liable for recall costs despite his continuing to have sold the toy once its dangers were widely known;
  • Filed an amicus brief in support of for-profit Corinthian Colleges’ efforts to prevent students it had fraudulently misled from suing it in court. The Chamber supported Corinthian in spite its well-documented history of fraud;
  • Sided with the Canadian energy giant behind the Keystone XL pipeline over American ranchers and farmers who didn’t want the pipeline being routed through their land;
  • Filed a brief in favor of striking down Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage, claiming that it would be bad for workers;
  • Filed an amicus brief opposing Vermont’s GMO labeling law, arguing that it was supported by “fringe” groups and impinged upon corporations’ free speech rights;
  • Filed briefs supporting foreign multinationals in cases involving Nigerian and Papua New Guinean plaintiffs who alleged that these companies had been complicit in gross human rights abuses including rape, pillage and aerial bombardment of civilians;
  • Filed a brief supporting Walmart’s effort to prevent shareholders from voting on a proxy resolution calling for the company’s board to examine its sale of high-capacity firearms; and
  • Filed a brief opposing municipal anti-fracking ordinances.

“By looking at just who the Chamber supports via its litigation, it quickly becomes apparent that the Chamber is not a voice for small business, but rather a force to defend the interests of big business, no matter the cost,” said Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen’s vice president for legislative affairs.

Added Dan Dudis, director of Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch project and author of the report, “BP, Corinthian, Keystone XL, Buckyballs, fracking, guns at Walmart – the Chamber’s litigation truly is a little shop of horrors. The Chamber will defend almost any corporate bad actor, and it doesn’t hesitate to advance often conflicting arguments from one case to the next.”

Read the report.

Philadelphia Police Department Agrees to Major Reforms after Police Shooting

Philippe Holland in hospital bed (1)

Philippe Holland in a hospital bed

When Philippe Holland, a 20-year-old college student delivering food in Philadelphia to make some extra money was gunned down by plainclothes police officers on the night of April 22, 2014, the incident was carried by several local media outlets. When a civil lawsuit was settled recently, the news was carried throughout the country.

That happened for two reasons. For one, the City of Philadelphia agreed to pay Holland $4.4 million, a record for the city involving a police incident and the sixth largest nationally.

Secondly, the city and police department agreed to make real and lasting changes in the way plainclothes officers interact with the citizens of Philadelphia.

A catalyst for reforms

“This settlement will not only compensate an innocent citizen who suffered devastating injuries but also served as a catalyst for significant reforms in the way our communities are policed by plainclothes officers,” said Holland’s lawyer, Tom Kline, with Philadelphia-based Kline & Specter, PC.

Holland suffered gunshot wounds to his head and other parts of his body when two officers fired 14 times into his vehicle as he tried to get away from men he believed were going to rob him. He underwent extensive surgery for his wounds but bullet fragments remain lodged in his brain, causing him to suffer a permanent seizure disorder and other injuries.

 

Attorney Tom Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, PA

Attorney Tom Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, PA

As part of the settlement – a part that Kline had insisted was essential for any agreement – the city and the Philadelphia Police Department will establish a new protocol for things such as proper attire for plainclothes officers, proper placement and display of patrol badges, and permitted and prohibited activities and interactions with the public. That will include how and when to identify themselves as police officers.

 

Also part of the settlement, the city will produce a training video that all new plainclothes officers will be required to watch before assignments and as part of roll call. This must be done, according to the agreement, by July 1.

For more information on this settlement and to view both the federal and state court civil rights complaints, go to www.klinespecter.com/blog/a-police-shooting-an-innocent-victim-a-peaceful-resolution.html.