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Posted on in In the News

So-called Workers' Comp 'Reform' Sticks it to TaxpayersThe following letter to the editor by ITLA President Christopher T. Hurley appeared in Crain's Chicago Business on December 5, 2016.

Leave it to the Illinois Policy Institute to promote the fiction that the loss of manufacturing jobs has been driven by the cost of workers’ compensation insurance and to propose, as a solution, a right hook to men and women hurt on the job.

IPI is desperate to validate Gov. Bruce Rauner’s race-to-the-bottom pursuits – demands for changes in state law that would hurt Illinois’ working and middle class families before he will even discuss completing work on a budget the state has lacked for an unprecedented two years – and it is eager to distract from the fact that profits are growing for  workers’ comp insurers.

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Posted on in In the News

Beyond Court: Lawyer Helps Train ER DocsBy , Daily North Shore

When trial attorney Christopher Hurley successfully tried a case on a behalf of a family whose wife and mother had died from sustained hypoxia in a hospital emergency room, he could have stored the case file and moved on. Instead, the Winnetka resident decided to address the underlying problem.

During the trial, Hurley realized the emergency room doctors, while well-intentioned, were inadequately trained. It took the doctors a half hour to secure an airway for his client, who was having an asthma attack. Hurley recognized that with proper training the result would have been different for his client and others suffering similar circumstances.

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Attorney Chris Hurley, ITLAOn Friday, June 10, 2016, Christopher T. Hurley will be sworn in as the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Chris is the founding partner of the Chicago firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., one of the top personal injury law firms in Illinois.  

As the 63rd president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA), Chris will lead an organization of the top trial lawyers in Illinois in its mission of upholding the Constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Illinois, defending trial by jury and protecting the rights of injured consumers and workers.

Chris received his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1981 and his law degree from Loyola University of Chicago in 1984.  He began his legal career at Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, one of the world’s largest law firms.  In 1992 Hurley founded his own firm, initially known at Christopher T. Hurley & Associates, because of his desire to use the trial skills and experience he obtained working with the most respected trial lawyers throughout the country to help wrongfully injured individuals and their families.    

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By Kate Thayer, Contact Reporter, Chicago Tribune

A group representing firefighters and municipalities hopes to revive a law that protects first responders from getting sued by people they try to help. The so-called "public duty rule" dates to the 1800s and provides firefighters and paramedics broad immunity from lawsuits stemming from their on-the-job actions. But earlier this year, a divided Illinois Supreme Court struck down the public duty rule when it took up a case involving the 2008 death of a Will County woman who had called 911 while home alone after going into cardiac arrest and later died.

According to a lawsuit her family filed against the East Joliet Fire Protection District, paramedics arrived at the home of the 58-year-old woman, but when she didn't come to the door they decided not to force their way in because police were not present. The responders eventually returned and entered the home after the woman's husband came home, but by then 41 minutes had gone by since the initial 911 call. The lawsuit alleged that the delay in providing emergency care to the woman contributed to her death.

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Attorney Chris Hurley, Marques Gaines Press Conference, Chicago Personal Injury LawyerMore than 46,000 violent crimes were committed in the state of Illinois in the year 2014. These crimes – which include rape, murder, aggravated assault, and robbery – can occur anywhere, but they frequently occur outside of business establishments. In some cases, the owners of those businesses may be held liable under premises liability laws.

This is most evident in a recent lawsuit filed by Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. against 7-ELEVEN regarding the wrongful death of popular Chicago bartender Marques Gaines. The lawsuit alleges that the convenience store chain did not properly train personnel or provide adequate security during the store’s late-night hours operation. If you have been victimized and were going to or from an establishment, understand the rights and protections afforded to you by law.

Obligation to Provide a Reasonably Safe Environment

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insurance companies denying claims, Chicago personal injury lawyerInsurance companies spend billions of advertising dollars on television ads, radio commercials, and print advertising to convince you that they are trustworthy, that they will be there when you need them. Unfortunately, their marketing tactics are nothing short of deceptive; rather than honor your injury or wrongful death claim, they will do anything and everything they can to wear you down and get you to settle for less than fair compensation. If they can, they will blame you and completely deny your claim.

But their actions go well beyond the dodgy practices of denying claims and getting victims to settle for less; these same insurance companies are also one of the key players behind movements known as “tort reform” – laws and legislation that violate the 7th amendment rights of citizens by restricting their right to a jury trial for their injuries or losses.

Who Really Benefits from Tort Reform?

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concussion prevention, Chicago Illinois personal injury lawyersContact sports are exciting for both the athletes and the fans, but they are also violent and competitive sports that cause millions of concussion injuries per year. While this is known and understood by the medical community, fans, and even the general public, the civil justice system seems to be oblivious to the risks, thanks to their lack of regulations and monitoring of concussions in athletes of all ages. A report from the American Association for Justice seeks to change that for both professional athletes and those participating in sports in schools and universities.

Just How Frequent Are Concussions?

While most people associate concussions with professional athletes in high contact sports, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that athletes of all ages and at all levels of sports experience around 3.8 million concussions per year.  Concussions are also experienced by the general public at a rate of about 2.5 million per year. Falls are the most common reason, but car accidents, falling objects, and assaults are some of the other potential causes.

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arbitration, Chicago personal injury lawyerMost Americans know that corporations who make the products they enjoy are out for profit, and that they often bend the truth to do so. But what they may not know is that, behind those companies, there are organizations that seem to have the public’s best interest in mind. Nothing more than a set of smoke screens and mirrors, these organizations help hide the ugly truth: the corporate world can be an ugly, deceptive, and apathetic to the very consumers who purchase their products. Case in point: a recent blog post from the Chamber of Commerce on the “benefits” of forced arbitration.

What is Arbitration?

Used as an alternative to litigation, arbitration was originally intended for businesses. Similar to traditional courts, only less formal, it gave them a way to negotiate contracts and other business-related deals at a lower cost and in less time. These were collective agreements where both parties possessed similar levels of power, and that kept the playing field even and somewhat fair. But when arbitration made its way into consumer agreements, it became a way to abuse power and keep disgruntled consumers quiet.

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Xarelto lawsuit, Chicago personal injury lawyersWith nearly two billion dollars in sales in the United States last year, Xarelto is now considered a best seller among the category of drugs meant to replace the age-old anticoagulant, warfarin. And why not? After all, Xarelto users are not forced to follow the same diet restrictions and monitoring needed as their warfarin counterparts. Plus, patients only have to take Xarelto once daily. But, then again (as is often the case) not everything is quite as it seems.

Bayer and Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of Xarelto, are currently facing more than 5,000 lawsuits from patients and their families; 500 of those involve Xarelto patient deaths. Their attorneys say that the company knew their drug was dangerous, and that the company intentionally deceived doctors, patients, and even medical journals. Of course, the manufacturers continue to defend their drug, saying it is safer than its competitor, but recent documents suggest that the claims against them may actually hold some truth.

Clinical Trials Under Fire

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dangerous drugs, FDA approval, Chicago liability attorneysOriginally developed to protect consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring and investigating the safety, efficacy, and security of drugs and medical equipment used and prescribed in the United States. But patient advocates, federal auditors, and health-policy experts have been voicing concerns over the FDA’s monitoring and surveillance systems since the 1990s. Now, with the number of defective drug and medical equipment injuries and deaths mounting, lawmakers are looking for a way to step in and take over.

FDA’s Concerning Failures Exposed

Over the years, the FDA has been cited for a number of failures in the way they approve and oversee the drugs and equipment they are responsible for monitoring. Part of the problem relates to outdated or inaccurate data. The system’s self-reporting reliance is another. All lead to one very concerning conclusion: their shortcomings are causing injuries and deaths to innocent people.

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bad drug interactions, Chicago negligence lawyerA bad drug interaction or an adverse reaction caused when one drug interacts or interferes with another drug, is an extremely common issue, particularly among those with multiple health issues. As such, the elderly population is often at the highest level of risk. However, anyone taking more than one medication – even over-the-counter drugs – can be at risk for a bad drug interaction.

So who is responsible if one happens? Is it the doctor that prescribed the medication? Is it the pharmacist that filled it? Or both? The answer is a little obscure, particularly when examining former cases involving physician liability in bad drug interaction. However, as a general rule, they may be implicated for a variety of reasons that may or may not be directly related to whether or not they have a duty to warn.

Courts Divided on Pharmacist’s Duty to Warn

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punitive damages, Chicago personal injury attorneysPunitive damages, which are awarded to plaintiffs when a defendant has acted willfully, maliciously, or fraudulently negligent, are intended to deter similar future acts. Tort reformers and the media often attack this form of compensation, however, claiming it is frivolously and excessively awarded without cause. Yet an investigation of the evidence suggests quite the contrary.

Punitive Damages Rarely Awarded

Although tort reform supporters, lawmakers, and corporations would like the public to believe that punitive damages are increasing in both award amount and frequency, the very opposite is true. In fact, when examining the data from various sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice, it would appear that punitive damages have actually decreased in frequency and inflation-adjustment amount. Moreover, the actual percentage of cases for which punitive damages are awarded has, for the most part, remained stable.

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tort reform report, common claims, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyWhen it comes to the problems in our healthcare system today—be it the increase in medical malpractice liability coverage costs for physicians, or the deterioration of the system itself—the blame often falls to “runaway juries,” outrageous award amounts for non-economic damages, and an overall increase in both the frequency and size of medical malpractice claim awards. To examine these theories, Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) commissioned a report in 2005. The information uncovered might surprise you.

Frequency of Civil Litigation Case Filings Substantially Lower

One of the main justifications in the argument for tort reform, as used by its supporters, is that malpractice lawsuits against physicians are more frequent today than they were several years ago. And, as a result, physicians are facing substantial increases in their liability insurance premiums. While the latter certainly proves to be true, the ISBA report indicates that Illinois doctors are actually being sued less.

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tort-reformFiction can provide hours of entertainment, give us a momentary escape from reality, and encourage us to tap into our creative, youthful self. But there is a time and a place for such fanciful notions, and it is not in the legal arena. So why do tort reform supporters use extravagant, exaggerated, and sometimes even completely fabricated stories when discussing the legal system today? Bottom line: because those stories support their message.

Behind the Curtain of Tort Reform

Tort reform is backed by some pretty powerful players, such as insurance companies, manufacturers of dangerous or defective products or chemicals, and other major corporations, who use their funds to sway people in their direction. Driven by the desire to protect their assets and increase their bottom line, they want to make it nearly impossible for anyone they kill or injure along the way to receive compensation. To achieve those goals, they literally purchase the help of the keynote speakers—government officials, defense attorneys, the media, and other influencers.

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worker protection, Chicago workplace injury lawyersThe difficulty workers experience after suffering an injury on the job is not a new concept; tightening of the proverbial belt has only made matters worse. But the emersion of a middle man—one that is unseen and largely unknown by both the corporations and injured workers they serve—has complicated the system even further. Some even say that the work of these new players are actually creating further burdens for the injured.

The Struggle of Injured Workers

In the state of Pennsylvania, a widow is still fighting to receive compensation for medical bills and funeral costs after chemical exposure on the job destroyed her husband’s brain and health. It has been three years since a judge ruled that the job was to blame. Prior to that, she spent more than four years just compiling enough evidence to prove it. She’s drained their savings, tapped into college funds and an inheritance, and pulled lines of credit just to manage.

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Megabus accidents, Chicago personal injury lawyersPublic transit is chosen by some out of necessity. Others choose it for moralistic reasons. They all come from different walks of life, and from different neighborhoods. But they all have one thing in common: they expect they are traveling safely from one destination to the next. Unfortunately, statistics on Megabus and the CTA Transit system suggest otherwise.

One CTA Accident Every 36 Hours

This past summer, a high-profile CTA crash prompted investigations by the ABC News team. They uncovered hundreds of CTA bus accidents, with an average of about one every 36 hours, and nearly 500 people injured in 2014 alone. A Bronzeville accident in which the bus crossed into the northbound lanes, hitting two parked cars and a fence; another in which a bus crashed into three parked cars and injured 14 people; and two different crashes where the drivers lost consciousness were just the highlights.

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crib bumpers, infant death, Chicago personal injury lawyersCrib bumpers, which have been sold in stores for decades, come in everything from simple, basic designs to patterns that coordinate with entire bedding sets. Unfortunately, these adorable bedding accessories—once thought to safeguard babies—are actually defective products that can be lethal to infants. In fact, researchers recently uncovered dozens of deaths and even more injuries. They are now calling for a nationwide ban.

The Misconception

If you ask most parents why they purchase crib bumpers, they will tell you that it is because protect babies and prevent limb entrapment between the crib bars. The stores that sell them will often recite those exact same benefits. Unfortunately, this is a commonly accepted lie that has been told in an effort to seduce parents into buying a product that is downright dangerous.

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arbitration, consumer rights, Chicago personal injury lawyersDeveloped to protect Americans from government corruption, the Bill of Rights has afforded us with many freedoms. Yet, behind the scenes, Wall Street companies are silently stripping away some of those very same rights with their muddy legal jargon, intentionally deceptive practices, and carefully planted arbitration clauses. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of such practices. It is not until they are completely blindsided that they realize just how much corporations are taking advantage of them today.

How the Legal Landscape Has Changed

Comprised of individual plaintiffs that have banded together, class-action lawsuits are meant to force corporations into admitting their wrongdoings (or, at the very least, paying for their mistakes). They give individuals an effective and low-cost means with which to challenge ill-behaving corporations with seemingly endless resources. Unfortunately, class-action cases have become almost non-existent now that companies have found a way to work around them with arbitration clauses.

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Kia gear shift recall, Chicago defective autoparts lawyerIn a year in which vehicle recalls have hit record numbers, Kia issues its fifth one for the year. This time, the South Korean automaker is recalling 377,000 vehicles because of gear shift defects that can cause the vehicle to roll away or cause an accident. So far, there have been three injuries from the defective car part, but no reported deaths.

Too Much Pressure Reportedly Causes Gear Shift to Break

According to the press release issued by Kia, the gear shifts crack if they receive too much pressure. Once cracked, the vehicles can then shift out of gear on their own. Vehicles affected by the recall include all Kia Sorentos manufactured from 2011 through 2013—a total of 377,000 vehicles.

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deaths and injuries in the workplace, Chicago injury attorneyReported workplace injuries have decreased over the years, going from 4.2 million in 2005 to just a little over 3 million in 2013. Unfortunately, work-related deaths and injuries are still a serious problem in the United States today, a study from Eastern Kentucky University recently revealed. In fact, they estimated that approximately one work-related illness or injury occurs every ten seconds. What is most concerning about this is that many of those accidents could have been prevented.

Most Common Injuries and Illnesses in the Workplace

With a total of 400,090 injuries, overexertion accounted for 34 percent of all non-fatal work-related injury claims. Falls, slips, and trips were cited as the cause for another 296,130 injuries while contact with objects or equipment were responsible for 268,380 injuries. And violence by another person or animal and transportation accidents made up just a little over 10 percent of all non-fatal injuries.

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