A recent story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune shows the unfortunate truth that individuals seeking to get out of a difficult financial situation can oftentimes find themselves the victims of fraud.
According to the story, Edward Jonak operates a business called Affordable Law Center, advertises under “attorneys” in the Yellow Pages but he is not a lawyer, nor does he employ any lawyers. Instead, for a fee, he will provide forms, referrals to lawyers and typists or find a bail bondsman. The actions skirt close enough to the practice of law that four states have initiated legal action alleging Jonak provided legal advice or illegally prepared bankruptcy documents. In addition to the claims, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota put out a clear public warning about the business describing a “clear pattern of deception on the part of this company.”
As a result of court actions, Jonak has been banned from preparing bankruptcy documents in Colorado; selling legal plans, giving legal advice and preparing bankruptcy documents in the Western District of Wisconsin; providing “any bankruptcy-related services” in the Western district of Missouri or accepting any fees from its residents.
Jonak maintains his innocence and counters that he’s providing a needed and valuable service. His clients can’t afford traditional legal services and Jonak believes the complaints are fueled by attorneys who feel threatened by his business model.
Whether or not Jonak is providing a valuable service or defrauding unwitting customers will be resolved in the litigation, but the warning in the story is clear. Not every business that advertises legal expertise has that expertise and to avoid being fleeced a consumer needs to ask for clear boundaries in the relationship and work to be performed. Bankruptcy proceedings are complicated, technical proceedings that require the skill and training lawyers posses.
Stroller manufacturer Kolcraft is recalling a popular line of strollers after reports of amputations and smashed fingers. According to reports, three children suffered fingertip amputation, and two adults reportedly smashed their fingers in an opening formed when locking and unlocking the hinge mechanism on the stroller. The incidents triggered federal authorities to take a look at the product.
The recall involves the Kolcraft Contours Options three- and four-wheeled strollers. Strollers included in the recall have model numbers starting with ZL002, ZL005, ZL008, ZL015 and ZL018. On the ZL002 model, the number and date of manufacture is printed on a sticker above the left wheel. On the ZL005, ZL008, ZL015 and ZL018 models, the model number and date of manufacture is printed on a label sewn into the edge of back of the stroller seat pad.
The strollers are manufactured in China and sold nationwide at children’s speciality stores and online retailers. Repair kits are being made available to owners of the specific models identified. Consumers are urged not to use the stroller and contact Kolcraft for more information on the recall. Approximately 36,000 defective strollers were sold in the United States and Canada between January 2006 and June 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
These kinds of product recalls can take months, and sometimes years, but the reports indicate both the regulatory agency and the manufacturer are taking prompt measures. Amputations and crush injuries are serious and can lead to a lifetime of related medical issues. This story is all the more difficult because many of the injured are children. Hopefully the recall happened in time to prevent any other unnecessary injuries from happening.
If you have been injured in an accident like this, contact the attorneys at Lord & Faris for a free consultation as you may have rights on the line.
The recession may be waning, but that hasn’t stopped credit companies from taking advantage of consumers. According to the Minnesota attorney general’s office, Discover Financial, one of the nations largest issuers of consumer credit, fraudulently enrolled thousands of consumers into financial products they neither wanted nor needed.
In a suit recently filed by the office, the agency claims that Discover Financial Services used “highly deceptive and misleading telemarketing calls” to trick cardholders into signing up for expensive services marketed by the company as fraud preventatives. Many of these services included ways consumers could protect themselves against unwanted charges.
According to allegations, consumers were signed up after a series of “courtesy calls” that in reality were sales pitches. In these pitches telemarketers first represented that a follow-up call by the company was needed. Discover would then treat this follow-up call as a request to sign up for the new product, even if there was no clear consent or request for the services.
The suit helps place Minnesota at the forefront in taking on the consumer credit industry.
The Star Tribune has the stories of Minnesotans who have fallen victim to these practices as well as the deceptive practices of the consumer credit industry in general. The Minneapolis injury attorneys of Lord and Faris applaud the state’s efforts at cracking down on these practices and protecting consumers, especially in such precarious economic times. If you or a loved one has been a victim of these or similar practices we urge you to contact the state and our offices to discuss your rights.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals handed workers a loss when it ruled that the food manufacturer Jennie-O does not need to pay its workers for the time it takes to put on and take off their production-line uniforms. The ruling upholds a similar finding in Hennepin County District Court that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply to the workers for the practice, known as “donning and doffing” if they are paid overtime at 40 hours per week rather than 48 hours as set by state law.
The case has been in the pipeline for about six weeks and according to the Star Tribune, this ruling could potentially end the dispute. The case has been closely watched in the Minnesota business community because a ruling in favor of the workers could have far reaching effects.
For example, would employers then be required to pay workers for the time spent turning on their computers, or setting up and breaking down a work station.
The class-action covered approximately 13,000 past and current employees, so the loss does have far reaching effects. And this is not the first time the issue has been raised in Minnesota. Two years ago a similar suit against Gold’n Plump Poultry resulted in a $1.2 million out-of-court settlement that effected approximately 3000 employees.
The Minneapolis Attorneys at Lord and Faris understand this is a complex issue for employers. At the same time we understand that Minnesota’s economy depends on treating and paying workers fairly.
In one of the first disclosed settlements, Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to pay $10 million to the family of four people killed in a runaway Lexus crash that led the automaker to recall millions of vehicles. The August 2009 crash killed an off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer, his wife, their daughter and another passenger after their car reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and then burst into flames. Investigators determined that the floor-mats were the wrong size and had caused the accelerator to stick.
According to reports the case was considered among the strongest of hundreds that have been filed against the manufacturer. Toyota and the plaintiffs had tried to keep the settlement amount private, but Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr ruled that the public’s right to know outweighed any concerns either side had about disclosing the settlement amount.
Our Minneapolis automobile accident attorneys are glad to see these cases start to come to resolution. The Toyota recall process has uncovered a lot of pain and tragedy, even here in Minnesota. The manufacturer’s slow response to chronic design flaws made an already troublesome situation far worse, and the fact that regulators were slow to step in only prolonged a process that should have been conducted with much greater speed and efficiency than it was. But what is important now is that the families have the opportunity to find some peace and others who have been injured by the manufacturer find some justice.
The past couple of weeks have been a trying time for this country as the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords and many others in Tucson rattled even those who do not closely follow politics. But if the shooting made us feel vulnerable, Rep. Giffords remarkable recovery has served as in inspiration.
Rep. Giffords has clearly been the beneficiary of some of the best medical care offered in this country. Our brain injury attorneys have been stunned by how quickly Giffords has progressed. Just two weeks after the shooting Giffords has been released from the Arizona hospital to resume treatment in a Houston facility. The facility is one that specializes in recovery from brain and spinal cord injuries.
While the reports have been sketchy, some of the news of Giffords progress is truly astonishing. The idea that she is able to stand, for example, is a testament to her strength and determination. This is a woman who will not be easily defeated.
Minnesota brain injury attorneys at Lord and Faris have witnessed all types of brain injuries and all types of recoveries. Most brain injuries do not come from the kind of senseless violence we witnessed in Tucson, but that doesn’t make them any less traumatic for the victim and their families. We hope that Rep. Giffords story can serve as an inspiration for those suffering from a traumatic brain injury that a recovery can be possible. We also hope her story serves as a point of strength for those family members trying to support a loved one in their recovery. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Rep. Giffords as she faces this next challenge in her recovery.
The health insurance giant Cigna is facing a gender discrimination lawsuit brought for a veteran manager. The woman sued the insurer saying it unfairly blocks female employees from promotions and higher-paying jobs. The suit seeks $100 million in damages and asks for class-action status.
The plaintiff, Bretta Karp, alleged in her complaint that she was denied a promotion last year because she “came across as too aggressive” in an interview. She also claims the insurance company went on and retaliated by taking away her largest territories after she complained about the action. According to the complaint, the company uses its employee-evaluation systems to block female employees from advancing into higher-paid positions by forcing their rank into a bell curve. The effect, according to the complaint, is to bar women from gaining access to the higher-paid positions that are, and have been traditionally held by men.
In a time when the economy is on the brink of recovering and when women now outnumber men in the workplace, these kinds of actions not only hurt the employees, but they can cause real damage to the overall economy. And like many other gender discrimination claims, the allegations uncover a kind of “soft” discrimination, one that is harder to detect and thusly harder to prove in court. But just because these kinds of cases are difficult and try to undo decades of preferential treatment does not mean that they are impossible, just like the fact that a complaint was filed mean the employer is guilty of the alleged actions. The
attorneys at our MN Law Firm hope that, in this day and age, employers understand that when they erect barriers to some employees achieving their all that they hurt more than just the employee.
An automobile accident attorney gets used to news of design flaws and understands that those flaws can prove to be very dangerous. For example, Ford Motor Company became the latest auto manufacturer to issue a recall notice. For Ford the recall affects more than 400,000 Windstar minivans in cold-weather states to fix brackets and mounts which could separate from the vehicle’s subframe causing the driver to lose control. Unlike some earlier recalls, this one is connected with seven crashes and at least five minor injuries.
The minivans received attention after a 28-year-old Massachusetts was killed in October after the rear axle of his Windstar cracked in half, causing him to lose control and crash the vehicle into a building.
The Department of Transportation has also been investigating corrosion problems in the minivans from the 1999-2003 model years, meaning that the recall could be expanded substantially. NHTSA issued a consumer advisory in November asking owners to bring their vehicles to a dealership immediately to be examined for corrosion. Ford said it would notify affected owners in mid-February and dealers would inspect the vehicles and install reinforcement brackets as parts become available. According to the reports, if the vehicle does not pass inspection before replacement parts are available Ford would provide a rental vehicle.
So far the recall is limited to where road salt is used during the winter months. That means Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and neighboring states are impacted by the recall. If you have been impacted by the recall or believe your vehicle may be included please contact the automobile accident attorneys at Lord & Faris.
As the legal profession slowly catches up with the fast-moving world of social media, a few hard and fast rules are emerging. One is never, ever comment on a pending case if you are a juror. Once again comes reports of juror misconduct, this time in connection with a political corruption case. The juror reportedly posted on both Facebook and Twitter that a verdict was imminent in the case of former Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Fumo, and now Fumo’s defense attorneys are arguing that those actions amount to juror misconduct and that juror should have been removed. Because the juror was not removed, the defendants argue, Fumo should be entitled to a new trial.
While that tactic and the relief requested may sound extreme, it is another good reminder as to why the blurring of boundaries that social media encourages is a bad idea for lawyers and even civilians sitting on juries. There is no doubt that a quick update on Facebook venting about a case, a witness or even counsel has a certain catharsis–that’s why jurors repeatedly find themselves in trouble in this area. But the results of those actions bear significant consequences on the lives of individuals and on the resources of the justice system.
Our Minneapolis personal injury attorneys think guidelines and suggestions on appropriate on-line conduct for seated jurors would be very helpful for both the court and those civilians chosen to serve. It would eliminate the kind of procedural posturing seen in the Fumo case and provide clear guidelines for what is and is not acceptable conduct.
It’s been a while since we heard any news reports of cars experiencing episodes of sudden acceleration. But just because the reports have quieted down doesn’t mean litigation surrounding the issue has. In fact, it’s moving right along in multiple jurisdictions and the early reports show the judicial system believes auto manufacturers have some explaining to do.
Take Florida, for example. A Florida judge presiding over a sudden acceleration case reversed a jury verdict for the defendant Ford Motor Co. and found for the plaintiffs because he believed the jury was misled and ordered a new trial on the issue of damages only.
Judge William Swigert of the 5th District in Ocala said he concluded that Ford had concealed or destroyed crucial reports pointing to a possible cause of cruise control problems. The judge conducted a 17 month review of evidence and legal motions and outlined the charges against Ford in what was described as a “blistering” 46 page opinion.
According to reports, Ford service reports that were written by engineers and technicians had identified electromagnetic interference as a possible source of cruise control problems. According to the judge, had those reports been forwarded to federal authorities “the government would have discovered years ago that electronic failures in the cruise control system is a cause of sudden acceleration.”
Instead, Ford presented a defense based on misstatements of important evidence and personal attacks on the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Ford even went after the victims, blaming them for the accident.
If you or a loved one was involved in an accident and think an acceleration problem may be to blame, contact the Minneapolis automobile accident attorneys at Lord & Faris for a free consultation. Your rights may be at risk.
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