CFPB Will Issue A Report On Mandatory Arbitration

The Washington Post (3/3, Marte, 5.17M) reported that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “is expected to issue a major report next week on what consumer advocates say is one of the leading but most misunderstood ways that companies limit a customer’s rights, people familiar with the matter said.” The practice “is called ‘mandatory arbitration,’ which bars consumers from filing class action lawsuits or taking other steps to seek relief after they feel a company has wronged them.” The Post notes that such arbitration clauses “are often found in the fine print of credit cards, payday loans and auto loans.” Consumers “instead are steered into arbitration, which critics say is a secretive process that is often stacked in the company’s favor and leads to little benefit for consumers. ‘The unfairness here is incredibly widespread,’ says David Seligman, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.” Consumer advocates say that most people”aren’t aware these agreements exist until after they feel they’ve been wronged and attempt to sue a company or seek some other form of retribution.”

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OSHA To Fine Ashley Furniture $1.7 Million For Safety Violations

According to The New York Times (2/3, Abrams, Subscription Publication, 9.97M) Ashley Furniture, a major global furniture maker, is facing $1.7 million in OSHA penalties “to settle charges that unsafe conditions at its manufacturing plant in Arcadia, Wis., led to more than 1,000 injuries.” OSHA “cited the company for dozens of violations, including disregard for safety standards that led to a number of gruesome injuries.”

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Your honor, Your Honor

 

It’s time for a little levity. Kentucky State Judge Martin Sheehan presided over what must have been an incredibly contentious and time consuming civil lawsuit.

In his ruling, which was posted on the legal humor blog, loweringthebar.net, Judge Sheehan expressed his relief that a case has been settled and thereby removed from his dockets.

In his order, Judge Sheehan wrote:

“Such news of an amicable settlement [has] made this court happier than a tick on a fat dog because it is otherwise busier than a one legged cat in a sandbox and, quite frankly, would have rather jumped naked off a 12 foot step ladder into a five gallon bucket of porcupines than have presided over a two week trial … which, no doubt, would have made the jury more confused than a hungry baby in a topless bar and made the parties and their attorneys madder than mosquitoes in a mannequin factory.”

Judge Sheehan concluded his ruling by instructing the Clerk of Court to “engage the services of a structural engineer to ascertain if the return of the [case] file to the clerk’s office will exceed the maximum structural load of the floors of said office.”

Nice work, Judge.

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Bus Company Should Have Been Shutdown Before Crash In Virginia

According to USA Today, hours after one of its buses rolled over on a Virginia highway and killed four passengers, the federal Department of Transportation closed down a North Carolina bus company.  The shutdown came months after the company had been given one of the worst safety records in the United States.  For the past two years, Sky Express of Charlotte, N.C. repeatedly violated federal rules that require bus companies to keep fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel and to make sure their drivers have proper licenses, and medical certificates.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had access to all of the information relating to the company’s terrible safety record, but allowed it to stay in business.

Sky’s Express’ score in driver fitness demonstrates that its record was worse than 99.7% of the nation’s bus operators.  The company had been caught seven times allowing drivers to work excessive hours since October 2009.

According to the USA Today, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on April 12, 2011 proposed shutting the company down after a safety review.  Sky Express appealed the shutdown proposal on May 11, 2011. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rejected the appeal two days later.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Sky Express could not be shut down immediately because it says it had to wait 45 days from when it proposes a shutdown.  Instead of shutting down Sky Express after 45 days, the agency decided instead to investigate new safety concerns.

The USA Today article stated that the Virginia State Police blamed the rollover crash on driver fatigue.  The Sky Express bus was carrying 58 passengers from Greensboro, N.C., to New York City when it ran off Interstate 95 near Richmond, Virginia near dawn and rolled over.  Fifty-four people were injured in the incident.  The driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, was not seriously injured and was charged with reckless driving

The Sky Express collision in Virginia is typical of many bus accidents. A tired driver drifted off a highway causing bus crash in 2008 that killed nine passengers in Utah. Similarly, in Arkansas in 2004 bus crash caused by a fatigued driver who drifted off the road killed 14 passengers and the driver, according to report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood got involved and made sure the North Carolina bus company was finally shut down.  LaHood criticized his own agency by saying:

I’m extremely disappointed that this carrier was allowed to continue operating unsafely when it should have been placed out of service.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation and is in charge of bus and truck safety.  LaHood criticized the agency for stretching its investigation beyond May 28, 2011 and ordered an immediate halt to such extensions, which federal rules allow but do not require before a bus company can be closed.  According to the Department of Transportation, eight bus companies facing closure have received extensions in 2011. It appears that LaHood will clamp down on his agency and will require it to do its job much better.  LaHood stated the following:

There is no excuse for delay when a bus operator should be put out of service for safety’s sake.  On my watch, there will never be another extension granted to a carrier we believe is unsafe.

The safety agency does in-depth examinations of companies that accumulate the most safety violations in random roadside inspections.  It says violations alone cannot be the basis to shut down a company.  The agency targets oft-cited companies for more thorough reviews and can issue a closure order after a review.  LaHood says he plans to propose in December that the safety agency be allowed to close bus companies with excessive safety violations and without a fuller review.

There are numerous examples of passenger injuries that result from driver fatigue.  On March 2, 2011 a bus crashed near New York City killing 15 passengers.  Investigators are looking into whether fatigue caused that crash.  The company operating that bus, World Wide Travel of Brooklyn, N.Y. had five violations of fatigued-driving rules in the 22 months prior to the crash.  Bus drivers may drive up to ten straight hours before being required to take eight hours off, and can work 15 hours, which include non-driving time, before having to take an eight-hour break.  The time-off requirements are not adequate to ensure drivers are sufficiently rested. 

Source: USA Today

For more information, contact Boyd B. Newton at 404-593-2630 or visit us online at http://http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com.

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Read the Constitution

Have you read the U.S. Constitution, including the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights? If not, take an hour out of a weekend and read the Constitution. You may be surprised at what you find. I would especially encourage our politicians to read the Constitution. I am afraid that many of our elected officials, both state and federal, Democrat and Republican, are not familiar with the contents of our Constitution. 

The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution is a part of the Bill of Rights. My profession is based on the rights granted by the Seventh Amendment. That’s why I felt it appropriate to discuss this Amendment to the Constitution in my first blog. The Seventh Amendment gives each U.S. citizen a constitutional right to a trial by jury to resolve civil disputes. The Seventh Amendment states “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

Our right to a trial by jury in civil cases is slowly but surely being infringed upon. In future blog posts, I will discuss the various ways in which the Seventh Amendment is being marginalized. But, to begin with, let’s read the United States Constitution. I have included for your review the first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. 

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Boyd B. Newton PC is a prominent Atlanta Trial Attorney.  To Learn more about his practice and credentials follow this link http://www.injurylawyerofatlanta.com

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