Lisa Tam Chung, a Texas high school senior, bought a vacation package through the defendant, StudentCity.com Inc., for a trip to Cancun, Mexico. She added an optional snorkeling excursion as part of her package.

This unfortunate trip had a tragic ending when the snorkeling catamaran hit a coral reef and began to take on water. The crew of the boat was not able to help passengers who were on the boat. Lisa and her friend put on life preservers and tried to reach safety by grabbing a rope that extended between the catamaran and a small private vessel. Their efforts to reach safety failed when they were pulled under water. Lisa suffered heart failure and died. Her friend, Loren, suffered serious injuries, but she survived.

StudentCity is a Delaware corporation that has its principal place of business in Massachusetts. It sells vacation packages to students, including those traveling for spring break or to celebrate graduations.

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Baxter International was sued in a second wave of multidistrict litigation filed by hemophiliacs who alleged that they contracted HIV or Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products. Baxter paid $15 million to settle the lawsuits and then filed its own lawsuit against Axa Versicherung and a German insurance company for indemnification.

During discovery, Axa demanded that the lawyers handling the insurance coverage matter for Baxter turn over its memos and e-mails that it delivered to it. Baxter blacked out or redacted the lawyer’s analysis of insurance coverage issues in the production material it did produce. In other words, Baxter decided to edit the discovery it produced, saying that Axa was not entitled to the legal analysis found in some of the e-mails and memos.

Axa’s motion to compel relied on the Illinois Supreme Court opinion in Waste Management v. International Surplus Lines Insurance Co., 144 Ill.2d 178 (1991), which ruled that attorney-client privilege did not apply to the insured’s communications with its counsel about the underlying tort litigation.

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Trade secrets can be among the most valuable assets of any business. Laws in Illinois and on the federal level have long protected trade secrets.

Before 1995, the protection of trade secrets was based on the common law as defined by the Restatement of Torts. Illinois has adopted the Illinois Trade Secrets Act, 765 ILCS 1065/1, et seq.

The Illinois Trade Secrets Act is modeled on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. There are many instances in which the Illinois Trade Secrets Act could be utilized.

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The plaintiff Stephen Limoges claimed that he suffered significant pulmonary injuries as a result of inhaling the toxic fumes following a chemical spill. Plaintiffs brought suit against three different entities, including Arden Engineering Constructors LLC, alleging that they were individually and collectively responsible for Limoges’s injuries. Mr. Limoges was an employee of the State of Rhode Island as an Assistant Administrator to Facilities and Operations. His duties included overseeing the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) in the state’s courthouses.  The Limoges lawsuit claimed that on August 8, 2008, a pipe that carried bromine in the HVAC system at a judicial complex in Providence ruptured causing a chemical spill.  When this pipe burst, Mr. Limoges rushed to the scene to stop the leak.  Limoges asserted that while he was trying to stop the leak, he inhaled bromine which caused his serious pulmonary injuries.  Limoges’ wife was a party plaintiff in this case claiming loss of consortium.

Arden Engineering filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial level judge granted. Limoges appealed, arguing that that the court made an improper credibility assessment about the affidavit of the Limoges expert and because the judge overlooked material issues of fact that were in dispute. Arden had argued that the Limoges expert’s affidavit was false and that the expert did not provide a basis for his opinions.  Arden maintained that this expert’s affidavit was completely failed to identify one fact which would make Arden responsible, let alone owe a duty to Limoges.

Limoges argued that the expert’s affidavit was sufficient to establish duty and breach, particularly at the summary-judgment phase of the proceedings.

The state Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the plaintiff’s expert’s affidavit, combined with the documents that were available to the hearing justice, raised a material  issue of fact as to whether Arden Engineering was responsible for Limoges’s injury.  The attorney representing the Limoges family was Amato A. DeLuca of Providence, RI.

 

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Missouri’s HB 153 became law recently, supplanting the expert witness screening standard set out in the Federal Rules of Evidence 702, 703, 704 and 705. Missouri’s new expert witness standard  effectively submits expert testimony in most civil and criminal cases to the analysis set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

Until the law enactment, R.S.Mo. 490.065 has set forth the requirements for admission of expert testimony in Missouri state courts. In its present form, the language of the statute has varied significantly from the familiar expert witness standard set forth in the Federal Rules of Evidence and the rules of numerous sister states that track the federal rules.

Missouri appellate decisions have noted on occasion that Daubert and its progeny could provide “guidance” when the federal rules and the Missouri rules match up. See, e.g. State Bd. of Registration for the Healing Arts v. McDonagh, 123 S.W.3d 146, 155-156 (Mo. 2003) (Wolff, J, concurring in part and dissenting in part), and Goddard v. State, 144 S.W.3d 848, 852-853 (Mo. App. S.D. 2004).

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A New York City jury signed a $39.5 million verdict for a 30-year-old woman after she fell through an unguarded “vertical ladder” fire escape and suffered permanent injuries. That fire escape design had long been outlawed under legislation approved by the New York state legislature in 1928. This type of fire escape design is what was known as a vertical ladder.  The 1928 law required that all such vertical fire escape ladders be replaced.  The law was amended in 1948 to require all such models be replaced within a year.

In November 2008, Anastasia “Sasha” Klupchak was a 22-year-old New York University honor student and a varsity soccer player. She was visiting a friend’s fourth-floor apartment on 82nd Avenue in Manhattan. That evening,she joined two friends on the fire escape, which was at the back of her friend’s apartment.

As she turned to climb back through the kitchen window from the fire escape, she fell through an unguarded opening in the fire escape platform. She fell 12 feet to the roof below and suffered a severed spine and is now paralyzed from the waist down. She will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

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Each year, 3,000 people on average die and 450,000 are injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers who are 15 to 19 years of age involved in fatal crashes were distracted when the car, truck or motorcycle crash occurred. The significant safety problem of distracted driving has grown very rapidly over the past ten years.

Without regard to where it may rank on the list of the most distracting and dangerous activities drivers engage in, there is no dispute that using a cell phone, sending or receiving texts, or trying to use hand-held devices while driving are high on the list. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using or manipulating cell phones while driving.

There are three main types of distractions while driving:

  • Visual: The driver actually looks away from the roadway.
  • Manual: The driver temporarily removes his or her hands from the wheel.
  • Cognitive: The driver’s mind is taken off of driving and goes elsewhere.

 

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On July 28, 2008 Mai Leen Aguilar-Santos was injured in a car crash alleged to have been caused by the defendant, Helen Brine. On April 1, 2010 the lawsuit against Brine was filed by Mai Leen Aguilar-Santos seeking to recover damages for her injuries caused in the accident. Mai Leen claimed she sustained injuries to her neck, back and burns to her arm from the deployment of the airbag.

Before trial, the court granted Mai Leen’s motion for partial summary judgment, finding that Brine breached her duty of ordinary care in causing the car collision. Brine then filed an amended answer admitting that her negligence was the proximate cause of Mai Leen’s injuries, but denied that the injuries she sustained in the accident were permanent. Two treating doctors provided trial testimony.

One doctor, Dr. Lim, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that Mai Leen’s injuries and symptoms identified in the medical records were caused by the accident. He said Mai Leen’s condition may deteriorate with age or treatment. Dr. Lim examined Mai Leen recently and testified that she required future and further medical treatment for her pain and problems related to the automobile collision. The other treating physician, Dr. Malek, testified that Mai Leen suffered a permanent injury. Dr. Malek had not seen Mai Leen for 15 months prior to his evidence deposition that was presented to the jury.

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A new law in Illinois prohibits employers from entering into noncompete contracts with employees who earn $13 per hour or less. The Illinois Freedom to Work Act (Public Act 099-0860) became effective on Jan. 1, 2017. The law makes it illegal for an Illinois employer to enter into a “covenant not to compete” contract with any of its “low-wage employees.”

The term “covenant not to compete” is defined to extend to any agreement restricting a covered employee from the following:

  • Working for another employer for a specified period of time.
  • Working in a specified geographic area.
  • Performing other “similar” work for another employer.

Any contract with a “low-wage employee” who contains any covenant not to compete is “illegal and void.” The act is limited to agreements entered into after the effective date of Jan. 1, 2017. The act comes out of the movement to curb employers from locking lower-level employees into unfair noncompeting contracts.

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Donald Etherton was injured in a rear-end car crash. The other driver’s insurer settled with Etherton for $250,000, which was the insurance policy limits. Etherton entered a claim to Owners Insurance Co., his underinsured motorist coverage insurer, which had limits of $1 million. He requested that the company pay up to $750,000, which was the remainder of his insurance policy limit. Etherton’s vehicle had only minor damage, but Etherton underwent three back surgeries to repair disk damage to his spine.

Between July and December of 2009, he communicated frequently with Owners. Owners repeatedly indicated it needed additional information to assess his claim. On Dec. 30, 2009, Owners offered to settle the underinsured motorist claim for $150,000. Etherton asked Owners to explain the basis for the low offer. Owners responded that “our $150k offer is based on the documentation you have provided to date . . . We note serious questions of causation of Mr. Etherton’s injuries . . .”  Many other additional communications between Etherton and Owners failed to resolve the matter. Etherton filed this lawsuit in March 2010.

He first filed his lawsuit in the state of Colorado, which was removed to the Federal District Court. As the jury trial approached, Owners filed a motion in limine under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, seeking to exclude Dr. Joseph Ramos, Etherton’s causation expert. Owners argued that Dr. Ramos’s methodology was not reliable under Rule 702 and Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). After a Federal Rule of Evidence 104(a) Daubert hearing, the presiding federal judge ruled from the bench and excluded Dr. Ramos’s testimony, concluding his methodology was not reliable. Shortly thereafter, Etherton moved for reconsideration wherein the presiding judge recused herself from the case, and the case was reassigned to another judge who granted Etherton’s motion to reconsider. Based upon his review of the Daubert hearing transcript, the new judge concluded Dr. Ramos’s methodology was reliable and he therefore could testify.

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