West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
Bordas & Bordas partner Chris Regan was recently published in the West Virginia Record's "Their View" column refuting an editorial published by The Record. Read on for his views about why all citizens-weak and strong alike-should enjoy the same protection of the law.
February 16th, 2014
The West Virginia Record's recent "Our View" column entitled "Using a spouse's death as a pretext for a lawsuit is not the best tribute" gives us another opportunity to have a frank exchange of ideas. By way of background, a Target employee pushing a string of shopping carts knocked over an elderly man walking in the lobby of the store, causing him to fall, break his hip and die as a result. The Record says "[we] believe that Target should not be blamed for a death that probably would not have occurred if Zink had been young and healthy."
This is a rather silly pet peeve but when I drive to work every morning, I pass one of those barns that are there to collect "goods" for the Goodwill store. Invariably, there are pieces of upholstered furniture there or mattresses or some other things that are beyond use. It's my belief that people have left these items there because they don't want to have to pay to take them to the landfill or don't want to pay the extra amount their refuse collector would charge to haul these unusable things away. I have also driven by this station when people have dropped off upholstered items and it is either pouring down rain or snowing. Sometimes there are also appliances sitting outside the station when it is pouring down rain!
According to the Goodwill website "Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Rev. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of 'a hand up, not a hand out' was born."
Let's get one thing straight at the outset. I don't like insurance companies. I've been practicing law for over 30 years now, and in that time I have seen insurance companies pull every trick in the book, and then some. For the first 8 years of my career, I worked for insurance companies, so I have seen how they work from the inside. Given all of my experience, I can tell you with absolute certainty that insurance companies care about one thing and one thing only: the almighty dollar. They aren't "on your side"; they aren't your "good neighbor"; and you aren't "in good hands" when dealing with them. The insurance companies could not possibly care less about helping you or treating you fairly when you make a claim under your policy (the one upon which you have paid thousands of dollars in premiums over 20 years without ever making a single claim). Insurance companies are big business, and big business is about making money, plain and simple. That is why it was so hard for me to sit down and write this article, because what I am suggesting is that you need to give your insurance company even more of your hard-earned money. You need more insurance.
When you discover that a young person who you have known since she was a child has passed away in a tragic accident, you feel helpless. You want to do something to comfort the family members. What do you do?
Well, back in January of 2013, after Stephanie K. Ward Stahl's untimely passing on November 11, 2012, it was announced on Facebook that Tammy Keller was organizing an Adopt-A-Highway clean up in memory of Stephanie. Through the years, I have seen many of these blue Adopt-A-Highway signs along different locations on roads in memory of a loved one, but I did not know how it all came to fruition.
Welcome moms! Bordas & Bordas is very proud of Stacy Bordas' popular article below -- many thousands of people have been kind enough to read it and comment on it over the past week and the breasfeeding bill is progressing in the Legislature. We wanted to mention, particularly for people interested in motherhood issues, other pieces we've published on how the time flies and paying tribute the incredibly challenging work moms do. One of our paralegals, Darcy Springer, wrote an article about being a grandmother and attorney Jay Stoneking wrote one for all the dads and grandads out there, too.
Welcome, enjoy and stop back again!
Recently, a great deal of attention has been given to breastfeeding laws, and as most mothers will tell you, rightly so. The spectrum of opinions reaches all the way from whether or not you can be prosecuted for indecent exposure because of breastfeeding in public, to what rights you have to nurse your child in a public place, all the way to the passing of Child Rights Laws. What rights, if any, do West Virginia mothers have to publicly breastfeed their child? What laws are broken, if any, by publicly breastfeeding in WV?
I recall during my first semester of law school we were given the topic of whether or not breastfeeding in public should be deemed indecent exposure under WV Law. Our professor assigned us a side to write a brief about and then prepare an oral argument on. I remember hoping that I would get to argue the side saying that it was in fact, NOT indecent exposure, however, no such luck. At that time, I was not even a mother yet, but had hoped to nurse my children someday, and I couldn't imagine that doing so in public could be deemed a crime. Back then, in 2004, the topic was still largely debatable, and hence why it was such a good topic for a Legal Research and Writing Paper. The most interesting thing about the progression of WV Law is that since then, the statute has actually added a clause stating that breastfeeding in public is NOT indecent exposure (provided clause added to WV Code 61-8-9(a) in 2007). This means that a woman can breastfeed her child in public and cannot be prosecuted under the indecent exposure statute. What was once a great topic for law students to debate is now an open and shut case...SORT OF.
Almost four years ago, a massive gas explosion killed eight people and injured 66 more in San Bruno, California. Civil Gas and Electric, the utility that was responsible, has been found to have grossly neglected its gas delivery infrastructure. Nonetheless, neighboring cities are continuing to have problems getting TG&E to set its profit margins aside, do the right thing and repair its delivery infrastructure. The utility has admitted that it doesn't even know the safety status of nearly twenty percent of its gas pipelines, and judging by its track record, even that claim may be dubious.
The conduct of the utility is so egregious and reckless that the city itself had to establish a website called www.gaspipelinesafety.org in order to petition the California Public Utilities Commission to take drastic action against the utility to force it to do the right thing to prevent additional massive tragedies such as the one in San Bruno from happening again. The public petition is seeking to have the state authorities penalize the shareholders of PG&E as opposed to the rate payers, to punish the responsible parties for what happened and try to prevent future misdeeds, as well as to assign an independent monitor to act as a state-wide safety watchdog in the area of natural gas delivery, and, most importantly, to prevent the state regulators who are supposed to keep tabs on the companies' behavior from developing "cozy relationships" and conflicts of interest with the utility companies. A federal investigation identified these "cozy relationships" as contributing factors to the disaster in San Bruno that resulted in so many deaths, injuries and severe burns to the victims.
Close to a million of our veterans, and many active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines depend on food stamps. Those of us who have military experience, or have lived on or around the major military bases throughout the United States, know about the poverty that many of our military personnel experience, a burden that falls very heavily on the children of our servicemen and women. Trivial scandals abound in the news about politician's personal lives or the traffic situation in Jersey, but US veteran and military poverty in the United States is a real scandal. The unprecedented pace of deployments that accompanied the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have only made the situation more extreme, more obvious, and more in need of public attention (and public money).
Mandatory arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of consumer finance, employment, cell phone, credit card, retirement account, and nursing home contracts. Just by taking a loan, a job or buying a product or service, consumers without warning are forced to give up their right to go to court if they are injured by a company. Because the private system of forced arbitration benefits companies - and disadvantages consumers and employees - more and more industries are flocking to forced arbitration to evade accountability. In arbitration, there is no publicly accountable judge, jury, or right to an appeal. The arbitrators are not made to follow the facts or the law, and there is no public review of decisions to ensure the arbitrator got it right. Moreover, contracts typically name the arbitration firm that must be employed. That arbitration firm is typically one preferred by the company. These arbitrators have an incentive to favor the company, as they want to continue to be given repeat business by them.
Most importantly for corporate America, arbitration is now being used to legitimized broad class action arbitration waivers in all types of consumer agreements, including consumer finance contracts. The practical effect is that companies now use forced arbitration clauses to eliminate the ability of consumers to band together, which is often the only means for consumers to vindicate their rights. "The federal law that governs arbitration has been interpreted to the point where it has warped all sense of fairness or justice, and has given corporations a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "The mere existence of a forced arbitration clause and class-action ban in a contract can squash thousands of valid consumer claims and shield companies from being held liable for their misconduct."