On February 13, 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced Michaels Stores agreed to enter into a consent decree and pay $1.5 million in a settlement agreement over its shattering glass vases. For more information about the initial complaint, filed April 21, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, by the Department of Justice, visit our previous blog HERE.

According to the Department of Justice, Michaels sold approximately 200,000 glass 20 inch vases between 2006 and 2010 in the United States and Canada that had the propensity to shatter and cause serious injuries. According to the lawsuit, the glass vases’ walls were too thin and could not withstand the pressure of normal handling. An engineering consultant utilized in one of Attorney John Malm’s cases discovered that vases being sold in Michaels’ stores were constructed of glass thinner than that in an ordinary light bulb. In at least one case wherein a glass vase shattered, a victim suffered permanent nerve damage. Several other customers suffered injuries requiring extensive surgery. According to the Department of Justice’s complaint, Michaels knew as early as 2007 that at least one customer had been injured by a glass vase, and at least four customers had been injured in the first half of 2009. Michaels did not report the glass vases’ safety issues and customers’ injuries until 2010, thereby violating the Consumer Product Safety Act. When it finally reported the vases’ safety issues, Michaels’ report was purposefully incomplete and misleading to avoid responsibility for the recall of the vases.

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Last week, a Tesla Model S smashed into the back of a firetruck at a high rate of speed on a highway near Culver City, California. The firetruck was stopped for an accident on the highway. The driver of the Tesla reported that he had been using Tesla’s autopilot driver assistance system at the time of the crash and the autopilot system did not apply the vehicle’s brakes. Luckily, no one was injured as a result of the crash. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is currently investigating the crash.

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Every year, people are injured by unsafe and defective products.  Product Liability Law concerns cases in which a person is injured by a defective product. What is product liability? See our previous blog HERE for a breakdown on the basics of product liability.

In Illinois, there are two main ways of proving a product liability case:

  1. Consumer-Expectation Test:

Under the consumer-expectation test, a plaintiff must establish what an ordinary consumer purchasing the product would expect about the product and its safety.  This standard applies the objective view of the normal, average expectations of a reasonable person. This test does not apply the subjective expectations of the actual purchasing consumer. Calles v. Scripto-Tokai Corp., 224 Ill.2d 247,254 (2007). The consumer-expectation test allows for easy application by the average juror. Each juror can determine what an ordinary person purchasing the product in question would expect of that product and its safety.

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As a car accident lawyer, I am always looking at what makes us less safe on the road. At the top of this list is distracted driving. In Illinois, drivers are generally allowed to use cell phones, but are prohibited from using cell phones, hand held or otherwise, when driving in a school zone or when driving in a highway construction zone. Recently, Illinois tightened these restrictions and prohibited all hand held cell phone use while driving.

Texting – the most dangerous form of distracted driving – has long been prohibited in Illinois. Exceptions to the prohibition from texting while driving are quite limited: reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation; using a device in hands-free or voice-activated mode; if the driver is parked on the shoulder of a roadway; or when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park. Absent an exception, texting is prohibited.
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Most people pay little attention to the furniture in their homes or workplaces, expecting items such as tables and chairs to serve their intended purpose. However, the most basic pieces of furniture can sometimes be defective, causing serious injuries or even death. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, unstable furniture was the cause of some 43,000 emergency room visits between 2008 and 2010. The culprits included items such as household chairs, office chairs, medical equipment chairs and beds, televisions, bar stools, bunk beds, and futons.

If you have been injured by defective furniture, you may have legal options in the area of product liability. Furniture manufacturers and retailers bear responsibility to consumers for the safe design and construction of their products. If a product is known to cause injury, these manufacturers and sellers are required by law to warn the public of potentially defective furniture. Retailers with a failure to warn of risks associated with their products are subject to heavy fines, as is the case with Office Depot.
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The Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Department of Justice jointly announced their filing of litigation against Michaels Stores Inc. over defective glass vases. The complaint, filed April 21, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, alleges that the craft store giant knowingly violated the Consumer Product Safety Act’s reporting requirements concerning glass vases both manufactured by and sold by Michaels Stores retail outlets.

According to the Justice Department, Michaels purportedly did not report significant information regarding the safety risks associated with the product. Additionally, when Michaels did provide a report to the CPSC, it neglected to inform the agency that not only did it sell the vases, it also imported them directly, allowing the company to avoid legal responsibility with regard to recalls.
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Transit is an alternative form of transportation, in addition to walking and biking, which the City of Naperville continues to explore and develop as part of its Comprehensive Transportation Plan. A well-developed transit system makes the City of Naperville and the surrounding DuPage Country and Will County area increasingly accessible to local residents. A transit system is desirable because it reduces traffic congestion, a problem which plagues Naperville’s growing population, which is predicted to increase to 155,000 by the year 2020 (approximately 100,000 Napervillians live in DuPage County, while about 45,000 reside in Will County) and has the potential to reduce automobile trips and thus reduce congestion, air pollution, wear and tear on roads and injury-producing car accidents.

For many in Naperville, public transit is a safe and an essential part of day-to-day life, carrying people from schools, to jobs, and to grocery stores. Such transportation services available to the public typically fall within two categories: generalized and specialized. Generalized transit, for example, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Metra, is available to the public and may include rail and bus services. Specialized transit on the other hand often includes car pools, school buses, and shuttles, and may have eligibility requirements.
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Each year, many people are seriously injured by unsafe and dangerous products. But some are unaware that they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. What is a product liability claim? Product liability cases arise when a defective product suddenly causes an injury.

According to public policy, consumers should not have to worry about whether a product they buy or use is dangerous due to a defect of design, improper manufacturing, or an inadequate warning label about the possible dangers of using the product. When people are injured by defectively designed or poorly manufactured products, companies that make or sell the dangerous product can be held responsible. Product liability claims or lawsuits not only help compensate the injured victim, but also protect other consumers by alerting the public about the product’s dangers, which may not be well known. Product liability laws help prevent others from suffering similar injuries.
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Each day, approximately 1000 Americans visit the emergency room for dog bite injuries. While dogs are still considered to be “man’s best friend,” the fact is that dogs can cause serious harm to humans. Research has shown that certain dog breeds may be more dangerous than others. Some of the most popular dog breeds in Illinois are also among some of the most dangerous. CBS News recently ranked some of the most popular household dog breeds: German Shepherds, Bulldogs, Boxers, Dobermans, Poodles, Rottweilers, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Siberian Huskies, Schnauzers, and Great Danes as being among the top twenty most popular breeds. In Chicago particularly, German Shepherds and Bulldogs are among the top five most popular household breeds.

These breeds are also among the most dangerous dog breeds, including Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Huskies, Great Danes, Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Bulldogs. A research study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) also lists these same breeds and cross-breed mixes among the most commonly involved in dog bite-related human fatalities. The study points out that children, usually between the ages of 5 and 9 years old, are most often the victims of dog bites, with the majority of dog attacks occurring in the dog owner’s home.
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Illinois motorists may not fully know the dangers of distracted driving. 71% of teenagers and young adults admit to writing or sending text messages while driving, and 78% of teenagers and young adults admit to reading a text message while driving. With the advances of cell phone technology and its growing popularity, the use of cell phones while driving has increased exponentially in the last few years, and so has the risk posed by distracted drivers.

In fact, increased cell phone usage in Illinois has made the problem of distracted driving much worse, leading to more motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that approximately 24 percent of all traffic crashes (about 1.2 million) each year are linked to drivers texting or talking on their cell phones while driving. The NSC also reports that the number of car accidents caused by distracted drivers using cell phones is grossly underreported, so there are actually more car accidents caused by distracted driving than current data shows. Illinois is no exception.
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