The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

April 2010 Archives

Sandra Castrejon filed a negligence lawsuit against her son's 7th grade teacher for leaving her students attended, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Her junior high school son allegedly broke his right femur on Feb. 22 at Chappell Elementary School while the teacher was absent.

The negligence suit, which seeks more than $50,000 in damages, was filed against Chicago Public Schools and the teacher, who was not named in the article.

The teacher left her classroom unattended for "a long period of time" and a fight erupted, eventually leading to her son's broken leg, Sandra Castrejon claims:

"During the fight, someone pushed [the boy] from behind and he fell to the ground with great force and violence, causing the injuries."

Although the Rev. Lawrence Murphy died in 1998, an Illinois man known as "John Doe 16" has filed a lawsuit against the Vatican for allegedly covering up the priest's sexual abuse, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The man was a student at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The deaf school abuse spanned years.

The lawsuit seeks to hold high-level Roman Catholic officials liable for abuse plaintiffs (John Doe 16 and others) say was allowed to continue despite allegedly being told about the deaf school abuse.   

The larger story about Rev. Lawrence Murphy has gotten plenty of play in the national and international press, including this article in the Associated Press. As many as 200 boys at the Milwaukee deaf school may have been molested by the priest between 1950 and 1975, many of whom say they were ignored or silenced when they attempted to speak out.

First-term Chicago treasurer Stephanie Neely may not have the star power of Mayor Richard Daley, who (like most elected officials) faces daily criticism in the press, but the New York Times reported how her threat of a defamation suit against one critic may not get very far. She has retained an Illinois injury attorney and claims that a Chicago police officer repeatedly defamed her in a union newsletter. 

Before getting into the meat of the story, though, it would be helpful to briefly review defamation law.

FindLaw informs us that public officials and public figures (including celebrities) have a much higher standard of proof for libel or slander suits than the average Joe, and they have to prove that the alleged slanderer acted with "actual malice." The point is that the public has a right to scrutinize those in positions of power, which has always been the intended function of the press.

Last week's fatal train crash with Amtrak that resulted in the death of dance instructor Katie Lunn could have been prevented if safety mechanisms had not been deactivated, according to the Chicago Tribune. A Federal Railroad Administration spokesman confirmed that "the active warning system did not function" when Katie Lunn's SUV was broadsided at a railroad crossing and resulted in the fatal train crash. 

A more recent article in the Chicago Tribune reported that a Canadian National (CN) Railway technician who had been working at the site had tried to save the woman when he saw she was in danger, but didn't get to her in time. An investigator requesting anonymity was quoted in the article:

"[The technician] was traumatized as much as someone can be traumatized that he didn't get there in time, and that [Katie Lunn] was so innocent.''

The Sherman Hospital in Elgin, along with a doctor, and a nurse midwife's employer, will pay a $9.5 million settlement to end a lawsuit linked to the 1996 birth of a boy who developed cerebral palsy, the Chicago Tribune reported. The settlement reportedly was reached through the alternative dispute resolution format known as mediation.

Retired Cook County Judge and mediator Daniel Localla told reporters he agreed to the settlement on April 15:

"I thought it was a good settlement for both sides. There was a lot of money at stake but at the same time, the jury could have found the hospital not guilty."

If the Chicago Transit Authority's efforts at better-maintaining its tracks and preventing derailments is successful, as explained in a Chicago Tribune article, there will be less work for Chicago injury lawyers. Up until recently, the CTA relied on the use of large rulers and a good eye to make sure its 224-mile rail system was properly aligned.

A July 11, 2006 Blue Line derailment west of the Clark/Lake station prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to conclude that the CTA needed a better method of maintaining its tracks. That accident resulted in the hospitalization of 150 passengers.

Now, the agency is using a device that looks like a pickup truck mounted on railroad wheels. But the so-called "brain box," consisting of lasers and multiple high-tech diagnostic gear, is a sophisticated piece of machinery that inspects each of the network's 14.2 million inches of track annually.

The possibility of medical malpractice causing serious, irreversible injuries of a newborn child is every new parent's worst nightmare. That nightmare became a reality for the Gurnee-based Arroyo family in 2003, whose son became a quadriplegic as a result of medical malpractice during his delivery, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Stories of medical malpractice like this one makes any parent worry about their own children's safety.

Seven difficult years and countless court proceedings later, the Arroyos have been awarded $22.6 million dollars by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve; on top of a $6.5 million dollar settlement reached with the hospital in 2009.

Cook County Correctional Officer Rubin Lopez (and White Sox fan) has filed a lawsuit against his beloved Chicago White Sox baseball franchise and its security team for a 2009 scuffle in which he was arrested, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. A struggle ensued after another fan allegedly threw a plastic beer bottle over the upper deck during a game between interleague rivals Cubs and White Sox.

As with any legal action, there are two sides to this story. Undisputed is the fact that a spectator began cursing and then threw a beer bottle off the upper deck. Fans summoned security and officers took a Cubs fan into custody, a man Rubin Lopez told security officers was the wrong guy.

Beyond that, it gets a little hazy. 

Heriberto Lopez Alberola claims he was falsely accused of threatening to kill Catholic Charities CEO Rev. Michael Boland, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Rev. Michael Boland and the Rev. Charles Rubey, associate director of programs for Catholic Charities, an arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

In his complaint, Heriberto Lopez Alberola claims the two priests launched a "malicious campaign to ruin his name" and force him out of his new job at the Archdiocese as head of the Office of Latino Affairs.

With a little help from his Illinois injury attorney, he is seeking more than $50,000 in damages. Although he currently works for the archdiocesan chancery, he claims that the priests told archdiocesan lawyers that he was "violent, mentally unstable and dangerous," and therefore should not have been hired to run the Latino Affairs department.

While data supports the conclusion that motorists over the age of 80 have higher accident rates and are more likely than younger drivers (15-24 year-old drivers excluded) to die in a crash, according to a Chicago Tribune article, devising a policy around age requirements for drivers is no simple task.  

Case in point: An 86-year-old woman trying to park at a Cicero restaurant last weekend mistakenly pressed on the gas instead of the brake, injuring three teenagers. Traffic citations were pending as of press time, but it's possible Chicago injury lawyers might also get involved.

On March 24, another 86-year-old motorist crossed the center line and fatally hit 17-year-old Faith Dremmer, who was riding her bike with friends. In both cases it's quite likely the drivers are to blame for the injuries and the one death, but it raises another question.

Should these motorists have been allowed to drive in the first place? In other words, did the system fail them?

Are you sure that expensive French chèvre actually comes from goat milk? How about the integrity of that high-priced, "extra virgin" olive oil? While most foodies would like to believe they can easily discern whether or not a high-end food item is what the label says it is, fraudulent food packaging is hardly new. 

And it's not limited to gourmet ingredients, either. 

An article in the Washington Post reported on so-called "food fraud," a phenomenon that seems to be amplified in this age of increased imports and fierce competition for your shrinking (i.e. recessionary) food dollar.

In the unfortunate event of a serious injury or illness, it's always nice to hear the doctor's diagnosis and a full explanation of the various options for treatment. It's also the law. Understanding what's going on and giving doctors the green light for treatment is called "informed consent," as explained by FindLaw:

The information must be in plain language terms that can readily be understood and in sufficient amounts such that a patient is able to make an "informed" decision about his or her health care.

But if a physician performs a procedure, prescribes drugs, or otherwise practices without informed consent from the patient, he or she can be sued for malpractice or even charged with a criminal offense. Often such situations are charged as "battery," since technically the plaintiff has been touched in an unauthorized way. 

Everyone who knows anything about hockey knows it's a rough sport: The crooked noses, the black eyes and missing teeth adorning hockey players say it all. But who knew the seemingly innocent game of air hockey, played on a table with a smaller plastic puck, could be just as dangerous?

Reyna Mason learned the hard way at a Chicago-area Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant, at least according her lawsuit discussed in Chicago Now's Chicago Bar-Tender blog.  

For those who are not familiar with Chuck E. Cheese's, it's a restaurant chain featuring video games and other coin-operated entertainment catering to children. They also serve pizza; which is probably what Ms. Mason was eating at her booth when the puck from a nearby air hockey table allegedly left the table and struck her in the head.