Law Offices Of Jeffrey E. Martin, LLC

Supreme Court Rules Six-Person Civil Jury Law Unconstitutional

The Illinois Supreme Court today issued an opinion striking down a law that cut civil juries in half. The law would also have hiked juror pay.

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ABA Journal Article Underlines Importance of Vigilance for Families of Nursing Home Residents

An article in the August 2016 American Bar Association Journal discusses whether regulatory fines and nursing home litigation improves nursing home care. Essentially, the article concludes that both fines and lawsuits against nursing homes do not significantly improve care. Nursing home owners use tactics to separate their corporations and negotiate with state regulators to decrease fines when violations are found. The appeal of fines imposed by state regulators can take years to resolve and may ultimately be reduced through settlement. Most lawsuits against nursing homes settle and frequently include confidentiality clauses that prohibit public disclosure of the facility’s identity and the settlement terms.

This article underlines the importance of families checking on their loved ones in nursing homes to make certain they are receiving proper care. To increase profits, nursing home owners will try to do with the minimum amount of staff resulting in them being overworked and unable to provide necessary care to their residents.  

When selecting a nursing home, checking online sources as to the facilities’ ratings of care and existence of violations is a good start, but insufficient to ensure good care will be provided.  Visit prospective homes to see firsthand how the residents are treated.  Talk to the families of existing residents to get their thoughts on the care and attention provided, whether the facility provides regular activities, do call lights seem to be answered by staff promptly (if not, it may indicate insufficient staffing), and whether the food is varied and flavorful.  See whether the facility looks and smells clean, and whether there seems to be sufficient staff interacting with the residents.  

Once a nursing home is selected, families must continue their vigilance. Steps that should be taken to increase the likelihood of appropriate care actually being rendered to your loved one include the following: (1) Make it known to the staff that you will be visiting frequently and asking questions about the residence. (2) Ask that you be contacted if there is a change in the resident’s medication and/or condition. (3) Ask if the resident is eating and, better yet, be present during meal time to make certain the resident receives sufficient nutrition. (4) Periodically examine the resident’s skin for any signs of breakdown. If you see redness, bring it to the attention of the nurse and ask what will be done to heal the skin. Then, make certain you inspect the skin regularly to see if the treatment being rendered is effective. If the skin condition is not improving, you must contact the attending physician and demand that different treatment be provided. (5) Are precautions in place to prevent falls?  (6) Are gait belts or other equipment regularly used to assist residents during transfers? (7) Get to know the attending physician and speak with him/her regularly to make certain that whether he/she is aware of your loved one’s condition and what treatment he/she has ordered. 

The above list, although by no means complete, will increase the likelihood of your loved one receiving appropriate care and, in the process, hopefully make their stay in a nursing home more enjoyable.

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Medical Errors = 3rd leading cause of death in U.S.

According to an article that appeared in US News and World Report on May 3, 2016, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, causing at least 250,000 deaths every year, indicating that patient safety efforts fall far short.

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Trial Lawyers Were Right: Tort Reform Just Protects Wrongdoers and Their Insurers!

For years, trial lawyers in Illinois and across the country have tried to educate the public to show the fallacy of those who advocate tort reform.  Unfortunately, large business organizations who seek to benefit from limiting injury victims’ rights have spent massive sums of money to mislead the public into thinking that the ability of people who have been injured through the negligence of others to seek fair and reasonable compensation though the courts harms the economy, takes away jobs, etc.   Thankfully, a recent empirical study by individuals at two law schools has shown that tort reform has very little real impact on society other than protecting insurance companies, big pharma, and large corporations from being held accountable for their behavior. 

To read more about the results of this study, click on the following link:

Surviving spouse not listed on reverse mortgage may lose home – unless…

Surviving spouse not listed on reverse mortgage may lose home – unless….

Surviving spouse not listed on reverse mortgage may lose home – unless…

Representing families in nursing abuse and neglect cases, I frequently am called upon to console a spouse who feels guilty about placing his or her mate into a nursing home. For those surviving spouses who seek to stay in their own home through a reverse mortgage, an article in the Sunday, June 21, 2015 Chicago Tribune points out a harsh fact of which surviving spouses might be unaware: a surviving spouse not listed on the reverse mortgage may lose his or her home.  On June 12, 2015, however, HUD changed its policy to hopefully fix this surviving spouse reverse mortgage trap. 

For more information on this topic see the following link:

Warning to Keyless Motorists: Make Sure It’s Off

Warning to Keyless Motorists: Make Sure It's Off.

Warning to Keyless Motorists: Make Sure It’s Off

A disturbing trend was highlighted in the Sunday, June 21, 2015, Chicago Tribune about how keyless ignitions are causing an increasing number of deaths. Although keyless ignitions have benefits for convenience and improved theft deterrence, the risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning from an engine left running far surpasses such benefits.   To learn more, see the following link:

SkyRise Chicago 2014 – #EthanStrong

On November 2, 2014, my daughter, Alyssa, and I climbed 2,109 steps over 103 floors in the Willis Tower to raise money for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  We were on the team hosted by the Northwest Community Hospital Wellness Center.  Our team devoted our climb to a beautiful, heroic young boy, Ethan Sappington, an Arlington Heights resident, who is struggling to recover from the disabling effects of an nearly fatal septic condition after he contracted an infection last September. Ethan suffered organ failure causing loss of blood flow to his hands and feet and necessitating a bilateral amputation of his legs and loss of his left wrist and hand. Ethan and his parents were there with us last Sunday and congratulated us when we reached the top of the Tower.  We watched as Ethan demonstrated what he has learned in at RIC.  Ethan is quite an inspiration and we were so glad that we could complete our climb in his honor.

Thank you to all who donated to our climb.

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The following letter to the editor by ITLA President John D. Cooney appeared in the Madison County Record on June 16, 2014. 

 Facts don’t support I-LAW claims

To the Editor,

Big industry and insurance company lobbyist Travis Akin’s recently published letter was just another spin on the same old tired rant that is full of false claims and distorted facts that he likes to rehash over and over again. He calls Illinois the “Land of Lawsuits” and demonizes our civil justice system by spreading false claims that lawsuits are responsible for keeping business away and our unemployment numbers high. The facts simply don’t support his claims.

Akin never seems to mention the fact that the number of civil lawsuits filed in Illinois has steadily declined since 2007, down nearly 25 percent. Instead he makes false claims that lawyers are filing “junk lawsuits” in an attempt to strike it rich. However, published statistics show injury lawsuits make up only 6 percent of all civil cases filed in state courts. Interestingly enough, it is his big industry and insurance company supporters who file most civil litigation, with nearly 70 percent of civil cases involving businesses suing other businesses or individuals over business disputes.  

Business is thriving in Illinois and corporate profits are at record highs, even though many workers are not receiving their fair share of the growth they are helping create. Just look at the number of major corporations that call this state home – 33 of the nation’s largest companies on the Fortune 500 list are located in Illinois.

A survey done by Career Builder shows that Illinois ranks third in the nation for net growth in private sector businesses from 2009 to 2012 and that our state accounted for 14 percent of all net new establishments in the United States. 

A 2012 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business ranked lawsuits as 71st among the 75 issues that small businesses find important. Taxes, energy prices, and the cost of labor are far more important factors for a company deciding where to locate.  

As the NFIB survey makes clear, businesses are not concerned about “junk lawsuits;” what they fear are meritorious ones – actions brought by citizens against entities injuring people, producing unsafe products, polluting, swindling the public, or otherwise acting irresponsibly.

Our civil justice system is essential in holding reckless drivers, polluters, careless professionals and negligent companies responsible for the injuries they cause. Akin’s true goal, when he is unmasked as a lobbyist for big industry and insurance companies, is to deny citizens access to the courts that their tax dollars fund. The “profits before people” mentality of Akin and his wealthy backers cannot be allowed to diminish the rights of the public who deserve a level playing field in our courts against such special interest groups.

John D. Cooney is President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.