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March 2015 Archives

Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Profiled in Leading Lawyers

 Shannon M. McNulty, a personal injury lawyer at Clifford Law Offices was profiled in an editorial piece published by Leading Lawyers Magazine in the Women's Edition for 2015. In the article McNulty talks about her background in criminal justice, her successes and how she currently heads the consumer class action work as one of the partners at Clifford's Chicago-based law firm. The Leading Lawyers Magazine profile is a detailed feature that also touches on the following points - McNulty's devotion to her community, home life as a mother and wife and testaments from her peers. Read the entire piece titled "Shannon McNulty: Shifting from Criminal Justice Legacy to Consumer Class Actions" here.

Three Americans Reported on Board the Tragic Germanwings Flight That Is Thought to Have Been Intentionally Crashed

It is being reported throughout the world that the young co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 intentionally crashed the plane into the French Alps yesterday, killing all 150 people on board. In its wake, grieving families are looking for answers as to why a person would commit such a horrific act. Major news outlets are reporting that the 28-year-old co-pilot from Germany who has been working for the airline since 2013 locked out the captain and apparently deliberately crashed the plane. CNN is reporting that someone manually re-programmed the autopilot from 38,000 feet to 100 feet. Experts say that in the mountainous region, that would only spell one outcome - a crash. U.S. regulations recommend that at least two people be in the cockpit at all times, largely for medical emergency reasons. CNN also reported that only five planes have been intentionally crashed by pilots in aviation history: A summary of those crashes can be read here: Among those who were killed are three American citizens - two from Virginia and another whose father resides in Barcelona, Spain. A world prays for all of the families who lost loved ones aboard that tragic flight. Kevin P. Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices, has spoken to Bloomberg News, Bloomberg television, Canadian television and the Wall Street Journal about the legal implications for the families who lost loved ones in this tragic crash.  Mr. Durkin has taken the depositions of literally hundreds of experts and aviation executives in the course of the past quarter century involving his intensive work in aviation litigation.  He has been discussing the Montreal Convention and other national and international laws that come into play, particularly for the three Americans who were killed on board.

Airbus Plane Crash in the Alps Presumably Kills all 150 Aboard

A world mourns another tragic plane crash in France, killing all 150 people aboard including two babies, 16 students and two teachers from a German high school. Germanwings Flight 9525, an Airbus, reportedly was "obliterated" when it plunged from 14,000 feet in eight minutes into the foothills of the French Alps in southeastern France where it is very difficult to reach, according to rescuers. It is being reported that 144 passengers and six crew members were on board. European officials are reporting that the majority of those on the plane were of German, Spanish and Turkish descent. The captain of the plane reportedly had 10 years of experience as a pilot, including more than 6,000 flight hours on that particular Airbus model. Germanwings became a wholly owned subsidiary of Lufthansa in 2009. The plane left Barcelona, Spain, early Tuesday morning at 10:01 a.m. (March 24, 2015) local time - a half hour late - heading to Dusseldorf, Germany. There are conflicting stories as to if there was a distress call from the cockpit prior to the crash. No piece of the debris is larger than a small car and there is no sign of life, according to CNN reporters, and helicopters have been unable to land in the area. The terrain also is so difficult it is unable to be reached by a vehicle. Apparently search and rescue workers have locate at least one of the black boxes that will help to tell the story of what occurred. To learn more about the crash, go to CNN at:

Takata Air Bag Recalls -- What that Means for You

Almost eight million cars have now been recalled because of the potentially deadly Takata air bag defects. Consumer Reports explains the problem with step-by-step actions you should take now. To view this important information on what cars are affected and other important Q and A's on this topic as well as the latest updates regarding the Takata air bag, click here: Four fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to these airbags.  It is worthwhile to be informed about what this means to you.

Safety Advocate Takes On Guardrail Industry

Industry insider and safety advocate Joshua Harman talks with Bloomberg's Patrick Lee about a design flaw that causes highway guardrails to become deadly spears on impact.  To view the video on dangerous guardrails, click here: The ABC7 Investigative Team headed by reporter Chuck Goudie reported on Channel 7 in Chicago yesterday about a device that is supposed to protect drivers who hit guardrails head-on, but it may not work.  To view his investigative story, click here:

General Motors Settles Initial Case on Faulty Car Ignition Switches

As General Motors reportedly settled the first case that brought the world's attention to the problem of its car ignition switches, yet another case reportedly has been filed that is linked to this problem. GM Ignition Switch Linked to Another Death Jessica Taylor was driving home for Labor Day when her car left the road and flipped several times. Evidence surfaced last year that her car to the GM ignition switch failure that has already claimed 13 lives.   View video here: In the meantime, it has been reported that GM settled the case of a 29-year-old Georgia pediatric nurse who was killed due to the faulty ignition switches.   Terms of the settlement were not revealed. Kenneth Feinberg has been hired by GM to settle hundreds of cases that have been filed linked to this issue, according to ABC News. The ABC story reveals that GM has set aside $400 million in potential payouts to these victims and may have to pay as much as $600 million.

The White House Releases Q and A Interview with the Surgeon General, the First Indiana American to Hold that Position

Get to Know America's Doctor: At 37, Dr. Vivek Murthy is one of the youngest Americans, and the first Indian American, to serve as the Surgeon General -- or "America's doctor." Dr. Murthy recently stopped by the White House to answer a few questions and talk about community health, measles, and his past experiences. Prior to becoming Surgeon General, he trained students to become doctors, founded a nonprofit to combat HIV/AIDS, and treated thousands of patients in the U.S. He also practices yoga daily, keeps unflavored almond milk in his fridge, and wishes he could teleport. Listen to the full interview and get to know America's doctor.    

Some Interesting Numbers on Auto Recalls and Driving Safety

$175 Million A federal jury awarded $175 million to a whistle-blower who questioned the safety of thousands of Trinity guardrail end caps that may be impaling cars instead of slowing them down safely.
10 Makers Ten different automakers were listed in an October 2014 recall notice to replace defective Takata air bags, which have claimed five lives so far. A second urgent recall was also issued in January 2015.
60 Million More than 60 million vehicles were recalled in the United States last year, double the previous record in 2004. GM, Honda and Chrysler each set corporate recall records.

Recalls, Defects Dominate Automotive Headlines for 2014

For the automotive industry, 2014 was the year of the recall. You couldn't pick up a newspaper, turn on the evening news or check your favorite news site without hearing about another new and alarming recall. And unfortunately for car owners everywhere, recalls show no sign of letting up. What's even more concerning is a lapse by automakers and federal regulators in responding soon enough to reports of serious injury and death. Visit Fatal Flaws: Crisis in Auto Safety by The New York Times for an interactive overview of the issue.

Deadly Defects Problematic for the Auto Industry

Industry advocates and safety experts say the recalls are the culmination of years of mismanagement by manufacturers and the agencies that regulate them. Take Justice Back and the American Association of Justice (AAJ) have issued an updated report (download PDF) on the safety improvements made possible by an aggressive search for justice. However, problems still remain, as evidenced by the following examples: GM Ignition Switch Failure - GM's defective ignition switch has now resulted in more than 39 million recalls and at least 13 fatalities, although the death toll could go much higher. GM's failure to fix the known defect, at the cost of just $1 per car, led to an internal investigation, a $35 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), multiple congressional investigations and a victim's fund that attempts to put a dollar value on those lost. Many families are still fighting GM for hiding the defects. Takata Air Bags Accidentally Killing Some Drivers - The recall of air bags made by Japanese supplier Takata has affected 10 automotive manufacturers, more than 10 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 20 million globally. The defective air bags can explode when inflated, shooting metal and plastic shrapnel at vehicle occupants. Five deaths have been linked to the defective air bags so far, and more than 130 others have been injured. Car and Driver magazine has a full list of affected vehicles here. Trinity Guardrails Impaling Vehicles - A jury in Texas recently found that Trinity Industries had defrauded the government by failing to disclose a design change in their guardrail end terminal. The case looked at allegations that the guardrail can malfunction when struck by the front end of a vehicle. According to an ABC News 20/20 investigation, "rather than ribboning out and absorbing the impact as designed, the guardrails 'locked up' and speared straight through the cars, severing the motorists' limbs in some cases." So far, more than 30 states have banned installation of the Trinity guardrail system. Ford Drivers Hit Off Switch Instead of Radio - Ford has recalled more than 13,000 vehicles over a design flaw that causes drivers to accidentally push the ignition switch instead of the radio touch-screen button, bringing the car to a sudden halt. No known accidents or injuries have been linked to the flaw, but Ford acknowledges that it poses a serious safety hazard.

Tracking Airplanes - Can We Do Better?

It's been one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, taking the lives of 239 passengers and crew who have never been seen again. It is one of aviation's greatest mysteries, despite the touting of some state-of-the-art technology to help prevent such disasters. The Boeing 777-200ER weighed about 656,000 pounds and was the length of six school buses. How did it just vanish into thin air? How could air traffic control not keep in touch with its whereabouts? How could experts not be able to find it after contact was lost? It is hard to imagine when the move of a simple package can be tracked nearly hour by hour, but a plane loaded with people still can't be found. Live satellite tracking apparently wasn't turned on in that plane and its route was to be mostly over land where ground-based radar stations could track it. On the news, over and over again, various scenarios played out that probably was not the case. More than a week after its disappearance, experts determined that the Malaysian Airlines plane most likely went down in the Indian Ocean, some 1,100 miles west of Australia. Now, aviation experts and regulators are trying to move forward with a plan that by the end of next year would mean that they would know a jet's position every 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, a jet can travel more than 150 miles. Perhaps this would not solve every tragedy, but it would narrow a search to a more limited area. A formal vote on the new rules is expected by November by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is part of the United Nations. If accepted, each participant country's air traffic regulator would have to accept and implement this change. The second part of the changes to the proposed rules is that any plane with 19 seats or more and built after 2020 would be required to automatically transmit its location every minutes if the plane deviated from its route, made an unusual move such as a sudden drop or climb, or if a fire was detected on board the aircraft. Pilots would not be allowed to disable the system. A world awaits what will happen to these proposals but already Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia announced plans to be among the first nations willing to test such tracking. Every day, there are some 90,000 daily flights around the world. Tracking the move of each one every minute would be quite costly. But saying that to anyone who lost a loved one on Flight 370 is not possible. It's problematic that oftentimes that's just what businesses, including the business of flying airplanes, do - a cost/benefit analysis to determine if it's worth the price. Airline executives examine if it is worth it to invest in tracking devices or cockpit upgrading versus the likelihood of needing the device should such a tragedy happen. Industry experts predict that the 15-minute tracking plan would add about $2 per person to the cost of a long-distance flight. Streaming live data on exactly where the plane is at all times would cost $7 to $13 per minute, depending upon how much data is sent. A world awaits on how the International Civil Aviation Organization will vote because every live counts.

Robert Clifford's Video Deposition Advice

Chicago personal injury attorney, Robert A. Clifford provided specific advice on preparing for a video deposition in his Chicago Lawyer article called "Skill at Taking Depositions Brings Victories in the Courtroom." His advice from that article was shared in a recent American Bar Association (ABA) piece titled "Video Depositions: Essentials, Resources." In the piece Clifford is quoted as cautioning that "long pauses or frequent 'OK's. can become aggravating in a recording." The ABA goes on to recommend using DepPrep, a witness preparation tool to help with video depositions. DepPrep is an electronic tutorial created by LexisNexis that makes it easy to groom witnesses for their recorded depositions. Clifford recently ranked at #76 for the second consecutive year in a row on Chicago Magazine's Power 100 List of most powerful Chicagoans of 2015. Clifford speaks regularly at webinars and workshops for law school students and experienced attorneys. He was invited by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) this year to give the closing arguments at their annual Damages Seminar. As founder of Clifford Law Offices, Clifford sponsored and moderated the Continuing Legal Education program, "The Ethics of Conflicts of Interest" webinar this Winter.

Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm

Clifford Law Offices, based on Chicago, Illinois, is a top-ranked personal injury law firm serving victims and their families nationwide. We provide a glossary of legal terminology on our website to provide a general understanding of legal definitions in the areas in which our firm practices.

Delta Jet Veers Off Runway After Landing

A Delta flight reportedly skidded off of a snow-filled runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport Thursday, according to a report by USA Today. ("Delta Flight Veers Off Runway In Landing At LaGuardia", March 5, 2015). The plane, which was heading to New York from Atlanta and carrying a total of 127 passengers, exited the runway before it plowed through a fence coming to rest just feet from the Flushing Bay, USA Today reported. The incident, which injured 6, but had the potential to be much worse had the plane actually made it to the bay, raised harsh criticism as to why the LaGuardia runway was open with snow and ice accumulation in the first place, according to Fox News. ("Crane Lifts Delta Jet That Slid Off Runway At LaGuardia Airport; Flight Delays Reported," March 5, 2015). The New York times reported that 28 passengers suffered minor injuries, while 5 were taken to the hospital While there is no hard rule for when a runway must be ordered closed due to snow and ice accumulation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that airports conduct proper testing to ensure that planes can safely apply their brakes, Fox News reported. According to that same report, this particular runway at LaGuardia had been plowed just minutes before the Delta flight landed, and two previous pilots who landed before the Delta flight reported good braking conditions. However, safety parachutes designed to slow the planes progress failed to deploy, USA Today reported. The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it will be obtaining the plane's flight data and cockpit recordings through one of their investigators, according to Fox News. Yesterday's incident comes 23 years to the month after a USAir jet crashed into the bay after sliding off of the runway during takeoff, killing 27, according to USA Today. In 2006, nationally renown personal injury attorney Robert A. Clifford and Clifford Law Offices were hired by the family of six-year-old Joshua Woods for his death when a Southwest Airlines plane slid off a runway at Midway Airport and killed him in his family's car.

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