Archives for August, 2015

Personal Injury Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit occurs when one party is injured financially or physically as the result of the negligence of another party. Personal injury lawsuits are governed under “tort law”. A tort is simply the legal term for the act of someone or something causing injury to another person or thing. The purpose of tort law is to establish responsibility to the party responsible for causing the harm. A successful personal injury lawsuit is intended to provide compensation to the injured party and discourage the continuation of the behavior causing the injury.

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Usually the person directly injured is the one to file the lawsuit but there are certain cases where an individual may file the personal injury lawsuit of behalf of a loved one. These circumstances may include medical negligence or wrongful death.

In order for a personal injury lawsuit to be successful there must exist both liability and damages. Liability is usually the more difficult to establish. The injured party must prove that the party charged with the lawsuit should bear a legal responsibility for the injury incurred. The damages represent the loss suffered on account of the claimed injury.

Liability is most often argued under the bases of negligence or strict liability. Negligence can be established by showing that the defendant, or accused party, caused the injury by failure to prevent it. Negligence personal injury lawsuits include slip and fall lawsuits and reckless driver lawsuits. Strict liability is used in defective product lawsuits. Strict liability can be established by proving that the injury occurred while the product was being used as intended. Most personal injury lawsuits are settled before reaching a courtroom.

The most import limit on a plaintiff’s personal injury claim is the statue of limitations. The statute of limitations requires the injured party to sue the responsible party within a certain amount of time. This amount of time varies from state to state. If the plaintiff misses this deadline the lawsuit will be forever barred and the defendant will never be held accountable. For this reason it is important to file your claim as soon as possible after the injury has occurred.

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Product Liability Lawsuit

Injury alone is not enough to warrant a product liability lawsuit. A consumer must be able to prove that the product was actually defective. In a product liability lawsuit, defective means that the product was unreasonably dangerous. There are three types of potential product defects that incur liability to manufacturers and suppliers: product design defects, product manufacturing defects, and defects in the marketing of the product.

Product Liability Lawsuit

Product liability claims should charge all entities involved in the production and distribution of a product, not just the manufacturer. All parties involved in the product reaching the marketplace may be liable to bear responsibility for any damages resulting from the product. These parties could include distributors, retailers, wholesalers, repairers, assemblers, component suppliers and testing laboratories.

In order for a product liability lawsuit to be successful the plaintiff must show either negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty. For negligence there must be proof that the defendant owed a duty to the consumer, that they breached this duty, and that injury resulted from this breach of duty. Strict liability is slightly different than negligence. Strict liability is only concerned with the defective product, not any knowledge or fault on the manufacturer’s part. Beach of warranty is concerned the fact that every product comes with an implied warranty that it is safe for its intended use.

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Why Securities Brokerages Fear a Fiduciary Duty Standard

Since 1994, I have been privileged to represent hundreds of individual investors in securities disputes with their stock brokerage firms. I have witnessed first-hand the devastation and irreparable damage some stock brokers cause in their quest to earn as much income as possible for themselves and their brokerage firms. Often, the devastation is ignored and even encouraged by the securities industry through compensation programs and incentives that are designed for the benefit of the industry and to the detriment of the customer. In extreme cases, many securities industry insiders boast of their ability to “rip the client’s face off” as if this skill was truly something to be proud of. Perhaps former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith said it best in his resignation letter entitled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Smith’s letter was printed in the March 14, 2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Smith described Goldman’s corporate culture as “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.” Smith’s description is at odds with Goldman’s corporate slogan of “our client’s interests always come first.”

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The 2008 global economic melt-down and the ensuing Great Recession have led more and more investors to conclude that Wall Street simply cannot be trusted. Lost in the chaos of corporate greed is the fact that the securities industry cannot continue to exist without real assurances and meaningful action that it will stop ripping the faces off customers. We are a long way from the days of Morgan Stanley earning respect “one client at a time.”

In many other industries, when public relations disaster occurs, executives implement a comprehensive public relations campaign to stem the tide of bad press and shore up their industry credibility — all in an effort to earn back the respect and trust of their customers. A sincere public relations campaign, when implemented effectively, is often the only real solution to restoring trust and credibility. So why hasn’t Wall Street done the same?

Perhaps one reason Wall Street has not owned up to its abuses is illustrated in the findings of a recent poll among Wall Street personnel. In a July 10, 2012 survey, a quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success. In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it. The survey also revealed that 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law. The sad reality is crime does pay on Wall Street. The absence of meaningful regulation only serves to perpetuate this corporate dysfunction.

The survey also helps us understand the primary reason Wall Street does not want to change. Wall Street does not want to pay the price of change. That price is establishing a fiduciary duty standard in the industry.

A fiduciary duty in the securities industry requires that the brokerage act solely in the best interest of the customer, free of any self-dealing, conflicts of interest, or other abuse for the advantage of the brokerage. In simple terms, a fiduciary duty is simply doing what is best for the customer. A fiduciary duty standard would not allow brokerages to sell products to customers simply to generate more profit for the brokerage. A fiduciary duty would prohibit a brokerage from selling products to unsuspecting customers because the expected failure of those products would generate profits for the brokerages. A fiduciary duty would also require full and complete transparency in the methods of compensation paid to the brokerage.

All is not lost. Many financial advisors currently adhere to a fiduciary duty standard. Some financial advisors are affiliated with registered investment advisory firms. In this business model, the advisor is bound by a fiduciary duty and is legally required to do what is best for the customer. This business model exists and operates quite well. However, many of the well known securities firms are not registered investment advisory firms. Firms such as Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley operate as securities broker dealers and not as registered investment advisory firms. When pressed (typically when a dispute arises) these firms disavow any fiduciary duty owed to customers. These firms go to great lengths to avoid a fiduciary duty standard in defense of their actions. While advertising campaigns may promise that these firms will adhere “to a higher standard”; when a dispute arises, the firms will run for cover and disavow any fiduciary duty owed to any customer.

In California, all securities broker dealers are held to a fiduciary duty. Do not be fooled with disingenuous claims otherwise. A fiduciary duty standard is the only viable standard to restore trust in the industry. Ask yourself, what is Wall Street afraid of?

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Combined Insurance Lawsuit

Combined Insurance Company of America was started by W. Clement Stone in the late 1920’s and quickly grew over the next few years. It still stands as a major provider of supplemental insurance, offering coverage for injury, health, life, disability, cancer, long-term care and critical illness.

Combined Insurance Lawsuit

Like any major insurance company, Combined Insurance has been through its share of lawsuits. It has stood on both sides of the courtroom sometimes as plaintiff and other times as defendant. Many lawsuits have been filed against the company alleging failure to provide adequate coverage. There are a couple of larger lawsuits that stand out in the history of Combined Insurance.

In 2001, a case was brought against Combined Insurance by a number of current and former female employees. The nationwide class action lawsuit alleged sexual harassment and sex discrimination. The lawsuit claimed that the company environment condoned and encouraged a culture of sexual harassment and oppression. Examples of this ranged from verbal assault to gang rape. The lawsuit also alleged that Combined Insurance discriminated against females in hiring, pay, and promotions.

A different sort of class action lawsuit was filed against the company in 2000. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of 1,100 elderly “lifetime” policyholders who had their insurance terminated. All of the policyholders were of the Christian Science religion. The case has been fought bitterly.

If you feel you have grounds for a lawsuit against Combined Insurance, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. It is particularly important to speak with a lawyer before attempting a case against a large company such as Combined Insurance.

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