Articles Posted in Misc – Non Law

A Federal Judge Ok’d Volkswagen settlement of nearly $15 billion over the Volkswagen group emissions scandal.  The settlement calls for a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation program.  The Federal Judge was Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.  The settlement is with the U.S. Government and California regulators.

An article in USA Today – The Journal News by Nathan Bomey claims the settlement comes a year after Volkswagen admitted it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to dodge emission standards.  Volkswagen still faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors.

About 475,000 vehicle owners can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation if repairs became available.  Buybacks range from $12,475 to $44,176 including restitution payments.  Owners who opt for a fix must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will receive a fix and a payout from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on book value of their car.  Volkswagen will also pay another $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean emissions infrastructure.

Following up on our October 13, 2016 blog on electrical car sales.  In an article in the Journal News, section Putnam-Northern Westchester Express on October 6, 2016 by Matt Coyne states that in the last 4 years, 18,000 electric cars have been registered in New York State.  The New York Power Authority is in charge of charging stations.  CEO of that authority, Gil Quiniones celebrated that 100 charging stations opened in New York since 2014.

There are three charging stations in Tarrytown and others across White Plains, Cortlandt, Southeast and Chappaqua.  One is opening in Clarkstown, bring the total number of charging stations in New York to 1600. Two years ago, the number of electric vehicles in New York State was 10,000 up from 2800 in 2012.  The charging stations in Westchester & Putnam Counties have seen a hugh year increase in use.  In Tarrytown, total energy used in kilowatt hours has increased by 159%.  At the Cortlandt Metro-North station, energy dispensed jumped 303% and at the Southeast train station 169%.

Charge New York has opened 1100 charging stations across New York State with 1600 additional stations coming from private businesses.  The New York Power Authority are in talks to enter into a contract to install 300 more charging stations in New York.  The CEO of the Power Authority Quiniones, believes more charging stations will push more people to buy electric cars.  As the article states “clean transportation on rise”.

Sales of electric cars are growing and in two years, two updated vehicles will be put on the market.  Advanced technology, new game changing models and federal incentives are creating a surge in the sales of electric vehicles.

According to an article in The Westchester County Business Journal by Chris Bosak on September 26, 2016, the national drive electric week was recently held.  Two new or advanced electric vehicles will be coming out within a year.  The Bolt by Chevrolet has been made more efficient.  It is priced at $30,000 and goes a whopping 238 miles on a single charge.  The Bolt is less expensive and has a higher range than the new Tesla.   According to Ingersoll of Danbury, Connecticut, the Bolt, Chevy’s first all-electric vehicle attempts to address two main concerns consumers have, price and driving range.  Presently, EV’s are priced higher than gasoline vehicles and most current EV’s travel only 80 – 120 miles on a charge. Nissan produces the all-electric Leaf, which is one of the most popular EV models.

In 2014, Connecticut joined seven other states and revealed plans to put a combined 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.  The other states are California, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Oregon.  In 2011, President Barach Obama declared a goal of putting 1 million EV’s on the road by 2015.  Unfortunately, that goal has not been met.  Only one-third of that goal has been reached.  According to The Electric Drive Transportation Association, as of last month, just under 500,000 plug-in vehicles has been sold in the U.S. including plug-in hybrids.  In Connecticut, there are 2700 plug in vehicles on the road as of June, 2016.

In 2015, there were 51 million automobiles recalled by their manufacturers.  In an article in USA Today in January, 2016 by Nathan Bomey, he points out that a recall of 51 million plus vehicles in 900 separate recalls in 2015.  These statistics was published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, NHTSA.  These recalls edged the previous record of recalls in 2014.  The NHTSA announced a yearlong digital advertising campaign dubbed “safe care save lives” to encourage consumers to get their recalled cars fixed quickly.  The new record, according to the article, followed a series of industry scandals including the General Motors ignition switch defect, The Volkswagen emissions cheating and Takata’s exploding air bags.  The NHTSA has made major efforts in the last year to improve the process for identifying vehicle defects according to Rosekind from NHTSA.  He also expressed concerns for potential and significant increase in roadway deaths in 2015.  The number of deadly accidents rose in 2015 after hitting an all-time low of 32,675 death in 2014.

One of the most recalled vehicles was as a result of Volkswagen emissions scandal according to an article published in USA Today by Nathan Bomey on September 23, 2015.  This initial article  about the emissions scandal claimed it affected 11 million vehicles worldwide and early estimates indicated the recall would cost $7 billion.  The emissions scandal qualifies as one of the most expensive automobile scandal.  This scandal undermined Volkswagen’s diesel engineering although, Volkswagen’s transgression did not kill anyone, it has created distrust   among consumers.  Investors crushed Volkswagen’s stock driving shares down 20% and lead to the CEO of Volkswagen, Michael Horn’s resignation.  Volkswagen brand sales fell 10% from September, 2015 through February, 2016.

In an article in USA Today Money on April 23, 2016 by Nathan Bomey, claimed the estimated cost of VW’s emission scandal had escalated to more than $18 billion more than double the amount Volkswagen estimated in September, 2015.  Volkswagen had recorded a one-time charge of $18.2 billion in 2015 to cover the cost of the diesel scandal including “pending technical modifications and customer related issues”.  Volkswagen swung from a 10.8 billion euro profit in 2014 (about $12.4 billion) to a 1.8 billion loss in 2015.

We previously blogged on the manufacturer of airbags from Japan’s company Takata and the tremendous recall and fines imposed on Takata.  This blog will update you on the product liability actions and extensive recalls.

On May 29, 2015, USA Today – The Journal News published an article by Chris Woodyard entitled “2.4M Cars Added to the Airbag Recall”.  Automakers added millions of cars to their official lists of potentially dangerous Takata airbag inflators.  Fiat & Chrysler automakers said it added 1.4 million vehicles globally.  Honda added an additional 350,000 autos in the United States and BMW added 420,100 in the United States.  Eleven automakers in the United States have been caught in the Takata airbag recalls.  The National Traffic Safety Administration said it was doubling the number of recalls included in the Takata recall to an amazing 33.8 million vehicles.  Airbags made by Japan’s Takata are deemed dangerous because their inflators can explode when they deploy in a crash sending shards of metal or plastic at drivers or passengers.  In May, 2015, there have been 6 deaths in Hondas especially in high humidity weather.  Honda had previously recalled 350,000 vehicles to fix driver’s side airbags.  Honda has replaced 2 million airbag inflators.  The recall involves automobile manufactured from 2002 to 2006.

In an AOL.com article discussed that Chief Executive Shigehisa Takada apologized for the defective inflators which has been linked to 8 deaths and more than 100 injuries.  US lawmakers raised the possibility that Takata puts profits before safety.  Representatives from Takata admitted the analysis of the problem wasn’t progressing very well.  Since the crisis was discovered, multiple investigations were underway collectively by 10 automakers as well as Takata’s own probe.  Takata shares plunged 38% since June, 2015.  At Takata’s annual general meeting, shareholders criticized Mr. Takada for his failure to appear in public to address the issue.

The overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes come from wrong drug dose, wrong duration or unnecessary use for the patient. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims overused antibiotics over time lose their effectiveness against infections. They were designed to treat. The CDC states antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly to ailing nursing home residents 75% of the time.

In the Journal News – USA Today, on October 18, 2015 published an article by Lisa Gillespie entitled “Nursing home residents face risks from antibiotics misuse”. The article points out that an antibiotic resistant infections threaten everyone but elderly people in nursing homes are especially at risk because their bodies don’t fight infections as well. The CDC counts 18 top antibiotic resistant infections that sicken more than 2 million people a year and kill 23,000 people.

The CDC states studies have estimated antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately 40% to 75% of the time in nursing homes. The CDC has launched a public education campaign for nursing homes aimed at preventing more bacterial and viral infection from starting and stopping other infections from spreading. A similar effect is being done for hospitals. The CDC worries that every time someone takes antibiotics sensitive bacteria are killed but resistant bacteria survive and multiply and can spread to other people. Repeated use of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistant bacteria. Taking antibiotics for ailments, the drug weren’t made to treat, contributes to antibiotic resistance.

On July 31, 2015, we published a blog on Cyclists and Cars and the difficulty in following the rules of the road. New York State Vehicle & Traffic Laws apply to both cars and cyclists. AAA has acknowledged that there is a significant knowledge gap among vehicle drivers who don’t realize the cyclists have the same right to the road as a motorist. One of the complaints held most by motorists is that cyclists should ride single file. Cyclists are legally allowed to ride side by side if sufficient space is available.

Everyone agrees both cyclists and motorists that most of the accidents can be prevented if there are bike lanes. Recently articles have been published in The Journal News on Monday, September 21, 2015 by Roger Brum concerning large numbers of cyclists in the Village of Piermont Police Chief states 5,000 cyclists pedal through Piermont on a sunny Sunday. The riverside Village sits along Rockland Counties’ most popular bike route. The number of cyclists is expected to grow once a shared path opens on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. About 17,000 visitors a day fill Piermont’s narrow streets on weekends.

Tension between visitors and residents has been growing and a recent confrontation between a driver and a group of cyclists caused a social medical backlash. A dialogue has now been started by Police Chief Michael O’Shea who invited members of local bicycle clubs to a meeting to dispel the notion that the police force was anti-cyclists. If riders think the Piermont’s police Department got it out for them, the Chief told members of the Rockland Bicycle Club, North Jersey Bicycle Touring Club sand Bike Nyack that drivers get a lot more of the police attention. He told the groups that on Sunday his police officers handed out a dozen ticket to cyclists while given out ten times more tickets to drivers. The biggest complaint is that cyclist ride two and three abreast. The Chief stated “single file is safer, no matter how many riders are in the group”. One reason the downtown attracts so many cyclists is that Route 9W is treacherous. The Police Chief is asking New York State Department of Transportation to study that piece of roadway on 9W which lacks a shoulder.

In our last blog we spoke of employment and recovery in jobs since the recession ended. One of the problems felt in the growing labor market is that there are not enough construction workers. In USA Today – The Journal News on August 27, 2015, Paul Davidson wrote an article entitled ”As construction heats up, so does worker shortage”. “Labor squeeze is delaying projects curtailing economy”. Construction of homes and commercial buildings are up significantly this year and the industry would be sizzling but for a critical shortage of construction workers. The shortage of labor is delaying projects, raising home prices and forcing companies to turn down work. Spot labor shortage began in 2012 as new construction came back to life following the 2000’s real estate crash.

The CEO of The National Association of Home Builders, Jerry Howard called the shortage an epidemic. Nearly 70% of home builders surveyed in June, 2015 reported a shortage of carpenters up from 63% in 2014. 86% of commercial builders said they are having trouble filling hourly or salaried position up from 83% in 2014. One of the reasons given is that many construction workers left the industry during the recession to become truck drivers, factory workers or “rough necks” in the then booming oil industry. Most of these workers are not returning to the construction industry.

Housing starts have increased 11.3% this year as compared to 2014 to a post-recession high. Commercial construction spending rose 9.7% during the first half of 2015. Meanwhile, the pipeline of new workers has thinned over the recession years. Many high schools have phased out shop classes and parents have steered graduates to a four year college and white collar jobs. The Home Builders Institute which does training and local home builder groups recently rolled out more instruction programs but it takes 12 – 18 months for a new recruit to become a productive worker.

The last time the County had a disappointing job report was in March, 2015. USA Today, Journal News on April 4, 2015 published an article by John Waggoner entitled” March jobs report falls flat”. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the US economy created 126,000 new jobs in March, the lowest since December, 2013 and far below estimates of 248,000 new jobs. However, the unemployment rate remained at 5.5%. in this report. The article concludes that the Federal government is unlikely to raise interest rates.

In an article in USA Today Money, Paul Davidson, points out that job seekers should think small. Small business hiring is picking up. Firms with fewer than 50 employees is likely to prop up a labor market. ADP in April stated small businesses added a solid 103,000 jobs in February and 108,000 in March as payroll growth in larger companies slowed. The Labor Department more closely watched employment reports in March of just 126,000 jobs, down from 264,000 in February. The National Federation of Independent Businesses says small businesses added an average of 0.18 workers per firm in March. One of the best readings in the last decade.

In the Westchester Business Journal on April 27, 2015, an article was published by Reece Alvarez keeping track of New York State Department of Labor and reports that in March, 2015, an unemployment rate hit its lowest since August, 2008. In March, the private section in New York State increased by 8,600 or .1%. The jobless rate dropped to 5.7% from 5.8% in February, 2015 and from 6.6% in March, 2014. New York State unemployment rate of 5.7% is slightly above the nation’s rate of 5.5%. Westchester, Rockland & Orange Counties had the second fastest growing private sector job growth (behind Kingston) in the Hudson Valley.

On April 30, 2015, we blogged about artificial turf fields and lead exposure to children from rubber crumbs in the artificial turf. On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, the Journal News published an article by Swapna Ramaswamy “Going Organic”. The article deals with schools looking to crumb rubber infill alternatives.

Many of the parents of high school students, including myself, see pellets all over their homes from artificial fields. These pellets are from used tires used as fill in the artificial turf field. These black pellets expose the user of the field to lead. As a result, parents are pushing to replace these fields with organic infill. Three local school district, Pleasantville, Irvington and Bronxville are replacing their artificial turf field made from tires to environmentally friendly infills. Pleasantville is in the process of replacing two of its artificial turf fields installed in 2002. These replacement fields will be switched from rubber infill to turf field with 90% coconut 20% cork infill. A father of a kindergartner at Pleasantville’s Bedford Road School started an online petition last year to get support to replace the fields with organic refill. 280 residents joined the movement and two fields are being replaced.

In Irvington, after two proposals to build artificial turf fields were turned down, residents approved a referendum that permitted installation of an artificial turf field with organic infill. In May, Bronxville voters approved $1.8 million proposal to install artificial turf field with organic infill. Last month, Ramapo Central School District defeated an $850,000 proposition to replace artificial turf fields following pressure from two board members who are doctors. The doctors pushed to more closely examine safety and health hazards linked to crumb rubber infill.