Articles Posted in Misc – Non Law

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.

Since the recession of 2007 – 2010 the area of the U.S. economy that has suffered the greatest has been the construction industry. When the bottom fell out of the real estate market, construction came to a near standstill. All the larger projects in Westchester County were put on hold. The construction industry is the last industry to make a recovery.

In an article by Ross Pepe, President of both The Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley, Inc. and Building Contractors Association of Westchester and Mid-Hudson Region, Inc. in the Westchester Business Journal, he stated the long suffering recovery for the construction industry is finally taking hold 5 years after the official end of the great recession of 2008 – 2010. Mr. Pepe keeps track of the recovery through total number employed by the unions. For example, The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 137 hit the highest number of man hours worked in 2007 when it reported total number of hours worked at 1.5 million hours that year. Since then, Local 137 saw the total number of hours worked each year dwindle by a 1/3 down to 978,000 hours, a third reduction. After several years of slow recovery, the numbers are climbing back but still 20% of what its high was in 2007.

The comeback in the construction and building market place is because of the comeback of the overall economy. Mr. Pepe points out state and municipal funds have grown by increased tax revenue from taxes, home sales (mortgage & recording taxes) and a rise in travel and entertainment. Low gas prices are also having a favorable effect on household budgets.

We previously discussed on January 19, 2015, the problem with Takata airbags which has been known since 2000. These defective airbag inflators which can explode with too much force shooting metal and plastic shrapnel at the vehicle occupants causing personal injuries.

In January, 2015, Takata refused to issue a nationwide recall. Manufacturers such as Honda issued 5 million recalls for faulty airbags. Other manufacturers of vehicles have issued recalls for the airbags for a total of more than 16 million cars have been recalled worldwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continued since January, 2015 to pursue the process to force a national recall by Takata and in an article in The USA Today – The Journal News on May 20, 2015 entitled “Takata Airbags Recall Expands”. Finally Takata agreed to double the scope of its recall making the recall one of the largest in U.S. history according to The Transportation Department. Takata agreed to a consent order that increases the number of airbags under recall in the USA to 33.8 million vehicles. Takata gave in to the massive recall that it had previously resisted.

The action expands regional recalls adding 16 million more vehicles added to the original 17 million recall in southern states, where humidity was thought to have been a factor in the deadly airbag deployments. The NHTSA stated “this is the largest recall known. It dwarfs the 2.6 million vehicles recalled by G.M. to replace deadly ignition switches. They expect the recall to take years to complete”. Before Takata agreed to the national recall, 10 automakers had announced individual recalls for airbags in the United States.

A shift in focus has occurred by nursing homes to attract short term care. Rehabilitation facilities are attracting many Medicare patients who are forced to leave hospital as soon as their Medicare for in patient care runs out. After a hip replacement or knee replacement, the patient is pushed out of the hospital where they had their surgery and yet those patients cannot take care of themselves when pushed out of the hospital. As a result of this trend, nursing homes/rehabilitation facilities are going after these patients who are on Medicare for short term care after their hospital stay. The concept is that Medicare pays far more than Medicaid. Most long term care at these nursing homes is paid for by Medicaid at a much lower rate then Medicare. The nursing homes have a very small margin of profit from Medicaid patients so they are going after short term patients on Medicare.

In an article written in The New York Times by Katie Thomas on April 14, 2015, entitled “As Nursing Homes Chase Lucrative Patients, Quality of Care is Said to Lag”. She points out that promises of decadent hot baths on demand, putting greens for golf putting and gurgling waterfalls to calm the mind. The cutthroat race for Medicare dollars leads nursing homes to turn to amenities to lure patients leaving a hospital and in need of short term rehabilitation after an injury or illness. As these nursing homes are investing in luxurious living quarters, the quality of care is strikingly uneven. These nursing homes are not up to the challenge of providing intense medical care. Many are often short on nurses and aides and do not have doctors on staff.

The article points out that the Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General found that 22% of Medicare patients who stayed in a nursing facility for 35 days or less experienced harm as a result of their medical care. An additional 11% suffered temporary injury. The report estimated Medicare spent $2.8 billion on hospital treatment in 2011 because of harm done to these patients in nursing facilities. Dr. Arif Nazir, an associate professor of clinical medicine who studies at Indiana University studies geriatrics and said many patients leave hospitals with acute medical needs before infections have been fully treated. “These patients are leaving the hospital half-cooked”. Competition for these patients has become intense because Medicare pays 84% more for short term patients than nursing homes get from Medicaid for long term care.

We previously wrote about cell phone and texting while driving showing how dangerous it is and resulted in auto accidents. Initially when the law first passed, the police could not write a ticket for cell phone or texting violations without another traffic offense. The New York Legislature, with a very big push from Governor Mario Cuomo, changed the laws and made cell phone and texting while driving a primary offense allowing police to enforce the law with tickets.

In an article in The Journal News on Monday, April 13, 2015, Joseph Spector and HOA Nguyen headlined the paper with an article entitled “u r busted!”. The number of texting while driving tickets increased 35% between 2013 & 2014. The highest increase in texting tickets

was Westchester County where texting tickets surged 50% over the last 2 years. For the rest of New York State, the increase was 15%. Rockland County increased 35%, Putnam County 38% and police gave out more than 75,000 tickets for texting while driving, up from 56,000 in 2013.

We recently blogged about the possible claims against Metro North on February 23, 2015 as a result of the collision with a car at the Commerce Street Crossing in Valhalla, New York. The accident caused the death of 5 people on the train and the death of the driver of the car on the tracks, along with injuries to 12 other people on the train..

We outlined in the blog different areas that Metro North could be liable including the design of the crossing where the accident occurred. The crossing was noted to be a “dangerous crossing”, in that, if 3 or more cars were at the crossing stopped for the red light, one of the cars would be on the tracks when the gates come down, as was the situation for Ellen Brody, who was the driver of the car that got hit. Further, it has been discovered that a third gate was proposed for the intersection but were never installed.

Another theory against Metro North was the improper design of the third rail which penetrated the first car of the train killing passengers by blunt force trauma and created a fire that burned some of the first car passengers to death. On Friday, March 6, 2015, a Mount Kisco man who was on the Metro North train filed a Notice of Claim against the railroad which is required by law before you can start a lawsuit. In an article in The Journal News on Saturday, March 7, 2015 by Theresa Java-Brown, she states “man seeks 10 million in lawsuit from railroad agency”. The victim, Michael Colquhoun, a passenger in the second car of the train, suffered an arm injury when he was jolted in the crash. He is also claiming “post traumatic stress”.

Since October, 2014, there has been nothing but good news as far as job growth is concerned. The Journal News on October 4, 2014 had a headline “Economy Grows 248,000 jobs”. The article by Paul Davidson pointed out that the unemployment rate fell below 6% for the first time since 2008. Employers added 248,000 jobs in September, 2014. The area of job growth was in broad ranges of industries including business services, professional finance, retail and healthcare. The jobless rate dropped from 6.1% to 5.9%. The Federal Reserve considers 5.5% as a normal level of unemployment. The Labor Department revised gains in employment to 180,000 in August, 2014 and July, 2014 to 243,000 jobs. The monthly employment gains averaged 227,000 jobs up from 194,000 for all of 2013.

On November 8, 2014, the same author published an article in The Journal News “nation’s jobless rate fell to 5.8%”, the lowest since July, 2008. The economy added 200,000 jobs for February through October, a nine month record unmatched since March, 1995. Monthly job growth averaged 229,000 in 2014 compared to 194,000 in 2013. The job gains continued to be led by low paying industries such as restaurants and retail. Other positive news was that job gains for August and September were revised up by 31,000 jobs.

The good news continued in November, 2014. In The Journal News on Saturday, December 6, 2014, Paul Davidson again wrote “job boom goes far, wide”. The article points out that a surge in new jobs in November, 2014 was the strongest gains in nearly 3 years. Employers added 321,000 jobs in November bolstering opportunities for blue and white collar workers alike from retail clerks to financial officers according to the Labor Department. The gains surpassed many economist forecasts which were in the 225,000 to 230,000 range. November jobless rate remained at 5.8% as the favorable market drew an additional 119,000 Americans into the labor force to accept a job or look for one. They included discouraged workers who had given up searches for jobs. Two sectors with low wage workers, retail and leisure and hospitality were among the biggest gainers adding 40,000 & 32,000 jobs respectively including seasonal employment. Middle income industries also added 28,000 jobs. Higher paying sectors also beefed up staff continuing resurgence. Financial, insurance and real estate together added 20,000 employees, the most since March, 2012 and 80,000 jobs were added by professional and business services including accountants, engineers and computer design specialists.

.M. went through great efforts to quickly produce replacement ignition switches for millions of cars under recall. However, the harder part is getting customers into dealerships to get the cars fixed. GM met its October, 2014 goals of having 1.96 million recalled cars. In an article in USA Today – The Journal News by Chris Woodyard points out only 55.7% of owners have had the repairs done by November 20, 2014 leaving 833,630 still to be fixed. The initial flood of customers trying to get recalled cars fixed has dwindled to a trickle.

After barraging customer with letters, e-mails, etc. GM has gone beyond traditional communication to try to reach owners’ Facebook and on line Roku games. This still hasn’t done the job so GM is trying a $25 gift card for owners who bring recalled cars to dealerships by January, 2015. The Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety states it is a lot cheaper to give $25 to a million customers to get the recall done than to pay a $25 million judgment on a recalled vehicle that killed a consumer because the car wasn’t fixed. GM claims that it is not as if the owners don’t know about the recall, 99% are aware. GM representatives Stooke says they just aren’t coming in possibly from the limelight and recall publicity has shifted to Takata’s exploding airbags.

The article points out that the potential danger becomes more apparent by the week as death counts due to switches based on settlement totals put out by GM’s Independent Compensation Administrator, Kenneth Feinberg now totals 35, far above the 13 that GM originally linked to the defective switches.

In an article in the Journal News on December 16, 2014 by Theresa Juva-Brown states that in 2013, 63% of tickets that made their way through New York Courts, 135,738 tickets resulted in guilty as charged convictions. Another 26% of tickets resulted in convictions for other driving violations. The guilty as charged convictions remain high but they have declined since stiffer penalties went into effect in 2013. In 2012, before cell phone violations added 5 points to your license, 72% of tickets processed ended with guilty as charged convictions and 17% resulted in convictions for other driving violations. (Plea down the cell phone ticket). However, now that the 5 points are added to your violations, you get more people fighting the tickets.

The number of cell phone tickets issued is on a downward trend. (Hopefully people are obeying the cell phone laws). During the first seven months of 2014, 152,188 tickets were issued for violating cell phone and texting laws. Before the steeper penalties, people would begrudgingly plead guilty and paid the fines. Now that they are facing up to 5 points, they call a traffic attorney. Without records to show you were not using the phone at the time the ticket was issued or a witness to support your claim of not using the cell phone, the Court will find you guilty. The monetary penalties are also getting steeper. New York State fines to a maximum of $200 for the first offense and up to $450 for three time offenders. In New York City Traffic Court, they will not let you plea to a lesser charge to avoid the highest penalties. Therefore, you have more traffic trials. People getting tickets for the first time are seeing that it’s not just that you can’t talk or text, you need to keep your hands off the phone and on your wheel.

Last month, New York State also tightened penalties for young drivers caught with a handheld electronic device. Drivers under 21 with a texting or talking while driving conviction will have their junior license or permit revoked for 120 days. If they receive a second conviction in six months, their license or permit is suspended for one year.