Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nissan Murano SUVs Recalled For Crash Potential

Recently, Nissan and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a notice about recalling 362,891 Murano SUVs from model year 2003 to 2007 due to a potential problem with their air-duct intakes that can lead to a crash.

According to the report, “The intake air ducts, which are connected to the intermediate resonator in the air intake system of the engine, may separate from the resonator with engine movement. This separation occurs due to the premature aging of the material used in the intake air ducts which causes excessive shrinking.” This would cause the engine to stall and increase the chances of a car crash accident.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of unintended deaths in the United States. While auto accidents do happen because of driver error or negligence, auto manufacturers are equally responsible for ensuring vehicle and car occupant safety.

It’s a relief that car manufacturers like Nissan really exert a lot of effort to protect consumers against possible product liability. A single defective car part can have an immense effect, not just on the life of its consumer but of the public as well. A Murano SUV stalling could be the root of a multiple vehicle car crash on the freeway.

Nissan has advised owners to wait until they receive notice before bringing in their vehicles since recall information may not be updated at dealerships. Letters regarding the recall will be sent to owners starting the first week of July. The Nissan recall hot line is 800-647-7261.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Heal and Not to Harm

“Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit - Life!”
-- Emily Dickinson

Discounting token visits to family and/or friends, we all go to hospitals or see a doctor for one reason: to get better or to ensure our health and well-being. The rising number of medical malpractices cases though, is enough to make one wary.

Recently, the California Department of Public Health fined 13 hospitals $25,000 for violating health codes that endangered patients.

Hospital violations penalized include the facilities’ failure to follow policies and procedures to ensure safe and effective use of medications, use and maintenance of respiratory equipment and blood transfusion. Three of these hospitals were found to have left foreign objects inside their patients.

Three out of ten hospitals—meaning, if you are scheduled to undergo surgery in any of these hospitals in California, you have a 23% chance of ending up with like say, a glove inside your stomach.

Take for example, St. Jude in Fullerton. According to the state report, although this is the facility’s first administrative penalty, it was fined $25,000 after a plastic drape was left in a patient's body during a July hysterectomy. The patient had to undergo a second surgery for its removal.

University of California Irvine Medical Center on the other hand, was fined $50,000. It committed two violations when the health and safety of a patient was jeopardized when the hospital failed to follow its policies and procedures for fall prevention and when another patient’s safety was compromised when an allegation of physical assault was not investigated timely.

It’s great that the State is exerting a lot of effort in protecting and promoting the health of its residents by keeping an eye on its hospitals but for some victims of medical malpractice, it may not be enough or it may be too late. In some instances, victims of medical malpractice may have no other recourse left but to institute medical malpractice claim. This can be painful and expensive on both ends.

Patients pay to get proper medical attention and literally place their lives and limbs in the hands of their doctors and hospitals. There is a sacred trust and responsibility reposed on medical practitioners and health facilities that must provide quality patient care. A single act of negligence on the part of these health professionals carry a devastating effect in the lives of so many people.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dangerous Distraction: Texting and Driving

Last year, a California commuter train killed 25 people including its engineer and 101 people were injured and caused $ 10.6 million in damages when its driver missed a stop signal because he was texting.

Most recently, a trolley in Boston rear-ended another trolley when the operator failed to apply the brakes in time because he was text messaging. The collision injured 20 people.

There are two issues here: the first being the use of cellphone during driving or operating a vehicle and the second is the liability of trains as common carriers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving while using a cell phone poses a serious cognitive distraction and degrades driver performance. The NHTSA estimates that driver distraction which includes cell phone use accounts for 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.

The California train crash prompted a federal ban on cell phone use by train workers. Likewise, California is one of the states that passed a law banning all motorists/drivers from using handheld cell phones and text messaging.

Despite the ban on cellphone use, it seems as though the public is still largely unaware or perhaps, unmindful of the fact that drivers using phones are four times as likely to get into crashes.

Some people argue that texting or using the cellphone while driving or operating a vehicle is just the same as talking to a passenger or a co-worker. After all, what’s so bad about using your cellphone to make an important call about a business arrangement or a meeting?

But the price may be too high for these two train operators—texting while operating the vehicle has cost, not just the lives and injuries of their passengers, but for one of them, his own life as well.

Getting the law strictly enforced will be difficult as there are too many drivers and vehicle operators who have cellphones. At the most, another way to stem these dangerous distractions is for employers to be diligent in hiring or supervising their drivers’ conduct in the performance of their duties.

Employers and train companies are liable for even the slightest and minor accidents that may occur while passengers are onboard the train.

Technology can be wonderful and convenient for us but the wrong use of such, like texting while driving or operating a vehicle is a dangerous distraction.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wasted Time: Teachers' Termination Dispute

Following the uproar raised by the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) dilemma over the laborious and expensive process of firing substandard permanent teachers, Matthew Kim, a former special education teacher at Grant High School fights back and alleges that he is a victim of disability discrimination.

Kim, 41, has been on administrative leave since 2002 along with full pay and benefits while waiting for the resolution of his case. He’s been charged with inappropriate behavior and sexually harassing two aides and six students. The school district has spent nearly $2 million dollars as the case has dragged on for seven years.

A state panel that oversees contested teacher dismissals has ordered him returned to the classroom twice, having found no evidence that Kim was a bad teacher or had injured his students. But L.A. Unified officials have appealed.

Bound to a wheelchair and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Kim maintains that he is innocent and that the school principal and the district discriminated against him. Kim said that the principal doesn’t like him and the school has been slow to provide wheelchair accessible facilities and a personal aide. A case of discrimination against the school was filed and lost by Kim, whose mother even took a $130,000 against her house to pay for the case.

About 160 teachers are currently receiving full pay and benefits, District Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said that these teachers should be fired because according to him, they are “milking the system”.

Kim on the other hand, just wants to resume his career. "I want to go back to the classroom.”

This whole situation just underscores the reason why the existing process for terminating tenured teachers should be overhauled. Not just for the sake of students, schools, or taxpayer’s money but also to help these teachers embroiled in these cases move on.

The teachers unions’ concerns are certainly understandable—the teachers’ rights and interests as employees should be protected. But, not at the cost of putting these teachers’ lives and careers on hold or use up government resources just to engage in an endless tug of war over termination cases.

It’s a just waste.

Reigning Miss California faces breach of contract

Proposition 8 prohibiting same sex marriage has ignited public opinion in California. Its passage added a section in the constitution which read "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Consequently, several campaigns against it had been launched by different gay organizations.

Miss California Carrie Prejean has been vocal of her opposition to same sex marriages by actively participating in campaigns against it. In fact, many believed that her failure to win the Miss America pageant was due to her answer when asked about same sex marriages. Moreover, she had made televised appearances at her San Diego church and on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage on the same issue.

Prejean’s active opposition prompted the Miss California organizers to review her contract with them. The contract prohibited her from making personal appearances or giving interviews without permission. The organizers also criticized her semi-nude photo as a teenage model.

The alleged multiple violations may cause Prejean her crown. Being ethical and morally right is beside the point. The issue here is that she violated some of the provisions of her contract as a beauty titlist. As the reigning Miss California, she has a duty to abide by and uphold the terms of the contract.

Breach of contract is an actionable wrong in California and anywhere else. So long as the terms of the contract are conscionable and voluntarily agreed by the parties, such terms should stand. Should the matter be elevated to the court, Prejean must hire an attorney expert on breach of contract cases.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tenured and Terrible: The Fight Against Substandard Teachers

Substandard tenured teachers are a trial in more ways than one.

A Los Angeles Times report painted a stark picture on the public education system’s dilemma in dealing with tenured public school teachers who get to keep their jobs despite poor classroom performance, laziness, apathy and in some cases, even improper conduct.

According to district statistics for the last five years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has about 30,000 tenured teachers and fires 21 a year -- under 1 per 1,000. Long Beach fires 6 per 1,000, and San Diego fires about 2 per 1,000.

Administrators lament that firing permanent teachers is laborious and expensive—legal costs could come up to six figures and it takes years of rehabilitation efforts, union grievances and administrative and court appeals. All their efforts to get a bad apple out can still come to naught as teachers can appeal firings to specially convened panels-- dismissals have been overturned more than a third of the time.

District officials, principals and their lawyers have likened the process of terminating tenured teachers to a maze. Top Los Angeles school officials are now calling for new state legislation that would make it easier for them to dismiss incompetent tenured teachers while the teachers union have vowed to fight against such a move.

As important as it is to uphold the legacy of labor battles that have won teachers strong job protection against being fired for frivolous infractions—it is all too possible that the tenure system is hurting the educational system.

How can one learn if the teacher can’t effectively teach? President Barack Obama in March said that good teachers should be nourished and bad ones should be cast out.

The law should not be an excuse for mediocrity. Reform should hardly be a cause for concern, not when the longevity becomes the basis for rewarding people and protecting them from consequences.

As William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We cannot afford to douse the minds and potentials of our children by allowing our educational system to be corroded by substandard and abusive teachers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hedge Fund Defrauds Investors worth $38M

Ruderman Capital Partners and Ruderman Capital Partners A, hedge funds operated by Bradley L. Ruderman in Beverly Hills were frozen by Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank for allegedly scamming its investors worth least $38M.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Ruderman induced several investors to invest under false pretenses. The commission is seeking injunctions to prevent Ruderman from continuing to operate his funds, repayment for investors and financial penalties against Ruderman and his funds.

The complaint against Ruderman stated that famous names such Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison were used and claimed that investment returns are as high as 60% through positions in well-known companies such as Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc when in fact, the scheme was losing millions of dollars already.

From 2002 to 2009, 20 investors were told that the two hedge funds held more than $800 million in assets but as of March 31, the funds were valued at $387,000. Quarterly account statements were also submitted to investors stating false returns on investments at rates of 60% to 15% from 2002 to 2008.

The scam was revealed on April 15 when investors got a letter from Ruderman's attorney sent investors a letter that informed them that there is currently very little value in the assets held by the hedge funds.

The civil complaint alleged that Ruderman was willing to say or do anything to persuade investors to entrust their money to him and that the fabricated account statements presented a rosy picture for investors who instead of getting significant gains, may experience major losses.

Civil litigation in case of fraud and misrepresentation in business transactions like this is the best action to take in pursuing your claims to protect your legal rights.

Film Pirates: The Big Bad in Wolverine Movie

If you have no idea who Wolverine is, you’ve either been living in cave or under a rock.

Wolverine is undoubtedly, one of the biggest comic book characters in this generation and with X-Men characters and storylines hitting the tube, game consoles, and the big screen, the world is now held audience by these “Marvel-ous” mutants.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine had fanboys and fangirls salivating, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the adamantium-boned, invulnerable anti-hero (he’s not exactly the clean cut white knight) is a fan-favorite from “movies from comics” genre.

Early this April though, Twentieth Century Fox, the studio which owns this billion-dollar film franchise had the shock of its life when an unfinished copy of the movie was “leaked” and posted all over the internet.

The authorities estimate, that the film was downloaded several hundred thousand times from various file sharing sites. 20th Century Fox was up in arms over the piracy and said that the version of the film posted online is not complete and that whoever is responsible for the leak will be prosecuted.

Piracy is stealing and posting copies of the unfinished Wolverine movie way before its screening this May 1, 2009 is like corporate rape. It’s a flagrant violation of copyright laws that would likely affect the movie’s box-office earning.

Posting and watching a movie online may seem harmless and buying pirated DVDs may hardly seem like a criminal offense for some. But films are protected by copyright—which essentially means that other people cannot copy, adapt, distribute (or do other unauthorized acts) that copyrighted work. Film industries rely on copyright to protect their interests and their right to generate income from the works that they create.

Downloading films, TV episodes, and music without the proper permission and authority is a civil offense. Even if you don’t earn anything off a pirated copy of the film, you can still get sued by film companies.

So think twice before downloading from file-sharing sites, film theft is a crime punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment. $10 is hardly a huge price to pay for a movie—considering that you stand to lose thousands of dollars more if you get involved in a copyright lawsuit.