Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You're Not Just imagining It: Connecticut in "Top Ten" of State Foreclosure rates

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday.
Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.
Nationwide, 649,917 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in the first three months of the year, up 112 percent from 306,722 during the same period last year, RealtyTrac said.
The latest tally also represents an increase of 23 percent from the fourth quarter of last year.
RealtyTrac monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.
All told, one in every 194 households received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Foreclosure filings increased in all but four states.
The most recent quarter marked the seventh consecutive quarter of rising foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac noted.
"What would normally alleviate the foreclosure situation in a normal market is people starting to buy properties again," said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's vice president of marketing.
However, the unavailability of loans for people without perfect credit and a significant down payment is slowing the process, he said.
"It's a cycle that's going to be difficult to break, and we're certainly not at the breaking point just yet," Sharga added.
The surge in foreclosure filings also suggests that much-touted campaigns by lawmakers and the mortgage lending industry aimed at helping at-risk homeowners aren't paying off.
Hope Now, a Bush administration-organized mortgage industry group, said nearly 503,000 homeowners had received mortgage aid in the first quarter. Most of the aid was temporary, however.
Pennsylvania was a notable standout in the latest foreclosure data. The number of homes in the state to receive a foreclosure-related filing plunged 24.4 percent from a year earlier.
Sharga credited the decline to the state's foreclosure relief measures, noting that cities such as Philadelphia put in place a moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April and implemented other measures aimed at helping slow foreclosures.
Nearly 157,000 properties were repossessed by lenders nationwide during the quarter, according to RealtyTrac.
The flood of foreclosed properties on the market has contributed to falling or stagnating home values, yet lenders have yet to implement heavy discounts on repossessed homes, Sharga said.
Nevada posted the worst foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 54 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice, nearly four times the national rate.
The number of properties with a filing increased 137 percent over the same quarter last year but only rose 3 percent from the fourth quarter.
California had the most properties facing foreclosure at 169,831, an increase of 213 percent from a year earlier. It also posted the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one in every 78 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice.
California metro areas accounted for six of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates in the first quarter, RealtyTrac said.
Many of the areas - including Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield - are located in inland areas of the state where many first-time buyers overextend themselves financially to buy properties that have plunged in value since the market peak.
"California still hasn't hit bottom," Sharga said. "We have a lot of California homes that are in early stages of default that may not be salvageable because either there's no market or financing available, or both."
Arizona had the third-highest foreclosure rate, with one in every 95 households reporting a foreclosure filing in the quarter. A total of 27,404 homes reported at least one filing, up nearly 245 percent from a year ago and up 45 percent from the last quarter of 2007.
Florida had 87,893 homes reporting at least one foreclosure filing, a 178 percent jump from the first quarter of last year and a 17 percent hike from the fourth quarter last year. That translates into a foreclosure rate of one in every 97 households.
The other states among the top 10 with the highest foreclosure rates were Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and Connecticut

Associated press Reporting Spitzer call Girl Suing "Girls gone Wild" Wunderkind for 10 Million

MIAMI (AP) - The call girl linked to the downfall of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer sued the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" series on Monday for $10 million, claiming he exploited her image and name to advertise the racy videos.
Ashley Alexandra Dupre, 22, contended in the lawsuit that she was only 17 - too young to sign legally binding contracts - and drunk on spring break in 2003 when she agreed to be filmed for "Girls Gone Wild" in Miami Beach.
Dupre "did not understand the magnitude of her actions, nor that her image and likeness would be displayed in videos and DVDs," says the lawsuit filed by Miami attorney Richard C. Wolfe.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami names as defendants "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis, two of his companies and a man purportedly involved in creation of two Internet sites that the lawsuit contends improperly use Dupre's image to sell DVDs and other products.
Francis, 35, has built a soft porn empire filming and marketing videos of young women exposing their breasts and being shown in other sexually provocative situations, often at public events such as Mardi Gras or spring break beach locales.
Dupre gained notoriety in March when it came out that she was the high-priced call girl named "Kristen" named in court documents who was hired by Spitzer for at least one tryst at a posh Washington hotel. Spitzer, known as "Client 9" in the documents, resigned as New York governor a few days after the scandal broke.
Francis made a public $1 million offer for Dupre to appear in a "Girls Gone Wild" video and go on a promotional tour, then rescinded the offer after he realized he already had footage of Dupre from 2003. Dupre's lawyer warned she was only 17 when the video was shot, not 18 as Francis claimed.
Francis said in March that Dupre spent a week on a "Girls Gone Wild" bus and made seven full-length tapes after signing release papers. He also said he bought her a bus ticket home to North Carolina.
Francis said he was surprised by the lawsuit.
"It is incomprehensible that Ms. Dupre could claim she did not give her consent to be filmed by Girls Gone Wild, when in fact we have videotape of her giving consent, while showing her identification," Francis said in a statement.
He said the photos were taken "in front of a room full of people, including two newspapers and multiple crews we had in the room." Francis also said he would be happy to discuss the $1 million offer with her again.
The lawsuit claims Dupre is the victim of unfair trade practices, false advertising and unauthorized use of her likeness.
Francis is no stranger to legal problems in Florida. He spent a year in jail and was released in March after pleading no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges for filming underage girls in the Panhandle beach town of Panama City. Four women who claim they were 17 or younger when filmed have filed lawsuits there against Francis.
Francis also faces federal tax evasion charges in California. Prosecutors say companies controlled by Francis claimed more than $20 million in phony deductions in 2002 and 2003 and that Francis used offshore accounts to conceal income

Don't Try This At Home

Our odd news story of the week comes from San Francisco where the Chronicle reported that a landlord, angered over losing an eviction case against his tenant: cut the support beam under the house hired workers to cut a hole in the living room floor from underneath the house, and cut the tenant's electric and phone lines. Needless to say, the landlord has been charged with a number of crimes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

6th Edition of AMA Guidelines A Source of Confusion as to Chiropractic

We in the worker's comp world are well aware of the role the American Medical Association (AMA) Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment play in our daily lives. It is upon this tome that injured workers in Connecticut are adjudicated their just due under section 31-308 of our General Statutes. Unfortunately, as with so many things, the new issue of the "AMA Guidelines" can raise more questions than it answers.
When the AMA published the Sixth Edition of its Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, it contained new language that restricted chiropractic evaluations to the spine only. The restriction drew sharp criticism from the American Chiropractic Association. In a letter to the AMA, the ACA questioned the legality of restrictive language related to evaluations by doctors of chiropractic and accused the AMA of violating the permanent Wilk injuction.

The AMA responded by issuing a correction. The Guide will state in relevant part that: "Impairment evaluation requires medical knowledge. Physicians duly recognized by an appropriate jurisdiction should perform such assessments within their applicable scope of practice and field of expertise." AMA will be mailing out the correction and future publication of the Guide will contain the corrective language.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Med Student's Death Prompts Reminder in Rights of Pedestrians in Roadwary

The Hartford Courant is today reporting that a 27 year old Yale Medical School Student was struck and killed by an automobile as she attempted to cross South Frontage Road in New haven on Sunday morning.

This tragic accident reminds me that the laws concerning the use of the highway by a pedestrian or not as pedestrian friendly as you might think.

In many States, a pedestrian always and absolutely has the right of way when he or she enters a roadway. All vehicular traffic has to yield the right of way.

In Connecticut, a pedestrian has the right of way over a motor vehicle ONLY when that pedestrian is in a crosswalk. If for some reason the pedestrian attempts to cross a road at a point other than a crosswalk, then the law is going to favor the operator of the motor vehicle. This harsh result surprises many people yet it is the primary reason lawyers are careful to accept death and injury cases resulting from pedestrians being struck by cars on a roadway.

If you need to cross, do so in a marked crosswalk if at all possible. If you or someone you love is injured as a pedestrian, feel free to call me for a careful, individual analysis of your particular situation.

James F. Aspell

Monday, April 14, 2008

Governor Rell Appoints Two More New Worker's Comp Commissioners

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has named Daniel Dilzer and David Schoolcraft to the state Workers' Compensation Commission.
Upcoming Webcast!

Dilzer, 41, is a lawyer with the New Britain-based law firm Davila & Dilzer. He serves serves on the State of Connecticut's Victim's Compensation Commission and has served as a Commissioner of the New Britain Housing Authority, the Berlin Board of Ethics and the Berlin Charter Revision Commission.

Schoolcraft, 51, is a lawyer with the Rocky Hill-based Law Offices of Donna-Maria Lonergan. He serves as chair of the Hebron Board of Selectmen, and also serves on the board of Andover, Hebron, Marlborough Youth Services, Inc.

Dilzer and Schoolcraft will be sworn in following approval from the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee and will serve on an interim basis, pending confirmation by the General Assembly.

"Both Dan and Dave have had many years of experience in legal matters, and over those years they have acquired the skills needed to serve as Workers' Compensation commissioners," Rell said. "These two attorneys are prepared to uphold our workers' compensation laws and administer justice in a fair and thoughtful manner. Their knowledge of local and state government provides them with a valuable perspective for this role."

Source: Connecticut Governor's Office

Monday, April 7, 2008

DOVER — - Three teenagers were injured shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday, when their SUV slammed into a rock and then crashed against a utility pole, police reported.

The driver, Dustin Balula, 18, sustained a broken leg; passenger Natalie St. Germain, 18, sustained cuts to her forehead; and passenger Michael Ciurylo, 17, sustained serious leg injuries, including a broken femur, state troopers reported.

Life Star flew Ciurylo to Hartford Hospital; ambulances took Balula and St. Germain there. Early Sunday, hospital staff reported that Ciurylo, of Columbia, was undergoing surgery.

St. Germain, of Windham, was in stable condition late Sunday, and Balula, of Columbia, had been treated and released, the hospital said.

The crash was reported at 4:48 a.m. on Route 6 near Burnap Brook Road. Balula was driving east when he veered off the right side of the road and crashed, Trooper Paul Arigno wrote in an accident report.

Troopers from the Colchester barracks were investigating, and had not publicly commented on any possible cause for the crash.

Huge Decision affecting disabled worker's in Connecticut

The Connecticut Supreme Court has issued a critically important decision concerning what reasonable accommodations an employer must make for an injured working before terminating him. The full text of the article which I am providing appears in the Connecticut Law Tribune.

Attorney Rick Hayber, referred to in the article is my go to guy for all labor law issues. If you have been injured on the job it is critical you speak with an informed worker's compensation lawyer. Call me today to discuss your situation.

The Article in question:
Disabled Workers To Benefit From Decision

Employer must discuss solution, or firing is wrongful


The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that even though Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act doesn’t include the “reasonable accommodation” language of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the same principle applies.

Furthermore, unless the employer engages in at least an informal dialogue with a disabled employee, he or she can’t just be fired.

“Although this court never has addressed whether [FEPA] imposes a duty on employers to provide reasonable accommodation to their disabled employees, the question has been addressed by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities,” Justice Joette Katz wrote for the unanimous court. The CHRO’s decisions, for the past 12 years at least, have recognized such a right for disabled workers, as have trial court decisions.

The Supreme Court acknowledged that employers can defend themselves against discrimination suits by showing that a job requires specific occupational qualifications. Nevertheless, the justices found, employers using the bona fide occupational qualification defense still must show that they tried to find reasonable accommodations.

“[O]ur thorough review of the legislative history reveals a consistent intent to increase protections for individuals with disabilities,” and to stamp out discrimination based on physical and a wide range of other disabilities, the court wrote.

A great majority of states have found a reasonable accommodation requirement in their antidiscrimination statutes, often through judicial interpretation, and the high court joined it.

Injured Back

The plaintiff, John P. Curry, was a truck driver for Allan S. Goodman Inc., an East Hartford liquor distributor. He injured his back, and was allowed to work in the warehouse filling “split” cartons with various brands.

The work occasionally required stocking supply shelves from unopened boxes, which weighed more than Curry’s doctor said he should lift. After a rancorous dispute over job duties, Curry was dismissed for being unable to do his work.

Curry’s lawyer for the past seven years has been Richard E. Hayber, of Hartford. Two days after Curry’s firing, Haber wrote to the former employers and asked for a discussion. “I said ‘please.’ He wanted his job back, he didn’t want a lawsuit,” said Haber in an interview. In light of today’s decision, he said, “Writing that letter was the smartest thing I’ve ever done.”

The company had an internal policy that light duty work could only be temporary. When Curry subsequently sued for wrongful discharge, he contended Goodman’s policy represented illegal discrimination against the permanently disabled.

The company’s failure to even consult with the former employee about a possible reasonable accommodation in the warehouse was itself grounds to get Curry a trial, Hayber argued.

On a motion for summary judgment, Goodman lawyers argued that the company cannot be required to create new permanent jobs for the disabled. Hartford Superior Court Judge Robert F. Stengel granted summary judgment for the company.

The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Curry was able to work, so summary judgment was improper. Curry was able to work 10-hour shifts when he was discharged, and even though he couldn’t lift full cases, he could load bottles into an empty carton and move it on a hand truck, almost as fast.

Goodman was defended by Glenn A. Duhl and George J. Kelly, Jr., of Hartford’s Siegel, O’Connor O’Donnell & Beck, who could not be reached at press time.

“I’m so happy for my client,” said Hayber. “John’s a poster child for Connecticut workers who break their backs for their employers, and then get cast out without even a conversation over the phone. This case says that’s just not right.”•

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Importance of a timely Notice of Claim

I often wax on with my old saw, "the employer will not make the claim for you." The Employer's "First Report of Injury" does nothing to satisfy your burden as regards the making of a claim in a Connecticut Worker's Comp case. You or your attorney MUST file a Form 30C with the employer and the WCC in the manner prescribed by statute.

In this case, the IW sustained what was later determined to be a heart attack which was mistakenly diagnosed as a shoulder injury. Because he did not file a proper claim alleging a cardiac event, he was out of luck.

It is so important that if you on the job injury is anything more than a garden variety "no lost time" case, you consult an experienced Connecticut worker's Compensation Attorney.

James Aspell

Welcome To Our Newest Connecticut Worker's Compensation Commissioner

Attorney Christine Engel has taken the helm as Connecticut's most recent Commissioner appointee. Before joining the Commission, Attorney Engel had years of experience practicing worker's compensation law here in Connecticut, primarily representing injured workers.

I had the good fortune to meet Commissioner Engel this morning in Waterbury. Having no previous dealings with her as an attorney, I was thrilled to find her on top of her game and knowledgeable in the ins and outs of our worker's comp system. She is a great addition to our ranks and I look forward to her input on future claims.

If you or someone you know has been killed or injured on the job in Connecticut, feel free to call me for a candid discussion of your rights.

James Aspell

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Be Honest. How Often Will you See "Lawyer" and "Miss Cleo" in the same sentence

Berlin Speeding Tragedy Leads to Lengthy Jail Time

A New Britain man convicted in a crash that killed five people was sentenced to 79 years in prison Wednesday.

Kevin Cales, 34, who has an extensive criminal history, was accused of chasing his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend Maryneliz Jimenez on Chamberlin Highway in Berlin in May 2006. She had four passengers with her and prosecutors said speeds reached more than 100 mph. Her car hit a grove of trees and split in half before bursting into flames.

Something like this is just such a pointless loss. 5 people are gone and one young man will spend the rest of his productive life behind bars. There is nothing that can really make this situation right. The loss of a loved one under circumstances like these will however, in addition to criminal penalties, provide legal grounds for a civil lawsuit to recovery monetary damages for your loss.

If you have any questions about traffic accident injries or deaths, feel free to contact me for a free discussion of your matter.