Mo. governor signals compromise on workers’ comp

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — About six weeks after he vetoed legislation that would have changed the state’s workers’ compensation system, Missouri’s Democratic governor is signaling that he would be open to compromise with Republican lawmakers.

In a letter to Senate leaders obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon indicated he would sign legislation that would prevent employees from suing their co-workers for on-the-job injuries. The governor also said he would support a provision to the system to include deadly diseases contracted on the job.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed similar legislation earlier this year, but Nixon vetoed the measure in mid-March. The governor said then that moving occupational diseases to the workers’ compensation system — instead of allowing such cases to be resolved in court — would take away workers’ ability to be adequately paid for diseases that could ultimately take their life.

But in his letter, Nixon said he would be willing to sign a new version of the legislation if lawmakers meet certain conditions. For example, he said workers with terminal diseases caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances should receive a higher payment than other workers who are permanently and completely disabled. Nixon also said lawmakers should also broaden the definition of heirs who receive payments after the worker dies from an occupational disease.

“As our economy continues to grow, we must remove the uncertainty surrounding these issues for both employers and workers and keep our state moving forward,” Nixon wrote.

With three weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers are currently considering several pieces of legislation to replace the bill Nixon vetoed. The most likely avenue is to insert the governor’s new proposals into a House-passed measure that could be debated in the Senate this week.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which had strongly supported the original legislation, said Tuesday that Nixon’s compromise position is acceptable to them.

“These cases are real, they’re expensive and the issue of ensuring the exclusive remedy within workers’ compensation for co-employee liability and occupational diseases is well worth what we are seeing put forward as an enhanced remedy for occupational disease,” said Rich AuBuchon, the general counsel for the chamber.

Under current law, people who are permanently and totally disabled receive weekly payments equal to two-thirds of their weekly income at the time of their injury, provided that amount is not more than 105 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. The state’s average weekly wage as of July 2011 was about $773.08 per week, according to the state’s labor department.

That means the maximum weekly benefit for the totally and permanently disabled is currently about $811.73 per week.

AuBuchon said the governor’s office has proposed raising the weekly payment for people affected by toxic workplace exposures to 200 percent of the worker’s weekly income, though the maximum cap would not change.

A spokesman for Nixon would not immediately elaborate Tuesday about the details of the governor’s proposal. Calls to some Senate Democrats who had spoken out against moving occupational diseases into the workers’ compensation system were also not immediately returned.

But Herb Johnson, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said his group might support legislation that includes Nixon’s proposal. The union had previously spoken against measures to move occupational diseases into the state program.

Johnson said he had not yet read the governor’s letter, but said the group might support the change depending on how much the workers’ compensation system would ultimately pay the sickened workers.

“In essence, we’re after something that’s fair and takes care of the worker and their surviving family as much as possible,” he said.

Current law also makes a spouse or dependent child eligible to receive a benefit after the ill worker dies. AuBuchon said Nixon would like to expand the heirs eligible to receive the benefit, and said the details of that provision are still being worked out.

____

Workers’ compensation bill is HB1403.

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

http://cbsn.ws/JOutXO

Turn signal neglect, a real danger, study shows.

By Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau

Forget distracted driving.  A new study says there’s a far more serious problem that’s responsible for as many as 2 million accidents annually.
When’s the last time you used your own turn signals?  According to research by the Society of Automotive Engineers, drivers either neglect to use their signals when changing lanes – or fail to turn the signals off – 48% of the time.  And when making a turn the failure rate is around 25%.  That works out to 2 billion times a day drivers fail to use signals, or 750 billion times annually. 
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A lack of courtesy? Laziness?  Poor training?  Whatever the reason, the SAE study says the problem results in about 2 million roadway collisions annually.  That’s more than twice the 950,000 accidents linked to distracted driving, which has become one of the central topics of the U.S. Department of Transportation under Sec. Ray LaHood.
 “This is a first of its kind report on a subject that amazingly, has never been studied,” said Richard Ponziani, P.E., President of RLP Engineering and author of the report. Yet, despite the fact that turn signals are simple, ubiquitous and “extremely effective,” there is an epidemic lack of compliance even though “all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light.”
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Anecdotal evidence suggests that police put little effort into enforcement, less than they devote to speeding, or running stop signs and red lights.  Other than shifting priorities, the new study suggests an alternative that it dubs the “Smart Turn Signal.”
They “are the perfect complement to the Stability Control System since Stability Control predominately prevents single-vehicle crashes, whereas the Smart Turn Signal prevents multi-vehicle crashes,” suggested Ponziani.
Such a system would automatically shut off a turn signal, likely by timing out after a set delay or by detecting when a vehicle has finished changing lanes – much as today’s cars automatically cancel the signals after making a turn at an intersection.
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For scofflaws who simply don’t use their signals, the system would work much like a seatbelt reminder.  It would be able to sense if drivers routinely ignore their turn signals and start to flash what the study calls a “friendly” reminder.
Using the latest electronics, a Smart Turn Signal system would actually be simpler and less expensive than the current mechanical trip mechanism, according to Ponziani, a press release concluding that, “This breakthrough represents a perfect opportunity to significantly reduce multi-vehicle crash rates, reduce vehicle cost and make driving a lot more friendly and courteous across the U.S.”

http://on.msnbc.com/Ktxf4j

What Does Tupac’s Hologram Mean For Other Celebrity Estates?

What Does Tupac’s Hologram Mean For Other Celebrity Estates?

INDIO, CA - APRIL 15:  A hologram of deceased ...The music world has been buzzing ever since the surprise appearance of Tupac Shukar — well, that is, a digitally-created 3-D image of Tupac — on stage to rap at the Coachella music festival in California.  Some have described this as creepy, like seeing a ghost.  Is this going to be a new trend for celebrity estates?  Should it be?

First, there is the issue of legality.  Was it legal for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to bring Tupac’s image on stage?  Because this was a use of Tupac’s image and likeness for commercial purposes, only the holder of the “right of publicity” for Tupac could authorize it.  That right is owned by Tupac’s estate, under the control of the executor — his mother, Afeni Shakur.

Reportedly, she not only authorized it, but was thrilled with the outcome.  Dr. Dre repaid the estate for this permission with a contribution to the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which is Tupac’s charity.

Dr. Dre has already said he’d love to bring out other dead celebrities to perform with him, like Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye.  Michael Jackson’s brothers are planning a reunion tour next year, and hope to have a holographic version of the King of Pop join the tour.  And we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitney Houston’s estate take advantage of what could be a new trend in celebrity estates, based on the reports of how much debt her estate has.  Celebrity estates could profit handsomely by allowing the use of holographic images, given how much excitement Tupac’s appearance generated.

Who’s next?  Elvis?  Marilyn Monroe?  Maybe Amy Winehouse?  They all rank highly on Trial & Heirs‘ list of top Twitter accounts of deceased celebrities.  So their estates are already putting words into their mouths through social media, mostly to promote commercial endeavors and raise money for the estates.  It’s certainly not a stretch to envision holographic performances next.

The Michael Jackson estate will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Unlike many other celebrity musicians who passed away, his estate is controlled not by his family, but by professionals.  The Ray Charles estate is another example.  Both have featured court fights between the family and those in charge.  With those estates, the executors — not the family members — have the right to agree to a holographic performance, whether the family members like it or not.

It’s no easy task to balance the desire to profit from a late musician’s image, and the concern of crossing the line into exploiting that image in ways that would leave the performer spinning in his grave.  Even family members can often disagree over this line.  For example, the Bob Marley estate has seen lots of fighting over this very issue, including a recent lawsuit by the estate, controlled by Marley’s mother, suing one of his half-brothers.  That case involves the right to sell Mama Marley fish products and use the Marley name in connection with a popular music festival.  The Jimi Hendrix estate faced similar court fights between half-siblings, one of which involved “Electric Hendrix Vodka.”

In the future, these types of disputes will take on heightened significance if a holographic image of a long-lost celebrity is involved.  Should the ability to profit outweigh the harm that comes with commercial exploitation of what is essentially a ghost?  As this New York Times Op-Ed piece eloquently put it:

[T]he reanimated dead are never the people they were before. Oh, they sing the same, and rap the same, and have the same distinctive tattoos and hand gestures.  But they don’t have the complexity, or the humanity, to really compel our interest. They’re ghosts — ghosts in a new machine, perhaps — but at best they are no more than the shadow of the shadows that they cast upon us, back when they were alive.

Pale imitation of the original or not, holographic performances will surely generate profits from devoted fans who miss their fallen idol.  There will always be legions of devoted followers who would gladly pay to see even a lesser version perform again.  As long as the executor in charge gives the green light, this is all perfectly legal.

But, is it right?  What would Tupac have thought about this?

This is something to think about for many of us.  Even when you’re not famous, and don’t have to worry about whether or not your estate will allow a hologram of you to perform, you have a name and reputation that will live on after you’re gone.  For business owners, there is the added concern of your reputation being properly managed through your business after you pass away.

Who do you want to control your legacy after you pass?  Do you want that person to treat your heirs honorably, as you would have liked?  Do you want your business to be managed in a way that would make you proud?

These are legitimate concerns that many people don’t stop and think about when doing their estate planning.  Creating a will or trust is more than simply deciding who gets what.  Choosing the right person to manage your estate, trust or business after you die is critical, both for your loved ones and often for your own reputation.  Putting the right person in charge can make all the difference between tainting your legacy, and having your wishes and goals followed the way you want.

By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national television special, Trial & Heirs:  Protect Your Family Fortune! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update.  You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

http://bit.ly/JGcNPO

KC Teen charged with manslaughter in fatal texting while driving case

A 16-year-old girl has been charged with manslaughter, assault and texting while driving in connection with a September 2011 fatality collision. It’s a moment the young driver can never take back, and one prosecutors said could have been avoided if she’d just put down her phone.

According to the Platte County prosecutor, Rachel N. Gannon, of Kansas City, was allegedly texting on her cell phone when she lost control of her vehicle and collided with a car driven by Loretta J. Larimer, 72, who was killed in the crash.

Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said Gannon was charged April 19, after having been certified to stand trial as an adult on April 16.

According to court documents, Gannon was traveling north on NW Skyview Road on Sept. 26, 2011 at approximately 3 p.m. when she struck Larimer’s vehicle near Interstate 435.

Gannon was allegedly looking at her cell phone and texting when she ran off the side of the road. When Gannon returned her vehicle to the road, she struck a car heading in the opposite direction.

Larimer was extricated from her car and taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her 10-year-old granddaughter was riding in the back seat of Larimer’s car and suffered injuries which were not life-threatening.

“Enough lives have been shattered and ruined, and I certainly don’t want to ruin this young person’s life, but we want to know what happened,” said John Larimer, the victim’s son.

The victim’s family hopes answers will finally come in Gannon’s trial.

Gannon is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the second-degree, third-degree assault and texting while driving. If convicted of the manslaughter charge, Gannon faces up to four years in prison. She faces up to one year in jail on the assault charge and a $200 fine if convicted of texting while driving.

Under Missouri law, texting while driving is only a crime for drivers under age 21. Zahnd said he believed the Missouri legislature should prohibit texting while driving for all drivers, regardless of age.

“Texting while driving is at least as dangerous as drinking and driving. We make a crime of that for anybody, no matter the age,” Zahnd said. “It should also be a crime for anybody to text while driving.”

Gannon posted a $5,000 bond and surrendered her driver’s license as a condition of bond. Her first court date has not been set.

The teen will be tried as an adult, based on the severity of the crime and how soon she’ll come of age.

That’s a decision the victim’s son isn’t so sure about, focusing instead on recovering from the loss of a mother, grandmother and center of a large family.

“It’s better each day, but we still cannot believe this happened,” John Larimer said. “We can’t believe she’s gone.”

The charges against Gannon are merely accusations, and Gannon is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The victim’s son said his niece, the 10-year-old girl injured in the crash, is recovering and doing well. He suggests having Gannon travel around to high schools in the metro area and talk to kids about the dangers of texting and driving. He believes that’s a good way to hold her accountable and spread awareness among young drivers – something he said is most important.

Instead, the teen could face up to four years in federal prison if convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charge.

http://bit.ly/Jc4Hwe

Driverless cars, is it a reality? Are insurance companies ready?

Many of us fondly recall the Jetsons cartoon from our childhoods. It was a show that still seems incredibly futuristic, and yet many of the inventions envisioned in the Jetsons aren’t yet a part of our reality. But one concept–driver-free cars–is already a possibility in 2012.

Search engine leader Google is currently testing driverless cars and Nevada has already passed regulations that pave the way for use of these car’s on Nevada roadways.

But, are they safe? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many features of driverless cars make the roads safer, as reported in this Chicago-Tribune article:

One argument for driverless cars, is, ironically, an argument for safer roads. The reason the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required that all new auto models include electronic stability control is that it makes vehicles safer. The agency predicts that once every vehicle on the road has the system, the feature will prevent up to 238,000 crashes and save up to 9,600 lives per year.

Windsor said electronic stability control, collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems are good for safety and can help drive down the cost of car insurance.

One would think that insurance companies would embrace these safer vehicles, but according to the Chicago-Tribune article, the exact opposite is true. It seems that insurers are instead turning a blind eye to the possibility that use of the cars by the public will likely soon be a reality–possibly within a matter of years.

So why aren’t insurers hard at work underwriting policies for these cars? According to the article, it’s because they’re just not ready to accept the idea that these cars will be ready for mass use in just a few years:

With companies working to develop completely autonomous vehicles — in which passengers can read, sleep or work on a computer while they travel to their destination — you’d think insurance companies are developing models to underwrite insurance policies on these types of vehicles.

Not really. Several companies haven’t looked into it at all, and the ones that have say it will be several years — perhaps decades — before automated vehicles are ready for the market.

The insurers may be right. Only time will tell. But knowing how innovative Google can be, it’s a big gamble to ignore the very real possibility that driverless cars may soon be on our roadways–making the roads safer for everyone and preventing car accidents.

For the sake of the large, traditional auto insurers, let’s hope they’re ready. Otherwise, an innovative startup might just take the business of insuring driverless cars right out from under them.

http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=4f67158b-75d9-4717-9333-bbf95dcfc55d

This week’s legal resources you might have missed: Jan. 16 – 20

At Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC. we enjoy keeping up with the latest legal news and sharing it with you. We firmly believe that is important to keep up with industry happenings because it is just one more way that we can help you. An unfortunate vaccination error results in the loss of four limbs for a Miami teenager, “idiot”insult in an email sent to 400 people sparks a lawsuit, and while the wrongful death lawsuits from the 2010 West Virginia mine explosion have finally been settled, it’s far from over for Alpha.These were some of the topics gracing legal headlines this week. As always, we thank you for reading. Have a good one!

1. Miami teenager loses limbs due to vaccination error. The teen, who lost all four limbs as a result of the expired vaccine, has recently been awarded $12.6 million in the lawsuit. However, an appeal is likely.

2. Take a deep breath before you fire off that heated work email. A housing inspector has filed a civil against a real estate agent and her company after the real estate agent called him a “total” idiot in an email sent to more than 400 people.

3. It’s far from over for Alpha Natural Resources. The 2010 West Virginia mine explosion claimed the lives of 29 men. Nearly two years later, the wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families have been settled. But after acquiring Massey Energy for $7.1 billion, it also acquired a civil lawsuit filed by Massey Shareholders.

Thank you for reading. Have a great Friday!

This week’s legal resources you might have missed: Jan. 9 – 13

At Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC. we enjoy keeping up with the latest legal news and sharing it with you. We firmly believe that is important to keep up with industry happenings because it is just one more way that we can help you. A bungee jumping disaster of crocodile-infested waters, a 5-year-old girl who might be healthy today with an earlier diagnosis, current Kansas legislature issues and the anti-clotting drug Pradaxa. These were some of the topics gracing legal headlines this week. As always, we thank you for reading. Have a good one!

1. Snapped bungee sends a 22-year-old girl plunging into crocodile-infested waters. The Australian tourist was bungee-jumping in Zimbabwe when disaster struck. She amazingly managed to swim to safety with a broken collarbone and her legs tied together. MSNBC has secured video footage of the jump.

2. Minnesota Court Appeals examines the possibility of a late diagnosis. Five-year-old Jocelyn has been battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer muscular cancer for most of her life. The issue being looked at by the court is whether or not she would be healthy today if she had been diagnosed earlier. What’s different in Minnesota? The legality of medical malpractice suits are linked to the patient’s chances of survival.

3. The Kansas Legislature is now in session. The Kansas City star has compiled a list of some of the key issues up for discussion. The session began on Monday.

4. Issues have been reported with anti-clotting drug Pradaxa. The blood clot prevention drug has been associated with a slightly higher risk of heart attack, said a recent study in a major medical journal. The relative increase in risk ranges from 27 to 33 percent.

This week’s legal resources you might have missed: Jan. 2 – 6

At Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC. we enjoy keeping up with the latest legal news and sharing it with you. We firmly believe that is important to keep up with industry happenings because it is just one more way that we can help you. Drunken-driving related deaths soared in Kansas over the past year, there’s a whole list of laws set to take effect in 2012, and lastly the speeding ticket turned date request turned….lawsuit? These were some of the legal headlines this week and we’ve got the details in our Friday blog. Here you go, happy reading!

1. Alcohol-related deaths declined nationwide in 2011, but not the case for Kansas. Kansas recorded the second biggest increase in drunken-driving related deaths over the past year. This statistic is shocking, and more importantly, avoidable. Is the system in Kansas dealing with DUIs flawed? The Kansas City Star has the full story.

2. California’s new laws for 2012 touch on everything from DUIs to taxes. Elections, employment, health care, the Dream Act and more. These are the laws on California’s legislative plate for the coming year. If these were taking effect in your neighborhood, how would you feel about some of them?

3. A cop issues a woman a speeding ticket, then hunts her down looking for a date. Cute or creepy? The woman found it the latter, apparently, as she filed a lawsuit. The cop in question used the police records to track her after issuing the ticket. Is there more to this story? It will be interesting to follow this.

Thanks for reading, have an excellent weekend.

This week’s legal resources you might have missed: Dec. 27 – 30

At Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC. we enjoy keeping up with the latest legal news and sharing it with you. We firmly believe that is important to keep up with industry happenings because it is just one more way that we can help you. A series of lawsuits against priests with Kansas City connections has emerged, beware the dangers of teen drinking & driving on New Year’s Eve and phony Indiana State Fair injuries- these are the topics in this week’s blog. Once again, thanks for reading. We welcome your opinions and discussion!

(See you in 2012!)

1. Priests with KC ties face a series of sexual abuse lawsuits. The recent suits filed in the last few weeks brings the total number of cases filed this year to two dozen. The three priests in question are Rev. Michael Tierney, retired Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien and retired Bishop Joseph Hart.

2. Beware the dangers of teen drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve. A new study by Liberty Mutual and SADD reveals that teens engage in this behavior more on NYE than on any other holiday. We should all set ground rules to keep everyone safe on this holiday.

3. Two women are accused of faking injuries from the Indiana State Fair in an attempt to collect from victims’ funds. However, they must not have thought this out very thoroughly seeing as neither was present at the concert when the stage collapsed. They now face charges for fraud and could likely spend years in prison.

Best wishes for you all in the coming year.

This week’s legal resources you might have missed: Dec. 19 – 23

At Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC. we enjoy keeping up with the latest legal news and sharing it with you. We firmly believe that is important to keep up with industry happenings because it is just one more way that we can help you. How does a Zuckerberg v. Zuckerberg lawsuit sound? Dental negligence leads to the tragic death of a teen, and a gay couple files a lawsuit against a bed & breakfast  that denied them a room. That’s what we’ve got for this week’s blog. Once again, thanks for reading. We welcome your opinions and discussion!

1. Facebook sets its lawyers on “Mark Zuckerberg.” But here’s the catch- there’s more than one. The false Zuckerberg has been sent a cease and desist notice, and is being ordered to delete his phony Facebook account.

2. The parents of a teen who died during a routine dental procedure sue for malpractice. During a wisdom tooth surgery, a teen lost oxygen and died 10 days later. Hypoxia was the ruled cause of death, and now the anesthesiologist and surgeon face malpractice suits.

3. Two California women sue a bed & breakfast, claiming they were denied a room because they were gay. The lesbian couple is filing a discrimination lawsuit against the establishment. However, the owner claims she would also have denied a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays!