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Entries in California Law (19)

Tuesday
Jun282016

Rocket's Red Glare: Burns & Other Injuries From Fireworks

Injury Attorney Los AngelesDefective Product Attorney

 

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), about 230 people are rushed to an emergency room daily between June 20th and July 20th each year, because of serious fireworks injuries. More than half of these ER patients suffer serious burns, mostly to hands, eyes and faces. Some suffer fatal injuries.

Many accidents caused by fireworks are the consumer’s fault, primarily due to inattention, inebriation, or the taking of unnecessary risks.

Just remember what happened to New York Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in 2015. His inattention to which firework he was actually lighting, and an attempt to light it seven times (the wind kept blowing out the flame) nearly cost him his hand, as well as his pro-football career. He spent nearly three weeks in the hospital recovering from burns, an amputated finger and other injuries.

Many times though, fireworks manufacturers are to blame because of defects in design or a lack of sufficient warning or instruction on the packaging.

Fireworks Liability & Negligence

Sometimes, a number of individuals or entities may be found negligent. The responsible party may be a homeowner hosting a party, a fireworks manufacturer, pyrotechnic company hired to set off the fireworks, or the city that hires these companies. Even the importer may be held liable, as the company buying and selling fireworks in the U.S. has a responsibility to provide safe fireworks.

For example, a serious fireworks accident injured dozens of people in Simi Valley, California in 2013. Several injury lawsuits were filed against the Rotary Club of Simi Valley which hosted the July 4th festivities, the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, the City of Simi Valley, Ventura County and the pyrotechnics company, Bay Fireworks of New York.

The family of a pyrotechnic professional killed in 2014 filed a suit earlier this year against the pyrotechnic employers as well as six Chinese companies that designed, manufactured, packaged and sold a truckload of fireworks that prematurely exploded and killed four people in Texas.

California Health and Safety Code regulates the manufacture, transport, storage, sale and use of fireworks through California’s State Fire Marshall. The County of Los Angeles has its own set of regulations with classifications, which may be more stringent than state code. Click state and county fireworks code for more information, including definitions for which pyrotechnics are considered dangerous, exempt or “safe and sane”.

Serious Burn and Explosion Injuries

The problem with serious burns and other injuries sustained around explosive devices like fireworks is the long-term recovery needed. They usually require multiple skin grafts and come with a high risk of infection. Long-term physical therapy may be needed to recover the use of limbs or hands.

Fireworks accidents in particular may require intensive psychological treatment as well, as victims may be severely traumatized when attending a public event or celebrating a holiday that so seriously goes wrong. Heavy scarring or disfiguring injuries that can’t be fixed through plastic surgery may also take a psychological toll.

Treatment, whether physical or psychological, takes time and financial resources – impacting work, family and lifestyles.

Fireworks Safety

To reduce the risk of being burned or suffering other injuries from explosions, follow these safety tips: 

  1. Purchase fireworks approved for consumer use only. If wrapped in brown paper, they’re probably meant for professionals who have the proper safety gear and training, according to the CPSC.

  2. Obey local ordinances – many cities in California will ban all pyrotechnics displays, especially in very dry seasons. (See LA County fireworks info.)

  3. Keep water on hand – buckets of it are good, garden hoses are better.

  4. Don’t let children play with fireworks.

  5. Supervise children with sparklers – festive as they may be, sparklers can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – enough to cause serious burns when mishandled.

  6. Follow the lighting instructions carefully.

  7. Don’t modify the fireworks or experiment with homemade devices.

  8. Don’t light fireworks near homes, dry brush, or other fireworks.

  9. Light only one firework at a time.

  10. Don’t hover over the explosives. When lighting fireworks, try to do so at arm’s length.

  11. Don’t light fireworks inside metal or glass containers.

  12. Once lit, step away. The farther away you can get, the better.

  13. Don’t throw fireworks at another person. Even if you’re expecting a small explosion merely meant to scare someone, you never can predict how badly things may go awry.

  14. Just like a gas barbecue grill, don’t try to relight fireworks that didn’t light properly the first time – soak the duds in water and then throw them away. (In the case of a gas grill, turn off the gas, open the lid to allow accumulated gas to disperse for at least five minutes before attempting to relight.) 

Whether attending a city sponsored show, or just lighting up sparklers in the back yard, always be aware of the safety risks involved with fireworks, as well as who can be held liable for negligence.

The Kardashians found this out the hard way last year, when they set off fireworks and local tempers in Marina del Rey. According to TMZ, a disgruntled neighbor attempted to sue Khloe Kardashian for a permitted, eight minute pyrotechnic display at midnight that allegedly traumatized both him and his dog. When push came to shove though, the plaintiff failed to appear in court.

The lesson goes without saying: a little common sense and a lot of precaution can keep you and your loved ones safe, and out of court as either plaintiffs or defendants.

David B. Bobrosky is a Defective Product Attorney in our Personal Injury Practice Group. 

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
May182016

Wage & Hour: DOL Doubles Down on Salary Threshold 

Lawyer for EmployersAttorney for Employers

 

by Tal Burnovski Yeyni

818-907-3224

 

White Collar Overtime ExemptionConsidering all of the political movements regarding minimum wage, equal pay and other wage and hour concerns over the past few years, most employers could read the handwriting on the wall regarding overtime rules. That handwriting has now become official:

The Department of Labor Final Rule regarding the minimum salary level required for the exemption of executive, administrative and professional employees was released today.

In the event of a conflict between federal and state laws, employers must comply with the rule most favorable to employees.  Prior to today’s Final Rule, an employee designated exempt under Federal law must have made at least $455 per week ($23,660 annually). This amount is substantially lower than the minimum salary required for exemption under California law, thus requiring California employers to comply with the state salary level test for exemption.

Here are the key changes: 

  • DOL Final Rule: Effective December 1, 2016, the "standard" salary level will increase to $913 per week (equivalent to $47,476 annually for a full-year employee), nearly double the current federal weekly threshold.  The DOL launched a Frequently Asked Questions page here.


  • California Employers: In this state, the current threshold is $41,600 ($3,466.67 monthly; $800 weekly), so California employers must comply with the higher Federal salary level (for exemption purposes) as of December 1st.  


  • Use of Bonuses to Satisfy the Test: Nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) may be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary test requirement.

    Moreover, if an employee does not earn enough in nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) in a given quarter to retain their exempt status, the DOL now permits a "catch-up" payment at the end of the quarter. If the employer chooses not to make the catch-up payment, the employee would be entitled to overtime pay for any overtime hours worked during the quarter.


  • Automatic Updates: To ensure effectiveness of the salary level test, the DOL will update the standard salary compensation requirements every 3 years, with the first update taking effect on January 1, 2020.


  • Increase in California Minimum Wage Requirements: Note that last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill gradually increasing California’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2022 (for employers with 26 or more employees).  As the salary level for exemption is an extension of California’s minimum wage (two times the state’s minimum wage), employers must pay close attention to the automatic updates of the DOL and the increase in California’s minimum wage, to determine which salary test they must comply with for the exemption. 

Here’s California’s newly approved Minimum Wage Schedule:  

Wage and hour and other employment laws can become very confusing given how state and federal regulations can trump one another. Employers should seek the advice of experienced employment counsel to stay compliant.

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an attorney in our Employment Practice Group

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Feb112016

Mile Marker: Google Beginning to Clear Legal Hurdles for Self-Driving Cars (but many more ahead)

Personal InjuryPersonal Injury Attorney

 

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

Self-Driving-Cars

 

Can self-driving vehicles (SDVs) use the carpool lane? That may be a legal question for another day, as SDVs still have barricades to overcome before moving to the fast lane and becoming available commercially for consumers. 

But the Federal Government opened the door – by giving serious consideration to, and taking the first steps in expanding, the previously unambiguous term “driver” – to include the Artificial Intelligence (AI) operating Google’s Self-Driving System, along with human motor vehicle operators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, or Administration) just responded to a November letter from Chris Urmson, Google’s Director of the company’s Self-Driving Car Project, which requested the interpretation of federal driving laws as they pertain to SDVs. Google hopes to make SDVs commercially available to the public by 2020, and that means making them compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

The NHTSA did grant some interpretations, but remains hesitant on others, citing a need for further Google SDV testing and further legislation in the future.

One reason for the Administration’s caution is that most FMVSS were written for vehicles of the past century, when all cars had human drivers sitting in the front left of a vehicle, with access to, and control of, steering and braking systems. The laws weren’t written to accommodate AI drivers or cars.

But the NHTSA did manage to favorably interpret some of Google’s questions re SDVs. They include:

1. Self-Driving Systems are drivers, in terms of certain operations like using turn signals and hazard signals; making transmission shifts; idling; parking and accelerating. 

2. Driver seatbelts may not be necessary, since the NHTSA interprets “driver” as the SDS in the case of Google’s proposed vehicle design: 

“It is possible that the provision as specifically written is not necessary for safety as applied to Google’s vehicle design, but Google has not demonstrated that in its present interpretation request.  FMVSS No. 208 would need amendment to clarify how a vehicle design like Google’s might comply with it.  One safety concern is that a human occupant could sit in any DSP [designated seating position], and that therefore the non-wearing of a seat belt by any occupant could create a safety risk.”  

3. Questions re Electronic Stability Control Systems (ESC) need further review, because the FMVSS mandate specific performance requirements for ESC systems. Though the NHTSA agrees that a Google-designed SDS is in fact the actual driver, the Administration feels a need to determine in future: 

“…how to evaluate the SDS control of the steering inputs, and whether and how to modify test conditions and procedures to address more clearly the situation of a vehicle with steering controlled entirely by an AI driver, with no mechanism for the vehicle occupants to affect the steering.”

A Futuristic Legislative Highway for Driverless Cars

Artificially Intelligent Vehicles

Self-driving test vehicles already cruise the streets. However, California DMV rules – where Google operates most of its prototypes – require human, licensed drivers to be inside with access to steering, brake and gas pedals. They must monitor the SDV’s operations at all times, and be ready to take control should technology fail or other emergencies arise.

Google’s November letter to NHTSA expresses concern that human error will make their completely autonomous SDVs unsafe should the humans try to override artificial intelligence.

The Administration acknowledged this concern, paving the way for years of further extensive testing and monitoring of vehicles completely controlled by AI with no human override capabilities.

But the proverbial genie is out of the bottle – Federal Rules will have to be modified to keep up with and include SDVs. There is much work to be done on both sides of this issue before we will have an SDV in our own garages – a prospect that is both scary and exciting for some of us.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Sep282015

Yes We CAN (talk about politics in the workplace)

Lawyer for EmployersEmployment Defense

 

by Tal Burnovski Yeyni

818-907-3224

 

As election times draw near, news about debates, political faux pas, and myriad guarantees are becoming more and more entrenched in our lives. Which, coincidentally, brings about the oh so common political discussions among friends, families and even co-workers.

As an avid political junkie I enjoy the occasional, lively debate. I have also witnessed several political discussions gone sour. While disagreement over politics can generate a healthy exchange of thoughts and ideas it can also cause a great deal of frustration and anger.

Which begs the question: Can employers limit their employees' political speech in furtherance of a drama-free work environment?  

The short answer is no. Political discussions can be problematic at times, but prohibiting them altogether is against California's public policy. California Labor Code prohibits employers from making, adopting or enforcing any rule, regulation or policy that:

(a) forbids or prevents employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office, and

(b) controls or directs, or tends to control or direct the political activates or affiliation of employees. (Labor Code §1101).

There’s more. Labor Code §1102 provides:

No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.

Meaning, Labor Code §§ 1101-1102 reinforce the substantial public interest in protecting the “fundamental right” of employees to engage in political activity without interference or threat of retaliation from employers. (Ali v. L.A. Focus Publication (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 1477, 1487). 

Therefore, in California, employers should be very careful in prohibiting political discussion and even more so dismissing an employee for voicing his or her political opinions.

However, employers are not left to navigate through the rough seas of politics without an anchor. There are a few steps employers can take to promote a pleasant work environment during the upcoming election season: 

  • Employers may draft or revise their employee conduct policies to direct employees to observe professional behavior at work and avoid using rude and abusive language or outbursts toward management, employees or others.

  • Employers are further encouraged to remind employees about acceptable conduct in the workplace. 

  • If you are struggling with a similar issue, please consult a legal advisor  

In the meanwhile, don't get upset about politics. Take the example of Will Rogers, who once famously said: I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an Employer Defense Attorney at our firm. Contact her via email: tyeyni@lewitthackman.com; or by phone: 818-907-3224.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Jun292015

New Bill May Put Motorcyclists' Lane-Splitting in Focus

Motorcycle Accident AttorneyMotorcycle Accident Lawyer

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

 

As a motorcyclist for 30 years, I must admit I did my fair share of lane splitting: Bypassing most of the stalled traffic on the 101 by traversing the white, dashed lines – waving a thank you to the handful of four-wheeled drivers who scooted over a bit to give me just a little more room as I did so.

Motorcycle AttorneyLane-splitting is considered dangerous, but in California it's not illegal. This is the only state where this is not illegal – which isn't to say that lane-splitting is legal, exactly.  

But motorcycle safety theories could be changing now. Motorcyclists who lane-split (at reasonable speeds) may be safer than those who do not, according to researchers at UC Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC). According to the study, excessive speed by motorcyclists caused more injuries for lane-splitters than other factors.

Thomas Rice, PhD, as principal investigator for the study, explains:

Surprisingly, we found that the difference in speed between the motorcycle and the surrounding traffic was a bigger predictor of injury than speed alone…Above a 15 mile-per-hour speed differential, the risk of injury rose significantly.

Of the nearly 6,000 California motorcycle accidents researched by SafeTREC, nearly 1,000 riders were lane-splitting at the time of the accident. The primary risk occurs when other drivers change lanes without checking for motorcyclists. Because lane-splitters are closer in proximity to the vehicles, both automobile drivers and cyclists have less time to perceive other's actions and make adjustments.

This would support Dr. Rice's comment regarding speed differentials between the riders and the drivers.

New Bill: No Wheelies Allowed

Bike Accident Lawyer

California Assembly Bill 51 regarding lane-splitting was introduced to the legislature last December by Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Kansen Chud (D-San Jose) and Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale). It was passed by the Assembly in late May by a 53-11 vote.

Continued success of AB 51 as currently written could make it legal (as opposed to quasi-legal) for motorcyclists to lane-split under these conditions:

1. The motorcyclist must have both wheels on the ground.

2. The bike is not traveling faster than 50 mph.

3. The motorcyclist is not riding more than 15 mph faster than other traffic.

One problem with the bill as it is presently worded is the 15 mph differential. As we know in California, one lane of traffic could be moving much faster than the traffic in an adjacent lane.

On the other hand, the bill's writers say allowing motorcyclists to lane-split makes the riders less likely to be hit in a rear-end collision. Either way, motorcyclists whether lane-splitting or not, should always drive defensively and with the best possible protective gear.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him by phone: (818) 907-3230, or by email: ashapiro@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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