Manhattan Law Firm Allegedly Faked Dozens of Structured Settlement Approvals

Jul 22, 15 Manhattan Law Firm Allegedly Faked Dozens of Structured Settlement Approvals

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On Tuesday, July 14, Stone Street Capital, LLC sued a Manhattan law firm, from which it had sought court approvals for structured settlements, for allegedly giving 76 falsified judicial orders. According to InsuranceJournal.com, the Maryland-based company, which buys the rights to structured settlements from consumers in exchange for lump-sum payments, first hired Paris and Chaikin PLLC to file the applications in New York state courts. Before an individual can successfully sell structured settlement payments in exchange for a lump sum, the company purchasing the structured settlement payments must obtain legal approval from a state court. In addition to suing Paris and Chalkin PLLC, Stone Street Capital has filed suits against partners Jason Paris and Ian M. Chaikin as well as Thomas Rubino, a paralegal working for the firm. In the company’s filing, it’s alleged that Paris and Chaikin first told Stone Street they were experienced in presenting structured-settlement transactions before the courts for approval. The legal firm advised Stone Street to send them the structured settlement case files, which were then assigned to Rubino. Between 2009 and 2013, Stone Street sent more than 100 of these structured settlement files to Paris and Chalkin. Paris and Chalkin agreed to send the company a file-stamped judicial order for each of these files, allowing the company to purchase structured settlements from its customers. Stone Street claims that 76 of these were judicial orders falsified. In its suit, Stone Street states that Paris and Chalkin “failed to exercise the care, skill and diligence commonly possessed” by those in the legal profession — nor did the two men properly supervise Rubino. Chaikin, Paris and Kevin Szczepanski — the lawyer representing Stone Street — didn’t respond to InsuranceJournal.com’s requests for...

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British Columbia to Review Motorcoach Industry Safety

Jul 20, 15 British Columbia to Review Motorcoach Industry Safety

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British Columbia will begin a safety review of their motorcoach industry after two serious bus crashes within the past year. The review will be completed by the provincial transportation ministry, announced Transportation Minister Todd Stone on July 16. Last summer, a bus crash injured several dozen passengers when a motorcoach carrying 56 people on the Coquihalla Highway hit a median, skidded across traffic lanes, and landed in a ditch. Another crash happened just last month on that same highway. The most recent accident left dozens injured after the coach hit a tow truck and car parked on the shoulder of the highway. “Thankfully no one was killed,” Stone said at a news conference. ” We already have a comprehensive bus safety program in British Columbia but like anything else, we believe there is always room to do better.” The review will consider the industry’s safety statistics and performance compared to other North American areas. Also considered in the review will be British Columbia’s regulations on the industry, and how that affects company and driver licensing, hours of service, driver training, and vehicle inspections and standards. Officials will speak with various groups within the industry, along with officials from the tourism industry, safety organizations, and government agencies with ties to the motorcoach industry. It will review B.C.’s 500 bus companies, whose fleets have a total of 1,700 coaches. They expect to have the report finished by early 2016. Stone says that the review is necessary even though crashes are “very rare” in British Columbia. He added that crashes commercial vehicles overall are down by 24% over the last 10 years. “We truly believe that the industry is safe today but we are going to do everything we can to further build public confidence in the safety of the motorcoach industry,” Stone said. This review comes as other North American cities are introducing initiatives to encourage residents to use bus transportation. Reports find that motorcoaches are three times more effective at reducing CO2 emissions than commuter...

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Why Frozen Embryos Are at the Center of This Couple’s Bitter Divorce

Jul 20, 15 Why Frozen Embryos Are at the Center of This Couple’s Bitter Divorce

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Shortly before Dr. Mimi Lee, a pianist and part-time anesthesiologist, married executive Stephen Findley, she learned that she had breast cancer. Lee battled the cancer and won, but the treatments left her infertile. Before the cancer could affect her reproductive abilities, however, Lee and Findley had five embryos created and frozen so that they could conceive a child in the future. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work out, and they divorced two years ago. Findley then said that he wants the embryos, which used his sperm with Lee’s eggs, destroyed. Lee, on the other hand, doesn’t want to destroy the embryos and says that they’re her only chance at ever having children with her DNA. Now the San Francisco divorcees are battling in California courts over the fate of the embryos. The couple’s divorce attorneys argue that each former spouse has the right to decide what to do with the embryos. Findley and his lawyer say that the couple signed an agreement to destroy the embryos if they split; Lee’s lawyer has argued that Lee has a fundamental right to procreate using the embryos. Findley’s attorney also alleges that Lee used the embryos to blackmail Findley during the divorce, saying that she tried to get between $1 million to $2 million per embryo from him. Custody cases aren’t uncommon in the United States, and most times they rule in favor of the mother. Children of divorce have a 25% likelihood of moving away from their fathers and with their custodial mothers as they grow up, but there aren’t very many precedents set concerning children who aren’t even in the womb yet. However, two other recent cases ruled in favor of the wife under similar circumstances. In both incidences, the wife had received a cancer diagnosis and was left infertile. Another high profile case, involving actress Sofia Vergara and husband Nick Loeb, centers around two embryos the couple created, of which Loeb wants custody. Unfortunately for Lee, the courts may see this more as a contract...

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Ute Tribe Says Federal Fracking Barriers Infringe on Native Rights

Jul 10, 15 Ute Tribe Says Federal Fracking Barriers Infringe on Native Rights

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The Ute tribe of southwest Colorado wants to join a federal lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s newest regulations on hydraulic fracturing, calling them “contrary to tribal interests.” The tribe’s reservation covers 1,059 square miles in the state, and substantial portions of that land have been leased to oil and gas companies. The BLM wants companies using hydraulic fracturing, popularly referred to as fracking, to disclose which chemicals they use in the process, and to take certain steps to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination. But tribal leadership said the steps are unnecessary. “With over 50 years of hydraulic fracturing operations on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation, there has not been a single documented instance of groundwater contamination,” Business Committee Chairman Shaun Chapoose was quoted as saying by the Deseret News. And ultimately, he emphasized, the BLM’s ruling constitutes federal overreach and a threat to the tribe’s sovereign interests. “This is our homeland, and we live and work on these lands,” he said. “Tribes should be allowed to decide for themselves whether regulations governing hydraulic fracturing are necessary to protect tribal lands. … It is not appropriate for the United States to determine for tribes what is in their best interests by setting forth one federal rule for all tribes.” Four states — Utah, Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming — are already suing the federal government to prevent implementation of the BLM rule. The oil and gas industry is a very lucrative one, accounting for about 8% of the U.S. economy (as well as employing around 9.8 million people), and fracking plays a key role in maintaining that industry domestically. Opposition to fracking is primarily environmental. However, there’s an increasing amount of evidence that it can be done responsibly. Representative research was released as recently as last month, when Northwestern University professor Fengqi You published computational models that would allow the U.S. fracking industry to become both more profitable and more environmentally friendly. “We wanted to see if there was a win-win strategy,” You said...

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Chinese Authorities Seize 40-Year-Old Smuggled Meat

Jun 30, 15 Chinese Authorities Seize 40-Year-Old Smuggled Meat

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China’s shipping industry is massive. About 40 years ago, Asia was the poorest country on the face of the Earth — twice as poor as Africa is today — and it now has the fastest growing economy, and is twice as rich as Africa. According to the latest data available from the World Shipping Council, China itself is the number one exporter in the world, and the second largest importer. However, as is the case with many industries that rapidly grow, horrible things can happen. According to reports, Chinese authorities seized more than 100,000 tons of meat from smugglers, some of which was more than 40 years old, dating back to the Carter administration. Worse, the $483 million worth of produce, including beef, chicken feet, and duck necks, had been transported periodically in regular trucks — as opposed to freezer trucks — so it was frozen, thawed, and then refrozen at different points in its journey. “It was smelly and I nearly threw up when I opened the door,” said a Hunan province official. Chinese anti-smuggling authorities are investigating 21 gangs, and have already arrested 20 people in the Hunan province alone. They believe the meat was smuggled into China via Hong Kong and Vietnam from countries such as Brazil and India to sidestep import restrictions. Authorities seized the smuggled meat in 14 different provinces. According to the Changsha Administration of Customs, one-third of the meat sold at the largest wholesale market in the Hunan Province was found to have been smuggled illegally. This latest scandal comes just months after Beijing hardened food safety regulations in order to shake off a growing reputation for safety scandals. Some of the scandals that prompted the toughening of regulations ranged from donkey meat that’d been tainted with DNA from foxes, to milk that’d been contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which led to the death of six infants back in 2008. Less than one year ago, authorities detained five individuals for selling expired meat, which they’d repackaged...

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Divorce Mediation Vastly Reduces Number of Child Custody Cases in Pennsylvania County

Jun 19, 15 Divorce Mediation Vastly Reduces Number of Child Custody Cases in Pennsylvania County

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Thanks to an alternative approach to divorce, an area in Pennsylvania has seen a decline in child custody cases. Divorce mediation brings in a neutral mediator who helps former spouses come to an agreement on each aspect of their divorce. This mediator may or may not be a lawyer, but he or she is well versed in the areas of divorce and family law. This process results in a stronger long-term relationship between former spouses, is easier on children, expedites agreements, reduces expenses, and prevents courts from making decisions, keeping more control between the divorcing parties. Nationally speaking, about 11% of custody cases are decided during mediation, but in Centre County, the mediation process has significantly reduced the amount of custody trials. According to Executive Director Bonnie Millmore of the Center for Alternatives in Community Justice, which mediates custody cases for the county court system, two out of three cases leave with a full or partial custody agreement. This means that there are fewer cases going to court, which means less taxpayer money is being spent on the issue. Before the mediation process went into place three years ago, Judge Bradley P. Lunsford would hear about 20 cases per year. Within the last year, he’s only heard six. “Less litigation means we have more time to focus on other issues and we do not need to expand an already over burdened court system,” said Lunsford. In addition to child custody cases, divorce mediation can also help settle matters of property distribution, retirement, child support, and taxes. Divorce mediation can also save divorcing couples thousands of dollars, and hours of time. Litigation costs between $300 and $500 per hour, resulting in about $20,000 per person. It also takes about two years to complete. Mediation, on the other hand, costs about $300 per hour, and has a documentation preparation fee of between $1,800 and $3,800. In total, that amounts to between $2,000 to $5,000, a fraction of what litigation costs. It also only takes about three...

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