COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

At O’Connor Law, we wish to update you on the phases of shutdown affecting counties throughout the state. We hope everyone continues to stay safe as they can as the economy reopens.  Since the COVID-19 spread among Pennsylvania, all the counties in Pennsylvania have been quarantined under 3 different phases, which are red, yellow and green. During March and April of 2020, all of the counties in PA entered the red phase, the most restrictive stage, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. As the situation has stabilized throughout the state, a large amount of counties in Pennsylvania are transitioning from the red phase to the yellow and green phases. The transition of the yellow and green phases are the next steps for Pennsylvanians to return to work safely without being harmed by the virus.

Here are the guidelines for the yellow and green phases:

Yellow Phase

Social media has created online communities, and continues to drive online communication.  As this process occurs, the media adapts.  The newest adaptation in this trend is an app known as “Tik Tok”.  The app, which was started in China in 2016, launched in the United States in 2018 and has become an enormous hit with the country’s youth.  As with the social media of the past and present, Tik Tok trends have become prevalent.  Their flagship trend is called a “challenge”.  During Tik Tok Challenges, the participants attempt to recreate previous videos made by other users.  They all share the same general actions, music, dances, etc.

The newest, and most dangerous Challenge is titled “The Skull Breaker Challenge”.  This consists of three individuals standing side by side. As the middle participant jumps into the air, the two outside participants kick the legs out from underneath him/her.  As you may predict, this challenge has caused head, neck, and back injuries to many of its participants, which is how it received its charming name.  Some of these injuries have been severe, causing serious complications.

While Tik Tok has requested its users not participate in dangerous challenges like The Skull Breaker Challenge, their requests have largely gone ignored.  With COVID-19’s impacts driving online activity through the roof, Tik Tok users have continued to churn out these dangerous videos.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our state, our country, and our society.  As the impacts linger and possibly increase, many employees deemed “essential” continue to put themselves at risk of exposure to the virus to fulfill societal needs.  Many companies have gone to great lengths to ensure their employees remain safe during these trying times, but some continue to lag.

If you or someone close to you has been asked to work in a hazardous or dangerous work environment, especially during this pandemic, you may have the right to decline to do certain activities, or to even work at all.  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn whenever possible, along with other reasonable precautions.  Details about hazardous work conditions can be found at https://www.osha.gov/right-to-refuse.html.

A great example of legal action surrounding COVID-19 and workers comes from the Chicago, Illinois area.  The family of a Wal-Mart employee, who passed away due to complications from COVID-19, is suing the company because his manager ignored his symptoms and failing to let coworkers know he may have contracted the virus.  Furthermore, the suit also mentions a coworker by name who died from COVID-19 complications just 4 days later.  The family filing suit claimed employees were forced to work without gloves or masks, and social distancing requirements did not exist.  They also claim that a lack of guaranteed paid sick leave forced workers who would’ve otherwise stayed home to come into work.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the country and globe with many people being severely sick and not able to work. This pandemic can be tough for older and disabled Americans who are trying to file for Social Security disability. Even people who are able to work in their job even though they may have qualified for SS disability may not be able to find work moving forward due to the virus.  People who want to file for Social Security Disability should know the proper actions to take in order to receive benefits they need.

When there is threat of a national shutdown, it is common for local Social Security offices to close. Here is what to expect when your local Social Security office closes.  Social Security benefits will continue to get paid out without disruption. Online services, including all the information on the Social Security website and the various tools for looking at your own specific Social Security record, are still available. This situation is much better than what people have experienced in the past during government shutdowns. This is due to local Social Security offices not being entirely shut down. Even though that these offices are closed to the public, the staffers are still available on site and online handling people’s needs.

How Can You Apply for Benefits Online?

Following a disturbing trend, Mercedes-Benz has announced another recall of nearly 750,000 vehicles in the United States.  The recall, which is due to faulty sunroofs at risk to detach from the car, impacts Mercedes-Benz model years spanning over a decade.  The model years in question are 2001-2011; the models in question are the C-, CLK-, CLS-, and E-Class.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) has been on top of this recall and elaborated on exactly what the defects are and how they can impact your Mercedes-Benz.  Last week, they offered this, “The bonding between the glass panel and the sliding roof frame may deteriorate, possibly resulting in the glass panel detaching from the vehicle.” The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration also claims Mercedes-Benz will notify its owners on or after February 14th.  The company is expected to offer free inspections and replacements to those possibly afflicted by the recall.

The following is a comprehensive list of all models possibly affected:

Four major automakers have landed squarely in the crosshairs of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation.  According to documents posted on December 19th, 2019, Audi, Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi are the companies under investigation.  The probe revolves around a Takata airbag recall, which involved 1.4 million airbag inflators.

The inflators are reported to have a unique problem that can cause them to blow apart, sending metal shrapnel into drivers’ and passengers’ faces and bodies.  The issue stems from problems caused by insufficient seals and a chemical deterioration within the product.  Takata, the maker of the air bags, has already recalled approximately 100 million inflators worldwide, while 19 automakers have recalled approximately 70 million inflators, making it the largest grouping of automotive recalls in United States history.

Takata, who has gone bankrupt due to the recalls, believes it’s made about 4.5 million of the faulty inflators.  However, Takata claims only a portion are still in use, because the vehicles equipped with the inflators are so old.

Weird, quirky, and unique legal cases are always the source of intrigue.  Many times, lawyers, law firms, and those familiar with law are confronted with questions regarding individuals’ or their kin’s rare legal issues.  Most legal knowledge found online and through casual sources will be generic and almost definitely not personalized, which makes it tough to find answers regarding these unique cases.  A recent legal battle involving a woman, a country club, and a staff member of the country club highlights the hoops you may have to jump through just to receive proper compensation.

The battle stems from an October 29th lawsuit filed by a female patron of the Alpine Country Club of New Jersey, in which the woman claims a waiter of the club spilled wine on her seemingly irreplaceable $30,000 handbag, while she enjoyed dinner at the club.  The club denied all liability for the incident and even went as far as to sue their own employee (the waiter) for the damages caused to the woman’s handbag.  The handbag, which is typically a relatively inexpensive accessory, was a rare, discontinued Hermès Kelly bag that was gifted to her by her husband for her 30th birthday.

The representation for the woman affected by the spill admitted it was an accident, but also mentioned it was necessary to specify exactly what happened and who did it.  According to documents, the waiter is not mentioned by name, but rather “John Doe.”

Cigarettes, once a staple in American society and culture, reached a record low 14% usage rating among adults in 2017, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For comparison, at the height of U.S. adult usage, the CDC reported 42.4% of adults smoked.  Many factors play into this decline, but perhaps the most relevant is the emergence of e-cigarettes or “vapes”.

Vapes, or vaporizers, act as an alternative nicotine option to cigarettes and chewing tobacco.  They work as follows: 1.) A sensor in the device acknowledges an inhalation 2.) The sensor triggers a vaporizing device that heats up the nicotine-containing flavored liquid to such an extreme temperature, it turns into vaporized smoke 3.) The smoker extracts and inhales the vaporized smoke through a mouth piece.

There has been an immense amount of controversy surrounding the flavored liquids; those who oppose them argue that companies like San Francisco-based Juul, and their flavors, target minors and young people.  Juul, who named its vaporizing device “juul” as well, made headlines recently when it pulled its tasty flavors, limiting its production to just “Virginia Tobacco, Classic Tobacco, Mint, and Menthol”.

Once thought to be a fad of the late 1990s and early 2000s, “scooting”, or the act of riding a scooter, has once again become popular among young teens.  It’s also become a popular mode of transportation in cities among business professionals, tourists, and citizens alike. All summer, rural and urban communities alike saw an influx of rentable and purchasable scooters being ridden around their communities, creating yet another obstacle for pedestrians and motorists.  Because of the popularity of scooters, manufacturers have increased production; this increase has resulted in a manufacturer’s recall for a particular model.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that fluidfreeride, the maker of popular kids’ scooters, began recalling their Mercane WideWheel electric kick scooter, due to hazardous malfunctions of the brake caliper, on October 4th, 2019.  When this malfunction occurs, riders have been found to lose the ability to brake, lose control of their scooter, and suffer injuries.  The injuries reported thus far include flesh wounds, deep bodily bruises, and lower body sprains.

The problematic scooters were manufactured in China and sold online at fluidfreeride.com, Amazon.com, and ebay.com for $1,000 to $1,200.  Fluidfreeride has decided to remedy the situation by offering to repair all scooters free of charge.  If you or someone you know has a fluidfreeride scooter, you should immediately stop using it and check to see if yours is one that’s been recalled.  Telltale signs include: scooter is foldable and electric, has “WideWheel” and “Mercane” printed on its platform, made of gray aluminum alloy, and includes a single 500W motor with an 8.8Ah battery or dual 500W motors with a 13.2Ah battery.

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