Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bruce Newman Investigating Claims Related to Chevy Cobalt Ignition Recall

General Motors has issued a recall for 2.6 million vehicles. Among the recalled vehicles are the Chevy Cobalt and the Saturn Ion. These vehicles have been recalled because of faulty ignition switches.  When bumped, an ignition switch can turn off automatically, shutting off the car’s engine and disabling its air bags.

Problems with the ignition switches were allegedly discovered as early as 2001, but the company did not issue a recall until this past February. According to the New York Times, GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, recently testified at a congressional hearing that she had not become aware of the defect until December 2013, two months before issuing the recall. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has gathered numerous documents from GM as part of an ongoing investigation.

Nationwide, GM has confirmed that this defect resulted in 13 deaths. GM has not publicly disclosed a list of confirmed victims, leaving loved ones to speculate on whether the ignition defect played a part in the death of their family member. Furthermore, proving whether the ignition defect caused a deadly crash may be difficult. Cars contain black boxes, which act as sensors and begin recording when they sense an impending impact. These boxes may stop recording due to subsequent impacts or can be easily damaged due to the collision, leaving potentially crucial information on the cause of the crash inaccessible.

Bruce E. Newman has begun an investigation into a recall related claim. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident that may have been the result of a defective ignition switch, please call him at 860.583.5200.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guardian ad Litem Reform Under Way in Connecticut

The Judiciary Committee has voted Raised Bill No. 494 out of the committee. This bill is intended to clarify the role of a guardian ad litem (GAL) in Connecticut. A GAL is appointed by the court to represent and to make recommendations regarding the best interests of a minor child in a family court proceeding when parents do not agree. Some of the bill’s major provisions are outlined below.

Selection of GAL. The bill would require courts to provide parties with a list of five eligible GALs who could serve in their case. If the parties cannot mutually select a GAL, the court will appoint one from this list. The court will enter specific orders regarding the scope of the GAL’s work and the rate at which the GAL is to be paid.

Removal of a GAL. The bill would allow parties to file a motion to remove a GAL. The court could hold a hearing on this motion.

GAL fees. The court can order that the parties pay reasonable GAL fees, but the court could not order that these fees be paid from a college savings account. The court can also order that GAL fees be calculated on a sliding scale basis.

The family lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott have experience working with GALs. Check back for more updates on the outcome of this bill.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do you know if you are a Service Worker under Connecticut Law?

If you are a pharmacist, registered nurse, or office clerk, you may be considered a service worker under Connecticut law. This distinction is important because service workers may be eligible for paid sick leave. The definition of a service worker can be found in Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-57r(7). This definition corresponds with the occupation code numbers and titles of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Standard Occupational Classification system. For more information about what businesses and employees are covered by the Paid Sick Leave Act, click here. Even if you are one of only a few service workers at your employer, you can be eligible for paid sick leave. 

The different categories are broad, extending beyond the typical service oriented position of waitress, bartender or hairdresser. The different categories are quite descriptive. If a service worker may potentially fall into more than one category, the worker is classified in the category that he or she is primarily engaged in.

The Connecticut Department of Labor has a complete list of the different categories of service workers. If you are unsure if you are a service worker or if you are an employer having trouble determining whether you employ service workers, the lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott can assist you.   

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right For You?

          Homeowners with equity in their homes often wonder how they can utilize these funds before they sell their properties. A homeowner who is 62 years of age or older may be eligible to receive a reverse mortgage, which is a loan that allows individuals to borrow against the equity that they have built up in their homes. With a typical mortgage, a homeowner is required to make monthly payments to his or her lender, and with each monthly payment, the homeowner’s equity in his or her home increases. In contrast, with a reverse mortgage, homeowners are not required to make monthly principal payments on their loan balance as long as they live in the home, and the lender pays cash to the homeowner each month. Homeowners with a reverse mortgage are still required to pay real estate taxes, homeowners’ insurance premiums, and condo or home association fees. A homeowner is not required to make any payments on his or her reverse mortgage until the homeowner sells or vacates his or her home.
          The Connecticut Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) is now offering a reverse annuity mortgage (RAM) program that is designed to help older homeowners remain in their homes. After qualifying for this program, a homeowner receives a direct deposit from CHFA, which includes the principal and interest payments of the RAM loan, and the homeowner can then use this money to pay for housing or long-term care expenses. CHFA’s reverse annuity mortgage also includes low closing costs and interest rates.   
          Reverse mortgages are attractive for many reasons. First, the funds that homeowners receive are not restricted and can be used for any purpose. In addition, reverse mortgages enable homeowners to derive income from their homes while they still own and live in their homes. Second, a borrower cannot lose his or her home after a missed payment because payments are not due on the loan until the borrower permanently leaves his or her home.   Finally, when it is time for a homeowner to repay the loan, the homeowner will never owe more than what the home is worth at that point in time. Thus, reverse mortgages are particularly advantageous if a home has decreased in value since the homeowner obtained a reverse mortgage.  
          However, there are also some disadvantages associated with reverse mortgages. Fundamentally, reverse mortgages are loans, which often have high origination fees and interest rates that are higher than those applied to traditional home equity loans. Although homeowners are not expected to make payments on the loans while they are living in their homes, homeowners may struggle to repay the loans when they finally vacate their residences. For example, if a homeowner dies, the home is supposed to be sold in order to generate funds to repay the loan, which means that the homeowner’s heirs cannot take title to the home unless the heirs can personally repay the outstanding balance of the reverse mortgage. Related to this point, if a homeowner must relocate to a nursing home or assisted living facility, he or she must start repaying his or her reverse mortgage at the time of relocation because the homeowner technically no longer lives in his or her home, which can be a substantial burden on the homeowner.  

          The lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott can help you to make the most of your real estate investments. To learn more, click here.