Friday, February 11, 2011

Latest News From Cohen & Kuvin

NASA Says Toyota Sudden Acceleration User Error?

After decades of driving vehicles where the gas pedal is located to the right of the brake, drivers still can’t tell the difference. At least that is the general sentiment of NASA scientists, who completed their 10 month investigation of Toyota’s unintended acceleration with the conclusion that there is no evidence that the sudden acceleration was caused by electronic controls. The actual culprits are improperly installed floor mats, sticky pedals and driver error.

According to NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford, drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals, a problem that may account for ‘the vast majority’ of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated. This seems rather suspect considering that the placement of pedals in the vehicle is a standard design. What is not standard is the new electronic throttle control which controls a cars speed using sensors and computer chips to pass commands between the vehicles' gas pedal and the engine. This innovative feature replaces the simple mechanical connection used in older cars. It is clear by the large amount of redactions to the NHTSA report that all of the findings have not been disclosed to the public. It is also very clear that the findings contain blatant shortcomings.

Houston….we have a problem……Are the best and brightest at NASA saying that Americans can’t tell left from right and Toyota’s are safe?

Fourth District Court of Appeal Finds Payday Lending Company’s Contracts Violate Public Policy—Great Victory for Consumer Rights

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently held in McKenzie Check Advance v. Betts, 2011 WL 309318 (Fla. 4th DCA Feb. 2, 2011), that the class action bans payday lending companies put in their consumer contracts violate public policy by preventing consumers from vindicating their statutory rights under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Florida Civil Remedies for Criminal Practices Act. The payday lending companies, which make their money by charging outrageously (and at one time criminally) high amounts of interest to impoverished people living paycheck to paycheck, have attempted to insulate themselves from class actions because they know that is the only way consumers could realistically challenge the companies’ unfair practices. In a great victory for consumer rights, the Fourth District Court of Appeal removed this protection from payday lenders by holding these class action bans are unenforceable because they violate public policy.

Florida Legislation Proposed to Increase Benefits to Victims of Brain Injury

Chapter 916 of the Florida Statutes provides special care and “forensic services” for mentally ill and mentally deficient criminal defendants. It was the intent of the legislature to provide facilities and programs to treat and train individuals who have been charged with felonies but who are mentally incompetent by reason of mental illness, mental retardation, or autism.

Unfortunately, the statutes do not apply to individuals who are mentally deficient due to traumatic brain injury, a growing “silent epidemic.” Wellington State representative Joseph Abruzzo with the assistance of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx, is attempting to close this loophole by expanding the definition of “mental illness” to include victims with traumatic brain injury.

We applaud Rep. Abruzzo and encourage the legislature to pass his proposed amendments. The traumatically brain injured, whether combat veterans or civilian casualties, often lack the capacity to understand and appreciate the nature of their actions and are certainly entitled to the same benefits as those who are unfortunately born with similar mental deficiencies.

Space Heater Safety Tips

According to the United States Fire Administration, home fires spike during the winter. The risk of home fires increases with the use of supplemental heating, such as space heaters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued the following tips to ensure your home is safely heated. Never place space heaters on rugs or carpets. They should be placed on a flat and level floor in area free from foot traffic and at least three feet from other flammable materials; such as, bedding, drapes and certain furniture. Additionally, never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep and never place a space heater next to a sleeping person. Finally, if you choose to use a kerosene space heater, never mix in gasoline as even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire. As we all know, beautiful, sunny South Florida is not without its cold days. The staff at Cohen & Kuvin, LLC urge everyone to make sure themselves and their relatives up north stay safe this winter.

Spencer T. Kuvin
Cohen & Kuvin, LLC

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