Top 5 Misconceptions about Social Security Retirement Benefits

Posted in Social Security

CBS News “Money Watch” recently aired a segment on the 5 most common misconceptions about Social Security. These misconceptions are:

1.) You must be a U.S. Citizen to receive Social Security benefits.

False. If you are a resident alien and have a green card which permits you to live and work in the U.S., you may qualify to receive Social Security benefits as long as you meet other criteria, such as having worked for 10 years in the U.S.

2.) The full retirement age for receiving Social Security Retirement benefits is 65.

False. The Social Security Administration determines your full retirement age, which is the age when you can receive your full retirement benefit, based upon the year of your birth. For people born between 1943 and 1954 (the baby boomers) that age is 66. For people born after 1954 your full retirement age ranges from 66 and 2 mos of age to age 67. All workers may retire and receive benefits at age 62, but the amount you receive will be less than if you wait until your full retirement age to start receiving benefits. Medicare benefits, however, do start at age 65.

3.) If you continue to work after retirement, regardless of your age, you will have to give back some of your Social Security Retirement benefits.

This is only true if you choose to start receiving your Social Security Retirement benefits before your full retirement age. If you start receiving your retirement benefits before your full retirement age, for every 2 dollars ($2.00) you earn above a certain limit, Social Security will withhold $1.00 of your benefit. The earnings limit in 2015 is $15,720. If you continue working past your full retirement age, you are not subject to the earnings limit and your benefit will not be affected by your wages.

4.) I can collect Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouses earnings history.

This is true only if you and your ex-spouse were married for at least 10 years, you are over 62, and you have not remarried. You must meet each of these 3 criteria to get benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings history. This benefit is gender neutral and applies to both ex-husbands and ex-wives.

5.) If my spouse passes away, I can receive his or her Social Security Retirement benefit as well as my own.

Sorry, this is not true. This is referred to as “double-dipping” and it is not permitted. When your spouse dies, you can collect his or her benefit, rather than your own benefit, but you would not want to do this unless your deceased spouse’s benefit amount was greater than your own.

If you have any questions about social security benefits and what you are entitled to, it is recommended that you consult with experienced legal counsel about your situation.

New Study Reveals Caps on Damages are Potentially Ruining the Healthcare Industry

Posted in Medical Malpractice

Authors of recent studies examined five U.S. states that have “caps,” as well as what is known as Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs). More recently, caps have been placed on compensation for medical malpractice cases, or “tort reform.” These studies compared various data, and found evidence that, in those states where caps on recovery had been passed or recently come into existence, the states’ Patient Safety general ratings subsequently decreased.

More specifically, Bernard S. Black, David Hyman and Myungho Paik authored a study entitled “Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine, Revisited,” Northwestern University Law & Economics Research Paper No. 13-20; Illinois Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science Paper No. LBSS14-21 (October 2014). As a result of their study, they found that there have been rises in the rates of the Patient Safety Indicators after tort caps are implemented, and subsequently found “consistently gradual relaxation of care or failure to reinforce care standards over time.”

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Monroe County Court Grants Summary Judgment in Supermarket Slip and Fall

Posted in Legal Updates, Personal Injury

In a recent decision in the case of Zangenberg v. Weis Markets, Inc., et al., 10500 Civil 2012 (CCP Monroe Counrty, April 1, 2015), Judge Stephen M. Higgins granted Defendant, Weis Markets’ Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff had failed to set forth sufficient evidence that Weis was on notice of the slippery condition that allegedly caused Plaintiff’s fall.

Plaintiff alleged that her fall occurred due to a slippery condition caused by an excessive buildup of wax on the floor of the supermarket. In support of this theory, Plaintiff relied upon an invoice indicating that the supermarket floor was waxed sometime during the week of her fall. Plaintiff further relied upon the testimony of her daughter who stated that she saw a black skid mark on the floor after her mother’s fall. However, Plaintiff’s daughter was not present at the time of the fall, nor did she closely examine the area of the skid mark to determine whether there was wax on the floor. Plaintiff testified that the floor was very slippery but she did not notice any foreign substance on the floor either before or after her fall. She further stated that she did not notice anything on her body or clothing after the fall. A Weis employee testified that she examined the area of the fall after it occurred and found nothing.

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PA Attorney General Targets Nursing Homes with Legal Action

Posted in Nursing Home Law

As an attorney who represents families whose loved ones are neglected, killed and abused in nursing homes, I personally see the care, or should I say lack thereof, provided to our elders. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who’s taken notice. Recently, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, has taken an interest in this subpar care.

A complaint was filed in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Courts against Golden Gate National Senior Care Center LLC (“Golden Gate”), a company that operates dozens of “Golden Living” nursing home facilities around Pennsylvania. In the complaint, it is alleged that Golden Gate left residents hungry and unkempt, and also participated in unfair trade practices. Specific allegations include a general lack of supervision, which led to incidents of residents being left unchanged and sitting in their own excrement, as well as falsifying records to indicate that services were performed when they had not been.

Jeffery Johnson, a spokesperson for AG Kathleen Kane, has stated that Golden Gate mislead consumers with their advertising, by giving the impression that they offered a certain level of care that, in fact, was not provided. Additionally, when investigations were performed by the Department of Health, Golden Gate would increase their staffing the day of for the purpose of misleading the inspections, according to Johnson. A representative from Golden Gate has denied the allegations and has alleged that Kathleen Kane is pursuing this lawsuit as retaliation and to obtain fees for a connected law firm.

While the outcome of this litigation remains to be seen, there is no doubt that it will draw attention to subpar care that may be present in more nursing home facilities. As an advocate for the elderly, I hope that through litigation, awareness is raised and the conditions that our elders may face in a nursing home improve.

If your family member has been killed, neglected or abused in a nursing home, we recommend that you consult with experienced legal counsel immediately.

Pennsylvania Appellate Court Affirms Dissolution of Profitable Limited Liability Companies Based Finding of Deadlock

Posted in Shareholder Oppression

In Staiger v. Holohan, 100 A.3d 622 (Pa. Super. 2014), a Pennsylvania appellate court found that a trial court could order the dissolution of a profitable Pennsylvania Limited Liability Company (“LLC”).

The facts of the case are simple and fairly straightforward. Plaintiff Michael Staiger (“Staiger”) and Defendant Kevin Holohan (“Holohan”) formed two Pennsylvania LLCs: 200 East Airy, LLC (“200 East Airy”) and Green and Airy Laundromat, LLC (“Laundromat”). Stainger lent 200 East Airy $165,000, to be used as start-up capital. The members agreed in writing that Stainger would be repaid the start-up money within five years. Both men owned 50% of both 200 East Airy and Laundromat. Both 200 East Airy’s and Laundromat’s operating agreements contained identical language which set forth that the members (Holohan & Stainger) have the authority to make business decisions and the decisions of a majority are controlling. Shortly after forming Laundromat, the members executed an agreement which provided that another unnamed LLC of Holman’s was to manage Laundromat for a fee for an initial term of five years, then continue for two additional five-year periods.

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Amendment to Pennsylvania Liquor Code Allowing Direct Shipment of Wine

Posted in Beer & Spirits

Recently, the Pennsylvania Senate passed House Bill 189, which amends the Pennsylvania Liquor Code to permit wine producers to ship wine directly to Commonwealth residents and reduces the special liquor order markup for licensees. Before wine-makers can start shipping their wine, they will need to obtain a direct wine shippers license, which must be renewed on an annual basis. Once the license has been obtained, the licensee may ship an unlimited amount of wine to any Pennsylvania resident who is over the age of 21 for their personal use.

Of course, Bill 189 requires the recipient of the wine to provide proof of age prior to delivery. While the direct wine shipper must verify the buyer’s age in a manner approved by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the PLCB’s website does not yet provide guidance on the specific method to be used. Under the current law, customers are required to pick up ordered wine at a Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shoppe where they must provide proof of age and complete an affidavit attesting to the use of the alcoholic beverage by someone of legal age. The shipped wine must include a special label which states: “Contains Alcohol: Signature of Person 21 Years of Age or Older Required for Delivery.”

Direct wine shippers must agree to collect the 6% sales tax, any local sales taxes imposed by counties of the second class or cities of the first class, the 18% liquor tax and shipping charges on all products shipped into and within the Commonwealth. The markup on Special Liquor Orders is reduced from 30% to 10%, which means restaurants and bars will pay less when ordering products that are unavailable at the state store. The PLCB projects the reduction could reduce revenue by approximately $16,500,000 annually based on the $67,000,000 in special liquor orders in 2013-2014. The reduction could also mean a more extensive selection of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania bars and restaurants.

Proposed Federal Trucking Regulation Would Prohibit Shippers and Transportation Intermediaries From Coercing Drivers to Violate FMCSR

Posted in Personal Injury

A recently proposed regulation aimed at prohibiting driver coercion could have a significant impact on the way shippers and transportation brokers hire trucking companies to move freight across the U.S. This proposed rule seeks to prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), including drivers’ hours-of-service limits and drug and alcohol testing rules.

In practice, simply requiring a trucking company to deliver a load within a narrow time window can amount to coercion if the trucking company accepts the job knowing that it will require the violation of federal regulations. It is also possible that contractual language instituting penalties for late delivery could be construed as coercion. The proposed penalties for violation of this rule would be up to $11,000 per incident with a possible revocation of operating authority.

The transportation industry is understandably concerned that the proposed regulation will require sweeping changes to their supply chain processes. However, there is little doubt that the proposed driver coercion regulation would increase highway safety. Shippers and brokers would be forced to conduct thorough inquiries into a driver’s hours of service to ensure that they are not requiring drivers to violate federal regulations to complete a time sensitive delivery. We may even see a reduction in “hot shot” or rush deliveries, which all too often lead to tired drivers and fatal accidents.

Bottled Water Sold at Pennsylvania Stores Recalled Due to Possible E. Coli Contamination

Posted in Community, Legal Updates, Personal Injury

As reported by various local and national news outlets, bottled water sold at several local stores under several different brand names has been recalled due to possible E. Coli contamination. The company, Niagara Bottling, has disclosed that it had a positive indication of E. Coli at one of its spring sources. The water was produced at the company’s Hamburg, PA and Allentown, PA facilities between June 10, 2015 and June 18, 2015. In addition to other stores, the possibly contaminated bottled water was sold at the following local stores:

  • Acme
  • ShopRite
  • Wegman’s
  • 7-11

If you recently purchased bottle water from any of these stores, check the product code stamped on the bottles. The potentially contaminated water will have codes that begin with letter “A” or “F” and will have dates between June 10, 2015 and June 18, 2015. We recommend you discard and do not drink the affected water.

E. Coli is a type of bacteria that comes from human or animal waste. It can cause food poisoning symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and, in some at-risk populations like young children and the elderly, can cause life-threatening kidney failure. To date, there have not been any reported illnesses from this bottled water.

If you have any questions concerning this recall, are not sure whether water you purchased may be subject to the recall, or if you believe you may have suffered an illness as a result of drinking the affected water, you may contact Stark & Stark for free information.

Defective Highway Design

Posted in Personal Injury

The causes of motor vehicle accidents are many: negligent drivers, slippery roadways, and sometimes, defective highway design. Many people do not realize that improper highway design may have been the cause of a motor vehicle accident. State and local governments, agencies of state or local governments, or municipalities, can however, be held accountable for creating defective and hazardous roadways. A few common hazards are: insufficient ramps to and from highways; improper or absent road signs, and traffic lights or warnings of dangerous conditions.

When you sue a state agency, such as a state Department of Transportation or a local government or municipality, there are certain notice requirements which must be met in order to preserve your right to file a lawsuit. This means that time is of the essence as notice to the state agency or municipality must be made within a specific period of time to ensure that you have the right to proceed against the government entity in a court of law.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, even if it is a simple “rear-ender,” you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. They will be able to investigate the possibility that defective highway design or defective highway maintenance contributed to your accident and file a timely notice of your claim.

New York’s Anti-Subrogation Law Regarding ERISA Plans

Posted in Personal Injury

In late February, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the Second Circuit’s Opinion/Decision in Wurtz v. Rollins Co., LLC matter – F.3d –, 2014 W.L. 3746801(2nd Cir. 2014). There was a split between the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Circuits.

Wurtz was a class action on behalf of plaintiffs with employer sponsored health insurance programs. Rollins, Oxford Health Plans, and United Health Group were sued. A New York Court found that a New York General Law, specifically 5-335, was too limited in scope and excluded reimbursement and subrogation rights, falling outside of any tort settlement. Subsequently, the New York Legislature enacted a revision to 5-335 and substituted the word “insurer” for the words “benefit provider” to put the law directly under the umbrella of ERISA’s Savings Clause. The clarification is meant to eliminate any confusion as to whether an insured ERISA claim came under the definition of “statutory reimbursement right.”

In July, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the Lower Court’s decision holding that the New York General Law 5-335 was “saved” from preemption. The Supreme Court’s denial of Certiorari supports the Second Circuit’s holding that New York General Law 5-335 is applicable as it relates to a fully insured ERISA plan in the State of New York. This decision does not affect employer sponsored health benefit arrangements, which are funded through the general assets of a company.