Why you should not use the Equifax website to determine whether your data was stolen

On September 7, 2017, individuals in Oregon filed a massive (impacting 143 million people) data breach class action against Equifax Inc.  The plaintiffs contend that Equifax did not protect consumer data, did not notify consumers in a timely manner when learning of a data breach, and that its executives executed personal sales of company stock prior to publicly disclosing the breach.  

Because Equifax is one of the three credit reporting agencies it probably already has a trove of your personal information.  This includes your social security number, credit card numbers, residential addresses, etc.  And this is true even if you didn’t directly or knowingly provide this information to Equifax. 

One of the things that Equifax did in response to the lawsuit was establish a website where consumers can presumably check to see whether their data was stolen.  Here is a screenshot of the company’s tweet with a link:

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This blog post should not be considered actual legal advice and you should always consult with an attorney prior to taking any action affecting your rights, but…

YOU SHOULD NOT CONDUCT THIS SEARCH.

Again, just to be clear: YOU SHOULD NOT CONDUCT THIS SEARCH.  Conducting the search by following that link requires that you agree to certain terms and conditions.  This includes a condition that you agree to waive your right to sue Equifax.  This is an absolutely terrible thing to do.  Equifax already has a duty to notify you of the breach regardless of whether you waive your right to sue.  There is no logical reason to agree to the arbitration clause in which you waive this right.  It is intended to impede your ability to participate in the class action.

Should you have any questions on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to call our office at (314) 725-4400 or email us at neil@smithlawfirm.com.

What is the value of one healthy testicle? Pennsylvania jury answers that question.

A Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania jury awarded $870,000 to a man whose urologist removed the wrong testicle.  The man, fifty-four year old Steven Haines, had complained about testicular pain in one of the testicles for fifteen years and decided to proceed with removal surgery to alleviate the pain.  

His urologist, Dr. V. Spencer Long, performed the surgery, but removed the perfectly healthy testicle and failed to removed the problematic one.

Haines medical malpractice recovery includes $250,000 in punitive damages plus $630,000 in pain and suffering.  Haines' attorney suggested that even though his client deals with continued constant pain his client has not proceeded with removal of the remaining testicle because he faces a debilitating fear of the surgery.  Additionally, according to his attorney, if Haines loses the remaining testicle he faces a lifetime of testosterone treatment.

Are You Owed Back child support or maintenance/alimony? Consider a QDRO.

Federal law and Missouri state law generally protects retirement accounts, such as a 401(k), 403(b), etc., and pensions, from the claims of creditors.  But what if the owner of the retirement account or pension owes child support or maintenance arrears?  In many circumstances the person who is owed the support ("obligee") can obtain a portion of the retirement account or pension by way of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.  

In order to accomplish this the obligee should first consider filing a motion to determine amounts due and owing, and obtain an order specifying the amount of the arrearages including interest.  Then, the obligee may elect to proceed with a motion to approve the QDRO.  

The Smith Law Firm has successfully obtained large recoveries for clients who are owed back child support and maintenance.  Additionally, the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct allow attorneys to handle these cases on a contingent fee basis, unlike a typical family law matter.  This means that the obligee/client may pay nothing up front to an attorney.  

If you have questions regarding a child support or maintenance collection matter, please don't hesitate to call us at (314) 725-4400.

How does a trial court determine paternity of a child when the two possible fathers happen to be identical twin brothers?

The short answer is that the court will rely on non-genetic evidence, such as the testimony of the mother.

In 2007, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled on a case in which twin brothers Richard and Raymon Miller both engaged in sexual intercourse with Marie Adams, who gave birth to a child the following year.  Both the State and Ms. Adams sought a court order establishing which of the Miller brothers was the father, presumably in an effort to obtain a child support order in favor of Ms. Adams.

Identical twins share identical DNA, so blood tests demonstrated that both brothers had a 99.999% probability of being the father.  This “hard” evidence excluded everyone in the world other than the two brothers, but could not establish which of the Miller brothers was the father. 

Next, the court considered “soft” evidence, specifically the testimony of both men and the mother.  Both men admitted to having sex with Ms. Adams on or near the date of conception in August of 2003.  Ms. Adams testified that she did in fact have sex with both brothers in August of 2003.  However, she also testified that when she and Richard had sex on August 22 or 23, he used a condom; whereas, when she and Raymon had sex on August 8, he did not use a condom.

Based entirely on this testimony, the trial court ordered that Raymon was the father of the minor child. 

For more information, see In State ex rel. Department of Soc. Servs. v. Miller, 218 S.W.3d 2 (Mo. App. S.D. 2007)

Settlement Reached in Green Tree Composites Monarch Decking Class Action

The Smith Law Firm is pleased to announce that on September 13, 2016, United States District Court Judge Ronnie L. White entered an order granting preliminary approval to a class action settlement in Stolzenburg v. Green Tree Composites, L.L.C., 4:14-cv-1533.  Defendant Green Tree agreed to pay the sum of $470,000.00, which includes all attorney fees, litigation costs, incentive award to class representative and claims administration expenses.  The amount distributed to class members will be distributed among all class members submitting claims.  None of the funds will revert to any defendant.  All defendants continue to deny liability, but Green Tree entered into this settlement agreement after extensive settlement negotiation and two years of extensive litigation.  A full copy of the order can be found here.  The claims administrator will publish a website for claims administration here.  If you qualify as a class member and wish to become part of this settlement the deadline for submitting a claim form and all necessary documentation is December 22, 2016.  Earlier deadlines apply if you wish to object or exclude yourself.  Please contact the claims administrator directly at 1-888-627-6030 if you have specific questions about whether you qualify.