A Rhode Island woman is suing Citibank, claiming the financial giant is trying to squeeze money out of its credit-card customers in advance of changes in federal law due to take place in February 2010. In July 2009, Citibank notified Murphy that it was raising the variable annual percentage rate on her card to 29.99 percent, despite that her account was in good standing and that her original credit agreement does not expire until April 30, 2010. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this week by Providence lawyer Peter N. Wasylyk on behalf of Portsmouth resident Michol K. Murphy states that Citibank has violated the terms of her credit-card agreement by jacking up the annual percentage rate on her account without cause.
Meanwhile a lawsuit against Citizens Financial Group claims that ATM withdrawals and debit transactions are a trap into which unwary customers fall.
Following an uproar about the questionable actions of credit card companies and banks, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act was passed in May 2009 to protect consumers. A copy of that Act is attached.
Although many cities had already enacted laws to prohibit the use of cell phones in school zones, effective September 1, 2009, the use of cellphones and wireless devices in school zones will be prohibited state wide. This law will prohibit all
No handset talking or texting while driving are allowed when the school zone is active.
Hands-free devices while driving and handset use WHILE STOPPED are allowed.
Calls in certain emergency situations are also allowed.
In addition, effective September 1, 2009, the following restrictions on the use of wireless devices take place statewide:
teenage drivers are prohibited from using wireless devices while driving. This includes a ban on talking on a cell phone, from sending or receiving text messaging and from sending or reading emailing while driving.
Learners permit holders are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving.
School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
About two-thirds of Texas teenagers surveyed said they have talked on a cell phone while driving in the past six months, according to the state Transportation Institute. More than half said they had read or sent text messages while driving. A 2007 study said cell phone use was among the primary causes of fatal car crashes among teens.
The City of Irving strengthened its solicitation and handbill ordinance to increase pedestrian and motorist safety, and improve traffic flow and the aesthetics of major roads. The revised regulation prohibits:
- Roadside solicitation except as allowed by state law.
- Costume/sign-holding advertisers in a roadway or on public property adjacent to a roadway.
The new ordinance makes good safety sense. Clearly the people who stand near the roadway and wave signs such as going out of business and advertising sales are doing so to catch the attention of passing motorists. It is just that distraction that the City of Irving does not want drivers to be operating under.
In addition to a basic prohibition against roadside solicitation, the new ordinance also prohibits “Aggressive Solicitation” which is defined as:
- Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person or an occupied vehicle without the solicited person’s consent.
- Intentionally blocking, either individually or as part of a group of persons, the passage of the solicited person.
- Following closely behind, ahead or alongside a person after he/she has been solicited or
- Using violent or threatening gestures toward the solicited person.o Approaching or speaking to a person in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to believe he/she is being threatened with imminent bodily injury.
The new ordinance is also designed to prohibit solicitation in settings where people are believed to be at risk for theft because they are either in a potentially vulnerable position or they are likely to be handling their money or engaged in a consumer transaction. By making solication in these settings illegal, the City of Irving is acknowledging the fear that people have when their personal space is invaded by unwanted solicitors, especially when we are in a particularly vulnerable location or position. In addition to making it unlawful to engage in direct solicitation in places such as a public transportation facility or public restroom, the new ordinance also makes it unlawful to engage in such solicitation within 25 feet of:
- An automated teller machine –
- An entrance or exit of a bank, credit union or other similar financial institution –
- A pay telephone located outdoors or on the exterior of a structure –
- A self-service car wash –
- A self-service fuel pump –
- A public transportation stop –
- An outdoor dining area of a restaurant, cafe or cafeteria
- Distribution of handbills/fliers on any vehicle without consent.
The adoption of the improved ordinance will help residents who feel “uncomfortable or threatened by unwanted solicitation” to “have the law on their side,” said Assistant Police Chief Terry Zettle. “This is another element being implemented to ensure a safe and secure city.” For more information, call the Irving Police Department at (972) 721-2518
If you have legal questions, contact Montes Herald Law Group, LLP at (214) 522-9401. We are located in Las Colinas (Irving) Texas. We handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. Visit our website at www.MontesLawGroup.com for more information concerning our law firm and our practice areas. We handle all types of injury cases from automobile accidents, drunk driving accidents, 18 wheeler cases, insurance and bad faith cases, premises liability claims and a variety of other claims involving significant injuries or death.
The Texas legislature has passed HB 148, a bill that has been widely supported by the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Texas Chiropractic Association and by various insurance groups to stop the practice of soliciting the victims of auto accidents and other incidents illegal via telephone or in person. The bill still needs Governor Perry’s signature to become law, but considering the widespread support of this bill from all sides of the political spectrum, Governor Perry is expected to sign the bill into law. The new law would make such solicitation a criminal offense.
This legislation is particularly aimed to stop the practice of “public adjusters,” telemarketers and solicitors who contact accident victims by purchasing accident reports from local police departments in order to encourage the victims to see a particular doctor or attorney by promising them money.
While some people may be surprised to hear that the Texas Trial Lawyers Association ( a group of lawyers that primarily represent accident victims) and the Texas Chiropractic Association have long since supported this type of legislation. This legislation is seen as a way to curtail questionable legal and medical practices that negatively impact the value of meritorious claims. This legislation is also expected to help victims of accidents get better medical care and better legal representation by stopping the practice of soliciting accident victims.
This law does not change anything for lawyers, as it was already a crime and an ethical violation for lawyers to make an unsolicited contact of accident victims. However, there was a loophole in the law that allowed chiropractors to purchase these police reports and to contact accident victims. This new law is seen as a way to close that loophole.
While this new law makes the solicitation of these accident victims a crime, it is important to note that this proposed new law does not make it illegal for a doctor or a lawyer to advertise their services because every business has the right to advertise. Just like the insurance companies that pay millions of dollars to advertise and to market their business on TV, radio, internet and in the paper, doctors and lawyers have the same right to advertise their business. Further, just like it is not unethical for an insurance company to advertise, it is not unethical for doctors or lawyers to advertise as long as the ads are not misleading.
At Montes Herald Law Group, LLP, we strongly support this bill, and we hope that it becomes law. We have seen victims of car wrecks who are seriously injured have the value of their claim diminished because the insurance companies have tried to convince people through their advertising campaigns that all attorneys are “ambulance chasers” or that every injured person is faking it. As in all professions, there are a few bad apples that ruin it for everybody. If you are contacted directly by a solicitor, we encourage you to report that contact to the State Bar of Texas and to your local district attorney. The truth is that the vast majority of all doctors and attorneys conduct themselves in a completely ethical and legal manner, and would never engage in such solicitation.
You should never pick your doctor or your attorney simply because they have a good advertisements. What really matters is experience.
Attorney Rachel Montes has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense, assertive advocate determined to take on and overcome powerful opponents. In 2006, she was recognized as one of Dallas’ “Best Lawyers Under 40,” reflecting not only her success in obtaining millions in recoveries by settlement and trial verdict, but her tireless effort in every case we handle. Mrs. Montes is a dynamic, innovative courtroom and negotiating presence, known for her follow-through and engaging communication style.
Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has sponsored Senate Bill 48 which seeks to remove the protection of automatic immunity from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution to all persons who report a hazing incident. Under the proposed law, immunity would only be available to persons who voluntarily report the incident to the dean of students or other appropriate school official before being contacted by school officials investigating the matter, and would require the person to continue to cooperate with the school in its investigation.
The law also attempts to make clear that a person cannot get immunity by reporting his or her own acts of hazing or if the person reports the incident in bad faith or with malice. While lawmakers continue to work on getting a consensus for the bill, and it would not be a surprise to see amendments attached to the bill or additional proposed changes. The bill is set for intent and could reach the floor of the Texas Senate any day. You can monitor the status of the bill at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/ by searching in the 81st legislature for “SB 48.”
If you or someone in your family has been seriously injured or killed as a result of hazing or if you suspect that hazing was involved, it is imperative that you act immediately to investigate the incident. Groups that engage in hazing will quickly cloak all of their activities in secrecy and begin to destroy damaging critical evidence. At Montes Herald Law Group, L.L.P., we are experienced in dealing with hazing cases. We immediately begin the fight for justice and to break through the Code of Silence that exists in fraternities, sororities, and other groups that engage in hazing.
North Texas cities are taking action to reduce traffic accidents by drivers who are distracted by using their cell phones while driving. The list of cities enacting ordinances against the use of cell phones and PDAs to talk, text, email and to surf the internet by drivers while traveling through a school zone continues to grow. While drivers can be cited for using their cell phones and be made to pay a fine ranging from $99 to $200, the violation is not a violation of State law, and therefore does not go on the driver’s driving record. Among the cities that have enacted such bans or that are considering a ban include Dallas, Southlake, Highland Park, University Park, Denton, Hurst, Flower Mound, Watauga, Irving, Duncanville, Rowlett and Denison. Across the state many other cities and towns have taken similar action, and it is expected that legislature may enact state-wide legislation this session. It should be noted that Texas law bans the use of hand-held cell phones by school bus drivers who are transporting minors and by drivers under 18 for the first six months after they are issued their license.
At Montes Law Group, P.C. we treat accidents caused by people talking on their cell phone with the same tenacity that we go after drunk drivers. If you have been injured by a motorist who was distracted by talking or texting on a cell phone or pda, call us now.