From John E. Keefe, Jr.
Supreme Court Dream Team
While many people create dream teams for their favorite sports, I have always wished for a group of the most qualified and inspiring jurists working together to solve the critical problems our country faces today. The goal— a more compassionate United States, inclusive of all and truly democratic.
My Supreme Court Dream Team is unconditionally purist—acting as one in a non-partisan manner and renouncing all political agendas. They will uphold their charter of ensuring equal justice under law for all Americans, guarding the Constitution and interpreting and applying it to protect our civil rights.
Their decisions and precedents would reduce poverty, provide healthcare, create jobs, further economic development, protect our environment and educate our children.
Read on to learn about Louis Brandeis, the “Peoples Attorney” who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1916-1939.
Keefe Law Firm Wins New Jersey Supreme Court Appeal
Decided January 10, 2019
John E. Keefe, Jr. and Stephen T. Sullivan, Jr. successfully argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court a consumer’s right to file a lawsuit for consumer fraud claims, defeating a home warranty service contract company’s attempt to enforce an ambiguous and contradictory arbitration provision on its customers.
Mr. Keefe argued before the Court on September 12, 2018 on behalf of Amanda Kernahan, who purchased a Choice Home Warranty from a Florida company, the Home Warranty Administrator. Service contracts like this are supposed to reduce the costs to homeowners for repair or replacement of certain home systems and appliances. When Ms. Kernahan filed claims under the agreement with Choice Home Warranty, they were denied. She then brought a consumer fraud class action against the company pursuant to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the New Jersey Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act and the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing arising from Choice Home Warranty’s misrepresentations and deceptive business practices.
The crux of the appeal was whether an arbitration provision in the contract was enforceable. If Choice Home Warranty had been successful, Ms. Kernahan would have been barred from maintaining her claims in court. The New Jersey Supreme Court, however, found this to provision to be unenforceable due to its “inconspicuous location and confusing, inconsistent and contradictory terms.” As it summarized, “[i]t is unreasonable to expect a lay consumer to parse through the contents of this small-font provision to unravel its material discrepancies.”
Why This Ruling is Important to Consumers
The Court’s decision preserves consumers’ long-standing right of access to the courts. It emphasizes that companies may not hide arbitration provisions deep within their contracts and use confusing and conflicting language. Arbitration provisions, like other contractual provisions, should be plainly written. In this way, by agreeing to arbitration, consumers will know that they are waiving their time-honored right to bring a court action to settle a dispute.
Beep Beep, Hello: Robocalls and How to Stop Them
By Paul DiGiorgio, Counsel, Worker’s Rights
If you have a phone, you’ve likely received a robocall. Pre-recorded and automated, robocalls range from the genuinely helpful to the annoying and outright illegal.
Billions of robocalls are placed every year, and 2018 saw more robocalls than ever before with a 41% increase in the number of calls in the first half of the year alone. While no one has a problem with their local pharmacy letting them know a prescription is ready, the increasing number of illegal robocalls intending to defraud Americans has left many of us wondering: can these calls be stopped?
The FTC has taken steps to cut down on the frequency, with new rules that allow phone companies to block numbers that aren’t assigned to a real person. While these rules will help make enforcement against spam callers more effective, there are three easy things you can do to stop robocalls from targeting you:
One: Screen Callers
If you only get a few robocalls, this may be the best option. Illegitimate robocallers have a few tricks up their sleeves intended to make their numbers look trustworthy, such as neighbor spoofing — using a number that looks similar to a local one. By screening your calls, you can be sure the person calling you is legitimate!
If it isn’t a real number, you can block it — most smartphones have this option. If the calls are coming to a landline, talk to your provider and ask to block them.
This is an option for anyone who is tired of annoying but legal robocalls, such as from companies you’ve given your information to. The DNC registry makes it illegal for you to be contacted when you don’t want to be, so you can file a complaint with the FTC if you do receive a call. Keep in mind, however, that certain organizations are exempt from the DNC registry, and illegitimate spammers and scammers are not stopped by it.
Three: Block Robocalls with Apps
Can’t avoid robocalls on your own? Bring out the heavy hitters and get some outside help!
There are apps and tools for both smartphones and landlines that will outright block known robocallers and suspicious numbers. Some providers, such as AT&T, have their own apps available — but for those seeking a bit of revenge, there is RoboKiller, which blocks robocalls coming to you and intercepts fraudsters to keep spammers and scammers on the line and waste their time. It’s one way to give them a taste of their own medicine.
The Brief on E-Cigarettes
By Stephen T. Sullivan, Jr., Partner, Personal Injury
E-cigarettes first appeared in the United States market in approximately 2006, and over the past 12 years their popularity has skyrocketed. While originally touted as safer alternatives to cigarettes, health organizations and consumer groups have begun questioning whether they are truly safer. Below is some basic information regarding e-cigarettes.
Why were they developed, and for whom?
Modern e-cigarettes, which are also referred to as “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” and vapes,” were invented as a “healthier” alternative to smoking by pharmacist Hon Lik in 2003. According to news stories, Mr. Lik created an e-cigarette after his father died of lung cancer. While some e-cigarette companies claim that smoking cessation is their driving philosophy, the popularity and availability of sweet flavors have led many non-smokers to join the craze. Teenage use, in particular, is on the rise with young people more likely than adults to use e-cigarettes. A 2016 Surgeon General Report found that children and young adults use e-cigarettes more often than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In addition, there is mounting evidence that vaping is not a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, as its use may delay or deter attempts to quit entirely, and exposes the user to nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals.
What is in an E-Cigarette?
E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but include addictive nicotine, flavorings and other additives. These ingredients are heated and delivered to the user as an aerosol. According to the Surgeon General Report, e-cigarettes contain a variety of chemicals, including carbonyl compounds and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and toluene, and heavy metals like lead and cadmium. Moreover, studies have shown that, during heating, carcinogenic compounds are created, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein.
What are the Regulations?
In 2016, the Federal Drug Administration expanded the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. Notwithstanding, states and other jurisdictions may regulate e-cigarettes. For example, in New Jersey, products containing liquid nicotine must be sold in child-resistant containers and e-cigarettes may not be sold to individuals who are under twenty-years of age. Additionally, certain e-cigarettes may not be used in places where tobacco smoking also is prohibited such as workplaces and public parks and beaches.
Preparing for Tax Season
By Michael J. Convery, Counsel, Real Estate & Wills, Trusts & Estates
Tax returns are due Monday, April 15th, 2019 — are you ready?
To help you get prepared, we’ve compiled a checklist of 6 quick steps to complete so your tax season is a breeze this year.
Pick your Tax Day
If you’re planning to work with a paid preparer such as a certified public accountant, scheduling your appointment early will ensure you get top choice of time slots with your preferred partner. If you’re going solo, it’s still a good idea to set a hard date for yourself — and learn how to use the IRS’ Free File software in the days leading up to it!
Get your Personal Details
Whether you’re working with a preparer or filing your own taxes, you’ll need the following information:
- Your Social Security number
- The names and Social Security numbers of any dependents
- Your spouse’s Social Security number, if applicable
- The addresses of any properties you own
Sort out your Financial Information
The information returns needed for filing your taxes should be sent out by the end of January. There are a few forms available to file — pay attention and ensure you have all the documents relevant to your financial information. One common form is the W-2 for anyone with a job; there is also the 1099-MISC form that governs income such as that from prize winnings.
Organize your Records
Do you want to proceed with the standard deduction, or go with itemized personal deductions? Which approach produces the best refund for you can change, so keep your relevant receipts — medical costs not covered by insurance, property taxes, job and investment expenses — throughout the year to decide. In addition, don’t forget to record any charitable returns or business income you may have.
Choose How You Want Your Refund
How do you want to receive your refund?
- Apply some or all to your tax bill on your next return
- Receive a check or direct deposit
- Put some or all into an IRA, health savings account, education savings account
- Buy US savings bonds
Decide if You Need More Time
You have until April 18th to request a 4-month extension on filing your taxes.
Consumer Alert: Defective Knee Replacement
In June 2015 the FDA recalled the ATTUNE® Knee Replacement System which is made and marketed by DePuy Synthes, a medical device division of Johnson & Johnson. If you underwent knee surgery using the ATTUNE® Knee Replacement System anytime from 2011 through 2015, you may be in jeopardy.
Nine prominent orthopedic surgeons reported an unusually high rate of premature failures as cited in the June 7, 2017 Journal of Knee Surgery . In plain English, the surgeons determined that the cement holding the Attune implant in place does not stick adequately to the tibial part of the ATTUNE® Knee System. This causes a loosening and destabilization of the entire system.
If you are in pain, or are experiencing any symptoms of the defective ATTUNE® knee replacements such as inflammation or decreased mobility, you may be able to take part in an Attune class action lawsuit or file an independent suit.
For more information, contact John E. Keefe Jr.
Fighting for Our Clients
There are 41,000 practicing lawyers in New Jersey. Why should you choose Keefe Law Firm? While we have a proven track record of big money settlements our commitment to fighting for our clients’ rights and well-being sets us apart. Here are a few stories from 2018.
Keefe Law Firm handled several claims in the Zimmer hip replacement mass tort matter and obtained excellent settlements for these clients in 2016. However, due to an administrative error on Zimmer’s part, duplicate cases were opened with Medicare causing second, faulty liens to be placed on our clients. Despite Zimmer’s acknowledgment and notification of this error to Medicare, Medicare refused to close some of these cases. This has left a number of our clients in an unfortunate situation. When a Medicare case goes into the “Final Demand” stage without payment a Medicare recipient can be reported to the Department of Treasury which may cause a levy to be placed on their Social Security income. Although these cases were settled two years ago, Keefe Law firm would not let this happen. Amanda Davis, Keefe Law Firm paralegal, has fought tirelessly with Medicare to get these errors corrected and protect our clients’ social security income. So far, she has been successful in three cases, and remains fighting the good fight on the remaining ones.
As early as 1962, Pittsburgh Corning Corp. knowingly exposed hundreds of thousands workers to products containing asbestos, a known cause of mesothelioma. Their Unibestos product was so dangerous that federal regulators forced the company’s Tyler, Texas plant closed in 1972 and the equipment buried.
Thousands were struck with mesothelioma. Personal injury litigation began in 1977 and the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2000 after being overwhelmed with asbestos-related claims. A remaining 235,000 lawsuits were put on hold until 2016 when the bankruptcy proceeding ended. Keefe Law Firm continues to fight for mesothelioma victims by filing claims with Pittsburgh Corning, and will file claims with similar companies who emerge from bankruptcy with an Asbestos Personal Injury Trust in place.
You May Not Be in Good Hands
A local resident was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. Thankfully, there were no life-threatening injuries, but shortly our client experienced debilitating back, neck and arm pain that would not subside. Her daily activities were curtailed due to her pain and she sought medical help. She underwent extensive medical and physical rehabilitation to get back on her feet and resume the life she had before the accident. However, the bills started adding up. After receiving an offer from the insurance company that did not adequately reimburse her for these expenses, she turned to Keefe Law Firm. After a dogged two-year fight with the insurance company, John E. Keefe, Jr. obtained a settlement of more than five times the amount of the insurance company’s original offer and our client was able to pay her medical bills.
Going the Extra Mile
Michael Convery was asked to file for guardianship when his client was injured and fell into a coma. When the client emerged from the coma Mike rushed to the rehab center to have client execute a new will, power of attorney and living will. There was a short window of opportunity when his client was competent after coming out of coma and the need for guardianship was not necessary in that brief time frame. The client signed the documents and now his spouse can handle his affairs if he relapses. Says a colleague, “Mike is very accommodating, caring and thoughtful. He doesn’t want to cause any additional stress to clients or their families so he is always willing to do whatever it takes to help someone out”.
News & Events
Lisa St. Clair Appointed to Paralegal Studies Advisory Committee
Keefe Law Firm Complex Litigation Paralegal Lisa St. Clair has been appointed to the Brookdale Community College Paralegal Studies Advisory Committee. She’ll be working with lawyers and other legal professionals to ensure that Brookdale’s paralegal program curriculum and training provides students with the skills needed to land paralegal jobs and launch meaningful careers in the legal arena. The Paralegal Studies Advisory Committee focuses on a wide range of paralegal education issues—from admissions standards through graduate performance.
Lisa has been with Keefe Law Firm since 2003, steadily progressing as her skills and experience grew. She is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association and in her third term as Co-Chair of its Paralegal Special Committee. She is also a member of the Paralegal Association of New Jersey. A Cum Laude graduate of Montclair State University, Lisa went on to earn her Paralegal Certification from Ocean County Community College.
Jose L. Linares, Chief U.S. District Judge appointed John E. Keefe, Jr. to the Lawyers Advisory Committee (LAC) of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey for the January 1, 2019-2021 term. John was appointed both for his professional competency and his service to the Court. The LAC’s mission is to facilitate the administration of justice fairly, impartially, effectively and efficiently.
Judge C. Judson Hamlin is as busy as ever. On January 1, he administered the Oath of Office to Mayor Cahill of New Brunswick and then to Cranbury Committeeman James Taylor on January 3. In addition, he was recently appointed to the Cranbury Planning Board through 2022. Judge will also be attending the meeting of the G-1 Asbestos Trust in his role as Future Claimant Representative in Phoenix, AZ on February 12.
(Photo courtesy of the City of New Brunswick)
New Jersey State Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting, Rome, Italy, November 8-12
Realtor Cocktail Party, Red Bank, NJ, November 13
Trending NJ Legal Issues
The New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Act
By John E. Gregory, Jr., Partner, Personal Injury
Marijuana use has been approved for certain medical conditions in New Jersey since 2010 pursuant the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”). The enactment of CUMMA recognized the medical efficacy of marijuana for a limited class of persons suffering serious illness.
The 2010 law, as enacted was more restrictive in terms of qualifying patients than many other states that also authorized legal medical marijuana use. However, since taking office Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 6 aimed at providing patients with “a greater opportunity to obtain medical marijuana”. The Order effectively streamlined the process to obtain a license and the number of qualifying medical conditions was expanded. Thus, the Murphy administration has demonstrated a softening of the position on marijuana legalization that had been taken by the Governor’s Office of previous administrations.
Along those lines, the New Jersey legislature and Governor are now analyzing and debating whether the legalization of recreational marijuana is appropriate for the Garden State. Though no final vote is scheduled lawmakers have suggested it could be imminent. The proposed bill aimed at legalizing marijuana for recreational use would still impose certain restrictions such as:
- Age limits
- Quantities that may be possessed and,
- The ability to grow marijuana
The argument espoused by legislators in favor of legalization contend production will be controlled, tax revenue generated, and there will be reduction of social disparities in law enforcement.
Though a final bill has not been agreed upon by our lawmakers, and recreational marijuana use remains illegal in New Jersey, it appears within the next several months New Jersey may become the ninth state to legalize marijuana.
Employment Law Update: Pending NJ Non-Compete Legislation
By Jessica S. Allen, Counsel, Employment Law
When starting a job with a new employer or while already working for one, many people have been faced with having to sign an employment agreement containing a non-compete or restrictive covenant clause. These provisions impose post-employment restrictions on individuals. For example, the clause often states that in the event of a voluntary or involuntary termination of employment, the employee will not compete with the former employer’s business activities for a specified time period and within a specific geographical region. Individuals are often banned from working for a competitor, starting a business in the same field, or working with the employers’ vendors, clients, and/or customers. Employers use non-compete clauses to protect their proprietary information and other business interests, but at times the restrictions are too broad in scope and unreasonable.
Non-competes are now under scrutiny chiefly because they can hinder—sometimes unfairly and severely– a person’s ability to secure employment in their field or otherwise pursue career opportunities if the individual loses his or her job. In the past, non-competes were primarily included in senior and executive employment agreements. Today, non-competes are common for workers across all occupation, wage and education levels.
Last May, the New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee approved Assembly Bill A1769. If passed, this Bill would curtail non-competes to ensure that they are reasonable in scope while protecting the employer’s legitimate business interests and trade secrets. Under this Bill, non-competes would be considered unenforceable against an employee who worked for the employer for less than one year or who was “terminated without good cause or laid off by action of the employer.” If the employee was not terminated for good cause, the Bill would compel employers to continue to pay that former employee during the term of the non-compete.
If Bill A1769 passes and becomes law, New Jersey will join other states, such as California, Utah, Idaho, and Massachusetts that have recent laws either banning non-compete agreements in all but a few circumstances or regulating the use and enforcement of non-compete agreements in the private sector. As the pending bill in New Jersey will undoubtedly have a significant impact on workers’ post-employment activities, all eyes should monitor the Bill and this thorny legal issue.
For more information on the enforcement of non-compete and other post-employment restriction agreements or any New Jersey employment law issue, contact me.
Ban on Large Capacity Gun Magazines Upheld by U.S. Court of Appeals
By Anne Journick
In direct response to the increase in mass shootings across the U.S. New Jersey passed a law restricting gun magazine capacity in June 2018, becoming the ninth state plus the District of Columbia to do so. Among other firearms restrictions, the Act made it illegal to possess a magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, commonly referred to as large capacity magazines or LCMs. The only exceptions are active law enforcement and military personnel.
On the day the bill was signed, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and two of its members challenged the bill on the premises that the Act is in violation of the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
On December 5, 2018 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded that the law does not violate any of these amendments and denied the plaintiff’s motion to “preliminarily enjoin the enforcement of the law”. In other words, as of now the law stands.
Meet Our Team
Paul DiGiorgio, Counsel, Worker’s Rights
After earning his B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University, Paul worked on Wall Street and then in technical and senior management roles in the telecommunications industry. He decided to enroll in Seton Hall University School of Law because he sought greater intellectual challenges and a more meaningful career pursuing justice for others.
His greatest influencers in this decision were Judge John E. Keefe, Sr. and the TV series L.A. Law . Paul focuses on civil litigation in the areas of employment and wage law enforcement, as well as consumer fraud. “I love to represent workers because it is very important to me that they are paid everything they have earned” said Paul. His experience from 15 years in corporate counsel and human resources roles greatly supports his areas of practice.
His personal interests include golf, fishing, travel, and horse racing. Paul is married and has three children. “I definitely married the right woman, for many reasons – not the least of which is that she puts up with all the time I spend at work and at play” says Paul. A devoted Dad, his children include a 21 year old special needs daughter, “who is the only person on earth capable of making me smile and laugh every day”, a 19 year old son attending college who is an accomplished wrestler and competes in rugby at the highest levels of that sport, and a 16 year old son who plays golf for the #1 high school in the state. “I taught him how to play golf, but I haven’t beaten him in two years. He’s my fishing buddy too. I’m still a better fisherman”.
Here’s what one of Paul’s clients has to say about his work.
Supreme Court Dream Team
Louis Dembitz Brandeis–The Peoples’ Attorney
Born in Louisville, Kentucky to Czechoslovakian Jewish immigrants, Louis D. Brandeis is viewed by many historians as not only one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices but also as one of our most accomplished lawyers and social reformers.
He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1877, earning the highest GPA in its history and subsequently established a very successful Boston law practice.
Due to his financial success, Brandeis was able to direct his formidable intellect and drive to larger social issues such as workers’ rights and constitutional protections including the right to privacy and free speech. He played a large role in President Wilson’s development of the Federal Reserve Act and was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court in 1916 after overcoming vehement objections and anti-Semitism from the U.S. Senate and others in power.
As Justice, he guided and influenced his fellow jurists to uphold progressive legislative innovations in labor law, protection of women and fairness to the poor. Brandeis was a lifetime crusader against monopolies and unscrupulous practices of investment banks.
The Brandeis Brief is perhaps his most impactful legacy and a staple of American Constitutional Law. Brandeis created this legal technique to drive facts-based judicial decisions.
If you want to learn more about Justice Brandeis, check out this recent biography.
New Jersey Certified Civil Trial Attorneys
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