Filing a Suit Against a PA Government Agency Over a Car Crash Just Got Easier

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Over the past five years in Pennsylvania, if a vehicle owned and operated by a municipal entity in the Commonwealth (such as SEPTA or the local water authority) was involved in a collision while the vehicle wasn’t in motion, the Commonwealth or entity was not liable for paying any damages.

This means if a car owned by a municipal entity was parked illegally on the road or positioned vulnerably in the roadway, and you hit it, you would not be able to bring a suit against that person or authority even if the primary reason for the crash was the way the vehicle was parked.

Wage Proposals Could Benefit Philly Workers

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There are a few different wage proposals at various levels of the government which we thought we would call attention to at the conclusion of a work week of beautiful weather here in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Federal Governments are considering wage proposals to increase the minimum wage, stop wage theft and help unemployed workers get back to a job.

Pennsylvania Flunks State Integrity Investigation

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Our home state of Pennsylvania was one of 11 states to flunk the Center for Public Integrity’s research into the systems in place to deter corruption in state government and 44th overall. The CPI said it had “[a]n entrenched culture of malfeasance.”

More than 400,000 Experience Wage Theft in Pennsylvania Each Week

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A report published by Temple Law School this week detailed the pervasive problem of wage theft here in Pennsylvania and, specifically, Philadelphia. The executive summary details the grim facts for workers in the state in any given workweek:

  • Almost 400,000 Pennsylvanians experience a minimum wage violation.
  • Over 300,000 Pennsylvanians experience an overtime violation.
  • Pennsylvania workers lose a total of $19 million to $32 million in wages.

In the Philadelphia metropolitan region alone, more than 100,000 workers can be expected to have a minimum wage or overtime violation each week with 75,000 employees working off-the-clock without pay from area businesses.

The statistics are extrapolated from a 2009 investigation of thousands of workers in low-wage industries in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and then applied to Pennsylvania using Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.

Here in Philadelphia, the occupations most likely to experience these problems are in the restaurant industry: waiters, bartenders, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers and food preparers. Other jobs seeing a significant problem were office clerks, retail salespersons, home health aides and cashiers. In the metropolitan region, the list of occupations where wage theft is experienced also includes individuals working in factory and packaging; general construction; building services and grounds workers; and drivers, parking lot attendants and car wash workers.

The report recommends Pennsylvania impose criminal penalties against employers, increase monetary penalties, create a wage lien law and impose other non-monetary penalties. It also suggests additional outreach and education, a confidential or anonymous process for complaints and internal adjudication of claims within the Department of Labor and Industry.

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Oppose Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Tax on Legal Services

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s budget has proposed a tax on the legal services that we provide for our clients. Wolf announced the tax at the end of February as part of his plan to drastically cut corporate taxes in the state. If Wolf’s plan to collect sales taxes on professional services is approved, our clients would be required to pay an 8 percent sales tax on our legal fees while the businesses that we challenge in court would get a significant tax cut.

Professional services are currently exempt from the sales tax in PA. If the exemption is lifted, individuals in Philadelphia would have to pay 6 percent to the state and 2 percent to the City of Philadelphia.

The tax would cover many other kinds of professional services. The types of businesses that would be forced to collect sales tax under the proposal include transportation services, real estate agents, home health care services, nursing facilities, museums, accountants, dry-cleaning and the recreation industry.

Many states have examined whether a tax on professional services is appropriate. Three of the states that decided to adopt such a tax (Michigan, Florida and Iowa) ended up reversing that decision. Only three states currently have a broad tax on services such as this one. Those states are South Dakota, Hawaii and New Mexico.

The proposal would continue to allow professional services purchased by businesses to be exempt from the sales tax. The impact of this change would not be felt by the businesses that commit fraud or deny individuals adequate compensation for their injuries. This bill would be another benefit for the people that need

The proposal would also extend the sales tax to a few personal items currently exempt. These items include flags, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, caskets and candy.

This is not the first proposal to charge sales tax on professional services in our state. Last year, PA Senate Bill 76 also proposed changes to the tax structure which included a tax on our services. With your help, we can defeat this proposal again.

We hope you will write to Governor Wolf as well as your representatives in the Pennsylvania legislature concerning this important issue. Tell them that you oppose Wolf’s plan to charge sales tax on professional services and specifically mention the impact that a tax on legal services would have on your life.

Submit your feedback to Governor Wolf about this important issue via his online contact form available at .

Governor Wolf will need the approval of our representatives in the Pennsylvania General Assembly in order to adopt this measure. Please write to them as well. If you are not familiar with the name of your representative in the Pennsylvania State Senate or the House of Representatives, you may look up this information on the Pennsylvania General Assembly website here: . From the results, you should be able to navigate to the website to find their contact information. If you need assistance locating this information, please contact us and we will help you find it.

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Will Pennsylvania Adopt a False Claims Act?

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Once again, Pennsylvania legislators have the opportunity to adopt a state False Claims Act.  The federal False Claims Act (FCA) was enacted in 1863 to redress fraud perpetrated by companies that sold supplies to the Union Army during the Civil War. Since its enactment, the FCA has been amended three times – in 1943, 1986, and 2009. Since the 1986 amendments were signed into law, the FCA has returned more than $28 billion to the federal treasury and has deterred even more fraudulent activity.

In is well-recognize that the qui tam provisions of the FCA permit whistle-blowers to recover between 15 and 30 percent of the United States’ recovery. (Qui tam is short for a Latin phrase that roughly means “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.”) The FCA thus encourages individuals to come forward with information of government contractor fraud and rewards them for their integrity.

In addition to the federal FCA, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted analogous state false-claims acts. New York, Chicago, and Allegheny County, Pa., (enacted in May) have their own versions.  Since 2000, states that have enacted false-claims laws have recovered more than $7 billion. FCA recoveries have consistently increased over the last several years, and this trend is expected to continue. It is well-recognized that State False-claims acts also promote public safety and the integrity of federal, state, and local programs.

Our Commonwealth currently lacks adequate protection from the fraud and abuse that drain millions every year from the state programs, from Medicaid to infrastructure projects. A Pennsylvania False Claims Act would allow whistleblowers who discover false or fraudulent claims to sue the perpetrators and recover the funds for the Commonwealth.

In nearly every regular session of the state House since 1999, representatives from both parties have proposed a false-claims act. On June 24, House Bill 1725, authored by State Rep. Mike Gerber (D., Montgomery), was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but the panel has not voted on it. While the bill languishes in committee, the Commonwealth is missing the opportunity to deter fraud and recoup much-needed funds.

Its time the state legislation created a vehicle for private citizens to be awarded for policing our public programs.

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If you feel you may have information concerning fraud against the government, please call 800-590-4116 for a FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL attorney consultation today.

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