Posted On: January 27, 2009

Lincolnshire Day Care Worker Charged with Murder of Toddler

Tragedy struck Minee Subee Day Care in suburban Lincolnshire, IL, earlier this month when 16 month-old Benjamin Kingan died suddenly from a serious head injury. What authorities initially believed to be the result of either a seizure or something congenital is now being treated as a homicide. Melissa Calusinski, of Carpentersville, IL, has been charged with first degree murder and is now held on $5 million dollar bond for her alleged role in the death of the toddler. She is accused of throwing the young boy to the floor because he would not remain quiet. According to Lincolnshire Police, the boy then crawled to his favorite bouncer seat before he became unresponsive and died. Calusinski reportedly admitted to throwing the boy to the ground in a videotaped statement. There were seven other children and one other adult in the room at the time of the incident. The other worker in the room claims to have not seen Calunski throw the child. Day care staff attempted CPR and called 911 at approximately 3:51 p.m – almost a half hour after the incident. The boy was pronounced dead at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville an hour later.

Calusinski, who has been placed on administrative leave by Minee Subee, plans to plead not guilty to the murder charges. The day care facility is licensed to care for up to 145 children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old. A subsequent investigation of the incident has revealed that Minee Sublee had received several complaints regarding Calusinski as a caretaker in the past.

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Posted On: January 23, 2009

Nationwide Peanut Butter Recall Hits Suburban Chicago

Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products has recalled several brands of peanut butter cookies sold in Wal-Mart locations throughout suburban Chicago joining the nationwide peanut butter recall. More specifically, the baked goods supplier has recalled Wal-Mart bakery brands of peanut butter cookies, peanut butter no-bake cookies and peanut butter fudge no-bake cookies. Ralcorp joins the South Bend Chocolate Co. in Northwest Indiana which has already recalled several peanut butter based candies. The Illinois and Northwest Indiana recalls came only a day after the Food and Drug Administration advised consumers to stay away from cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods containing peanut butter. Health officials have targeted peanut paste and peanut butter produced at a facility owned by Peanut Corp. The facility, located in Blakely, Georgia, produces peanut butter and peanut paste that is not directly available to consumers. The peanut paste, which is derived from roasted peanuts, is nationally distributed to institutions and food companies throughout the U.S. for use in cakes, cookies, and other food products. According to the Associated Press, at least 85 companies had purchased peanut products from the Georgia plant, and 30 had been urged to run their own tests for bacteria.

The defective peanut butter has been implicated in a 43-state salmonella outbreak which has been linked to as many as six deaths. About 20% of those who have become ill as a result of defective peanut butter consumption have been hospitalized. Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps beginning around 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most of those infected recover within seven days without further complications.

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Posted On: January 21, 2009

Chicago Youth Killed in Dog Mauling Accident

Four year old Alex Angulo was killed last Sunday when he was mauled to death by a Rottweiler dog on Chicago’s Southwest Side. The young boy, who had already lived at four separate foster homes, had recently opened dialogue with foster parents interested in permanent adoption. The dog mauling occurred in the foster family’s backyard where the family kept two Rottweiler dogs. Chicago Police are investigating why the boy was left unattended in the back yard. Reports indicate that a caregiver had been using a snowblower in a nearby alley just prior to the deadly dog bite accident. Angulo was taken to Holy Cross Hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 4:15 p.m. Mark Rosenthal, operations manager of the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control, reports that his agency removed the Rottweilers from the scene of the dog attack. The foster family also kept one poodle which was later brought to an animal control facility. All three of the dogs have been euthanized according to a staff worker at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control. The number of animals involved in the attack remains unclear.

The Illinois dog attack raises questions regarding the precautions taken by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) in foster child placement. According to DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe, “There was an understanding that the dogs lived outside, and the child would not have unsupervised contact with the dogs.” Alex had been placed in the care of a 77 year-old Southwest Side woman who had originally obtained a care license in 2000. Because of her advanced age, primary care of the boy was performed by the elderly woman’s son, whom Alex referred to as “uncle”. A Juvenile Court judge had recently determined that the foster home was not a good long term fit for Alex due to the age of the foster mother. In responding to the attack, Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris questioned the DCFS placement saying, “You don’t just say, ‘OK, the kid won’t go into the yard.’ I don’t know if you can always promise that with a four year old.” At least one neighbor who has asked not to be identified reported that the dogs were very aggressive,

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Posted On: January 16, 2009

Notice to Illinois Parents: Stork Baby Cribs Have Been Recalled

Stork Baby Cribs and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CSPC”) announced the voluntary recall of more that 1,000,000 baby cribs in the United States and Canada last Wednesday January 14, 2009. The cribs, which were manufactured by Stork Craft Manufacturing Inc. of British Columbia, were made in Canada, China, and Indonesia. The baby crib recall is the result of ten reported incidents in which crib support brackets failed. In one reported occurrence, a young child was trapped between the mattress and side rail of a Stork crib. The baby cribs were sold from May 2000 through January 2009 at J.C. Penney, K-Mart, and other retail outlets in Illinois and around the country. The defective cribs were also sold online at amazon.com, babiesrus.com, Costco.com, and walmart.com. Similar Stork Crib failures have been reported in Canada according to Health Canada, the Canadian health care agency. Consumers should stop using the cribs immediately and contact Stork Craft for a free replacement kit containing a new mattress support and brackets.

The troubling defect in the baby cribs causes the metal mattress support to crack and break. When the bracket is compromised the mattress collapses, thereby creating a gap where a child could get trapped and suffocate. There has been one reported entrapment related injury from the defective cribs to date. The CPSC urges all parents and caregivers to cease using the recalled Stork cribs. In order to fully ensure child safety, Illinois parents should regularly inspect baby cribs for loose, broken, or missing hardware.

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Posted On: January 13, 2009

Aurora, IL, Helicopter Accident Leads to Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A Cook County wrongful death lawsuit has been filed following a tragic helicopter accident that left four dead. The accident occurred on October 15, 2008, when an Air Angel medical helicopter struck a radio tower cable in Aurora, IL. The helicopter was carrying 14 month-old Kristin Blockinger of Leland, IL, from Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, IL, to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL. Also aboard the aircraft were Air Angels crew members Ron Battalo and William Mann. All three passengers were killed in the accident along with 69 year-old pilot Del Waugh. The suit names Waugh as a defendant claiming that the accident was a result of negligent and careless operation by the pilot. More specifically, the suit alleges that Waugh’s advanced age, multiple in-flight responsibilities, and recent divorce related stress contributed to the fatal aviation crash.

The suit also named Air Angels and parent company Reach Medical as defendants claiming that the entities failed to follow federal recommendations for medical helicopter flights. The suit alleges that the flight was not equipped with a terrain warning and awareness system, a risk assessment program, or a two pilot team at the controls. The plaintiffs argue that each of these provisions would have helped prevent the tragic crash. The West Chicago and Bolingbrook based Air Angels recently ceased operations for two months while it conducted its own investigation. The outfit has since resumed operation finding nothing to prevent the resumption of service. A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board “NTSB” offers no immediate explanation for the cause of the crash. The NTSB hopes to conclude its investigation of the incident in time for a February hearing on medical helicopter safety.

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Posted On: January 9, 2009

Chicago Interstate Car Accident Results in Teen Death

A fatal Chicago car accident left one 18 year old dead on Chicago’s Edens Expressway late Wednesday night. The three car collision occurred in the northbound lanes just north of Peterson Avenue at about 11:12 p.m. According to Illinois State Police Sgt. Richard Decker, a wrong way Honda driver traveling southbound in the northbound lanes struck a northbound 2004 Acura head-on and sideswiped a 2004 Subaru. The teenage Honda driver, later identified as Michael Adam of the 3700 block of North Park Avenue in Chicago, was reported dead on the scene by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. The driver of the Acura was taken to an unidentified hospital suffering a broken tailbone. The Subaru driver reportedly refused treatment following the accident. None of the vehicles involved in the collision carried passengers.

Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Todd Borisy reports that his office received several calls regarding a wrong way vehicle on the high volume Chicago expressway prior to the accident. Borisy said police are unsure as to the reason Adams was driving in the wrong lanes adding that alcohol is not considered a factor. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled the death accidental. Northbound lanes were closed after the accident until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

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Posted On: January 6, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Rules on McClugage Bridge Collapse Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The Illinois Supreme Court recently resolved two lawsuits stemming from a deadly Peoria, IL, bridge collapse. On April 24, 2000, scaffolding broke away from Peoria’s McClugage Bridge killing three workers and injuring several others. The injured workers and the surviving family members of those deceased were able to collect workers’ compensation benefits as a result of the accident. At least four of the injured workers also attempted to collect civil damages through personal injury lawsuits filed against the construction joint venture that was handling the bridge rehabilitation. The Illinois Supreme Court determined that the injured workers could not file a civil suit against the joint venture thereby extending the immunity that protects an employer paying a workers’ compensation claim.

The bridge rehabilitation was handled by a joint venture of the Springfield, IL, based Halvorson Construction Company and the Tremont, IL, based Midwest Foundation. The joint venture entity, named Midwest Foundation/Halvorson, was commissioned to rehabilitate the McClugage Bridge as it extends over the Illinois River. The joint venture agreement required Midwest Foundation to pay the workers’ compensation premiums, which were to be reimbursed by the joint venture. The Illinois high court determined that the civil lawsuits cannot proceed under this joint venture structure. Writing for the majority, Justice Lloyd Karmeier determined that the immunity from civil suits granted to an employer paying a workers’ compensation claim for on-the-job injuries extends to joint ventures or partners in a joint venture. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas Kilbride determined that such immunity should not extend to Midwest Foundation if that entity was never reimbursed from the joint venture for paying out the workers’ compensation premiums. Daniel O’Connor, the attorney for the workers, said he was disappointed by the ruling.

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