Lawsuits Planned In Pennsylvania Amidst Social Security Scams And Benefits Interruptions

COVID-19 has devastated many hard-working Americans. Some have been laid off. Some have lost businesses. Others have lost loved one. But the long-term toll is probably greater than most realize. Because so many people are out of work, the average person will have to pay into Social Security for longer to receive a larger benefit. Coupled with the rise of scams, and you can understand why officials are so concerned.

Last year, Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued a statement: “This Consumer Protection Week, my Office is warning consumers that scam artists are out in full force, employing new tactics to achieve their same nefarious goals. I urge Pennsylvanians to be vigilant of this scam and, if you believe that you have been victimized, please contact my Office immediately. We are here to protect you, and we are working hard to put an end to these scams.”

Notably, the number of con artists are on the rise since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic — in part because they feed upon the financially exigent. Those who are already facing financial ruin are far more likely to fall prey to the scams.

A glitch in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has left many Pennsylvania residents confused and angry — especially after a series of glitches caused many to be paid accidentally. Some of these overpayments ran in the thousands of dollars. When officials realized what had happened, many weekly payments were reduced. This made it harder for residents who had already spent the first round.

Janice Roundtree said, “I’m really glad there was a moratorium on the utilities because I don’t know how we would have survived if they hadn’t done that. We would have had to be in some shelter or something.”

A subsequent Keystone Crossroads Investigation said that the website for such assistance had glitched out, leading to billions of dollars in overpaying — but more importantly, the system was unable to cope with the traffic increase, which led those subjected to the glitch without any way to receive new information. 

Community Legal Services litigation direction Sharon Dietrich said, “It was kind of shocking as PUA rolled out how many problems were connected to GSI.” Dietrich’s office also said that the program’s operation was led in an “unconstitutional and illegal manner,” especially after benefits were cut off without any first notifying affected residents.

Social Security is a federal benefit, which means where you live won’t have any real impact on your ability to receive that benefit (as long as you’ve paid into the pool like everyone else by working and paying taxes each year). For example, there wouldn’t be any difference in how you would apply to receive your Los Angeles Social Security benefit or your Philadelphia Social Security benefit. They work the same way. But each state has its own system to provide COVID-19 benefits to its systems in addition to federal aid, which means each system is subject to succeed or fail — on its own.

Now, a round of litigation is expected due to Pennsylvania’s failed response.

Supreme Court Once Again Asked To Block Election Results; Says “No”

The Supreme Court did not have much to say after an earlier request once again asked the highest power in the United States to block election results in Pennsylvania — in fact, they provided only a one-sentence answer in response. Reportedly, none of the justices dissented. That includes each of the three justices appointed by Donald Trump, who will soon be on his way out of office of the presidency.

This has prompted the president’s critics to lambast him for continuing to not accept the results of a fair and lawful election, suggesting that he’s even been laughed out of the Supreme Court with dozens of frivolous lawsuits. In the runup to the election, Trump’s team lost upwards of 50 challenges to the election results and the way votes were tabulated. 

Philadelphia federal appellate Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote during his rebuke of one such challenge: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here…Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

The presumption is that Trump knows he lost the election — but refuses to admit it because there are still legal avenues that could produce results. But the courts aren’t having any of it. 

A similar response from the Arizona Supreme Court said Trump’s supporters failed “to present any evidence of ‘misconduct,’ ‘illegal votes’ or that the Biden electors ‘did not in fact receive the highest number of votes for office,’ let alone establish any degree of fraud of a sufficient error rate that would undermine the certainty of the election results.”

A Texas lawsuit was similarly called crazy. Stephen I. Vladeck at the University of Texas tweeted: “It looks like we have a new leader in the ‘craziest lawsuit filed to purportedly challenge the election’ category.”

How Should Pennsylvania Legislators Approach Driverless Vehicle Laws?

Full autonomy sounds like a pipe dream, but if car manufacturers are telling us the truth then driverless vehicles are not so far from being made a reality. Tesla’s Elon Musk has already provided us with the first glimpses of this reality — even though lawmakers have struggled to play catch up when adopting new rules and regulations to govern these new technologically advanced vehicles and their drivers.

How Pennsylvania legislators might continue to approach writing laws for driverless vehicles is still up in the air, but we can look to car accidents Socal for a decent idea of what they might do. Several questions might come to mind: Who is liable for personal injury or property damages — the driver, dealer, manufacturer, or mechanic? Do you even send a vehicle like this to a mechanic? 

You might not realize it, but these questions have been asked and answered around the world already — even if our own legislators aren’t ready to pull the trigger with similar laws. Another thing you might not realize is that our own home state of Pennsylvania is a major hub for the autonomous vehicle industry!

Founder of Pittsburgh Robotics Network Jackie Erickson said, “You can’t just take a vehicle and have it navigate safely on public roads overnight. It takes a very long time. We’ve been working on this problem in Pittsburgh for 30 years.”

Carnegie Mellon University professor of electrical and computer engineering Raj Rajkumar said, “Driving is the most complex activity we engage in.”

Rajkumar said that he believed Pittsburgh is “the birthplace of AV technology.”

Pittsburgh has been working on this technology for longer than everyone else because the city is deeply integrated with developing space-related technology — and that means autonomous rovers and the like, especially when considering ground-based vehicles. But companies still researching these technologies are growing faster due to new cash investments from even bigger companies who require the expertise. 

Startups like Aurora, Argo AI, and Uber ATG are all growing at an exponential rate.

Aurora Vice President Gerardo Interiano noted that ATG will soon be joining his own company: “We went from having 600 employees to now 1600 employees.”

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance Vice President Kyle Chintalapalli said, “We anticipated consolidation as being inevitable. What we were encouraged by is that it wasn’t just a buy-out, [it was] more an investment in Aurora’s growth…It speaks to the strength of the robust ecosystem here.”

But there are other factors slowing down growth. AV testing laws in Pennsylvania still require a human operator — which makes sense because the state is subject to very diverse weather patterns unlike locations outside Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

PennDOT Office of Transformational Technology Director Mark Kopko said, “Even if something goes wrong, you still have the trained operator who has the caliber to take control. It’s something the industry is behind.”

Even Tesla’s new automated systems require a human operator, even though Elon Musk has said the technology is nearly ready to take over completely. But even when the technology is ready, the laws aren’t.

Trump Still Attempting To Overturn Pennsylvania Election Results

Nearly two months after Election Day turned the tide of power in our government, soon to be former president Donald Trump is still playing politics — and desperate to overturn results on the basis of widespread voter fraud that never existed. Lawsuit after lawsuit has failed, and the Supreme Court has completely ignored his requests for its justices to intervene or do his bidding. Meanwhile, Trump is pardoning everyone in sight and talking to his most radical supporters about invoking martial law.

And he’s also lodged one last lawsuit in Pennsylvania — even though overturning the results there wouldn’t do a thing to help him retain the presidency unless he can do it elsewhere as well. And his chances of being successful are basically nonexistent. 

The current suit requests a reversal of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s earlier three decisions which attempted to overturn legal votes on the basis of signature verification, observation of vote counts on Election Day, and mail-in votes. The state court ruled on these issues. The lawsuit says that only the state legislature has the authority to do so. But, you know, the United States of America has always had this small issue of checks and balances in place to prevent someone like Trump from completely destroying our democracy.

Trump attorney John Eastman wrote, “Collectively, these three decisions resulted in counting approximately 2.6 million mail ballots in violation of the law as enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature.”

He continued, “The outcome of the election for the Presidency of the United States hangs in the balance.”

“Indeed, the intense national and worldwide attention on the 2020 Presidential election only foreshadows the disruption that may well follow if the uncertainty and unfairness shrouding this election are allowed to persist,” he wrote.

These arguments are false, as were all the others. That’s why they keep failing. Joe Biden is our next president — and he was elected lawfully by an enormous margin.

A Parallel Universe: Donald Trump’s Lawsuit To Hold The Presidency

Ignoring for a moment what actually happened on Election Day — and what actually could happen in the future — we want to take a moment to explore two of many potential paths that we believe were the most likely to have unfolded. One follows Joe Biden after an historic victory that could not be doubted. The other follows Donald Trump, who used the structure of our own government to steal an election he lost — both through the popular vote and electoral college — to ignore what was to be Joe Biden’s shining moment.

For the first scenario to unfold, what needed to happen was simple: a landslide victory on Election Day. Why? Because the Trump strategy was all about throwing out any votes after Election Day (most of which would predictably have been blue) in order to keep what looked like an Election Day electoral college victory from turning into a defeat when all the votes were counted. 

A landslide would prevent such a reality from transpiring. Biden would need purple states like Texas to really seal the deal when it mattered most. Waiting for a win weeks later would be dangerous. 

And as for the second scenario, perhaps originally seen as even more likely as the first, there’s the obvious question: how could Trump possibly get away with throwing away votes? Oddly enough, it’s one of the only truly scandalous actions he could take during his presidency that would actually be legal. It would have Super NOVA like consequences of course, but they might even seem like business as usual nowadays.

The plot has to do with who controls state legislatures in the vast majority of swing states. Who does, you ask? Republicans. And therein lies the problem. Even before the election took place, they publicly announced plans to send electors to vote for Trump over Biden if they thought that best represented the outcome of the popular vote in their own states. In other words, even if Biden got the votes needed to win the electors in that state, the legislature would cry foul based on non-existent fraudulent voting, and then send the electors to vote for Trump anyway.

That’s how a once-proud Democracy dies. The worst part? GOP constituents openly acknowledge that they receive most of their news directly from the president himself. In other words, they believe everything that comes out of his mouth. Everyone on the other side of the aisle knows he’s lying — because 99 percent of the time he’s caught on camera or in print doing it — but what really matters most is the people who don’t know. Because those are the people who wanted to vote for him, and those are the people who were willing to throw away Democratic tradition to keep him in power for another four years.

The Democratic process, then, in this scenario, would place its success or failure on entities like the Republican-controlled Senate or the Conservative-led Supreme Court. Three of the nine members of the Supreme Court were nominated by Trump. Would they ever really threaten his presidency, dually elected or not?

What Are Authorities Doing To Protect Against Voter Fraud In Pennsylvania?

Supporters of Donald Trump — and viewers of Fox News, especially — have continued to believe in the notion of widespread voter fraud even though Trump’s own FBI director has suggested there is little evidence of it. Additionally, bipartisan groups have also continued to find little evidence of voter fraud, save for a few dozen cases over the years. But Trump and Fox News continue to roll out new “evidence” of this non-existent phenomenon.

In fact, a new Trump Administration lawsuit used Philadelphia resident and lawyer Adam Goodman’s selfie to suggest that voter fraud is pervasive in Pennsylvania. Trump has also set up cameras at many dropboxes, which is tantamount to intimidation and may be against the law. Why was Goodman’s photo “evidence” of voter fraud? Because there were two ballots when he dropped them off during primary season.

But it’s not illegal to drop off more than one vote — because you’re allowed to drop off another person’s vote if you’re unable to do it yourself. With coronavirus still a huge issue during this election, it’s not surprising that people might be more inclined to appoint a surrogate. 

Goodman said his husband “was wearing sweatpants and didn’t think he looked cute enough for Instagram. You can’t see it in the photo, but we are actually both holding up the ballots.” 

Court documents described many images of one person dropping off more than one vote as evidence of “rampant problems and associated fraud in Pennsylvania’s 2020 primary election” and that they “undermine the integrity of the 2020 general election.”

Goodman said, “God forbid the election becomes contested. I am going to vote in person. We have our ballots, and we are going to surrender them on Election Day and vote at the polls. It’s crazy to me the lengths that this administration is going to in order to discredit the results of this election. I mean, my Instagram?”

The Trump Administration certainly knows that these pictures do not amount to evidence of voter fraud — but then again, that may not be the point. Sometimes, public opinion matters more.

Can A Company Sue You For Unpaid Credit Card Debt?

We’ve all heard the story by now: the vast majority of Americans cannot afford an even minor unexpected expense. We’re living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes, we have to use our plastic to pay for goods and services even when we’d rather use cash. Credit card companies have taken advantage of this formula for decades, sprinkling interest on top of already massive bills. But what happens when you can’t pay back your credit card debt.

Yes, your credit card company can sue you.

The truth is, though, that they’d rather not. Going to the trouble of suing someone for debt they can’t afford is often more trouble than it’s worth. But if a credit card company investigates your circumstances and finds that you might be able to pay off your credit card debt — but for some reason won’t — then it will likely propose litigation against you to recoup their own investments. That’s just the way business works. 

One thing to keep in mind if you’re worried that your credit card company might initiate a lawsuit is that they can’t do it right away. There’s no reason to sweat bullets the first time you default on a payment. There might be reason to worry, however, if you go months and months without being able to afford the bill. The shortest timetable for a company usually falls around six months. 

It is extremely important to take any notification of a lawsuit seriously. You might be summoned to court. If you ignore a court summons, then in the best case scenario a default judgment will be awarded to the credit card company suing you. In the worst case scenario, a bench warrant could be put out for your arrest. Never ignore the problem. 

Also, keep in mind that there are people out there who go to the trouble of purchasing your debt from the credit card company owed — meaning they pay at least some portion of the debt owed — and then set out to sue you to recoup the money they paid (and then some, of course).

Before you take any further action, request a verification of debt owed. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you to make this formal request in writing, at which point a debt collector must furnish you with proof that the debt is owed. This is more important when the debt has been purchased by a third-party.

Next, decide how to address what you owe. A settlement is probably in your best interest if you cannot afford the debt, because it will allow you to mitigate costs. But keep in mind you will still owe any settlement costs remaining, and failing to pay could land you in hotter water. Settling debt will likely leave you with a much reduced credit score that could last for years.

And that means the best option is simply paying off the debt in full. Sit down with a lawyer to ask about debt management plans and additional options.

Getting Back To Business After COVID-19

We’re not going to mince words when it comes to the current response to COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus: it was abysmal. Because of the government’s ineptitude during this crisis, we will likely be trying to find new ways to respond to ongoing infections for years to come. The hope for a vaccine, for now, remains a pipe dream. Reality is much bleaker. And that means we need to embrace the facts.

Many of us were exposed to the coronavirus when we need not have been, but the legal options for responding to such an assault are severely limited.

Do you run a business or organization trying to make ends meet? We know the feeling. There’s no guarantee that customers will return once your business reopens and it’s anyone’s guess how long you can stay open when that day comes. If you have legal questions and concerns regarding employees and customers, we would love to hear from you. Do you have a story about how your friends and family kept your business afloat? These harrowing tales could be the key to finding meaningful compensation in the days ahead.

Even though local and state governments are beginning to reopen little by little, keep in mind that your business should continue to operate safely. Ask employees to work from home whenever possible. Ask customers and employees to maintain limits on personal contact and always social distance during meetings. Furthermore, keep personal protective equipment (gloves and masks) on hand to keep the risk of exposure low.

We also suggest using plastic shields as a barrier between work spaces. These extra measures will help keep your clients and staff safe. More than that, the measures will also reduce the potential for lawsuits in the days ahead. Our offices have been inundated with questions, comments, and calls for personal injury assistance — and we can’t help everyone. Please do your part to minimize the risk!

Can The Government Be Sued For Responding To Covid-19 Ineffectively?

Right now, there are many memes using information from supposed “experts” who say that we shouldn’t worry too much about the potential of the coronavirus covid-19 to wreak havok on our nation. The biggest problem, they say, is people panicking and buying out every item that our grocery stores have on their shelves. And that is a problem. But these people continue to compare covid-19 to the annual flu virus — when in fact it might be smarter to compare it to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

The Spanish flu killed between 17 and 50 million after infecting less than a third of the world’s population. (Which was only 1.9 billion people at the time. The world population right now stands at about 7.8 billion.)

The mortality rate of the annual flu is .1 percent, while the mortality rate of covid-19 is presumed to be around 2 percent. Compare that to the mortality rate of the Spanish flu, which was around 2.5 percent, and you’ll understand that Spanish flu has more in common with covid-19 than the flu.

But there’s more.

It’s not just about the mortality rate. It’s about the number of infected. And in order to understand the virus’s capacity to travel from one person to the next, we need to know how contageous it is compared to annual flu and Spanish flu. We learn this information by figuring out how many people any given infected individual is likely to infect. Individuals who will infect one other person are given a reproductive number of R1, for example. Two people, R2. Three people, R3, and so on.

Scientists believe that covid-19 has a value of R2.3. The annual flu has a value of 1.3. The median rating allotted to the Spanish flu was 1.8. What does that mean? Not only is covid-19 potentially as deadly as the Spanish flu, but it’s potentially more contagious. Do we know all this for sure? No. We’re still taking educated guesses, and scientists won’t have better answers until the whole thing is over and done with.

But that’s not really the point, is it?

Donald Trump called the coronavirus pandemic a liberal hoax only two weeks ago. He said the negative media coverage was a ploy by his political enemies to undermine his chances of reelection later this year. Because he didn’t believe in the seriousness of this virus, the United States did not request or receive the necessary testing equipment it required to find out how many people are actually infected. That means the number of infected is likely already much higher than reported. 

You decide if the government should be held financially responsible for this potentially deadly mistake.

New Multi-State Coalition Opens Lawsuit Because Of Food Stamps Requirements

No presidential administration has been the subject of more lawsuits than Trump’s. But that should come as a surprise to no one. What might be more interesting to those who support him is how many of them are brought on by multi-state coalitions. After all, Republicans are supposed to be the party that supports state rights and powers over federal ones. 

The latest lawsuit is the result of new regulations requiring certain categories of food stamp recipients to work or go without. More than a dozen states have supported the lawsuit, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, Vermont, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

Trump is big on bragging about how much he gets done. One of those stories involves lifting people off of entitlements — even though he did it by making those entitlements much more difficult to acquire. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) will formally limit state rights in eliminating work requirements as of April 2020. When the new regulation is finally implemented, about 688,000 people might lose their food stamps.

The new lawsuit says that the new regulations are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law…The rule conflicts with the federal statute, the purpose of SNAP, and the clear intent of Congress to alleviate hunger and malnutrition while maintaining States’ flexibility.”

When asked about the new work requirements and waiving of state rights overriding them, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that it “lays the groundwork for the expectation that able-bodied Americans re-enter the workforce where there are currently more job openings than people to fill them.”

Perdue added, “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand. Now, in the midst of the strongest economy in a generation, we need everyone who can work, to work.”

The fine print is important, though. That’s because adults who “can work” are already required to do so by the old laws. Those who aren’t disabled and don’t have kids — but who don’t work — can only receive benefits for no more than three months in three years. Those who are working are entitled to more. 

The lawsuit was built because right now states have the right to waive the work requirement in certain situations, such as when unemployment is high. Certainly, the new restrictions are being excused by Perdue on the basis of a strong economy — but strong economies are ephemeral, and the new rules are certainly not tied to the whims of the economy.