NEW ORLEANS, LA — You’ve been seriously injured by another person’s negligence, and have had to file a lawsuit. Or maybe you’re just starting the claims process, and you believe you might be forced to file a lawsuit because the insurance company isn’t being fair with you. At some point in the litigation process, the insurance company’s lawyers are going to ask you if you’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. If the answer is yes, especially if you don’t have a lawyer to advise and protect you, admitting to past involvement with law enforcement might frighten you. It might even discourage you from pursuing a claim. You don’t want this past history coming out in civil court. You fear the insurance company’s lawyers will use this against you. You may even feel like having an arrest record somehow turns you from the victim of another person’s negligence into a guilty party. So, how concerned should you be about a past criminal history, if you’ve been injured by someone else?
The answer is complicated. While it may seem unfair that having a criminal record could affect your pursuit of justice, insurance companies have a right to investigate claims to discover any potential fraud. Also, under certain circumstances, a past criminal history can be used against you in court, if that history demonstrates that you’ve been a dishonest person. However, when an insurance company asks if you’ve “ever been arrested,” they’re fishing for information that can’t necessarily be used against you.
Louisiana law wisely attempts to balance the right of injured parties not to have past transgressions held against them, with the right of insurance companies to protect themselves against fraudulent or dishonest claimants. Louisiana Code of Evidence Article 609 allows defendants to attack a plaintiff’s credibility only by revealing to a jury the name of the crime you have been convicted of, and only then if it involves “dishonesty or false statement,” or if it is punishable by death or more than six months in prison if a judge feels that this information’s importance to the case outweighs the prejudice such a revelation will create against you. And in both cases, if it’s been more than ten years since your conviction date, or if you were later pardoned or the judgment annulled, then it isn’t admissible. Juvenile judgments are generally not admissible, either.
Despite the requests for disclosure that the defendants will make from you or your attorney, a record of arrests, indictments, and prosecution can’t be used to attack your credibility at all. From the perspective of a person protecting a plaintiff’s rights, the defense, when asking if you’ve ever been arrested, is throwing a wide net in hopes of catching some foolish fish!
If you’ve been convicted of a crime that can be used against you, you still shouldn’t fear pursuing your claim. People who make mistakes get injured too. If justice is to truly be blind, we must fully examine the merits of each case. We must recognize that having a past conviction isn’t a defense for someone to hurt you. If you’ve been the victim of someone else’s negligence, don’t let a past criminal record stop you from seeking justice. Call the experienced attorneys at The de Boisblanc Law Firm today!
NEW ORLEANS — The increasing popularity of vaping has led to decreases in sales of traditional cigarettes, but has also contributed to a disturbing spike in youth nicotine addiction. Nicotine use has serious detrimental health effects on children—and there’s concern that vaping companies such as JUUL might intentionally be targeting yours.
It’s important that all parents understand how nicotine impacts a teenager’s developing brain. Studies have shown that nicotine exposure even in small quantities “increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment” because the chemical targets the delicate neurological structure in the brain. In adolescents, whose brains are still undergoing changes and are less developed in areas that control understanding risks versus rewards, nicotine’s disruption of the brain’s chemistry is enhanced. Immediately upon consuming nicotine, teenagers have disturbances in working memory as well as reduced prefrontal cortex activation, among other complicated effects. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for executive functions and attention performance, and is one of the last brain areas to mature. Continued consumption of nicotine in adolescence correlates with a progression of deleterious effects on the prefrontal cortex that suggest an impairment lasting later into life. Animal studies demonstrate that exposure during adolescence induces changes in gene expression within the brain. Your teenager is more susceptible to becoming addicted to nicotine because her brain’s ability to evaluate risk is not as developed as yours, while the “reward” of the nicotine high has a greater effect on her. And the nicotine itself, at very low levels, can cause irreparable harm to her mental health and cognitive ability. It’s a vicious cycle: children are more likely to use nicotine because of their immature minds, and nicotine harms their minds’ healthy maturation.
While our scientific explanation for teenage behavior progresses over time, we’ve known for years that children are more susceptible to addictions, have less willpower than adults, and are more easily swayed by short-term pleasures and rewards than adults. With that understanding, we might expect that purveyors of highly addictive chemicals would do anything possible to keep their products out of the hands of children. Unfortunately, evidence shows that the opposite is true.
Leaked internal documents from the major cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris demonstrates that they have intentionally targeted children since at least the 1970s. Below, some choice excerpts demonstrate Philip Morris’s strategy concerning children:
“Marlboro’s phenomenal growth rate in the past has been attributable in large part to our high market penetration among young smokers . . .15 to 19 years old . . . my own data, which includes younger teenagers, shows even higher Marlboro market penetration among 15-17year-olds.” [Philip Morris Document #1000024921/4927, May 21, 1975]
“Sales—Outstanding! Outstanding! Outstanding! . . .This account is located 2 blocks from Bellingham High School. Our pre-sell has sold through. The account had reordered and received more product. Sales field report.” [PM Doc. #87051949, March 8, 1988]
“[To support Marlboro’ s growth, Marlboro must] continue growth among new, young smokers…While Marlboro continues to attract increasing shares of young smokers, expected declines in the number of young people restrict future volume gains from this source.” [PM Doc. #2043440057/0112, 1985]
“Because of our high share of the market among the youngest smokers, Philip Morris will suffer more than the other companies from the decline in the number of teenage smokers.” [PM Doc. #1000390803/0855, March 31, 1981]
“Thus, the ability to attract new smokers and develop them into a young adult franchise is key to brand development.” [PM Doc. #2044895379/484, 1992]
“It is important to know as much as possible about teenage smoking patterns and attitudes. Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while in their teens . . . it is during the teenage years that the initial brand choice is made.” [Special Report, “Young Smokers: Prevalence, Trends, Implications, and Related Demographic Trends,” PM Document #1000390803/55, March 31, 1981]
“We wonder whether such children may not eventually become cigarette smokers in their teenage years as they discover the advantage of self-stimulation via nicotine. We have already collaborated with a local school system in identifying some such children in the third grade. . . Report on study of hyperactive children.” [PM Doc. #1003288122, June 10, 1974]
“[If Philip Morris took] a more progressive position on tobacco, it would enable the company to move onto a higher moral playing field, to neutralize the tobacco issue and to focus attention on other, more appealing products.” [PM Doc. #2023586677, December 3, 1992]
This “more progressive position” evolved into promoting electronic cigarettes and vaping as a “healthier alternative” to cigarettes. The “more appealing product” is one with no odor, that comes in a variety of child-friendly flavors including candy-sweet fruit flavors, and flavors replicating popular childhood cereals. The CDC now believes that a recent decline in youth cigarette smoking is directly related to a spike in children vaping. To the astonishment of parents everywhere, the Unites States Government has investigated and concluded that vape purveyor JUUL actually targeted children in camp and school under the guise of educating them about their health and the dangers of cigarettes
It may come as little shock, then, that the parent company of Philip Morris, author of last century’s campaign to turn children into customers, owns a 35% stake in JUUL.
Vape manufacturers who target children deserve to be held accountable for the severe, potentially permanent damage their product can cause. Class action lawsuits are forming to bring companies that target children to justice. If your child is using vapes like JUUL, contact The de Boisblanc Law Firm today.