Volume 8 | December 2020

Welcome to December Legal Ease. We’re covering a lawsuit that impacts Connecticut students and new changes to the state's paid leave law.

And we're covering puppy scams too. We know many people who brought new puppies into their homes this year. Pets add joy to our lives and can ease the loneliness of social distancing. But if you, or someone you know, is in the market for a new puppy, please exercise caution when shopping online. Read on to learn more.

Aaron and Bill
Personal Injury • Criminal Defense • Workers' Comp
"We are fighters who work to ensure that our clients are informed and empowered, so that we can achieve an outcome that provides peace of mind."

Hartford judge rules children will continue to wear masks in schools
If you’re dropping off your children at school you’ve noticed, besides the long line of cars, students wearing masks. They know the rule which was implemented to keep students and staff safe and to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. But an organization called the CT Freedom Alliance, and four Connecticut families, tried to change that ruling and requested an emergency injunction against the state’s requirement that children wear masks in schools.
CT Freedom Alliance filed a lawsuit in August against the state’s education department, arguing that requiring children to wear masks in school poses physical and mental health risks. They also argued that the Department of Education violated state law by improperly implementing the regulation and that requiring masks violates the state constitution by impinging on the right to an education.

On Nov. 2, a Hartford judge denied their request for an emergency injunction against the state’s mask-wearing requirement. “Nothing the Connecticut government has done about school mask wearing has been shown as irrational and dangerous rather than, like all human action, in some ways imperfect,” wrote Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher. “Indeed, it aligns with ordinary expectations.” (CT Mirror, Nov. 2)

The Friday before the ruling, Moukawsher listened to hours of testimony on the safety and value of masks. Moukawsher heard from those who don’t feel mask-wearing is important in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, as well as from experts who could validate that masks slow the virus’ spread and do not negatively impact children. (Harford Courant, Oct. 30)

Plaintiffs' arguments
Lawyers for the plaintiffs brought in a Los Angeles psychiatrist, who testified that masks can inhibit development, cause stress and lead to other complications for children and that he is “greatly concerned about what he is seeing.”

The plaintiffs also brought in a New York-based epidemiologist who said he reviewed scores of studies and could not find evidence that masks were effective outside a health care facility. 

CDC findings  
These statements and the assertions in the lawsuit contradict the scientific evidence that shows that mask-wearing slows the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention released a statement in July showing that two hairstylists who tested positive for COVID-19 did not pass on the virus to any of their clients. The stylists both wore masks while working with their clients. 

“The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that cloth face coverings provide source control – that is, they help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others,” said the CDC. 

State's arguments
The state had Dr. Robert Dudley, a New Britain pediatrician who serves as the city school’s medical advisor, testify, and he said he was unaware of any issues with students wearing masks. 

There was also Stephanie Knutson, a school health administrator from the state’s education department, who said that 221 mask exemptions in schools had been granted. Documentation for a medical condition must be submitted in order to be considered for exemption. The state argued that since mask exemptions are being granted, there is no emergency to have the injunction issued. 

Children face no “emergency danger”
In his ruling, Moukawsher said the witnesses that CT Alliance and the parents brought forward did not provide enough support for the plaintiffs’ claim that wearing masks is harmful. 

“There is no emergency danger to children from wearing masks in schools … there is very little evidence of harm at all and a wide-ranging medical consensus that it is safe,” said Moukawsher. 
Puppy demand is high, and so are the scams
You probably know someone who has gotten a new puppy this year. The pandemic has dramatically increased the demand for pets, which can bring joy and comfort to a family during stressful times. Plus, with more people working from home, it’s an opportune time to train a puppy. 

Shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, pet stores — all reported more consumer demand than there were dogs and puppies to fill it. Some rescues were reporting dozens of applications for individual dogs. Some breeders were reporting waiting lists well into 2021. (Washington Post, Aug. 12)

Unfortunately, as dog adoptions and sales soar during the pandemic, so have pet scams. Since April, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker has seen a spike in pet fraud reports, with nearly 4,000 reports in 2020 from the U.S. and Canada. That total has more than doubled from 1,870 reported pet scams in 2019. Online shoppers are paying hundreds of dollars or more for a pet that doesn’t exit. 

A Wichita, Kansas, man reported to BBB in April 2020 that he used Zelle to pay $940 for a French bulldog puppy from scammers who used a fake, but authentic-looking website for a new puppy that never arrived. 

The pandemic has made it easier for fraudsters, who are telling would-be pet owners they can’t meet the dogs before sending money. And some scammers are making their fraud even crueler by selling Covid-19 vaccines, insurance and expensive climate-controlled crates. According to Scam Tracker, the median scam loss in 2020 is $750, with a total of $3,100,000. 

While puppies remain the most common lure in a pet scam, 12% of pet scam complaints to BBB were about kittens or cats. 

BBB recommends these tactics to avoid being scammed: 

  • See the pet in person before paying any money. 
  • Consider a video call so you can see the seller and the pet. 
  • Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description. 
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed. 
  • Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price – it could be a fraud that hits you with shipping and other fees. 
  • Check out a local animal shelter online for pets you can meet before adopting.

Who to contact if you are the victim of a pet scam: 

Petscams.com - petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, catalogues puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sale websites taken down.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.

Better Business Bureau - BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online.

Your credit card company - if you provided your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.

Next month Connecticut rolls out one of the most expansive paid leave laws in the nation
The state significantly expanded its paid leave law, and funding begins next month. As reported in a Nov. 29 article in the Hartford Courant, a new deduction will appear on Connecticut workers’ paychecks starting the first of the year. Governor Lamont signed the law, which is one of the most expansive in the nation, in June 2019. Connecticut workers will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with two additional weeks of paid time off available for employees who experience a serious pregnancy-related health complication

Employer registration for the program opened in November and sole proprietors and self-employed individuals have the option to enroll in the program. Employees can begin collecting benefits on Jan. 2, 2022.

New changes
The current state’s family medical leave applies only to employers with 75 employees or more, and to qualify, an employee must have worked at least 12 months for the employer and at least 1,000 hours preceding the request. With the new law, employers of one or more people are covered.

Qualifying reasons for leaving include:
  • The birth of a child or placement of a child with your family for adoption or foster care 
  • Caring for your own serious health condition or that of a family member 
  • Serving as an organ or bone marrow donor 
  • Caring for a family member in the military injured on active duty or being called to overseas active duty 
  • Being impacted by family violence 

Personal Injury • Criminal Defense • Workers' Comp
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Plainville, CT 06062
Phone: 860-351-3552
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