Monday, March 31, 2014

New Studies Show Soil Dust May be “Smoking Gun” for Illnesses Among Iraq Vets

Jim Fausone, Esq
Veteran Disability Lawyer

Many veterans experience respiratory problems after returning from active duty, and this has been even more common for those who have served in the Persian Gulf region. Iraq War veterans often think their respiratory problems stem from smoke from a burn pit – however, this assumption may be mistaken.

A growing body of research now shows that microscopic dust particles containing heavy metals and other toxins may indeed be a significant contributor to long-term respiratory diseases of Iraq War veterans. Navy Captain Mark Lyles, a professor of health and security studies at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, began warning of potential health hazards from fine dust particles back in 2003.

Captain Lyles’s team’s analysis found that soil and dust samples from the Persian Gulf region contained microscopic particles carrying microbes and 37 elements and metals, some of which have been linked to respiratory problems and neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Lyles, in a recent Navy Times report, speaking as a researcher rather than in an official Navy capacity said: “I believe only 3 to 5 percent of service members were exposed to a burn pit. But 100 percent of people who served were exposed to mineralized dust.”

A 2011 study from the Institute of Medicine confirmed that the biggest pollution concern at one of the most controversial sites, Joint Base Balad, Iraq, is likely particulate dust matter, and whether burn pits cause long-term health effects cannot yet be determined.  The DoD is working to develop screening tools for troops and veterans with symptoms, as well as diagnostic tools to identify disease.

However, according to Captain Lyles, the government is falling short in their efforts to address the threat of soil dust. Defense and Veterans Affairs Department health officials have held two annual Airborne Hazards Symposia — both closed to the public — and have not invited him to speak or present his team’s data.

In 2004, the Navy never acted on his recommendations that ground-based troops be supplied with masks to limit exposure.

“No one wants me to sit down and show them the scientific facts and data that we gathered,” Lyles said. “[The Department of Defense] has known about our data for 10 years. They don’t want to think about it, and they certainly don’t seem to want to know about it.”

Read more on this issue in the Navy Times:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Provides Estate Planning Lessons

Donald L. Knapp, Esq.

While Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has focused attention upon the severe consequences of heroin addiction, his death can also provide lessons for families who do not have an estate plan.  In addition to three children born of his longtime companion, Marianne O’Donnell (“O’Donnell”),
Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Hoffman”) also left a sizable estate worth approximately $35 million. Even though most of us will not amass that level of wealth, it is not impossible for a small business owner or professional who is a prudent investor to have a net worth that approaches $5 million.  More importantly, most married couples will have children that they will want to protect in the event of an untimely death.

A review of Hoffman’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”) reveals that his attorney did not due him any tax favors.   First, because Hoffman did not shelter any of his wealth, he will be paying approximately $11.46 million in Estate taxes.  The Estate Tax, which is also known as the death tax, taxes property that you own at the time of your death, such as cash, securities, real estate, annuities, and insurance.  In 2014, the first $5.34 million is exempt from the Estate Tax; however, the IRS will impose a 40% tax on all property that exceeds that amount.  Because you can give an unlimited amount of money to your spouse throughout life or as part of an estate plan, if Hoffman had married O’Donnell his estate could have passed directly to her without the requirement to pay any such taxes.  However, because O’Donnell was simply Hoffman’s “companion”, no such tax breaks are available.

Hoffman’s will is also problematic because it only makes reference to his oldest son, Cooper, not his daughters, Tallulah and Willa, who were born after the Will was executed.  In fact, it does not contemplate any children that he may have later.    Typically, wills contain language which provides equally for children specifically named in it as well as children born after the Will is drafted.  Hoffman’s Will contains no such language.  While O’Donnell will undoubtedly have full custody of the three children, it is possible that the children will have disparate amounts depending upon whether Hoffman made O’Connell or his children as beneficiaries of his bank accounts.

In short, marriage status and a properly drafted estate plan could have avoided much of the mess that Hoffman left for his companion to clean up.  Ultimately, whether you are fortunate to have substantial assets or whether you simply blessed with children and a comfortable lifestyle, it is important to plan for the unexpected so that your family is protected and they are the primary beneficiaries of your hard work, not the IRS.

If you have estate planning needs or questions please call Don Knapp at 248.380.0000 x 3213.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Implied Consent: Know the Rights You Don’t Have

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Did you that when each time you get into the driver’s seat in Michigan, you are considered to have consented to a BAC test?  Before heading out for a few drinks with friends, there are some important points everyone should keep in mind if you’re thinking of getting behind the wheel, in addition to having a designated driver.

Under Michigan’s Implied Consent Law, all drivers are considered to have given their consent to chemical tests to determine their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). It does no good to refuse a BAC test, as there are significant penalties.

First of all, if you refuse the test, six points will be added to your driver’s record and your license will be automatically suspended for one year. This is a separate penalty from any subsequent convictions resulting from the traffic stop. Secondly, there is always a judge on-call for the police to get a warrant for a blood-draw.

Further, if you refuse a test, or if the test shows your BAC is 0.08 or more, your driver's license will be destroyed by the officer and you will be issued a 625g paper permit to drive until your case is resolved in court.

If you are arrested a second time in seven years and again unreasonably refuse the test, six points will be added to your driver record and your license will be suspended for two years. 

The suspension may be appealed to the Traffic Safety Division, but the request for a hearing must be submitted within 14 days – if you do not submit a request for a hearing, your license will be automatically suspended.

Implied consent hearings place a huge burden on the accused, but there are ways to soften damages in the process.

The implied consent hearings are conducted by attorneys from the Department of State. You must show that the refusal to take the test was not unreasonable – and this is extremely difficult to prove. However, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that you may request a call to your attorney before submitting to a breath test (Hall v. Secretary of State, 1975): if you are not allowed this opportunity, you may reasonably refuse a breath test.

You should also be informed about the “One Hour Rule,” whereby you generally have one hour to change your mind about submitting to a test. For example, if you refuse at first, but change your mind 15 minutes later, then you have not unreasonably refused the test.

Although the burden of proof is incredibly difficult to overcome, first-time offenders can petition the circuit court for a restricted driver’s license. You can also appeal any legal defects in the implied consent procedure to the circuit court. Having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney at your side to fight for your rights can make a huge difference.

If you have been charged with refusing to take a breath test, contact attorney Mark Mandell at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Protecting Your Rights When Landmen Come Knocking

Breeda O’Leary, Esq.

Have you received a knock on your door from an unknown company wanting to lease your mineral rights with the promise of royalty payments and signing bonuses?   Oil and gas exploration is steadily rising throughout the state of Michigan.  Representatives of oil and gas companies (“Landmen”) are out knocking on doors throughout the state in hopes of securing leases to property owners’ subsurface mineral rights.  As with any “traveling salesman,” take caution in what they are selling. 

Unsuspecting landowners may be surprised by and satisfied with the small signing bonuses and minimal royalty payments offered by Landmen; however, it is imperative that landowners consult with a qualified attorney to review their rights and options.  The leases presented by these companies often contain terms that are vague and unfavorable to landowners and their property rights.

West Bay Exploration Company, Jordan Development Company, and Encana Oil and Gas are just a few companies actively pursuing leases throughout the state.  A qualified attorney can review proposed leases and offer a variety of services.  A simple review could prevent unfavorable or ambiguous lease terms.  An experienced attorney could also assist landowners by being their point of contact with Landmen and negotiating the best possible lease terms.

The experienced attorneys of Fausone Bohn, LLP, have reviewed numerous oil and gas leases for clients and successfully negotiated higher royalty payments and signing bonuses, in addition to protecting our clients’ rights to use and enjoy their property.  

If you are approached by an oil and gas company, it is imperative that you contact the experienced team of Fausone Bohn, LLP, who has the knowledge and experience necessary to protect your interests.  Please contact Breeda O’Leary-Holder at (248) 380-0000 extension 3221 or by email,  Visit our website at

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surrogacy in Michigan

Melissa A. Cox, Esq.

Michigan law prohibits compensated surrogacy, in which a woman is paid for carrying a child for another individual or couple. Michigan law also states that all surrogacy contracts, whether the surrogate is paid or unpaid, are unenforceable. Despite these restrictions, non-compensated or altruistic surrogacy is legal in Michigan.

Different types of surrogacy are available, with two basic categories. Traditional surrogacy occurs when the surrogate is also the biological mother, meaning her oocytes, or eggs, are used to achieve pregnancy. Her egg is fertilized with sperm from the intended father or from a sperm donor. The surrogate carries the pregnancy to term, and then the baby joins the family of the intended parents. Gestational surrogacy occurs when the surrogate is not biologically related to the embryo. An embryo is implanted in the surrogate, and she carries it to term. However, Michigan recognizes the mother who gives birth the child as that’s child’s legal parent, so, in either situation, the intended parents must legally become the baby's parents through a direct placement adoption after the child is born.

Surrogacy is also categorized based on the financial arrangements. Commercial surrogacy occurs when the surrogate is paid, which, as stated above, is illegal in Michigan. Altruistic surrogacy occurs when the surrogate is not paid but her medical and other expenses are generally reimbursed by the intended parents as in any other direct placement adoption. This arrangement is legal in Michigan and can be assisted through an attorney.

Attorney Melissa Cox is experienced in surrogacy and adoption law and can assist you in making informed choices. Contact her at 248.380.0000 or

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A New Way to Erase the PTSD Stigma for Vets?

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer

Former President George W. Bush offered an interesting take on erasing the stigma that comes along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for military veterans: drop the “D” in PTSD.

At a summit convened on veterans’ issues, the former President said that the condition has been mislabeled a “disorder” and that simply calling it “post-traumatic stress” would go a long way toward removing the stigma for veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The summit was organized by the George W. Bush Institute — the former President’s policy think tank — to highlight how Americans can more effectively help the 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans move to civilian life.

It’s estimated that 11-20% of Veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, in addition to about 10% of Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) vets, and about 30% of Vietnam vets. The condition has serious consequences beyond that of veterans’ health, especially their ability to find a job when returning home.

“Employers would not hesitate to hire an employee being treated for a medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure,” said Bush. “And they should not hesitate to hire veterans with post-traumatic stress.”

While others, including high-ranking military officials have previously called for such a change, Bush is the most prominent individual to suggest that PTSD be viewed from a different angle.

Due to the stigma of the condition being a “disorder” – which makes it seem permanent – some veterans are reluctant to get help, while others are unaware of treatment options. Doctors who have been pushing for a name change — perhaps to “post-traumatic stress injury” — praised Bush’s stand as major progress.

PTSD can develop after a trauma in which an individual is harmed or feels the threat of physical harm – which can be triggered by events such as combat or by sexual harassment. Key aspects of the condition are recurring symptoms, such as reliving the event or avoiding situations reminiscent of the event.

Bush was also joined by Jill Biden, wife of vice president Joe Biden, as well as high-ranking military officials, non-profits and representatives from businesses such as Bank of America and 7-Eleven. Hopefully this push to erase the “D” from PTSD will continue and yield results – our veterans deserve it, and we owe it to them.

For an overview of PTSD basics, check out the VA’s PTSD informational page:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Heroin Addiction: The Personal and Legal Costs

Mark Mandell, Esq.

With the death of the famous actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, discussion on the recent spike in heroin-related deaths has been catching headlines. Heroin use is becoming more prevalent across Michigan suburbs especially, and heroin use has increased by 79% nationally from 2007-2012, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

There were 158 heroin-related deaths in Michigan from 2007-11, according to the most up-to-date figures from the Michigan Department of Community Health. For youth in particular, the rising costs of prescription drugs have steered them toward heroin, a much cheaper drug that delivers the high many crave.

Aside from the personal toll such drug use can cause for families and young people, there are serious legal ramifications if you are caught using or dealing heroin. As a Schedule I drug, the typical penalties in Michigan are:

Heroin use is a misdemeanor drug crime with jail time up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

Heroin possession is a felony drug crime and penalties vary depending on the amount:

·         Less than 50 grams, prison time up to four years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
·         50-499 grams, prison time up to 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
·         450-999 grams, prison time up to 30 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.
·         1,000 grams or more, prison time up to a life sentence, a fine of $1,000,000, or both.

Heroin manufacture and creation is also a felony in Michigan, and penalties vary:

·         Less than 50-499 grams, prison time up to 20 years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
·         450-999 grams, prison time up to 30 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.
·         1,000 grams or more, prison time up to a life sentence, a fine of up to $1,000,000, or both.

Many families have the “this could never happen to us” mentality. But if you suspect a loved-one of drug use, be sure to speak up and intervene. If you are caught in an unfortunate situation of being accused of heroin use, possession, or creation, be sure to contact an experienced defense attorney.

Mark Mandell provides invaluable legal counsel to individuals caught in such situations; you can contact Mr. Mandell at (248) 380-0000 or online at

To read more on the recent spike in heroin use, check out The Detroit News’ recent article:

For more information on the additional federal penalties involved with various drugs, follow this link: