May 2019

The Transition

The transition periods in our life help define us. They help mold us into who we are and help shape the type of person we hope to become. For me, the first transition period was from high school to college. I left my safe home town and went to Bloomington, which looking back was a piece of cake- but I digress, where I would move on to a floor of 15 wonderful women. These women would show me what a strong group of female friends looked like. Then, four short years later, I would leave that town that grew to become my second home and I would venture half way across the country to the city that I now love more than any other. That was the real transition period for me. Those three years. Those people. Tough schooling, the strongest friendships, love, pain, laughter, and a lot of strength and independence I did not know I had in me up until that move. Boston, though it took me away from my family, taught me who I really was. It gave me a chance to live for me- and solely for me. To do the things I loved and to venture outside of my comfort zone. To find total strangers who would turn into family. People that I will literally love the rest of my life. Transition periods are funny. They break you down so you can pick up the pieces that truly define you.

I've been lucky enough for a lot of years now to volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I run the LaSalle County walk. It has become a part of who I am to help others through times of crisis. Transition periods can be just that- crisis. Sometimes you end up in a foreign place by yourself and truly feel alone. I can remember the first week of college literally crying in the hallway of my dorm because I missed my parents, but I was lucky because I could call them. Some kids, and some adults, don't have that. Under the auspices of AFSP, I have been lucky enough to receive training and materials to help kids through these transition periods- especially kids who feel alone. The program is called "Its Real". It's the most simple, and best validation of the feelings of a time of transition. For a lot of kids, it's the first time they're living on their own and having to navigate life's decisions without adult supervision and guidance. That causes anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideations in many students, and this program helps show students that what they're feeling isn't uncommon. It's not weird to feel alone. It isn't weird to feel that anxiety, or to feel sad that you are so far away from home and comfort. Early detection and the treatment of mental health conditions is vital to the way we can encourage students to seek support and to cope with times of mental stress or mental illness whether they be permanent or temporary. Identifying your feelings and the causes of those feelings is the first step.

A lot of times we're encouraged by society to sweep mental illness under a rug. To "tough it out". That isn't how this works. Being mentally ill and needing treatment is the same as having a physical injury. You have to identify the problem, figure out the cause of the problem, and find out how to treat or deal with the problem at hand. That's what this program aims to help students do. If you or anyone you know is interested in hearing this program in person, please feel free to call me at 815-434-3535 or email me at [email protected]. My passion in life is to help other people through the tough times- to help them triumph over the things in life that are meant to bring them down. Help me build a stronger tomorrow by reaching out to those around you, having more patience, and being kind to strangers. Everyone deserves to be loved. We need you. If you are having suicidal thoughts or feel like you want to talk to someone, please call the suicide hotline at 800-273-8255 or text 741741 to the Crisis Text line at any time.

-Attorney Alexis Ferracuti


Damages, but the Wrong Kind

Negotiating on behalf of an injured party is never a simple process, and it becomes even complicated when there are disputes regarding the types and amounts of compensation that the various parties are legally responsible for. It is especially admirable when Plaintiffs work to expand those categories, even if they are not always successful. Unfortunately, it looks like Nathan Sigler falls into this latter category in his claim against his insurance company, where the Federal Central District in Illinois dismissed his claim on Wednesday in Sigler v. GEICO Casualty Co.Sigler's vehicle was totaled in an accident in 2013, and he naturally assumed that his insurance would cover it's replacement. After all, his policy said that they would pay "the actual cash value of the property at the time of the loss." Sigler was dismayed when, on top of the value of the vehicle, his insurance did also pay the sales tax for a new car and the title and tag transfer fees. He sued his insurance company alleging that they breached their contract by not paying out these additional costs.

Here's the problem: Sigler never said in his complaint that he actually paid these fees and costs. He argued that the insurance should pay such associated costs upfront, just like they do with the actual value of the lost vehicle. Geico stated in their Motion to Dismiss that they would have been happy to pay those expenses if he actually incurred them, but that they did not factor such costs into their standard insurance payouts. They claimed that they would only be responsible for replacement costs if the vehicle is actually replaced; otherwise the insured is entitled to the value of the car itself. The court agreed.

The important fact here is that Sigler was arguing damages for a breach of contract, and the court ruled that his claim for monetary damages in the form of fees and costs, which may or may not have already been incurred, was too uncertain and speculative to make it past the early stages of litigation.

Rather charitably, the court points out that if Sigler actually has lost out on the money, he is welcome to amend his complaint to reflect this and continue on with the litigation. One does suspect, however, that if Sigler had the receipts for the taxes and fees, Geico would just pay the few hundred dollars that they owe him. In that eventuality, Sigler's loss wouldn't even be uncertain-it would just provably not exist.

- Attorney Travis Dunn


Better Generation

Each year for the past three years, our firm has given out a total of four scholarships to LaSalle Peru High School and Ottawa Township High School. There are two categories of scholarships available. The first scholarship, The Peter F. Ferracuti Trades Scholarship, focuses on creating opportunities for young adults who wish to pursue careers in the trades which are desperately needed in our communities.

In a world focused on pushing kids in large groups into colleges across the nation, we have lost the common sense foundation that my Dad based his whole life on. My dad once told me that if someone had told him that he had to be a plumber, he would have been totally useless. Not because plumbing isn't a necessary and valuable trade, but because my dad's brain wasn't wired that way. Spoiler alert- neither is mine. Ask my significant other how I do when I attempt to paint or fix things around our home. He will probably direct you to a grid on our ceiling that I painted a totally different color after I marked it so many times trying to paint the wall. We aren't all wired to do the same thing.

Our office, as a part of that scholarship, awards $500 to a student from both Ottawa and LaSalle Peru High Schools who wishes to pursue a career in the trades. Our hope is that it will encourage kids who don't fit the standardized mold our education system increasingly tries to push kids into. We hope that it will enable young adults to see their worth isn't defined by their college education, and debt, and that they can make a difference in this world in anything they put their soul and mind into. Success takes hard work, and that's what required regardless of the path you travel.

Our second scholarship is in honor of my dad. Dad knew from a young age that he wanted to be either a doctor or a lawyer. He loved medicine, but a shaky left hand kept him from pursuing the career he always had followed and admired. As a result, he found his true calling. My dad's true love, other than his family, was the law. I mean- really- he loved it. He loved to read it, he loved to argue, and he loved to change the law (or the rules of whatever board game we were playing at the time). And he was good at it. Actually, my grandmother often told him that if he wasn't a lawyer he would be a total loss because he really was only good at deciphering the law. A joke obviously, because if you asked him he could pretend he could fix things around the house too, but the joke had some truth to it. He founded our law firm to help his community. To put people in a better position than when he met them despite horrible events which affected them along the way. He contributed resources to our community which he never asked for credit for, and always looked for ways to take care of others. The second scholarship is meant to honor just that- two students who understand the importance of community action and who want to become advocates for those in need. It is also a $500 scholarship given to a single student per school from both Ottawa and LaSalle Peru High Schools which helps students who intend to pursue a degree in law.

This year's candidates were absolutely incredible. All four students receiving scholarships represent absolutely everything that both scholarships are meant to award. We are pleased to award this year's scholarships to the following students: For the Peter F. Ferracuti Trades Scholarship, we are please to award Courtney Baxter and Noah Taylor with $500 scholarships toward their advancement in building trades and auto mechanics. For the Peter F. Ferracuti Future Advocate Scholarship, we are pleased to award Alexandra Wren and Cassandra Claus $500 each to aid in their pursuit of joining the legal profession. The essays blew me away this year. It's always a little bitter sweet to give an award in memoriam of someone I loved, respected, and honored as much as my father, but this year's applicants made that easy. Our future is bright. I've read their essays. I've seen their community service and their grade point average. I can see the hard work and dedication they all have. I can't wait to watch them blossom and change this world for the better. We're just glad to be a part of that journey.

- Attorney Alexis P. Ferracuti


School Zone Speeding Tickets

Friday, May 3, 2019
Speeding in a school zone is a petty offense under the Illinois Vehicle Code. A petty offense is punishable by a fine only. For most petty offenses, the maximum fine in traffic court is $1,000.

A ticket for speeding in a school zone is a serious traffic offense because it can result in the Secretary of State suspending your driver's license.

The law provides that the speed limit in a school zone is 20 miles per hour (20 m.p.h.) on school days when children are present. See 625 ILCS 5/11-605.

According to the law, a school day begins at 7:00 a.m. and lasts until 4:00 p.m. The speed limit must be posted (there must be a sign present). The children must be near enough that a hazard exists.

The first offense results in a fine of $150. However, a second offense carries a mandatory fine of $300. In addition to these fines, the driver must also pay $50 towards the school district.

The biggest issue with speeding in a school zone is that the offense does not allow for court supervision. That means that any ticket you receive for speeding in a school zone is an automatic conviction to your driving record, which cannot be removed from your record and results in points on your license.

Three convictions for moving violations in 12 months will cause the Secretary of State to suspend your license. Drivers under the age of 21, 2 convictions in 24 months will cause a suspension.

A ticket for speeding in a school zone is a serious matter and an attorney should be retained.

- Attorney Kendall Hodges