Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Texas Lawmakers Challenging Expanded Industrial Liability Shield

Texas lawmakers, plaintiff attorneys and union groups are challenging a controversial Texas Supreme Court ruling that wrongly shields industrial plants from liability claims filed by contract workers.

Continuing the draconian tradition of protecting corporate greed, the conservative Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a contract employee at an Entergy Gulf States plant could not recover damages for negligence, because workers’ compensation laws protected the company.

A bipartisan group a legislators has filed briefs with the court asking it to rehear the case. Clay Robinson, Houston Chronicle 12/10/2007 Read Article: Houston Chronicle

Monday, December 17, 2007

Medical Omerta: Healthcare Study Proves The Conspiracy Of Silence Among Doctors Is Real

The tacit "communal" unspoken consensus is that "certain things" are NEVER discussed. Heck, we learned that as kids; no one wanted to "snitch" on a friend. The mafia called it “omerta,” the categorical prohibition of cooperation, even when one has been a victim. The "cover-up" exists in all walks of life except medicine, right?

"I swear by ...all the gods and goddesses," the Hippocratic Oath declares,"that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant....Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves." For decades doctors assured us that their profession was different. Doctors denied the existence of a conspiracy of silence to "cover-up" medical errors.

But, a study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital reveals that doctors don’t practice what they preach when it comes to reporting mistakes or potentially negligent behavior among their colleagues.

The MGH study found that nearly half of the doctors who participated had failed to report incompetence, impairment or medical error by another doctor despite saying that such errors should be reported.

Alexandra Perloff-Giles, Harvard Crimson 12/06/2007 Read Article: Harvard Crimson

Monday, December 10, 2007

Effectiveness, Safety of Zetia and Vytorin, Cholesterol Drugs, in Doubt

Zetia and Vytorin are two widely prescribed cholesterol drugs. Both drug are marketed and sold by Schering-Plough and Merck.

Cardiologists have been demanding Schering-Plough and Merck come forward with clinical trials to prove the drugs’ effectiveness and safety. Cardiologists fear that if the drugs prove to be less effective than advertised, patients may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk of heart attacks. Approximately 800,000 Americans are prescribed Zetia and Vytorin each year.

So far neither Schering-Plough nor Merck have published the results of Zetia and Vytorin trials. This ain’t Denmark, but something’s rotten here.

And this also ain’t Kansas, so the wizards at Schering-Plough and Merck better publish the data, if it’s true. 800,000 live depend on it!

Alex Berenson, The New York Times 11/21/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Friday, November 23, 2007

We knew it all the time, didn’t we? Whistle-blower says defects hidden at Toyota-GM plant.

Katy Cameron, a veteran auditor at a General Motors / Toyota plant in California, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the automakers claiming the managers intentionally overlooked serious safety flaws. Ms. Cameron says plant management routinely deleted defects that included brake and seatbelt problems. See, my Blog -- Good guys win: Hawaii Judge Finds for Plaintiff in Seatbelt Defect Case More about "whistleblower lawsuits."

As soon as she voiced concerns about the safety problems, Ms. Cameron was demoted and accused of suffering from mental instability. Yuri Kageyama, USA Today 11/20/2007 Read Article: USA Today

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Trade Secrets Used To Block Disclosure Of Safety Concern

It’s hard to imagine anything standing in the way of the public’s right to know when a corporation endangers the health and safety of a community. Yet, it happens every day under the guise of protecting a corporation’s “trade secret.”

Here’s a case in point.

California officials refuse to disclose the ingredients of a chemical pesticide sprayed over fields, homes, businesses and schools in Northern California. California say it can’t identify the “inactive ingredients” of the pesticide without violating laws “governing corporate trade secrets.”

Spraying of the pesticide was suspended after residents complained that the initial application caused asthma-like symptoms, burning eyes, rashes and stomach pains. This problem raises a basic question: How can any corporation have a right keep a safety hazard a secret? Read -- Paul Pringle, LA Times 10/18/2007 Read Article: LA Times

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

FDA Convenes on Cold Drugs for Youngsters

A group of pediatricians told FDA advisers that cold and cough medicines should not be given to children under six years old.

An FDA panel is currently considering a petition that seeks government recognition that the medicines are ineffective and unsafe for children under six years of age.

Meanwhile, drug makers stopped the sale of over-the-counter medicines for toddlers citing potential for overdoses.

See, Andrew Bridges, LA Times 10/18/2007 Read Article: LA Times

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Star Chamber: Conservative La. Fed. Judge Dismisses Insurance Whistleblower Suit

Conservatives have purged the judicial system of judges who are willing to protect the rights of the middles class and working families. Corporate America owns the federal judiciary. Terrible judicial decisions are to be expected. But, this really hurt Louisiana!

Here’s what happened.

Recently, U.S. District Judge Peter Beer, an icon of Louisiana conservatism, dismissed a lawsuit filed by several former insurance adjusters who were prepared to testify that a number of major private insurance companies systematically over-billed the National Flood Insurance program by shifting their expenses over to the federal flood program.

Judge Beer said the suit could be continued under a “different whistleblower lawsuit in Mississippi” that deals with denial of hurricane wind claims and possible fraud against the federal flood program.

The problem is that the “cheating” occurred in Louisiana!

That didn’t deter Judge Beer. He reasoned that the rules of the False Claims Act provide that a whistleblower lawsuit can't proceed if another on the same subject has already been filed. The Mississippi lawsuit was unsealed and became public knowledge after the Louisiana lawsuit had been filed.

We need a congressional investigation into the over billing of the National Flood Insurance Program, with demands to know why the U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security are not pursuing the matter. Read: Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune La. whistleblower suit dismissed

Friday, November 02, 2007

Check Your Doctor’s Bill. Consumers Facing Rise in Medical Billing Errors

Who hasn’t looked at a doctor’s bill or hospital bill and said, “That can’t be right!” Well, it probably isn’t right!

Consumer advocates say, medical billing errors that range from a few bucks to tens of thousands are an increasingly common problem.

Medical Billing Advocates of America (MBAA) warns that coding errors, confusion over in and out of network providers, and high-deductible health plans are common problems in over-billing cases.

AP, LA Times 10/28/2007 Read Article: LA Times

Thursday, November 01, 2007

HMO, Kaiser Permanente, Doctor Accused of Negligence

A doctor accused of gross negligence in the deaths of at least 2 children he helped deliver remains on the job with the nation’s largest HMO.

Beginning in 2002, “doctors and nurses repeatedly” complained to officials at Kaiser Permanente that Hamid Safari posed potential risks to patients under his care.

How did Kaiser over the years respond? This year, Kaiser finally restricted Safari’s duties.

It’s reported that California regulators are seeking to revoke or suspend Safari’s license and have fined Kaiser $3 million for its handling of physician errors throughout the state.

Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein, LA Times 10/16/2007Read Article: LA Times

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good guys win! Allstate to Reimburse Policyholders for Medical Claims

Allstate Insurance Co. has agreed to reimburse thousands of Washington state drivers involved in a class action lawsuit against the company.

Allstate uses its medical bill review practices to arbitrarily limit payments for legitimate medical expenses incurred by policyholders.

The settlement covers an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 drivers who filed claims under personal-injury protection or Medpay coverage.

Phuong Cat Le, Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/15/2007 Read Article: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Friday, October 26, 2007

Drug Maker to Block Sale of Low Cost Cancer Drug

The good and bad of money…money…. money!

Pharmaceutical giant Genetech makes Avastin, a cancer drug that is also used to treat macular degeneration, which causes blindness in the elderly. Genetech also makes Lucentis, a drug used to treat macular degeneration. And, that’s good!

But, here’s the problem: Retinal specialists prefer to use Avastin because of its cheaper, about $50 a dose, while Lucentis costs about $2000 a dose. And, that’s good!

If it keeps making Avastin, Genetech will lose $1950 per dose. So, Genetech has told retinal specialists that it not going to produce Avastin, because Lucentis is “really-really-no-joke-pinky-swear” better than Avastin. And, that’s bad!

Elderly folks can’t afford a drug that cost $2000 a dose to prevent blindness, so they’ll go blind. And, that’s bad!

Andrew Pollack, The New York Times 10/12/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Thursday, October 25, 2007

National Arbitration Forum. Rent-A-Judge! How Arbitration Is Undermining Justice for Consumers

Troy Cornock is a regular guy, not unlike you and me. Like most us, Troy had never heard of the National Arbitration Forum (NAF). One day, Troy received a letter from NAF saying he owed money on a credit card.

Here's the problem: Troy never signed a credit card agreement, and Troy's ex-wife had made all of the charges. Ex-spouses are known to do that. Yet, the NAF ordered Troy to pay more than $9,000 anyway.

Troy’s story is just a small example of how “mandatory arbitration clauses” have pervaded the consumer landscape and prevented customers from getting their day in court. Rent-A-Judge and get the decision you want!

Gary Weiss, Forbes 10/11/2007 Read Article: Forbes

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tough-love? I'll say! Report Cites Abuse, Neglect at Youth Boot Camps

Remember tough-love? You bet it's tough, more like brutal, if it's ever rational to use tough and love in the same sentence.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found rampant abuse and neglect at many of the nation’s privately run boot camps and residential treatment facilities for troubled youths.

The GAO report showed that the management and employees of such facilities were rarely sent to prison, even when teenagers died in their care.

Responding to the report, House leaders said they plan to introduce legislation to bring the industry under federal control.

Diana Jean Schemo, The New York Times 10/11/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SUVs Receive Marginal Ratings for Side Impacts

Tests by the insurance industry revealed that some sport utility vehicles don't provide the side-impact protection that many consumers expect.

According to reports released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2008 --

Chevrolet TrailBlazer,

Jeep Grand Cherokee,

Nissan Pathfinder, and

Nissan Xterra.

All of these vehicles received marginal ratings in the institute’s 31 mph side-impact testing. Vehicles evaluated by the institute are rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on the results of testing.

Ken Thomas, The Washington Post 10/11/2007 Read Article: The Washington Post

Monday, October 22, 2007

Child Cough Medicines Recalled

Johnson & Johnson has ordered a voluntary recall of certain cough and cold products for infants amid reports that misuse could lead to overdoses.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesman says the recall affects infants under two years of age who are particularly at risk for overdose if the products were not administered properly.

The products being recalled include: infants' Tylenol Drops Plus Cold; Concentrated Infants' Tylenol Drops Plus Cold & Cough; Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant; Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant & Cough; Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant; Pediacare Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough; and Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (PE) products.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory earlier this year warning parents not give cough and cold medicines to infants and toddlers without a doctor’s direction.

AP, The Washington Post 10/11/2007 Read Article: The Washington Post

Friday, October 19, 2007

State Farm's Database Insufficient to Set Med Costs

The Colorado Court of Appeal unanimously rejected State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance's "exclusive computer database" to calculate medical costs.
State Farm used Sloans Lake Auto Injury Management, a medical database that compares physician charges against same or like services in a geographic region. The court conculded that the technique was arbitrary and unreeasonable.
The case is Pauline Reyher and Dr. Wallace Brucker v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. Insurance Journal, Insurance Journal 09/25/2007 Read Article: Insurance Journal

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jury Awards Punitive Damages Against Pharmaceutical Mfg. Wyeth

Have you used Prempro or Premarin?

A Nevada jury ordered Wyeth, formally known as American Home Products, a prescription drug maker, to pay $99 million in punitive damages to three women, because the company’s menopause drugs caused cancer. Jurors had originally awarded the women $135 million in compensatory damages but the amount was later reduced to $35 million. Three other juries have found that the hormone replacement therapies, Prempro and Premarin, contributed to breast cancer.

Wyeth also manufactures over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like Robitussin and the analgesic Advil (ibuprofen).

Jef Feeley, Bloomberg 10/16/2007 Read Article: Bloomberg

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Class Action Against Microsoft, Best Buy to Proceed

They got caught! They got caught!

The Supreme Court, conservative bent notwithstanding, upheld a ruling Monday that will allow a class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. and Best Buy Co. to go forward.

The federal class action lawsuit involves thousands of consumers, just like you and me, that were cheated when Microsoft Corp. and Best Buy Co. surreptitiously charged them for services they did not want.

Microsoft Corp. and Best Buy Co. had asked the Supremes to dismiss the lawsuit which alleges violation of racketeering laws.

AP, LA Times 10/16/2007 Read Article: LA Times

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Allstate to Reimburse Policyholders for Medical Claims

Allstate Insurance Co. has tentatively agreed to reimburse thousands of Washington drivers involved in a class action lawsuit against the company. According to the lawsuit Allstate’s medical bill review practices arbitrarily limited payments for legitimate medical expenses incurred by policyholders. The settlement covers an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 drivers who filed claims under personal-injury protection or Medpay coverage.

Phuong Cat Le, Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/15/2007 Read Article: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pattern of Greed 2007 Insurers' Profits Over Policyholders

Recently, the American Association for Justice released a report showing that, after natural disasters such as hurricanes, the insurance industry has failed to pay even undisputed, “fair and valid” claims, while raking in profits in excess of $100 billion in two years.

The account is chilling. Here are some excerpts:

"Bob Kochran CEO of an engineering firm assessing Katrina damage for State Farm, said that he was asked to alter reports that the company did not agree with. In order to keep the State Farm contract, Kochran agreed to tell his engineers to "re-evaluate each 0f our assignments." One of the engineers, Randy Down, responded in an email, "I have a serious concern about the ethics 0f this whole matter.I really question the ethics 0f someone who wants to fire us simply because our conclusions don't match theirs." State Farm's attempt to unduly influence the engineers was exposed during litigation in Jackson, Mississippi."

"Mississippi engineer Ken Overstreet similarly claimed that his reports on Katrina damage were altered by the insurance company he worked for on at least four occasions. In a report on the house 0f Mississippians Hubert and Joyce Smith, Overstreet wrote, "The winds out of the east would have racked the entire structure to the west and simply lifted the footings up." However, the report that the Smiths received said, "Due to the extent 0f the structural damage to the residence, the storm surge accounted for the damage." When Overstreet saw the final report he informed the Smiths that the conclusions had been changed. The Smiths' insurance company settled with them in March 2007."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I ain’t got no money: Insurer Offers Fire Protection for the Rich

Sun Valley is an affluent resort community in central Idaho. Folks in Sun Valley don’t sing, “I ain’t got no money.” That’s because there’s lots of money in “them thar hills.”

The “wealthy residents” of Idaho’s Sun Valley are getting some added protection from recent wildfires in the form of a special wildfire protection unit deployed by insurer AIG (American International Group, Inc.).

At the cost of $10,000 a year, AIG will coat the homes of Sun Valley’s rich and famous with a fire retardant gel. AIG says their “service” makes “fiscal sense” rather than reimbursing owners for the cost of a multimillion dollar home. William Yardly, The New York Times 08/28/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blanco to Testify in St. Rita Nursing Home Trial

Here's a very interesting criminal defense move.

A spokesman for La. Atty. Gen. Charles Foti said the St. Rita's nursing home trial is the first case in Louisiana in which the governor is compelled to testify.

Foti was unsuccessful in blocking defense efforts to call Gov. Blanco in the trial against the nursing home owners charged with the deaths of 35 patients in post-Katrina flooding. Defense attorneys argue that Blanco and other state officials failed to organize an effective evacuation.

Well, if Blanco should testify, then so should FEMA's Mike Brown and Pres. Bush. After all, the Bush administration had the resources and expertise to manage the disaster, but didn't.

Emily Kern, The Advocate 08/14/2007 Read Article: The Advocate

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The smoking gun! Allstate Wants to Seal Hurricane Claims Manual

Those protecting working families across America have asked U.S. District Court in New Orleans to keep Allstate Insurance documents open to the public from the first federal Katrina-related federal trial in Louisiana. The smoking guns include Allstate's claims-handling manual and instructions to adjusters.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and Public Justice filed a motion last week to oppose Allstate's request to seal key documents from Weiss v. Allstate, the case in which Slidell homeowners got a $2.8 million judgment against the insurer.

Weiss ultimately settled after the company asked for a new trial or a reduction of what it called an "irrational verdict." The groups say keeping the records public is a national issue because it shows how Allstate handles claims after a natural disaster.

It will be interesting to see if conservative judges come to the aid of insurers by hiding evidence of bad faith insurance practices.

Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune 08/14/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Adding insult to injury! Insurers to Ask for Homeowners Rate Increases

Horace Mann Insurance Co. group and Amica Mutual Insurance Co. want to increase YOUR homeowners insurance by 21. 6 percent and 20.6 percent.

The request came at Wednesday’s meeting of the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission.

Business Staff, The Advocate 08/13/2007 Read Article: The Advocate

Monday, August 13, 2007

Conservatives Judges Stick It To La. Working Families & Back Insurers

The Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, which is housed in New Orleans, stuck it to Louisiana working families again and unanimously ruled in favor of the insurance industry.

Using infamous ipse dixit reasoning, a cadre of conservative judges said homeowners insurance companies like State Farm and Allstate don’t have to pay the full value of the policy when a home is destroyed by a combination of flooding and hurricane wind damage.

Ruling came down in Chauvin v. State Farm Fire & Casualty. In Chauvin, State Farm argued that a draconian trial court correctly interpreted the policy language to mean that State Farm wasn’t responsible for damage caused by “manmade flooding from the levee breaks.”


Think about that for a minute. The court’s ipse dixit reasoning can be used to exonerate every insurance company! The guy who hit you from the rear didn’t cause your injury; the injury was manmade by the automobile company who failed to provide occupant protection.

Ah...justice is a fickle thing...

Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune 08/08/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Friday, August 03, 2007

Are Federal Courts Controlled By Judges Who Protect Corporations? Just Ask These Katrina Victims.

For a long time, I've argued that working families can’t get a fair trial in federal court,because federal courts protect corporations. If you're a “doubting Thomas,” take a look at what happened to Louisiana working families in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel ruled that Hurricane Katrina victims whose homes and businesses were destroyed when floodwaters breached the levees couldn’t recover money from their insurance companies for flood damages.

Using the ever-popular ipse dixit argument, the three-judge panel reasoned, "…the flood exclusions in the plaintiffs' policies unambiguously preclude their recovery."

As a result, a dozen insurance companies were handed windfall-profits, while working families got the shaft.

The ruling overturns U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval decision that the policy language to exclude flood damage was ambiguous. Associated Press, New Orleans Times-Picayune 08/02/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Study says, Hospital Patients at Major Risk from Staph Infections

In the most comprehensive survey of its kind, researchers have found that as many as 1.2 million patients are infected with drug-resistant staph infections each year.

The figure is more than 10 times that of previous estimates.

The study also found that between 48,000 to 119,000 more patients may be dying of infections each year than previously estimated. The study was conducted by
the Association for Processionals in Infection & Epidemiology. Judith Graham, Chicago Tribune 06/25/2007 Read Article: Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Rule of Law: Fact or Fiction? Inns of Court and The Federalist Society

When I began this piece, I wasn’t sure how much could be reasonably presented in a concise statement of the nature of the problem: is the rule of law fact or fiction?

For sure, America prides itself as a nation that lives by “the rule of law.” Law exist everywhere: statutes, ordinances, and judicial decisions. If there's a problem with the “rule of law,” the problem must arise where laws are made. Right?

Since most, if not all, forms of American government (local, state, and national) reflect a “divisions of power,” legislatures must be the source of the problem. But that's not the case. Legislatures merely reflect the biases of the generation in power. Rarely are the laws of a previous generation abrogated to make way for the laws of the new generation. Often, opposing principles are left standing without regard for the contradiction.

Where else then? The courts?

For sure, whoever controls the courts will control the interpretation of the law. But, legal hermeneutics originates elsewhere. It starts long before the appointment or election of judges. It begins with lawyers. Then it must be in our law schools. Wrong! Law schools rarely, if ever, educate in legal theory. No, it takes place in think tanks that, for the most part, go unnoticed because they're obscure. Let’s look at two.

Inns of Court

The Inns of Court began in England as a professional association to one of which every English barrister must belong. The English Inns of Court have supervisory and disciplinary functions over their members. Beginning in the late 1970s, U.S. Chief Justice Warren Burger led a movement to create U.S. Inns of Court. Burger, a Republican, was an Eisenhower appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court and an elitist.

Today, U.S. Inns of Court flourish. In many instances U.S. Inns of Court have denigrated into a place where judges and lawyers forge friendships that often reflect an underlying bias against “the rule of law.” It's the place where the young lawyer and would-be judge learns how to "think." There are literally dozens of such U.S. Inns of Court where membership is by invitation only.

The Federalist Society

The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies was founded in the early 1980s as a "conservative legal fellowship" attempting to mold judicial practice in the U.S. Notable members of The Federalist Society are Robert H. Bork, Orrin G. Hatch, Donald Paul Hodel, Edwin Meese, John Stewart Bryan,III, Chairman, President/C.E.O. Media General Cable, Joseph Cannon, C.E.O./Chairman, Geneva Steel, R. Crosby Kemper, III, President, United Missouri Bank, John G. Medlin, Jr., Chairman, Wachovia Corporation, Nicholas John Stathis, Vice President, Orpheon, Inc., Paul S. Stevens, General Counsel, Investment Company Institute, Robert L. Strickland, Chairman, Lowe's Companies, Inc., Kenneth Starr, U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The purpose of The Federalist Society is to proselytize, indoctrinate, and groom lawyers to become judges who “think right.”

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friends in high places: Conservative Republican Supreme Court protects corporate greed.

Several recent decisions from the conservative Republican Supreme Court have accomplished what slick Dick Cheney and lobbyist Jack Abramoff were unable to do.

Dominated by the Far-Fetched Four, i.e. Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, the conservative Republican Supreme Court has handed down decision after decision that hurt working families who try to protect themselves against corporation greed.

The Far-Fetched Four and their conservative compatriots have undermined public safety and have protected and promoted corporate greed by throwing out verdicts against tobacco companies and automakers and shielded various industries from various forms of liability.

How can anyone justify being "conservative" with justice?

David G. Savage, LA Times 06/21/2007 Read Article: LA Times

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Conservative press says, Insurance Cost-Shifting by Allstate, Nationwide and State Farm must stop!

Well it’s about time. Liberals have been saying this for decades. Now, conservative media, which usually turn a blind-eye to corporate greed, are starting to take notice.

Recently, New Orleans CityBusiness criticized Allstate, Nationwide and State Farm for selling as much as 95% of all federal flood insurance policies. Allstate, Nationwide and State Farm Considering are "raking in unearned profits at the expense of taxpayers" by shifting wind damage costs to the federal government.

CityBusiness argues, the “Multiple Peril Insurance Act” will lift the burden from property owners who now have to hire lawyers, engineers and adjusters to prove to insurers that wind, not water, caused damage. CityBusiness acknowledges that the proposal isn’t a complete fix to the problem, but it should make it harder for insurers to rip off or scam taxpayers.

Maybe so, but insurance companies own the legislature and will likely tighten their grip on government if the both houses of the legislature become Republican. In time, they’ll beat the system

Editors, New Orleans CityBusiness, 06/18/2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Guys Win. Federal Judge Orders FEMA to Stop Abrupt Cutoff of Rental Aid

The Bush administration doesn’t care about the Katrina-Rita Diasporas; that much is painfully clear. But, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan apparently does.

Berrigan, who was a Clinton appointee, ordered FEMA to stop cutting off low-income rental assistance to Katrina-Rita hurricane victims without giving them advance written notice and letting them know they have a right to a hearing.

In her ruling, Berrigan states that FEMA appears to treat plaintiffs as "gnats to be brushed away." The ruling also states, "FEMA has been created by Congress and the President to serve the needs of citizens at their darkest hours, which for some citizens are being now measured in terms of years." Susan Finch, New Orleans Times-Picayune 06/16/2007Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hiss! Health Officials Withheld Cancer Evidence

How nasty can you get.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Minnesota Health Department withheld information about asbestos-related cancers that killed 35 miners. The Star uncovered documents that exposed the nasty behavior.

The recovered documents showed that Minnesota Health Department officials had known for over a year that mesothelioma caused the deaths of more miners than previously suspected but failed to disclose the information despite urging by scientists.

Health officials have defended the silence saying they did not want to raise alarm without concrete evidence.

Yeah... right!

David Shaffer, Minneapolis Star Tribune 06/16/2007 Read Article: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Habeas corpus is AWOL. Habeas corpus, phone home.

It was called the “Great Writ.” The English jurist, Sir William Blackstone, dates the “Great Writ” to 1305, when brutal Longshanks, Edward I, ruled England. If you haven’t read the book but have seen the movie, Longshanks is the guy who threw his son’s lover out of a castle tower. You remember…Braveheart…Mel Gibson…William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter.

Anyway, the “Great Writ” has been around for 700 years. Back then it was called habeas corpus ad subjiciendum. Today it’s simply called habeas corpus. As the eminent Blackstone explained, it was a command, mind you, in the name of the King, to explain why a person’s liberty was restrained, wherever and whenever that restraint occurred.

In Western legal tradition, the writ of habeas corpus is pre-eminent, as every freedom loving American knows. Heck, it prevents the U.S. government from being arbitrary. You know, simply holding a person without due process. Right? After all, it’s enshrined right there in the Suspension Clause of the U. S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 9, Clause 2, which reads:

“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public safety may require it.”

Yet, on October 17, 2006, the writ of habeas corpus itself went missing. That’s right, habeas corpus is AWOL. That’s the day a Republican Congress and the Bush administration signed the Military Commissions Act into law. Now the U. S. government can hold anyone without due process, even without a preceding rebellion or invasion!Wow…now that’s radical.

Recently, Habeas Corpus briefly surfaced in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Taking the Suspension Clause of the U. S. Constitution seriously, the 4th Circuit ordered the Pentagon to either charge Ali al-Marri in the civilian court system, deport him, hold him as a material witness or release him.

But alas, soon thereafter, habeas corpus went AWOL again.

Habeas corpus, phone home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Star Chamber - State Farm Insurance Compnay

In England, the Star Chamber (Camera stellata) reigned from 1487 to 1641 when it was abloished. It wasn’t a tribunal of justice. Rather, it was political and not unlike many courts of today.

I’ve litigated against insurance companies for 30 years. The fraud and deceit that goes on daily in civil courtrooms across America is appalling. Until recently, most judges were on the side of working folks; they actually looked out for workingmen and workingwomen.

Not so any more. Thing have changed.

The federal courts make it expensive and difficult for workingmen and workingwomen to find justice there. For all practical purposes, federal courts purposely skew the rules in favor of insurance companies and big corporations. Judges in the federal system are appointed for life, so there’s no way to get them out.

Insurance companies and big corporations are slowly dominating the state courts. Like their federal counterparts, state courts are a sanctuary for bad faith corporate and insurance practices.

From time to time my Star Chamber segment will show case the abuses that stem from “pocketbook justice,” where money rather than justice reigns.

This posting of Star Chamber looks at State Farm Insurance Company.

State Farm Insurance Companies is being pounded in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and rightly so. State Farm’s been accused of hiring an engineering firm that “fixed” its reports to support State Farm’s defense. See: Documents That Suggest Fraud by Insurance Companies in the Handling of Katrina Wind and Water Claims

Now, it’s inconceivable that courts in America let State Farm get away with this type of unfair and unjust behavior, but they do. Does America have an independent judiciary or a star chamber?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Federal Judge Attacks Middle-Class Rights to live healthy.

MONEY...MONEY...MONEY! In what can only be described as an attack on middle-class rights, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel rejected class certification because the plaintiffs’ lawyers told the plaintiffs what their rights were. That’s right – a federal judge refused to let plaintiffs file as a group because the plaintiffs lawyer told them that they had rights.

The shame of Judge Patel’s decision is that, everyday in boardrooms across America, insurance and corporate lawyers advise corporate cartels of their rights and conservative federal judges let it pass. Here, Judge Patel’s decision is insidious for two reasons:

First, Oreck Direct LLC, a Louisiana profiteer, makes questionable air purifiers that affect health of 70,000 Californians. In effect, the Judge said that the only way that the plaintiffs’ lawyer could represent 70,000 members of the class was if 70,000 people called the lawyers’ office to seek representation.

Secondly, the Federal Judge objected to the plaintiffs’ lawyer telling anyone that Oreck air purifiers didn’t work. This theory has devastating implication for consumers. The fake corporate science that dominates the boardrooms of America will reign until someone dies or becomes ill.

The message is now clear: If there's a defective product in America, lawyers can’t tell the public about it! Thanks, Judge Patel, the middle-class really needs that kind of protection.

And, unless members of a class individually contact the lawyer, he can’t represent them. Westrup Klick LLP, the plaintiffs' lawyer, should appeal Judge Patel's draconian decision and help restore the rights of the middle class to live a healthy life.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

State Farm’s hard-nose practices are catching up with the insurer.

It’s not uncommon for insurers like State Farm to be unreasonable with small claims. The tactic is simple: Resist the small claim as much as possible. Because of the amount of money involved, most lawyers will decline representation. In the end, the insured will have no recourse but to go away. More often than not, the tactic works. However, it failed recently in a Palm Beach County Courthouse.

Charles Turner Sr. lost two sons as a result of an auto accident. The accident was caused by the negligence of one of his sons. Rather than pay Mr. Turner the $10,000, which was State Farm's policy limits, State Farm forced Mr. Turner to go to trial and to endure the humiliation of arguing that one of his son's caused the death of the other son.

Mr. Turner's attorney, Harry Shevin, argued that State Farm was in bad faith by forcing Mr. Turner to file suit to recover money for the loss of one of his sons. After 20 minutes of deliberation, a Palm Beach County jury agreed and entered a $10 million judgment against State Farm.

This type tactic is not uncommon among insurers like State Farm and Allstate, both of whom have a rich history of dirty trial tactics. Only punitive damages will cause insurers to stop these bad faith practices. Read: Trial looms over millions in teen's death

Monday, May 07, 2007

Diamond Jim Donelon where are you? Insurers are Milking the System.

Diamond Jim Donelon’s asleep at the wheel.

Recently, Mississippi attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs told members of the Louisiana Association for Justice that insurance companies are ripping off the National Flood Insurance Program by altering engineering reports to falsely conclude that rising water, not wind, caused damages from Hurricane Katrina.

That’s right: RIPPING OFF!

Scruggs explained, "They instructed the adjusters to max out the flood (insurance)." Scruggs warned, "Given what we know now about State Farm, it would in inconceivable if it weren't going on in Louisiana, too."

Diamond Jim’s supposed to be looking out for Louisiana policyholders. But, he hasn’t heard the warning.

As Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner, why hasn’t Diamond Jim investigated State Farm and other Louisiana insurers to determine if they’ve altered engineering reports to falsely conclude that rising water, not wind, caused damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?

Well, I apologize for such a na├»ve question. We know why Diamond Jim hasn't done anything. Don’t we?

Diamond Jim’s playing “Mickey the Dunce.” Insurance companies are substantial contributors to the Republican Party. Republican heavy-hitters have told Diamond Jim that insurance companies are off limits.

Here’s how it’s done in other states. In 2003 it was discovered that 21st Century Insurance Group secretly contributed $950,000 to the California Republican Party and 15 county committees just before the 2002 general election.

People in Louisiana are still hurting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita! So what does Diamond Jim propose? A corporate welfare scheme. He wants to pay insurance companies to do business here! Hey, Diamond Jim, don't pay insurance companies a penny! Do your job and investigate them!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Appeals court restores UCI liver transplant patient's medical negligence lawsuit

A lawsuit against a University of California hospital was reinstated after an appeals court ruled that the plaintiff's argument "demonstrated good cause to restore the case." The palintiff accepted and then later refused a $50,000 settlement for her lawsuit, opting instead to restore her case. The Associated Press, San Diego Union Tribune 04/17/2007 Read Article: San Diego Union Tribune

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Our Soldiers Need Good Lawyers

Few among the American public know that members of the U.S. military are barred from suing for medical malpractice and negligence by the government. That’s hard to believe isn’t it. So, let me repeat it: Members of the U.S. military are barred from suing for medical malpractice and negligence by the government.

"Whether it is a military doctor cutting off the wrong leg or a military gasoline station cutting a brake line, military personnel are not allowed to seek legal relief as other citizens can."

A series of rulings by the Supreme Court in 1950—known as the Feres Doctrine—created the loss of legal protections for members of the military even in peacetime.

Congress needs to amend the Federal Tort Claims Act to end this "disastrous" Feres Doctrine. Jonathan Turley, USA Today 04/12/2007 Read Article: USA Today

Johnson & Johnson Recall Children's Listerine

Four million bottles of plaque-detecting Listerine for children were recalled after Johnson & Johnson discovered the mouthwash was contaminated by bacteria. Preservatives in the rinse did not kill four types of bacteria, which could pose a risk to consumers with weak immune systems.

The bacteria found included a strain that can cause urinary tract infections, blood poisoning and respiratory infections. Yuck!

Bloomberg News , The Dallas Morning News 04/12/2007 Read Article: The Dallas Morning News

Ford Escape SUVs Recalled Because of Engine Fires

More than 500,000 Ford Escape vehicles are being recalled after 50 reports of engine fires. The company is notifying dealers and owners that the fires are being caused by corroded brake parts. Owners will not be charged if the anti-lock braking system component requires replacement. Bloomberg News , The New York Times 04/12/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FDA Aware of E. Coli Threats But Does Nothing

The FDA knew of the contamination risks at the Georgia peanut butter plant and Calif. spinach farms that were involved in recent E. coli outbreaks. According to agency documents, officials only took limited steps to address the problems. The incidents show that the FDA is "incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply." Elizabeth Williamson, Kansas City Star 04/23/2007 Read Article: Kansas City Star

Sunday, April 22, 2007

No Evacuation Plan for Hospitals: Negligence or Malpractice?

The Louisiana Supreme Court is considering a question that could shift hundreds of Katrina-related claims against hospitals away from the courts and redirect them to a state malpractice panel. Plaintiff attorney Laurence Best of New Orleans represents two men whose mother died at Methodist Memorial Hospital in the days following Hurricane Katrina. This case is the first of several hundred similar claims. Houma Courier,Associated Press, 04/12/2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Allstate Hurricane Trial: Policyholders Got Conflicting Information

Policyholder Robert Weiss, who sued Allstate Insurance Co. after his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, pointed out that because hurricanes are wind and water, to exclude coverage of either one of those causes of damage is "ridiculous." One issue the trial explores is whether an engineering report produced by a consulting firm was altered to favor the insurers' position. Associated Press, New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/11/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Friday, April 20, 2007

Donelon Unware Dept. Approved Controversial Insurance Risk Model

Corporate Welfare - Gov't Cover-Up: Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said he was not aware that the controversial RMS 60 hurricane computer model had been approved for use in Louisiana. Donelon ordered insurers to temporarily stop using the RMS model that is known to allow insurers to show cause for higher rates. Donelon said he asked insurers that have had rate increases approved but not yet implemented to hold off using the storm model until Florida completes its review of the RMS product. Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/20/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Legality of Donelon's Insurance Program Questioned

Corporate Welfare: The House Insurance Committee grilled state and insurance officials over whether a proposed grant of $100 million in state funds can legally be given to insurance companies. The plan, announced by Gov. Blanco and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, would provide up to $100 million in matching grants to insurers that would write new homeowners' business in Louisiana. Ed Anderson, New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/19/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Thursday, April 19, 2007

State Farm Ordered to Pay Largest Fine Ever in Louisiana

State Farm was ordered to pay $18 million to about 18,000 of its auto insurance policyholders and refund about $4.7 million in overpayments to customers, plus interest. The Louisiana Department of Insurance said this seems to be the largest fine ever paid by an insurer in the state of Louisiana. State Farm reportedly included no-fault wrecks when it calculated rates for new policies written between April 2003 and March 2006, a practice which is against Louisiana law. State Farm is in the process of contacting affected customers. Rebecca Mowbray, New Orleans Times-Picayune 04/18/2007 Read Article: New Orleans Times-Picayune

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Court Allows Injured Workers to Stack Disability Payments

The WI Supreme Court ruled that the amount of disability payments a worker receives may be increased if they require multiple surgeries for the same injury. A DamierChrysler employee who requires two knee surgeries for the same injury could earn double his permanent partial disability. The company argued that such awards could not be stacked, but the court upheld a Labor and Industry Review Commission ruling to increase the employee's disability payments. The Associated Press, Ft. Worth Star Telegram 02/02/2007
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Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Tort Reform Group Fails to Disclose Source of Funding

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and the American Justice Partnership, both business-friendly groups that gave $785,000 into Illinois politics this year, appear to have violated the state's campaign finance laws.

The groups contributed directly to a Republican candidate and did not file a campaign finance report nor did they file as nonprofit organizations. A spokesman for an election watchdog group says some large donations, including $1.8 million from the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform, were made directly to the Republican Party and did not have to be reported.

In 2004, a contentious race for the Illinois Supreme Court between the two leading candidates set a national record of $9 million in campaign spending. Adam Jadhav, St. Louis Post Dispatch 02/02/2007 Read Article: St. Louis Post Dispatch

Tornadoes Should Not Affect State Insurance Market

Despite having killed 20 residents, the tornadoes that recently struck Central Florida will not have serious effects on insurance rates. The state has suffered eight hurricanes since 2004 and just two hurricanes resulted in 2.7 million claims. In the past year, thousands of FL policyholders have had property insurance rates double or triple. Lynn Waddell, The New York Times 02/06/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Banks' Internet Security Ineffective

Researchers at Harvard and MIT have tested the effectiveness of site-authentication images, an Internet security measure used by some major financial service providers. Under the system, a customer should not enter his online passwords if his chosen image is not displayed on his login page. Of the 60 individuals observed in the study, 58 entered their passwords without the image.

Brad Stone, The New York Times 02/05/2007 Read Article: The New York Times

Insurers Refuse to Renew Policies along East Coast

Insurers are refusing to renew policies in Long Island and along the New York coastal area for fear of hurricanes.

Insurers claim they are "overexposed" in certain areas and are cutting back to avoid huge payouts. State law limits the yearly number of nonrenewals to 4% of a company's policies.

Richard J. Dalton, Newsday 02/02/2007
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Katrina Victims Can Sue Army Corps over 'Mister Go'

U.S. Federal District Judge Stanwood Duval has ruled that residents of areas flooded by water that traveled through a New Orleans navigation channel during Hurricane Katrina can sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The judge ruled that the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (a/k/a MR GO) is a navigation channel, not a flood control project, and is, therefore, not covered by a federal law that provides immunity from damages due to failed flood-control projects. Reuters,, Reuters 02/02/2007

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