Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Country singer Toby Keith's family awarded $2.8M in death of dad who died in truck wreck

PURCELL, Okla. -- Toby Keith, his mother and his siblings have been awarded $2.8 million in damages in the 2001 collision that killed the country music star's father.

A jury returned the verdict against Elias Rodriguez and Pedro Rodriguez, operators of Rodriguez Transportes of Tulsa, and the Republic Western Insurance Co.

According to evidence presented at trial, a charter bus owned by the Rodriguezes was "in urgent need" of brake repairs before H.K. Covel was killed in the March 2001 accident on Interstate 35, said attorney Greg Dixon, who represented Keith's family.

The Rodriguezes had been advised of the brake problem before Covel's truck crossed the center median and struck the bus, he said.

The family initially suspected Covel suffered a medical condition that caused the truck to veer out of control. It later learned another vehicle had bumped the truck and filed a wrongful death lawsuit to clear Covel's name, Dixon said.

The verdict was returned last week. "The jury found no fault on the part of Mr. Covel in the wreck that claimed his life," Dixon said.

The plaintiffs, wife Carolyn Covel, daughter Tonni Covel and sons Toby Keith Covel and Tracey Covel, alleged that H.K. Covel would not have died if the bus had been equipped with properly working air brakes.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Truck vs. Car Wreck in Parker County

Two die in Parker County wreck

Two people died early Monday when a car collided with a tractor-trailer in rural northwest Parker County, according to reports. The Texas Department of Public Safety reported that the victims were Brandon Lee Edwards, 21, of Big Spring, and Laura Elizabeth Anderson, 27, of Whitt. According to a DPS report, the collision happened at 3:30 a.m. Monday about four miles south of Whitt at the intersection of Lamkin Road and Farm Road 1885. Edwards and Anderson were northbound on Lamkin Road in a 2001 Chrysler Concorde which collided with the trailer section of the tractor-trailer which was westbound on FM 1885, according to the report.
Edwards, who was driving the Concorde, and Anderson died at the scene, the DPS said. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not hurt, according to the report.

Truck vs. Car Wreck in Wise County

Decatur collision leaves two dead

Two people have died from injuries in a collision on Christmas Eve between a car and a tractor-trailer in Decatur, according to reports. Details were sketchy Tuesday, but Decatur Police records show that the collision happened at 8 p.m. on U.S. 287 in Decatur. A police dispatcher said one person died at the scene, but there was no information available Tuesday morning about the person's identity. The other person, however, died at about 2:30 a.m. at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.
The agency's Web site said the man's name was William Bell, but it did not list his age or address. U.S. 287 was shut down for three hours Monday night, the dispatcher said.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Four-Car Wreck on I-35W

Four-vehicle wreck on I-35W injures 3
FORT WORTH -- Two people were in critical condition today after being taken from the scene of a four-vehicle wreck on Interstate 35W in far north Fort Worth, according to reports.
The wreck was reported at 5:48 a.m. in the northbound lanes of I-35W at Westport Parkway, east of Fort Worth Alliance Airport, police dispatchers said.
Three people were taken by ambulance to Harris Methodist Fort Worth hospital and two were in critical condition, a dispatcher for MedStar Ambulance Service said.
All northbound lanes of I-35W remained closed at 8:30 a.m., police said.
No other details were immediately available.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pickup driver killed in accident with big rig

A 39-year-old Weatherford man was killed late Friday when his pickup truck plowed into an 18-wheeler on the city's west side, sheering off the top of the pickup, according to Fort Worth police. Russell Blanchard was driving east on Camp Bowie West at about 11:20 p.m. when the 18-wheeler, which had stopped at the intersection of Camp Bowie and Longvue Avenue, pulled into the intersection, said Lt. Dean Sullivan, a police spokesman. Blanchard's 2001 Toyota pickup went underneath the tractor-trailer, and the top of the pickup was sheered off, Sullivan said. Blanchard died at the scene, Sullivan said. The Tarrant County medical examiner's Web site said he died of head injuries.

Edit. Reminds me of a truck wreck case we tried a couple of years ago, in which a young man struck the rear of a stalled 18 wheeler on the freeway. Scary stuff.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Truck Accidents on the Rise

With the increased truck traffic on our roads these days, it bears repeating that in our experience prosecuting truck wreck cases, we frequently find evidence of various safety violations by either the trucking company or the truck driver or both. Falsified logbooks and hours-of-service violations, vehicles and equipment with mechanical problems, and speeding are just some of the violations that are commonly seen in these cases. Often victims of trucking accidents are left to wonder why these problems are not caught sooner, before they lead to wrecks. Needless to say, there is much room for improvement.

Let's hope we see continued investigative reporting from Dallas Morning News reporters Gregg Jones and Doug Swanson, who have written an excellent investigative series in the DMN.

Left alone, the trucking industry is not going to clean itself up, despite the many carriers and drivers who operate professionally and safely. Average citizens must demand more from our lawmakers: More meaningful oversight of the industry, more funds for enforcement, and more dangerous trucks taken off our roads.

Family sues insurer who denied teen transplant

That didn't take long.

The family of a 17-year-old girl who died hours after her health insurer reversed a decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant plans to sue the company, their attorney said Friday.

Nataline Sarkisyan died Thursday at about 6 p.m. at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. Attorney Mark Geragos said he plans to ask the district attorney to press murder or manslaughter charges against Cigna HealthCare in the case. The insurer “maliciously killed her” because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare, Geragos said.

The family’s “loss is immeasurable, and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Cigna said in a news release Friday. “We deeply hope that the outpouring of concern, care and love that are being expressed for Nataline’s family help them at this time,” the company said.

Edit. CIGNA's crocodile tears and solicitous statements of sympathy make me want to puke. Mark my words, though: CIGNA will skate one way or the other. They may pay some money in a settlement to try and contain the negative publicity, but they'll beat the rap through the courts or the politicians if the civil case ever goes to trial. Maybe the criminal courts are the way to get these bastards.

Teen Dies After Health Insurance Nixes Transplant

Teen dies after insurance nixes transplant
17-year-old girl needed new liver; company initially refused payment

GLENDALE, Calif. - A 17-year old died just hours after her health insurance company reversed its decision not to pay for a liver transplant that doctors said the girl needed.

Nataline Sarkisyan died at about 6 p.m. Thursday at University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, said her mother, Hilda.
"She passed away, and the insurance (company) is responsible for this," she said.

Nataline had been battling leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from her brother. She developed a complication, however, that caused her liver to fail. Doctors at UCLA determined she needed a transplant and sent a letter to CIGNA Healthcare on Dec. 11. The Philadelphia-based health insurance company denied payment for the transplant.

On Thursday, about 150 teenagers and nurses protested outside CIGNA's office in Glendale. As the protesters rallied, the company reversed its decision and said it would approve the transplant.

Despite the reversal, CIGNA said in an e-mail statement before she died that there was a lack of medical evidence showing the procedure would work in Nataline's case.

"Our hearts go out to Nataline and her family, as they endure this terrible ordeal," the company said. " ... CIGNA HealthCare has decided to make an exception in this rare and unusual case and we will provide coverage should she proceed with the requested liver transplant."

Edit. Funny how some insurance claims manager decided the liver transplant wouldn't work for Nataline, when her UCLA doctors said it would. Once again the insurance company wins. Their insured is dead, they didn't have to pay for the expensive procedure, and the family probably can do nothing to hold CIGNA accountable in court. Perfect. Champagne corks are popping in CIGNA's boardroom.

Holiday Travel Safety Reminder

Attorneys from the Fort Worth personal injury law firm of Laird & Cummings, P.C., are reminding everyone who may be traveling on interstate highways to stay safe and smart this holiday season.

Families traveling north to celebrate the holidays with love ones this year should be particularly aware of weather-related dangers on the roads. Take precautions, and check the weather before you leave.

“The difference in road conditions can be very tricky for drivers who aren’t used to driving on icy roads or in severe weather,” says attorney John Cummings, partner in the Fort Worth personal injury law firm of Laird & Cummings, P.C. “When you combine bad driving conditions with the fact that tractor trailer drivers are trying to make it home for the holidays themselves, you can see the dangerous combination.”

Nearly 5,000 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads involving large trucks in 2006, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The National Transportation Safety Board and other respected highway safety research groups have found that nearly 40 percent of big truck crashes are due to fatigue. Studies show that extended periods without sleep can slow reaction times by as much as 50 percent, which is the same as having a .05 percent blood alcohol level.

Laird & Cummings, P.C., is a Fort Worth, Texas, personal injury law firm that represents individuals and families in cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, construction site accidents, products liability and business litigation.

Referral Fees in Texas

Historically in Texas, there were no particular rules regarding the division of fees among lawyers or the payment of a referral fee from one lawyer to another for forwarding the case. In 2005, however, the Texas Supreme Court enacted new referral fee rules which do away with “pure” referral fees (those where the referring lawyer has no role in the case other than forwarding it to another lawyer). Now, referral fees in Texas must be based on either a “proportion of services” basis or a “joint responsibility” basis.

In a “proportion of services” situation, each lawyer performs substantial services on behalf of the client with respect to a particular legal matter. Each lawyer who participates in the division of the fee is required to perform services beyond simply being hired by the client and forwarding the case to another lawyer. There must be a “reasonable correlation” between services performed and the sharing of the fee between the referring lawyer and the handling lawyer.

In a “joint responsibility” situation, the referring lawyer assumes an ethical and perhaps financial responsibility for the representation. The referring lawyer must make a reasonable investigation into the client’s legal matter and refer the matter to a lawyer reasonably believed to be competent to handle it. The referring lawyer must monitor the matter throughout the representation, respond to client questions and keep the client informed of progress in the case, and assist the handling lawyer when necessary. “Joint responsibility” does not mean joint control, and the referring lawyer is not required to attend deposition or hearings or trial, or be copied on all pleadings and correspondence.

Importantly, attorneys must obtain the client’s written consent in advance regarding the basis for the referral and the division of fees. The complete rules pertaining to referral fees in Texas may be found in Rule 104 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

In our practice handling personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent-fee basis, we find that referrals on a joint responsibility basis are most common and most akin to the traditional referral fee arrangements our referring attorneys have enjoyed over the years.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bizarre Car Wreck in Dallas

Bizarre car wreck in Dallas left one person dead today. Seems an SUV going one way lost control and hit a concrete median, causing a piece of concrete to break off the median and strike the driver's side window of a car coming from the other direction. Killed the driver of that car. Story here.

Wal-Mart Gets the Money, Taxpayers Get to Bill

This makes me seethe.

Wal-Mart employee suffers brain damage in a truck wreck, Wal-Mart's health plan pays for medical treatment (which it agreed to do when it took premiums from the employee), employee gets a $417,000 settlement from the trucking company (which is put into trust to pay for her on-going nursing home care) and now Wal-Mart sues the brain-damaged employee for the $470,000 the health plan paid plus its attorneys' fees (which, at least in Texas, the injured employee would not be able to recover from the trucking company). It's called subrogation, which is a fancy word for "insurance company screws the little guy."

The biggest corporation in the world is taking this lady's last dime, leaving her future medical care to be paid by Medicaid, which means you get to pay for it.

Watch this video and think about this the next time you decide to shop at Wal-Mart.

How to Fight Your Health Insurer

Here's a good article giving tips on how to fight your health insurance plan when your claim is rejected.

The keys seem to be persistence, documentation, and the patience of Job.

Toy Recall - Infantino "Lion" Teethers

Infantino® Recalls Infant Teethers Due to Choking Hazard
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced a voluntary recall of Infantino® Lion Teethers, about 28,000 of which were produced by Infantino® LLC, of San Diego, Calif.

Hazard: The plastic nose can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

Incidents/Injuries: Infantino® has received eight reports of the nose detaching, including one report of a child gagging on the bitten off nose.

Description: This recall involves Infantino® lion teethers. The yellow and orange plastic teethers have date codes 6116, 6129, 6158, 6137, 0606, 0806, 0906, and 1006. The date codes are located on the back of the lion’s head, above the Infantino® logo. Lion teethers with other date codes are not included in this recall.

Sold at: Babies “R” Us, Pottery Barn Kids and other specialty stores nationwide from June 2006 through December 2007 for about $5.
Remedy: Consumers should take the recalled toys away from young children immediately and contact Infantino® for a replacement teether or a product of equal value.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Infantino® toll-free at (888) 808-3111 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Allstate's Arrogance Is Gonna Get Expensive

Allstate refuses to turn over documents in a Missouri lawsuit which pertain to company policies "allegedly" designed to shortchange clients while earning itself huge profits. Even the Missouri Supreme Court, not exactly known as a hot bed of liberal judicial activism, orders Allstate to turn over the documents. They still refuse. So the trial judge fines Allstate $25,000 per day until the turn them over. They still refuse. This has been going on since September.

The fine currently exceeds $2.4 million. Yet Allstate's lawyers say the company will not produce these records for public view no matter how much the court fines them.

This display of arrogance and contempt towards courts and the rule of law is just mind-boggling. But perhaps most disturbing is how Allsnake will stop at nothing to screw their own insureds.

Savor the Irony

The head of the Carlyle Group buys one of 17 known copies of the Magna Carta, an ancient legal document from which Western rule of law springs, from billionaire Ross Perot for $23.1 million.
The Carlyle Group, you'll recall, is a secretive investment firm that is making a lot of very rich people richer, thanks in large part to a booming (pardon the pun) defense industry and the War on Terror. Its Washington DC offices are conveniently located between the White House and the Capitol and it employs top-tier politicians (George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, John Major and James Baker, to name a few) to help obtain sweet deals for its investors, among them the Bin Ladin family of Saudi Arabia (yes, that Bin Ladin family).
Who needs the rule of law when you own the lawmakers? The symbolism of buying the Magna Carta just astounds me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Amusement Park Ride Severs Girl's Legs

Remember this case from back in the summer?

A Kentucky judge will decide next week which company will perform testing on the broken cable from the ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom that severed the feet of a 13-year-old Louisville girl in June. Kaitlyn Lasitter's attorneys are asking that a local company test the cable, while Six Flags "wants to award the contract" to a laboratory in Chicago.

"Award the contract" for testing the cables that cut this poor girl's feet off sounds so crass.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Family Ties

Now this fellow deserves our support. Good looks, charm, and a great name. I'd vote for him.

Mandatory Arbitration Hurts Consumers, Favors Businesses

Bills are being floated in Washington D.C. to address the growing disparity between consumers and businesses because of mandatory arbitration clauses which prevent consumers from taking disputes to a court of law.
At issue is the fine print in many contracts for goods and services, such as credit cards and cellphones, requiring that disputes be submitted to arbitration by a third party.Critics of the provisions say they deny consumers and employees a basic American principle: the right to go to court."People from all walks of life -- employees, investors, homeowners, those enrolled in HMOs, credit card holders and other consumers -- often find themselves strong-armed into mandatory arbitration agreements," said Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), who is sponsoring one of the measures aimed at making arbitration voluntary rather than mandatory.
Many lawmakers say mandatory arbitration has tipped the playing field in favor of businesses. Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer watchdog group, reported that consumers won 4% of 19,000 California cases decided by one arbitration firm between January 2003 and March 2007. The study found one arbitrator who rendered 68 decisions in one day -- "one every eight minutes," said Laura MacCleery, director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen's Congress Watch. "Consumers won zero."
During a hearing Wednesday on Feingold's bill, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said, "The fact of the matter is that the little guy is, by and large, better off in arbitration than trying to get to court. Arbitration is cheaper than litigation, and it leads to faster results for plaintiffs."
Whoa there, Senator. You're either wilfully ignorant, woefully misinformed, or just flat-out being dishonest with that statement.

Judge wants wrongful death lawsuit dropped

Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (that's the highest court in the state for criminal matters), has been named in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the widow of Michael Wayne Richard. Richard was executed by the state on September 25th, after his lawyers tried unsuccessfully to file a last-minute appeal.

Keller contends that while she ordered the clerk's office closed promptly at 5 p.m., state law clearly gave attorneys for death row inmate Michael Wayne Richard the power to contact judges on the court directly.

In papers filed in U.S. district court in Austin, Keller said Richard's lawyers made no attempt to contact any judges on the court, even though three were available Sept. 25, the date of Richard's execution in 1986 rape and murder of Marguerite Dixon, a Houston-area mother of seven. Keller said the clerk's office was closed but the court's building remained open.

Keller has garnered national attention for refusing to extend the court's closing time prior to Richard's execution, despite calls from Richard's attorneys alerting her office they were experiencing computer problems and begging for extra time.

But in a motion to dismiss the suit, Keller said Texas law "provides a clear and unambiguous avenue for litigants to file documents with the (Court of Criminal Appeals) directly through any of its judges, so Richard did not need the CCA clerk's office to stay open after hours to file his motion." This is the first time Keller has claimed Richard's lawyers could have directly gone to other judges on the court. She previously has tried to shift blame to Richard's lawyers by saying they had all day to file.

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, called Keller's argument "shameless" and said "The rules of procedure in the law are supposed to serve justice and here you have a case where a guy's life is at stake. It's literally a matter of life or death and to fall back on some off-the-wall assertion, 'go find a judge and file it that way' is absurd. It makes a farce of the law."

Story here.

Trucking company to pay $9 million to settle crash lawsuit

MADERA, Calif.—A trucking company will pay $9 million to the parents of two sisters who were killed in a highway accident involving one of its trucks in Madera County.

Seven-year-old Korren Radke and 2-year-old Chloe Baker of Coursegold died in June last year when a concrete pumper truck rear-ended the family car near the Rocky Cutout area on Highway 41.

The owner of the truck, Brundage-Bone Concrete Pumping, will pay the parents of the two victims to settle the wrongful death civil lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court.

The California Highway Patrol says the truck driver was driving at an unsafe speed and was unable to stop when it hit the family car, which had stopped for a disabled vehicle on the highway.

Story here.

Med Mal "Crisis" Over-Hyped in Maryland?

Back in 2003, when the Texas Legislature bent over for the insurance lobby and capped damages on suits brought by victims of medical negligence, the justification for selling off our rights was typically some variant of a "crisis" facing doctors...too many "frivolous suits," too many "runaway juries," too high insurance premiums, too many doctors fleeing the state, etc., etc.
One of the solutions proposed by consumer groups back then was, sensibly, insurance reform. That is, the Legislature should take steps to rein in the insurers, or subsidize premiums for doctors in high-risk specialties or underserved areas, etc. Makes sense. But the insurers and the aligned big money interests wanted no part of that...don't mess with the invisible hand of the free market, they said, despite the fact that they were charging more for less coverage in order to make up for bad business decisions made along the way (losses in the stock market, poor management, and so forth). So now we have Draconian damage caps and other hurdles affecting consumers but nothing to reform or stabilize the insurance market. Nada. Zip.
Apparently the same "crisis" was hyped in Maryland several years ago, when that state's legislature contemplated ways to save their doctors. The state implemented a subsidy paid to the insurers to help the docs manage the higher premiums, the same proposal that went over like a lead balloon here in Texas.

The Washington Post reports that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) now has concerns that his predecessor, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R), might have exaggerated the economic hardship facing doctors when he called the General Assembly into emergency session in 2004 to fix what he called a malpractice "crisis." In the midst of a downward economic cycle for the insurers, a "crisis" was fabricated in order to ram "reform" through the statehouse.

Sounds oddly familiar. Unfortunately for Texans, it won't be so easy to repair the damage done to our rights. Getting legislators on board to repeal subsidies to insurance companies is a no-brainer; getting them on board to restore patients' rights at the courthouse is another matter entirely.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Family of Madison teen killed in crash settles for $18.3 million

WATERBURY, Conn. - Attorneys say the family of a Madison teen killed nearly six years ago in a car accident is to receive an $18.3 million settlement. Seventeen-year-old Tim Orefice was killed in Guilford on Jan. 25, 2002. The teen's car was hit by a Guilford Texaco tow truck driven by Jason Secondino. Secondino, Guilford Texaco, and the company which leased the truck to Guilford Texaco, were all sued in the case that went to trial in October at Waterbury Superior Court. A lawyer says the settlement was reached on the day before closing arguments. An attorney for the family says the award came years after the Orefice family proposed a $1 million settlement that the defendants refused.

Obviously, that jury must have seen some baaaaad evidence and the plaintiff's lawyers were ready to put on a whale of a closing argument. Wonder if it was the defendants or their insurance company who decided to refuse the earlier offer?

Halliburton Is Truly Above the Law

A female employee of Halliburton/KBR, Jamie Leigh Jones of Houston, says she was gang-raped by several male co-employees while working in Iraq. Medical tests confirmed the attacks, but the rape kits were mysteriously lost after being turned over to Halliburton "security officers."
Over two years later, no criminal charges have been brought nor are any likely due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
Jones recently filed a civil suit against Halliburton/KBR over the rapes. The defendants want to force Jones's claims into closed, private arbitration rather than let a jury hear the case and assess the damages. In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it.
It seems Halliburton is continuing to rape this poor young woman.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lawmakers ask court to reverse liability claims ruling

Follow up to my previous post. From reporter Clay Robinson at the Houston Chronicle, regarding the Entergy opinion written by Justice Willett:

In an unusual move, four legislators have asked the Texas Supreme Court to reverse a recent decision that, critics say, gives refineries and other industrial plants a new shield against liability claims from contract workers injured on the job.

The ruling contradicted the law, said two Democrats — Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston and Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston — and two Republicans — Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio and Rep. Bryan Hughes of Mineola — in a brief filed with the all-Republican court.

"This Court, by disregarding the express terms of the Legislature's enactments, has violated the separation of powers clause of the Texas Constitution and impermissibly encroached on the powers and functions expressly reserved to the Legislature," the lawmakers argued.

Edit. This brings to mind the study by a University of Texas law professor who found that lawsuit defendants — often businesses like Entergy — won 87 percent of the time when they took their cases to the Texas Supreme Court during its 2004-05 term.

"Judicial Activism" in the Eye of the Beholder?

Interesting. President Bush endorses Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett by saying "he is a proven conservative who understands courts should interpret and apply law, not legislate from the bench." Yet Justice Willett authors a recent opinion - joined by the other eight justices - that "offends not only the law, but also court precedent, legislative intent, reason, custom and common notions of justice" in order to side with big business. As the Houston Chronicle points out, this ruling "makes the justices guilty of blatant judicial activism, which many conservatives regard as an unpardonable sin."
Guess it depends on whose interests one is protecting...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Debunking the "Stella Awards"

The "Stella Awards" that make the email rounds every now and then are lies, my friends. Ask yourself who would have an incentive to create this garbage.

Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey concludes with these statements:

Here's the lesson: The next time an Internet tale makes you think things are even worse than you thought, check it out. Especially when the tale suggests that the American system is stacked against wealthy corporations. One easy way:, an excellent site that investigates urban myths. It took less than 30 seconds to ask for "Stella Awards" and receive the verdict: "False."

Well said.

Dennis Quaid and Wife Sue Drug Maker

Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife sued the makers of heparin Tuesday after their newborn twins were inadvertently given massive doses of the blood thinner at a hospital. The product liability lawsuit, filed in Chicago, seeks more than $50,000 in damages. It claims that Baxter Healthcare Corp., based in Deerfield, Ill., was negligent in packaging different doses of the product in similar vials with blue backgrounds. The lawsuit also says the company should have recalled the large-dosage vials after overdoses killed three children at an Indianapolis hospital last year.

The Quaids' children, Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace, and a third patient were at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Nov. 18 when they were mistakenly given vials of heparin that were 1,000 times stronger than the usual dosage.

Cedars-Sinai said Tuesday the mistake occurred when two pharmacy technicians failed to verify the vials' concentration before placing them in the pediatrics unit where the lower-concentration heparin is kept. The nurses who administered the drug also failed to check the dosage, the hospital said in a news release.

Who Gets Hurt Most by "Tort Reform?"

Women, children, the elderly, minorities and those who are less-affluent, according to a study done by two professors at Emory University. Here is the abstract to the article:

"Tort reform may not affect all segments of society equally. Studies have shown that many tort reforms disproportionately reduce compensation to women, children, the elderly, disadvantaged minorities, and less affluent people. This study goes beyond tort reform's disproportionate effect on compensation, to explore whether tort reform also has a disproportionate effect on accidental death rates. We explain that, theoretically, tort reform's care-level effects and activity-level effects may disproportionately impact the accident rates of different groups. Using the most accurate, comprehensive data on medical malpractice tort reforms and state-level data from 1980-2000, we examine empirically whether tort reforms indeed have such a disproportionate effect. The results from our empirical analysis are consistent with our theoretical predictions. We find that the impact of tort reform varies substantially among demographic groups. When we consider the net effect of all the reforms in our study together, our results suggest that women, children, and the elderly do not enjoy tort reform's benefits as much as men and middle-aged people. In fact, they might even be harmed by reform."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rush Hour in Fort Worth (circa 1955)

A buddy just sent me this cool photo of 7th Street looking west. You can see Montgomery Plaza in the distance. Cars seemed awfully bubble-shaped back then.

On Thrill Rides, Safety Is Optional

Good article about the dangers of amusement park rides.

Hey, I'm not opposed to the well-run outfits, but even the most-professionally run parks have had some problems. What really scares me to death are the traveling carnivals that set up in mall parking lots, at county fairs, and such. I worked on a case years ago involving a machine called the "Gravitron" at a state fair. It broke apart and spun kids all over the midway. Seems the carny who assembled the ride had not followed the set-up procedure in the instruction manual...then we learned during his deposition that the carny could not read.
Why such little safety oversight by the government? Follow the money (see the industry's lobbying efforts described on page 3 of the article).
If you're interested, this consumer safety organization deserves a look.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Changing Minds, One at a Time

A grown man sat in my office last week and cried like a baby. He had buried his wife and their first child less than a month earlier, both the victims of medical negligence. He came to us for help, wanting answers to why his young, healthy wife and his unborn son are now gone. He struggled to simply breathe. I thought of my wife and my two girls and I cried, too.

What do you say to a fellow like this? I confess that I was at a loss. Once we plaintiff lawyers could at least offer some comfort, inadequate as it was, that the civil justice system might provide answers and maybe, just maybe, some attempt at compensation. Now I had to explain that politicians in Austin have already decided what his loss is worth. I had to tell him that because his beautiful wife and the son that was to bear his name were the victims of medical negligence, the courthouse doors had been closed by the very people who represent his family in the Capitol.

Do you know what was most frustrating about this scenario? This man had not voted on Proposition 12 and had no idea of the damage that it did to the Texas Constitution. Before this tragedy befell him, he was one of the thousands of uninformed, misinformed or indifferent Texans who did not understand what HB 4 and Proposition 12 really did to their rights. He knows the truth now, unfortunately.

So what can we trial lawyers do about this ? Speak up. Educate others. Make sure your families, friends and clients are registered to vote and that they do vote. Get involved with your elected representatives. Let them know that we will hold them accountable for the promises made when they stripped away our rights. When you turn down cases that are no longer economical due to "tort reform," make sure the potential clients know how to contact their senators and representatives in Austin, because odds are they voted in favor of HB 4.

And above all, keep fighting. Fight for victims. Fight for justice. Fight the negative stereotypes about trial lawyers and the "tort reform" propaganda. Fight for what is right and never, ever give up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Arkansas Bus Wreck Injures 40, Kills 3

Terrible tragedy on I40 in Arkansas.

(CNN) -- A bus hopped a highway median and crashed into a pickup truck before being broadsided by an 18-wheeler, Arkansas police said, killing the pickup driver and two bus riders.

Forty people were hurt in Sunday night's crash, which shut down a 13-mile stretch of Interstate-40 east of Forrest City, Arkansas, said state police spokesman Bill Sadler.

The bus was westbound en route from Chicago, Illinois, to Dallas, Texas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Truck Wreck in Bedford

As if 183 weren't bad enough already.

For those of you stuck on it yesterday, here's why.

Gas Well Explosion in Alvarado

Story here.

With all the wells around these parts, it's a wonder there haven't been more tragedies. Fortunately for these three workers, it sounds like they'll be okay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Texas House District 97 Voters, Dan Barrett's Your Man

Okay, folks...shameless plug for a friend of mine.
Dan Barrett is in the run-off for District 97 (SW Fort Worth, Benbrook, Edgecliff Village, Crowley) to replace former Rep. Anna Mowery.
I know Dan. He is a man of integrity, intelligence and determination. He will show thoughtful independence and principled leadership in Austin.
His opponent has pledged blind support to Der Speaker Craddick (he of "absolute power") and unwavering support of school vouchers.

Folks in District 97, if you want a representative who will speak up for your community, your neighbors, your schools and this fair city, vote for Dan Barrett on Saturday, December 18th.
Check out Dan's website here.

Professor Laird's Playbook - Using Video Depositions at Trial

More and more these days, witnesses are presented at trial through video deposition excerpts, either by necessity because they are unavailable at trial (out-of-state witnesses, treating physicians, etc.) or by choice (to streamline the case or in situations where an adverse witness’s testimony will never get better than it was at deposition).

Some tips:

• Keep the video edits as short as possible, 15 minutes or less if possible. Don’t just pop the entire video in and hit “play.”
• Hire a good video editor. Get the edits on VHS and DVD formats.
• Have a copy of the edits and a written page/line designation to give to the court reporter for the record. It will save him or her from having to record the testimony at trial.
• Ask the judge in pretrial to instruct the jury that they will see and hear video deposition testimony, which is meant to speed the trial and which is to be given the same weight as if the witness was live at trial.
• Ask the judge to point out that the lawyers have edited the videos with the judge’s approval (here in Tarrant County, at least, the parties have to exchange designate portions of the depos they wish to use at trial and the court rules on objections to those designations prior to trial). Often the editing causes the image on the screen to jump around a bit or cut off a word or two. I had one juror tell me after trial that this made her suspicious that the attorneys were trying to pull a fast one on the jury by splicing the testimony. Get the judge to explain this before your jurors draw that conclusion in their minds!
• Think about the timing of showing your video depos. Consider interspersing them in between live witnesses. Be careful about showing them right after lunch or at the end of the day.
• As much as possible, coordinate your video edits with those to be shown by the other side. Jurors don’t like hearing the same testimony again when the defense offers their tender right after the plaintiff shows his.
• When taking the deposition, keep in mind that the jury may later see the video and they may compare your dress and demeanor during deposition with that at trial. For example, if you tone down your usual jewelry when you’re in trial, don’t forget to take off that flashy watch during the depo. Don’t be a jerk in deposition and then a choirboy in trial.
• In a lengthy trial, take a still shot of the witness’s face from the video depo and blow it up or show it on an ELMO during closing argument to remind the jurors of the witness.

Clearly, there is no substitute for a live witness. However, when done right, video depos can be effective and time-saving, so long as they are not too long and are not overused.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer Revisited

A buddy reminded me of another great closing argument delivered by Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Pure gold.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! . . . When I see my image on the security camera at the country club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover, and run across the fairway to the clubhouse, where I get Carlos to make me one of those martinis he's so famous for, to soothe my primitive caveman brain. But whatever world you're from, I do know one thing--in the 20 years from March 22, 1972, when he first ordered that extra nicotine be put into his product, until February 25, 1992, when he issued an interoffice memorandum stopping the addition of that nicotine, my client was legally insane."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Heard Gets Life in Prison

Jurors just returned a sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty for Lance Heard, who was convicted earlier this week of capital murder in the shooting death of Fort Worth police officer Hank Nava.

I don't practice criminal law and I don't weigh in with opinions on most criminal trials because their courtrooms are not mine. But I've followed this murder trial pretty closely because I have friends on all sides of that case, including the police officer who eulogized Nava at his funeral and the lead defense attorney. Talk about being at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Regardless of one's views on criminal defense lawyers, or the death penalty, or the justice system, or the police, or whatever, this was a fascinating, hard-fought trial. My hat goes off to the attorneys, the judge, and especially the jurors.

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Man, I loved Phil Hartman.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: 'Did little demons get inside and type it?' I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages. Thank you."

Another child disembowled by a pool drain

This sort of story scares me to death.

MINNEAPOLIS — The family of a 6-year-old girl who lost part of her intestinal tract after sitting on an open drain in a wading pool is suing the pool manufacturer and the country club where the accident happened.

Abigail Taylor faces a small intestine transplant that will keep her hospitalized for six months, said family attorney Robert Bennett. Her lifetime medical expenses could total $30 million and the country club carries only $6 million in liability insurance, he said.

Edit. This poor child's intestines were sucked out of her rectum by an uncovered pool drain, a danger known within the industry for years (Sen. John Edwards, in his previous life as a trial lawyer, handled a similar case in North Carolina some time ago). To the "tort deformers" out there, I say look that little girl and her parents in their eyes and tell them her case is frivolous.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Each Year, 30,000 Truckers Test Positive for Drugs/Alcohol

And those are just the ones who get caught.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Good truck drivers are among the safest, most-professional, most-skilled drivers on the roads today, and my hat is off to them for doing a tough job well. But the bad apples among them are getting away with murder, thanks to lax oversight, over-burdened enforcement personnel, carrier indifference, and economic pressure.

DFW is one of the largest inland ports of commerce in America, with thousands of trucks plying our roads every hour. A meth-head driving a 40-ton tractor/trailer can really ruin your day, my friends.

Friday, October 26, 2007


From Bob Sullivan's "Red Tape Chronicles."

If I told you there was a courtroom in America where consumers lose lawsuits to businesses 94 percent of the time, and there is no chance to appeal, you'd probably never want to go there.
But here's the problem: You don't have a choice, thanks to small print.

While you may have never heard of binding mandatory arbitration, it is part of nearly every significant transaction you engage in now. It's also become a controversial battleground over consumer protection in America, and on Thursday Congress held hearings debating legislation that would largely nullify many arbitration agreements. The hearing came on the heels of a new report that claims to offer a first-ever glimpse into a world that some say has turned Americans’ Constitutional rights on their head.

Story here.

Ed. The really crazy thing is that the banks and other institutions who enforce arbitration clauses when consumers sue them are the same banks and other institutions who are clogging our courts with creditors' collection suits. That ain't right. See my previous blog on 8/31/07, "Debt Collection Suits on The Rise."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tort reform not working? Gosh, who knew?

Good article in the Texas Observer dispels one of the big myths foisted upon Texans by the insurance industry in pushing "tort reform" back in 2003.

Quote: "Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising, according to Texas Medical Board data. There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums. Perhaps the most insidious sleight of hand employed by Proposition 12 backers was their repeated insistence that medical malpractice insurance rates were somehow responsible for doctor shortages in rural Texas...The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

In Texas, this is worth $250,000

Because of a mislabeled tissue sample that led to a misdiagnosis, Darrie Eason of Long Island, New York had both of her breasts removed to save her from a cancer that she never had. Story here.

Thanks to insurance industry "tort deform" that swept through Texas in 2003, non-economic damages in a medical malpractice suit like Ms. Eason's would be capped at $250,000. That's right: All the pain and suffering, all the disfigurement, all the impairment, all the damage to her marriage, everything, is worth $250,000 tops, thanks to the 2003 Texas Legislature.

Think this is a frivolous lawsuit?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Dead' Man Wakes Up Under Autopsy Knife

A Venezuelan man who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began their autopsy.

Carlos Camejo, 33, was declared dead after a highway accident and taken to the morgue, where examiners began an autopsy only to realize something was amiss when he started bleeding. They quickly sought to stitch up the incision on his face.

"I woke up because the pain was unbearable," Camejo said, according to a report on Friday in leading local newspaper El Universal.

His grieving wife turned up at the morgue to identify her husband's body only to find him moved into a corridor -- and alive.

Story here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

OU fan accused of gruesome injury to man clad in UT shirt

Okay, it probably wasn't the greatest idea for this fellow to walk into a bar in Oklahoma City wearing a Longhorn t-shirt, but did he deserve to be "partially castrated" (as described on the radio, but tastefully not elaborated upon in the FWST) by a zealous Sooner fan?

"I've actually heard callers on talk radio say that this guy deserved what he got for wearing a Texas T-shirt into a bar in the middle of Sooner country," said Irven Box, an attorney in this city 20 miles from OU's campus in Norman.

C'mon, people.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Good Hunt Last Saturday

Goooood dove hunting last weekend in Coleman. There's a guide service out there called the Coleman County Bird Hunting Co. and those fellows know how to do it right. Great guys, and their food and lodging is fantastic. Give David a call at 325-625-5352 and plan your next hunt out there.

Quail season promises to be great this year. I have heard and seen more quail while dove hunting around Coleman and Throckmorton than I can recall seeing in many years.

Grilled Dove Rub Recipe from Bob Hood:

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Makes enough for at least a dozen doves. Rub both sides of each dove with the mixture and refrigerate doves for one hour before grilling.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Note to Self: Don't Fly Nepal Airlines

KATHMANDU - Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said Tuesday. Nepal Airlines, which has two Boeing aircraft, has had to suspend some services in recent weeks due to the problem. The goats were sacrificed in front of the troublesome aircraft Sunday at Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu traditions, an official said.

Cheaper than paying a mechanic, I guess.

How do you stand out in a land with a billion people?

Radhakant Bajpai did it by growing his ear hair more than 5 inches long. Yes, that's right. Look closely. Ear hair.

Why I Hunt Birds

Deer hunting could be a dangerous endeavor for men with heart disease or risk factors for it, research findings suggest. In a study of 25 middle-aged male deer hunters, researchers found that the activities inherent to hunting -- like walking over rough terrain, shooting an animal and dragging its carcass -- sent the men's heart rates up significantly.

Fair warning, Bubba.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Great Book on Trial Strategy

For the trial lawyers out there, here's a great new book by Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone: Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff Lawyer's Guide to Proving Liability. This book emphasizes how jurors are called upon to make a collective decision about subjective concepts like "reasonableness," and how defense lawyers use complexity, confusion and ambiguity to derail the plaintiff's case. By developing several irrefutable "rules of the road" during discovery and at trial, the plaintiff lawyer provides the jurors with objective evidence against which to measure the defendant's actions. And if done right, the defendant and the defense witnesses must either agree with the rules or look foolish for disagreeing with them. Powerful book. It describes and explains a method that many successful plaintiff lawyers have learned through trial and error. It's no secret that jurors are highly skeptical of personal injury cases (the recent "$54 million pants lost by dry cleaners" case is the new "McDonald's hot coffee" case that comes up in every voir dire these days), so anytime a tool comes along that helps lawyers working for consumers, grab it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dove Report

Saturday was productive, afternoon moreso than morning. Hunted a cut sunflower field west of Woodson with some buddies. Reports from several hunters in the parking lot of the Allsups in Throckmorton (home of Bob Lilly, by the way) were mixed. Overall, though, another great Opening Day. Even had a nice northerly breeze Saturday afternoon. Finished the day back in Haskell with home-made enchiladas and college football. Just perfect.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Banner Year for Dove and Teal

TPWD says we'll have lots of dove and teal this year. Teal up 50%. Short season and hot as hell, but teal hunting sure is fun. Dove are plentiful but likely to be scattered because of abundant food and water. Bag limit is 15 in the north zone (north of I20/I30) and 12 in the central zone (from I20/I30 south to I10). Never understood the rationale behind that.

Debt Collection Suits on Rise

Good article in the FWST about the rise in lawsuits filed by debt collectors, a concern I expressed a few blog entries ago. Key points to remember: Don't ignore debt collection efforts (especially letters and anything nailed to your door while you're at work) and be ready to challenge the debt collector's documentation of the debt. Often these groups buy debts from the original creditors and the paperwork necessary to establish the debt (the original credit card agreement and so forth) doesn't make it from the creditor to the collector. In the three or four such cases I've handled for friends, I have yet to see one that had the evidence necessary to prevail at trial. But the debtor has to stand up and challenge the suit, or else face a default judgment (in which case the collector can get a judgment against the creditor despite not having all the necessary paperwork to back up the debt).

On a similar note, write your elected officials (state and federal) about the abuses heaped upon average consumers by the banking and lending institutions. Grandma's utility bills go up and she falls a couple of months behind on paying off that new dishwasher from Sears, and suddenly she finds herself a defendant in a collection suit. That ain't right.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Getting Ready for Bird Season

I need one of these...think of all the birds I could shoot at and miss.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Don't Watch Oprah, I Swear

While backpacking in Colorado recently with two buddies, one of them went on and on about how much he enjoys the Oprah show and some regular guest named "Dr. Oz." Thinking to myself how glad I was that I was not sharing a tent with this fellow, I promptly forgot about his comments until I read this article on CNN/ Says we men can drink all the coffee and red wine we want and it'll make us healthy...or that is what I gathered from skimming it. Sadly, chicken-fried steak and beer did not make the short list of healthy foods. But among the good news, coffee is good for bowel movements. Who knew? Anyway, perhaps the Oprah show deserves a look.

Dove Season Opens Saturday

It's just around the corner, my friends: September 1st, that time of year near and dear to all Texans, either because football season starts or - more importantly - bird season starts. Love it, love it, love it. If you're headed out this weekend, best wishes and be safe. Watch the heat, the snakes, and the idiots. Here's a link to some good dove recipes. Also, make sure you put the plug back in the gun from last quail season, get that license ahead of time (available on-line and over the phone), and be kind to Game Wardens. Those guys are pros and deserve our respect and appreciation. not my plane

Just trying to figure out how to upload photos. But this is a pretty cool old picture of a Piper Cub.

Long Time, No Blog

Geez, time flies. Summer has come and gone, kids are back in school, dove season starts Saturday and I haven't blogged in ages. This is due to any number of reasons, the primary ones being laziness and poor typing skills. Ah, well. In any event, I wanted to link up two sites. The first one is a great resource for trial lawyers and the second is one of the funniest blogs I've ever seen. Witty, entertaining, informative, inspirational. Big thumbs up to Barry. My only regret is that he doesn't like my Longhorns. But hey, my wife went to Baylor, so I can appreciate where he's coming from.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gas Well Explosion in Parker County, Texas

Every day, more and more gas drilling rigs pop up all over north Texas, mainly around Tarrant, Johnson and Parker Counties. And with the increased drilling activity comes a greater risk of injuries, both to workers and to those living around the wells. Today many residents in this area watched as huge flames and a billowing cloud of black smoke erupted near Aledo in northern Parker County following a gas pipeline explosion. Fortunately for the dozen workers and many residents nearby, there have been no serious injuries reported, although thousands of area residents are without power for the foreseeable future.

North Texas is booming from gas production in the Barnett Shale, sometimes quite literally. We all applaud the increased business and tax revenue generated by this industry, but in the haste to punch holes in the ground, we can't forget that working men and women and their families are often the ones who live with the consequences when mistakes are made. Find out how you can get involved in your community to help ensure that drilling operations are done safely.

Hats off to the Parker County emergency crews who responded to this explosion.