Friday, February 29, 2008

Actor John Ritter's Family Brings Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Actor John Ritter's widow and children have brought a wrongful death lawsuit in California against a Burbank cardiologist who treated him on the day he died in September 2003. Story here.

Ritter, 54, died of torn aorta but was treated for a heart attack. The plaintiffs claim the cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Lee, should have recognized the aortic dissection and that the radiologist, Dr. Matthew Lotysch, should have detected an enlargement of the aorta in the body scan. Both doctors dispute the claims.

Of note, apparently "the Fonz" testified at trial, and John Ritter is the son of Western film star "Tex" Ritter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

At least 2 dead in 18-wheeler wreck in Dallas

NBC5i is reporting that at least two people (and possibly a third) are dead after an 18-wheeler overturned and crashed onto another vehicle at I35 and Continental Avenue in Dallas. Looks like the truck fell over a guardrail ramp and onto the lanes below. How horrific.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Plaintiffs Challenging Texas Med Mal Damage Caps

A group of 11 plaintiffs, including the family of ex-Dallas Cowboys player Ron Springs, filed suit recently in U.S. District Court in Marshall to challenge the constitutionality of the state's medical malpractice caps.

The Houston Chronicle has a story here. The article suggests that the non-economic cap of $250,000 is per defendant, which is not the case. The $250,000 cap is per claimant (including all derivative plaintiffs such as spouses and children of the injured patient), no matter how many doctors or health care providers are sued. There is - in theory - the potential to stack two limits for a $500,000 cap, but I have yet to see a scenario where that would apply...nor have I heard of any across the state. And in some lobbyist's fantasy world, there is a magical place where an injured patient could - just maybe - stack three limits for a $750,000 recovery. It'll never happen, but that was part of the snake oil the insurance lobbyists sold elected officials and voters when tort reform passed in 2003.

In any event, hats off to the plaintiffs in Marshall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Woman who ran over cheating spouse takes former attorney to trial

Now here's an interesting twist in a bizarre case, as reported in the Houston Chronicle today:

HOUSTON -- The famous saga of a woman who killed her cheating husband by mowing him down with her luxury car returns to court Tuesday in a civil case Clara Harris filed against her former defense attorney.

Jury selection is set to begin more than three years after Harris filed a lawsuit claiming Houston attorney George Parnham overcharged to defend her in the 2003 murder trial that garnered international attention.

Harris, 50, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for running over her philandering spouse in a hotel parking lot in 2002 after confronting him with his mistress. The lawsuit claims Harris hired Parnham for $75,000 but wound up paying more than $235,000.

Lawyers for Parnham, whose list of past clients includes Andrea Yates, have argued that Harris is the one who still owes money. "She's mad about how much he charged her," said Charles Babcock, who is representing Parnham.

Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday in the trial, which is expected to last about a week.

Medicare won't pay for hospital-caused injuries after October 1

Medicare, soon to be followed by private health insurers, will no longer pay for medical treatment of preventable injuries caused by medical errors. Medicare lists eight "hospital-caused preventable injuries," including urinary tract infections from catheters, falls, pressure sores, and embolism. After October 1st, if a Medicare patient develops one of these eight injuries, Medicare won't pay for treatment. Apparently under this plan, hospitals cannot bill the patient, either.

I don't know what to think about this. On one hand, if it truly becomes a matter of economic incentive for the hospitals, perhaps they will take more precautions to avoid these problems. On the other hand, this could lead to decreased quality of care for those patients who end up with these preventable injuries which no one is paying to treat. The number-crunchers in hospital administration might try to cut their loses by withholding appropriate and expensive care. It also seems that the patient could be caught in a tug-of-war between the hospitals and the insurers over whether or not something was preventable in the first place.

Bottom line, patients will end up getting screwed by this. Woe be to those in Texas, where the tort-deform insurance lobbyists and many of your elected representatives have just about driven the last nails into injured consumers' coffins.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Refinery Explosion in Big Spring, Texas

An Alon USA oil refinery in Big Spring exploded this morning. All workers are accounted for, according to CNN. No word yet on the environmental impact and property damage. I-20 is closed.

Something tells me explosions like this will become more commonplace. We seem to have had a rash of them lately.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Patriots Sued by Former Ram

What tha...?

A lawsuit filed Friday by a former St. Louis Rams player and others seeks millions of dollars in damages from the alleged taping of Rams practices by the New England Patriots before the 2002 Super Bowl.

The Patriots won the game 20-17 in the Superdome.

The $100 million suit, filed on behalf of former Rams player Willie Gary in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, names the Patriots, team owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Texas Pipeline Explosion

Just saw a report about multiple explosions involving gas pipelines in South Texas. The explosions occurred near the town of McCook in Hidalgo County, not far from the the U.S.- Mexico border.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jury Sides with BNSJ in Cancer Lawsuit

FWST covers the story here.

This seemed to me to be an incredibly challenging case. The wife of a long-time BNSF employee alleged that her stomach cancer was caused by years of cleaning chemicals off her husband's work clothes. He and other workers used creosote in making railroad ties and they testified that they often went home caked in the chemical. The plaintiffs apparently presented evidence linking creosote to the wife's cancer but it wasn't enough to overcome the defense that she had a pack-a-day cigarette habit.

Tough case, particularly in Tarrant County, home of BNSF. Hats off to the plaintiffs' attorneys for teeing it up, though.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Tragic Truck Wreck

A Tennessee minister, his wife and their two children died when an 18-wheeler hit their van as they were driving to help families devastated by last week's tornados in that state. Michael Welch, wife Julie, 11-year old daughter Hannah and 14-year old son Jesse died when a Wal-Mart truck slammed into the back of their van and pushed it into the car in front of them. Criminal charges are pending against the Wal-Mart driver.

In an interview just a few hours prior to his death, Rev. Welch said of his and other ministers' efforts to comfort families affected by the tornadoes, "We cling to God, because He's all we've got."


Car Hits Parked 18-Wheeler in Grapevine

Three men died when their car hit a parked 18-wheeler in Grapevine early Sunday morning. Police report that that truck was parked legally.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Next victim on Wal-Mart's path to world domination: Your local doctor

It seems Wal-Marts will now offer in-store medical clinics.

Wait a minute, you really want to get your health care at Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart? I can see it now:

"Honey, run get momma the 20 lb. bag of Wavy Lays and some Diet Coke while she's waitin' for the results of her angiogram."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Texas Trial Judges Weigh In On "Tort Reform"

Some smart professors at Baylor Law School were skeptical of all the anecdotal "evidence" used by the business and insurance lobbies to push for more restrictions on the rights of injured plaintiffs, so they decided to poll Texas trial judges about "frivolous lawsuits" and "runaway juries." Here is their conclusion, based on over 300 responses from judges across the state:

"The survey results confirm that most Texas trial judges do not see significant numbers of frivolous filings by people who have no business suing, and plaintiffs with legitimate suits are much more likely to be under compensated than to receive any windfall. Two primary goals for tort jurisprudence are for the victim to receive full compensation and to deter the tortfeasor, and when victims are not fully compensated and tortfeasors are not deterred, neither goal is met."

Amen, brothers.

Big Insurers Continue to Suck Your Blood

Just saw in the paper today that Aetna is joining Humana in deciding to no longer cover colonoscopy sedation. You can still have a colonoscopy, mind you; they just won't pay for you to be comfortable while it happens. Of course, the effect of this decision will be not just saving money by not covering sedation, but more importantly by not paying for colonoscopy procedures when more and more men say, "No sedation? No thanks."
I think I speak for most men when I say I want to be sedated out of my gourd when seeing Dr. Roto-Rooter. Aetna's spokesman wouldn't comment on this controversial decision, but was seen wiping fresh blood off of his chin.
This move by Big Insurance is symbolic on so many levels...

The American Jury: The Bulwark of Democracy

Jury service in the United States is unique among justice systems worldwide, so much so that American juries have been called the “bulwark of democracy.” In fact, our Founding Fathers believed trial by a jury of one’s peers to be of equal importance with representative government, and both concepts were integral in drafting the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Well over two hundred years later, Jefferson’s anchor still holds fast, despite repeated attempts to dislodge it.

But is the jury system at risk? Regretfully, yes. More and more arbitration clauses, anti-consumer legislation, and anecdotal horror stories about “frivolous lawsuits” and “out of control jury verdicts” have put a damper on the number of civil cases that go before a jury. Coincidentally, a recent nationwide poll shows that a majority of Americans do not mind jury service and view it as a privilege and an active part of democracy. It is ironic that in a time of declining access to the courthouse, most of us are willing to serve as jurors.

Quite simply, jurors level the playing field in the search for justice. My favorite fictional lawyer, Atticus Finch, says in that classic book To Kill a Mockingbird, “The only place where a man ought to get a square deal is in the courtroom.” How true. The next time you open the mail to find a jury summons, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on the importance of jury service and perhaps groan a little softer. And I hope your experience as a juror is rewarding and meaningful.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Judge Joe Bruce Cunningham, 1928-2008

The Tarrant County legal community lost a giant of a man last week with the death of Joe Bruce Cunningham, former judge of the 342nd District Court. Integrity, wisdom, and strength of character defined Joe Bruce on and off the bench. He was a fine man and a true gentleman.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Big rig hanging from Fort Worth freeway wall

FWST reports a tractor trailer wreck this morning at Western Center Boulevard and I35, where the rig ended up hanging over a wall near a southbound overpass. Yep, a truck hanging precariously off the side of a bridge will cause on-looker delay. North-bound folks better hope the wreck is cleared before heading home today.