Sunday, March 30, 2008

Props to Winter Park, Colorado

Just got back with the family from Winter Park, Colorado. What a great time. Snow was great, people were friendly, lift lines were manageable. It's been 25 years since I was last in Winter Park and I forgot what a neat ski resort it is. Certainly not stuffy or snooty like some places. Note to self: 11-year old daughter now skis better and faster than me...9-year old daughter not far behind. Next time, remember to take lots of ibuprofen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Congress would save a lot of time and tax dollars if...

...they'd let civil lawsuits and juries take care of problems like KBR and Halliburton.

A congressional committee is investigating what role defense contractor KBR played in the accidental electrocution of at least a dozen soldiers in Iraq during the past five years. The inquiry stems from whether KBR, which is contracted to maintain housing for troops, properly repaired electrical and plumbing problems. The family of at least one soldier electrocuted in KBR-maintained housing has filed a lawsuit against the contractor.

No doubt KBR will try to hide behind some liability protection (that is, responsibility-avoidance) law set up by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Baristas Win Lawsuit Against Starbucks Over Tips

A California judge has ruled that Starbucks Corp. must pay baristas in that state more than $100 million for forcing them to share tips with shift supervisors. San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett also found that state law prohibits managers and supervisors from profiting from employee gratuities and issued an injunction to stop the practice. Starbucks said it plans to appeal the judge's ruling.

I hope Starbucks doesn't turn into Wal-Mart. I gotta have my daily grande non-fat latte from the store down the street. The coffee is good but I stop there because of the friendly baristas (shout out to Vikki and crew at Montgomery Plaza).

Treat the employees right and I won't have to initiate my one-man boycott like I did with Wal-Mart (whose stock plunged when I announced that I would no longer shop there).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Girl Whose Disembowelment Led To Pool Legislation Dies

OMAHA, Neb. -- A 6-year-old girl who underwent a rare transplant surgery after her intestines were sucked out in a swimming pool has died in an Omaha hospital.

Abigail Taylor's family said she died Thursday evening. Bob Bennett is an attorney for the Taylor family. He said Abigail's parents were with her when she died at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

NMC's Paul Baltes confirmed to KETV NewsWatch 7 that Abigail died at the hospital, where she has been under care since the operation. Baltes was not sure whether an autopsy or exact cause of death would be released to the public.

Abigail was injured when she sat on a pool drain, and its powerful suction ripped out part of her intestinal tract on June 29. She underwent transplant surgery in December at the Nebraska hospital to receive a new small bowel, liver and pancreas.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported in November that Taylor's family filed suit against the pool manufacturer and the Minneapolis Golf Club.

"The suit blamed both the club, located in St. Louis Park, Minn, and Sta-Rite Industries, a pool equipment manufacturer owned by a Golden Valley company, for the accident, in which 21 feet of Abigail Taylor's small intestine were sucked out when she landed on an uncovered suction outlet in the kiddie pool in June," the paper reported.

In December, President George W. Bush signed The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, according to The legislation provides incentives for states to adopt comprehensive pool safety laws that will protect children from life-threatening injuries and deaths from potentially dangerous pool and spa drains.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Big Business as Usual at the Texas Supreme Court

Good editorial in today's Houston Chronicle from Alex Winslow of Texas Watch:

Recent reports paint an ugly picture of irresponsible behavior by oil and chemical companies in Texas and across the country. In response to the BP Texas City tragedy, the federal agency responsible for policing workplace safety has started a review of the safety habits of U.S. refineries. The preliminary results paint a picture of carelessness, including 11 violations at a Port Arthur refinery. Meanwhile, the chemical industry continues to thumb its nose at Mayor Bill White's call to reduce caustic benzene emissions in and around Houston.

The backdrop to all of this is Entergy v. Summers, a recent Texas Supreme Court decision allowing oil, chemical and manufacturing interests to escape accountability when they fail to ensure the safety of their work sites. When they cut corners on workplace safety, oil and chemical companies not only place their workers at risk, they also endanger the communities that surround the plants through increased chances of violent workplace and environmental disasters. The Texas Supreme Court has a chance to reconsider its position, and it should do so. In the meantime, big oil and chemical industries need to clean up their acts by putting public, workplace and environmental safety first.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

$590 million for daughter, slain mom’s estate

RENO, Nev. - A jury awarded a $590 million wrongful death judgment Tuesday to the young daughter of a woman killed by her estranged husband and to the slain woman's estate.

Darren Mack, once a wealthy pawn shop owner, is serving a life sentence for the June 2006 killing of his wife and shooting of the couple's divorce judge.

Under the award in the wrongful death lawsuit, $530 million will go to the couple's young daughter, Erika, and the rest will go to the estate of his slain wife, Charla, said Hans Jessup, administrator for the Washoe County court.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Doctors cleared in actor Ritter's death

A California jury cleared a cardiologist and a radiologist Friday of negligence in the diagnosis and treatment of actor John Ritter, who died of a torn aorta in 2003.

Jurors said the majority believed the cardiologist summoned to the hospital after Ritter was diagnosed with a heart attack had no time to order a chest X-ray that might have found the tear.

They also said the radiologist, who gave Ritter a body scan two years earlier, did advise Ritter of coronary problems and to consult other doctors, but his failure to do so did not cause his death.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Follow-Up on Dennis Quaid's Kids

Actor Dennis Quaid recently appeared on "60 Minutes" to discuss his kids' medical malpractice case (follow the link to a video clip of part of his interview with Steve Kroft).

Quaid twins Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace nearly died last November at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles when they were mistakenly given a massive drug overdose.

Quaid believes such mistakes occur too often. "They happen in every hospital in every state in this country and…I've come to find out, there's 100,000 people a year hospitals by medical mistakes," he tells Kroft. "It’s bigger than AIDS. It’s bigger than breast cancer. It’s bigger than automobile accidents and yet, no one seems to be really aware of the problem," says Quaid.

The Quaid twins were mistakenly given the drug Heparin, an adult-strength blood thinner, instead of Hep-lock, a version of the drug a thousand times weaker that’s routinely used to clear IV lines in pediatric patients. It caused the infants, who were in the hospital for a suspected infection, serious hemorrhaging. "Our kids are bleeding from everyplace that they've punctured…They were working on Boone, whose belly button would not stop bleeding…blood squirted across the room…. It was blood everywhere," recalls Quaid. "It was a life-and-death situation."

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jamie Jones' files suit against Halliburton

Jamie Jones, the young woman who alleges that she was drugged and raped by her Halliburton/KBR co-workers while she was in Iraq, has filed suit in federal court in Houston. Halliburton wants to force Jones's claims into arbitration per her employment contract, which is outrageous given the inquities of arbitration against the plaintiff.

Halliburton's attorneys argued that the contract Jones signed binds her to settle all claims - including claims of sexual assault - against her former employer through arbitration. In the next breath, they argue that her claims were not related to her employment, despite her allegations that Halliburton co-workers raped her in Halliburton barracks.

Defense attorneys also chortle over the fact that Jones has changed her story "several times." Well then, tough guys, you shouldn't fear trying her case to a jury, should you? Go win it the old fashioned way through good lawyering and tough cross-examination, not through a private arbitrator who always rules for the employer.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Truck Loses Load at I30 and Loop 12 in Dallas

NBC reporting that at least one person has been injured in Dallas when a tractor-trailer lost its load of lumber ear I-30 and Loop 12. What a mess. Photos here.

"Forget that Day in Court"

Excellent piece in yesterday's Los Angeles Times describing how arbitration is supplanting jury trials. Here's an excerpt:

Tort reform is a game of bait-and-switch in which ordinary citizens have been snookered by carefully orchestrated and relentless propaganda into seeing a phantom boogeyman in the much-reviled "trial lawyer" who brings "frivolous lawsuits" to "runaway juries" that render "out of control verdicts" in "judicial hellholes," making insurance rates and the costs of all goods and services go up. Well, none of those expenses have gone down, have they? All the while, the real target was the justice system set up by our founders to protect the average citizen, and now it is in serious peril.

Well said, Ms. Garrity.