Fashion show by spinal cord victims

This is a great event showing how people are making the most of life.

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Jury Duty Scam in Georgia - Beware!

  Warning! Jury Duty Scam in Georgia

Recently, I was made aware of people calling Georgians to mine for personal information under the pretext of jury duty.

This message is being forwarded from the Technology Office of the Georgia
> General Assembly. Please take heed.
> Rep. Virgil Fludd
> From: Henry, Scott
> Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 9:26 AM
> To: All Users
> Subject: Identity Theft
> Greetings everyone,
> We typically do not send out scam warnings however one of our users fell
> prey to this particular one yesterday. The unfortunate user has had to
> place fraud warnings on all of her credit cards and close accounts because
> of it so I thought we best let everyone know.
> The local FBI office said this was the first occurrence in Georgia so
> please have a look at it.
> Best regards,
> Scott
> _______________________
> This has been verified on (link listed below) and by the FBI
> (their link is also included below).
> Please pass this on to everyone in your email address book. It is
> spreading fast so be prepared should you get this call. Most of us take
> those summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their
> civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced.
> Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS. In this con,
> someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a
> warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for
> jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator. If you protest that you
> never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your
> Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the
> information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this
> information and bingo! Your identity just got stolen.
> The scam has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma ,
> Illinois , and Colorado . This (scam) is particularly insidious because
> they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving
> information by pretending they're with the court system. The FBI and the
> federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites,
> warning consumers about the fraud.
> Check it out here:
> "

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Negligent security verdict against MARTA

Jurors award woman $1.7M in MARTA rape

Jurors hit MARTA with a $1.7 million judgment Wednesday for a grandmother who was raped after being kidnapped from a parking garage at the MARTA Lindbergh station in Buckhead in June 2002.

The woman filed a civil suit against MARTA, contending that the transit agency had not properly secured its property.

But in an unusual court move, Fulton County Judge Craig Schwall on Tuesday blocked MARTA attorneys from mounting much of a defense. Jurors only had to settle on the amount the transit agency should pay.

Schwall said MARTA officials hadn't played fair with the woman's attorneys in the years leading up to the trial. He lashed out at the transit agency for not being able to produce documents to back up their claim that there were plenty of officers on duty the night the woman was abducted from the Buckhead parking deck.

"I will tell you it's a very brazen, intentional, deceitful act on the part of MARTA," Schwall said.

MARTA officials say they tossed out all police records from 2002, the year the woman was kidnapped, that would indicate how many officers were on duty the night of the crime and where they were posted.

They threw out the records because they moved their police precinct and didn't want to take old documents, MARTA attorney Tom Sampson said.

Sampson was disappointed with the jury's decision, he said, "but not surprised since we did not have an opportunity to present our case."

MARTA has a reserve fund to handle settlements and verdicts up to $5 million, officials said. The transit system's insurance covers anything larger.

MARTA board Chairman Ed Wall said the transit system was not treated fairly by the judge, and he hopes the transit system's attorneys appeal the case.

"He didn't even let us put on our case," Wall said. "It just doesn't seem fair at all. We had a vigorous defense. The only person to blame for that rape is the person who did it."

During a 2003 criminal trial, a Fulton jury convicted Bernard McCoy of rape and kidnapping. He is serving a sentence of life without parole plus 60 years.

Jury foreman Todd Kearney, 46, said the panel of six men and six women debated about six hours, with one juror suggesting an amount that would only cover the victim's medical expenses to others who tossed out a figure of $5 million.

And, at the heart of the case, the rape victim smiled as she left the courtroom, saying: "I'm happy, but this wasn't about the money. It was about security and their duty to the patrons."

The woman is not being named because she is a rape victim.

Outside the courtroom, some jurors lined up to hug the soft-spoken victim and shake hands with attorneys on both sides.

Some jurors lingered in the hallway to make personal pleas urging MARTA to improve its crime-reporting methods.

One juror, Anastasia Pass, 56, said: "There definitely needs to be changes at MARTA in terms of their internal reporting."

Another, Jason Williams, 37, who owns a dog grooming shop, shook hands outside the courtroom with a MARTA assistant police chief, saying: "I have to ask you to improve your internal reporting."

Assistant Chief Carol Johnson replied: "There's nothing wrong with it."

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great new Court of Appeals decision



Court of Appeals of



February 8, 2007

Smith, Presiding Judge. 
In this medical malpractice action, the jury found in favor of the defendants, Celio Burrowes and his professional corporation. The plaintiff, Howard Sellers, the surviving spouse of Martha Sellers and the administrator of her estate, appeals. In three enumerations, Sellers contends that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss two jurors for cause. We agree that the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the first juror for cause and must therefore reverse this case for a new trial.

In both civil and criminal cases,

the trial judge is the only person in a courtroom whose primary concern, indeed primary duty, is to ensure the selection of a fair and impartial jury. Because of this, trial courts have broad discretion to evaluate and rule upon a potential juror's impartiality, based upon the ordinary general rules of human experience, and a trial court may only be reversed upon a finding of “manifest abuse” of that discretion.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Kim v. Walls, 275 Ga. 177, 178 (563 S.E.2d 847) (2002). Viewed in this light, the record shows that the trial court conducted voir dire in the three phases: first, the trial court asked questions with regard to whether the jurors might be legally disqualified from serving based on a relationship with the parties or their attorneys or a financial interest in the outcome; second, the attorneys asked questions of the jurors as a group; third, the attorneys asked follow-up questions of individual jurors with the opportunity to do so in private at either the attorney's or the juror's request.

1. The first juror at issue in this case was juror number 14. When the jury pool was questioned as a whole, juror number 14 responded affirmatively to plaintiff's counsel's question as to whether “doctors should be given special protections and should be treated differently than other people who are treated in the same civil setting, tort type of a case, negligence type of a case.” When she was questioned individually, she explained why she thought doctors should get “special protections:”

I have three uncles who are doctors. My sister just graduated from medical school. And just like, given the number of people that they see, you know, in the medical profession in itself, I mean, if you are dealing with people, you are, you know, there's-no one answer solves all people. We are not machines. So, I mean, I just see that there might be a likelihood that people may make mistakes. And I don't see how they could be judged very harshly for those. So I'm a little partial to doctors.

When asked whether she could put her “beliefs and backgrounds aside and be fair and impartial based on what the evidence is and what the court charges,” she replied, “[t]he evidence would have to be very strong and very clear for me to decide against, I mean, for me to go against what I have told you.” Plaintiff's counsel then asked if she would have this belief “regardless of what the court tells you that the standard is?” The juror answered:

I guess, I guess I could try to keep in mind what the court says. It's just that, you know, I come already with a frame of mind that it might require additional work on one part to convince me otherwise. You know, like I just, I come with this understanding that just from seeing my uncles and, you know, they've been parts of lawsuits. And, I mean, things happen, you know.

At this point, plaintiff's counsel ended his questioning and defense counsel asked if the juror could set aside her personal feelings and “be governed by what the judge tells you is the standard····” The juror stated “It would require effort and, you know, and policy [sic] on my part not to let my feelings override.” Defense counsel asked again if she “could do that for us” and the juror responded “I would have to keep policy [sic] myself in the course of five days. I don't know. You know, I'm not sure if I can be. I mean, I'm just being candid.” The juror added, “I hate to say, I have a stereotype in my head. But just, you know, from personal experiences.”

Defense counsel then attempted to rehabilitate the juror as follows:

We are just looking to try and get fair and impartial folks. And that's the object of this. But, also, all of us come in here ··· with some ideas and opinions that we have formulated from our life experience, from our families and other things. And this forum here is really where you sort of lay all that aside. And the court tells you and we hope that people are sophisticated enough and are able to understand that enough to put those aside. Otherwise all of us would be unable to ever look and analyze and make a decision in this context.

The juror then agreed that she “follow[ed]” what defense counsel was saying and stated that “maybe” she would be able to do it.

After a break in which other jurors were questioned, plaintiff's counsel resumed questioning the juror. She once again explained her bias in favor of doctors in general:

Just my overall view is that, you know, doctors deal with people. And each individual is different. And, you know, the chemical composition and everything is different. It's unlikely that they can predict with 100 percent certainty how a procedure is going to go for every single person.

The other thing, also is, given like the, you know, new practices of the insurance companies and how they pay doctors and how the insurance companies, the way they pay doctors, they pay them through-the legal results as soon as possible. I mean, you can't really expect, you know, a human being, you know, people aren't perfect, to work on a consistently fast pace and not make any mistakes.

When asked if she could set these feelings aside after being instructed about the law, the juror acknowledged that she would not favor the doctor's position before she heard any evidence. However, she also stated, “the evidence will have to be very, very strong in order for me to change my mind.”

When defense counsel asked her again if she could be fair and impartial, she replied that while she wanted an opportunity to serve as juror, in “this particular case, I don't think I'm the best person ··· I think that doctors should be given-I hate to use the word slack, but, I mean, they should be given a little bit of lenience and understanding just because of the speed in which they have to do things and the uniqueness of the human body.”

At this point, the trial court stepped in and explained to the juror that

the standard of care takes into account the speed at which doctors, the unpredictability of patients. There are national standards. Doctors are going to come in this case and tell the jury what their opinion is of national standards, which should account for the very things that you're concerned about. If you knew the case was about applying national standards to this doctor's treatment of this gentleman's wife, does that make you feel that you could fairly assess the evidence and apply the law?

The juror replied, “It's hard to say. But I understand now the concept.” Even after the judge's explanation, the juror persisted in her belief that she would require “clear and convincing proof” in a case against a doctor and that if she “had doubts about the evidence, [she] would find in favor of the doctor.”

At the conclusion of the voir dire, plaintiff's counsel moved to strike the juror for cause and the trial court denied it. Sellers exhausted his peremptory strikes and used one of them to strike juror number 14.

Sellers contends that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to dismiss juror number 14, and we agree.

Running through the entire fabric of our


decisions is a thread which plainly indicates that the broad general principle intended to be applied in every case is that each juror shall be so free from either prejudice or bias as to guarantee the inviolability of an impartial trial. If error is to be committed, let it be in favor of the absolute impartiality and purity of the jurors.

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Guoth v. Hamilton, 273 Ga.App. 435, 437(1) (615 S.E.2d 239) (2005). While there is a presumption “that potential jurors are impartial,” Sellers rebutted that presumption in this case. Brown v. Columbus Doctors Hospital, 277 Ga.App. 891, 893 (627 S.E.2d 805) (2006). Despite the best efforts of the trial court and defense counsel to rehabilitate this juror, she did not budge from her belief that she would find in favor of the doctor absent “clear and convincing proof” and that she would resolve any doubts in the evidence in favor of the doctor. As the juror aptly stated, in “this particular case, I don't think I'm the best person” to serve as a juror.

Because the trial court abused its discretion by failing to dismiss juror number 14 for cause and Sellers exhausted his peremptory strikes, Sellers is entitled to a new trial. See Guoth, supra, 273 Ga.App. at 440(1).

2. Our holding in Division 1 renders Sellers' remaining enumerations of error moot.

Judgment reversed. Ruffin and Phipps, JJ., concur.

--- S.E.2d ----, 2007 WL 416297 (Ga.App.)

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

All State and State Farm fight claims

Anderson Cooper's show on CNN took a close look at how insurance companies handle personal injury claims.

Insurance companies fight paying billions in claims

Put yourself in the driver's seat of this accident. You are heading down the street when a truck comes out of nowhere and slams into the right side of your car. The damage to the vehicle is obvious: dents across the passenger door. You are hurt too, thought it's not obvious how much: a slight cut above your eye, an ache in the neck. Your doctor says your spine was injured, you have soft muscle tears, and the pain in your neck mostly likely is whiplash.

It's going to need therapy, she says, and some time off work to heal. And in the end it's going to cost you $15,000 in medical payments and another $10,000 in lost wages, because you took so much time off work.

But when you send the $25,000 bill to the insurance company of the person who hit you, the insurance company says it's only going to pay you $15,000. You can take it or leave it.

What do you do?

That's what producer Kathleen Johnston and I have been investigating for the last 18 months -- accidents most of us don't pay attention to, the fender-benders we pass by without even slowing down. In part, we looked at how Allstate handled the claim of one woman, Roxanne Martinez. Her car was hit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her medical bills and lost wages added up to $25,000.

Allstate offered $15,000 to settle. Roxanne Martinez didn't know what to do.

Sure, she could try to find a lawyer. But if you were in her shoes, would you? After all, you are fighting insurance giant Allstate over a $10,000 difference. What attorney is going to take on that case?

Martinez's case represents what 10 of the top 12 auto insurance companies are doing to save money. And if you are in a minor impact crash and get hurt, former insurance industry insiders say, insurance companies will most likely try doing the same thing to you: delay handling your claim, deny you were hurt and defend their decision in drawn-out court battles. It's the three Ds: delay, deny and defend.

That, in a nutshell, is the strategy adopted by several major auto insurance companies over the past ten years, a lot of lawyers, former insurance company insiders and others tell CNN.

With nowhere to go, Allstate and others bet you'll take what they offer and walk away. It's right in the training manuals we obtained from Allstate: force "smaller walk-away settlements."

Shannon Kmatz, a former claims adjuster for Allstate, told us she would offer as little as $50 dollars in some cases. Poor people would take it, she said, fearing that if they didn't, they'd get nothing at all.

Roxanne Martinez didn't take it. She sued and a jury awarded her $167,000 dollars. But that verdict took three years.

Allstate is betting you won't wait, you won't sue and you'll take what you get and walk-away. And that, say our experts, has been a good bet for Allstate and others. Accident victims have been walking away from billions of dollars that insurers now keep for themselves.

Allstate would not grant an interview or answer our questions. Instead, they sent an e-mail saying they didn't think CNN would deliver a fair report. I hope you will watch our report tonight and decide for yourself who is being fair.

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Age & sex important factors in car wreck injuries

    According to a  recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, engineers at Purdue University have determined that a person’s age and gender play a big role in how serious the injuries are in car wrecks.  This study, published in the Journal of Safety Research suggests that car makers design the vehicles to take into account the height and weight of the driver.  This can be done with existing sensor technology.

    According to the study, younger male drivers with passengers in the car were much more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries when they are in a crash than older men or women of all age groups

    Another noteworthy finding - not using safety belts more than doubled the likelihood of injury.

    A full copy of the article, Car crash injuries vary with age, gender, can be seen at

January 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)


Speech by Senator Harry Reid opposing limiting damages for victims of medical malpractice

    Mr. President, I rise to object to the Republican medical malpractice bills before the Senate today. These measures do not represent a serious attempt to improve health care or civil justice in the United States. Moving to these bills is a tired political exercise, and the Senate should reject it out of hand.

    To think with American consumers paying over 3 dollars for gas, with college tuition moving beyond the reach of many in the middle-class, with the Iraq war dead approaching 2,500, with immigration a security crisis unresolved, with our country's deficit standing at 9 trillion dollars, with 46 million Americans lacking health care coverage, we are moving to bills that are unnecessary and go nowhere. It is wrong.
    We could more profitably use the scarce time remaining in the 109th Congress tackling the urgent challenges facing America's families: energy, the war, immigration, and the real health care crisis.
    Both of these bills the Senate will consider today contain the same one-size-fits-all cap on damages that this body has rejected time and time again. Both contain the same unjustified protections for hospitals, HMOs and insurance companies from previously discarded bills. In fact, these proposals are virtually identical to legislation we turned aside three times last Congress. These bills are the same old song.
    Even though these measures would dramatically rewrite the tort laws of all 50 states, and even though they would denigrate the legal rights of countless Americans, they have undergone no serious legislative review in this Congress. Don't be fooled by the low bill numbers –- S. 22 and S. 23 were simply placeholders for legislative text that was only formally introduced last Wednesday. In fact, the text of these bills was not even available online until two days ago. The Majority Leader used a procedure we call "Rule 14" to bring these bills straight to the Senate floor to avoid consideration by either the Judiciary Committee or the Health Committee.

    There has not been a single committee hearing. There has not been a single witness... Not a single opportunity to amend, or a single opportunity to improve, compromise or negotiate. With this insurance industry legislation, every step of the process has been abandoned.

    Why has the Majority proceeded in this manner? Because this is not a serious exercise in legislating, it is a political stunt being performed for the sole purpose of allowing Republicans to go back to their special interest friends and say "look what we have tried to do to help." But even they should not be fooled by these transparent theatrics.

    The Majority is short-circuiting the committee process because of the illusion of a medical malpractice "crisis."  Mr. President, there is a health care crisis in this country, but it has nothing to do with tort laws. It is a crisis when 46 million Americans have no health insurance. It is a crisis when health care is too costly for average Americans. It is a crisis when medical errors are the sixth leading cause of death in America. But not a single provision in this legislation will provide health insurance to the uninsured, lower healthcare costs, or make patients safer.

    In reality, the whole premise of a medical malpractice "crisis" is unfounded. Over the weekend, I reviewed an insightful book entitled "The Medical Malpractice Myth" by Professor Tom Baker and published by the University of Chicago Press. The author is a Professor of Law and Director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut Law School. Both his father and father-in-law are doctors. He is not affiliated with the trial lawyer association –- actually, he is often a consultant for the insurance industry.

    In this book, Professor Baker methodically debunks the most common myths in the medical malpractice debate:


Myth No. 1: "Lawyers, not doctors, cause malpractice"

    Professor Baker presents numerous studies demonstrating that the real problem is too much malpractice, not too much litigation. Of course most doctors are skilled professionals who do not commit malpractice. But just as there are a few rotten apples in every basket, there are a small number of unskilled or careless doctors in every state. Unfortunately they do not always come to the attention of licensing boards, and some move from state to state to avoid disciplinary action.

    These rotten-apple doctors should be held accountable, and the victims of their negligence deserve to be compensated.


Myth No. 2: "Lawsuits make health care unaffordable"

    Professor Baker demonstrates that medical malpractice rates are based more on the cyclical nature of the stock market than on malpractice verdicts. When insurance company investments lose money, the companies raise the rates they charge doctors to compensate for the loss.

    As a result, caps on damages do not reduce insurance premiums in the long run. For the most part, insurance rates have not gone down in those states that have capped damages. In my state of Nevada, for example, where legislators convened a special session in 2002 to set a cap of $350,000 on pain and suffering damages, OB/GYN malpractice premiums are 37 percent higher than in states without caps; general surgery premiums are 52 percent higher; and internal medicine premiums are 44 percent higher. In fact, since 2001, claims paid by Nevada's largest insurer have dropped 16.7 percent while premiums have increased 32.2 percent.

    From 2000 to 2005, the net payouts of malpractice insurers declined 3.1 percent. But over the same period in which payouts were declining, net insurance premiums increased 93.2 percent. So claims decreased, but the companies doubled premiums.

    Even if caps on damages did affect malpractice premiums, there is no reason to believe that caps would make health care more affordable overall. According to the Congressional Budget Office, malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of overall health care spending. If a reduction of 25-30 percent in malpractice costs were attainable, it would lower health care costs by only about 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent.


Myth No. 3: "Lawsuits deny access to care"

    Despite the century-old complaint that lawsuits drive doctors from their practices, the medical profession continues to grow each year, and applications to medical schools have increased. The number of physicians in the US has increased every year since 1996, from about 738,000 in 1996 to almost 885,000 in 2004.

    In 2003, the non-partisan General Accounting Office surveyed five states repeatedly cited by the AMA as examples of communities suffering from shortages of care because doctors are fleeing. The report concluded that such claims are wildly overstated: "Many of the reported physician actions and hospital- based service reductions were not substantiated or did not widely affect access to health care." Where doctor shortages exist, they are due to population shifts and the reluctance of doctors to practice in rural and low-income areas.

    In any event, caps on damages do not change the availability of physicians. States without caps on damages have more doctors per capita and 14 percent more active physicians than states with caps on damages.

    For example, the number of OB-GYNs in the United States has increased by nearly 25 percent -– from 33,000 in 1990 to 42,000 in 2004. But in Nevada, where we have caps on damages, there are 27 percent fewer OB/GYNs than in states that don't have caps.


Myth No. 4: "Lawsuits cause doctors to practice wasteful defensive medicine"

    Professor Baker devotes a whole chapter to "defensive medicine" and concludes that it is largely an urban myth. For example, he cites reports from the Congressional Budget Office and the former congressional Office of Technology Assessment that question estimates of defensive medicine. CBO specifically concluded that any savings from reducing defensive medicine would be small at best.


Myth No. 5: "Most lawsuits are frivolous"

    Not every lawsuit has merit, but the tort system has plenty of mechanisms for weeding out frivolous claims. According to Professor Baker, "(m)ost undeserving claims disappear before trial; most trials end in a verdict for the doctor; doctors almost never pay claims out of their own pockets; and hospitals and insurance companies refuse to pay claims unless there is good evidence of malpractice."

    At the same time, the assertion that there exists an "explosion" in medical malpractice payouts in recent years is untrue. The average verdict size is relatively low and has remained stable. A study by Americans for Insurance Reform found payments have been virtually flat since the mid-1980s. As it is, Americans use the civil justice system as a last resort, going to court after all other efforts have failed.

    For these reasons, Professor Baker concludes that the medical malpractice "risis" is the product of exaggeration and distortion. But even if there were a medical malpractice problem that needed to be cured, these bills are not the right medicine. S. 22 and S. 23 are riddled with major flaws. I will highlight only a few of the most egregious aspects of the bills.

    First, S. 22 and S. 23 would impose an unreasonably low $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages. Proponents of these bills claim that the cap is $750,000, but in the typical case where there is a single negligent party the cap remains $250,000.

    In cases where the wrong limb is amputated, or a patient is paralyzed for life, or a mother loses a child, $250,000 is grossly inadequate compensation. And it's even worse under S. 23: Under this bill, the life of a woman rendered sterile by the gross negligence of an OB/GYN is worth less than that of a man mistakenly sterilized.

    Second, these bills discriminate against women. By capping pain and suffering, while simultaneously preserving full compensation for lost wages and salary, these bills de-value the worth of homemakers and stay-at-home parents. For instance, a homemaker whose reproductive system is destroyed by negligent treatment would only suffer non-economic losses, which are arbitrarily capped by the bill.

    At the same time, the bills limit punitive damages, a change which disproportionately affects women patients. Punitive damages are very rare in malpractice cases, but the cases where they occur often involve sexual abuse of a female patient.

    Third, the bills unjustifiably protect large corporations that own nursing homes from liability when they abuse or kill their patients. The National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform released a new book, "The Faces of Neglect: Behind the Closed Doors of Nursing Homes" which profiles the heartbreaking experiences of 36 Americans who have suffered from abuse or neglect while in long-term care facilities.

    The book includes the story of Barbara Salerno, a Reno, Nevada woman whose father died in a nursing home. Although he suffered from kidney failure and pneumonia, the nursing home failed to provide proper medical care. Ms. Salerno's father died a prolonged, painful and undignified death. The only way this California nursing home was held accountable was through a lawsuit. S. 22 seeks to take away that right.

    The numbers of seniors who could be hurt by this bill are staggering. According to the GAO, 300,000 elderly and disabled residents live in chronically deficient nursing homes where they are "at risk of harm due to woefully deficient care." 26.2 percent of nursing homes nationwide were cited for violations related to quality of care by regulatory agencies in 2004, yet this bill gives sweeping liability protections to these negligent facilities.

    Fourth, these bills are an affront to federalism. Republicans love to talk about states' rights, except when they want to impose their federal solution on all 50 states. More than half of all states have already enacted malpractice reforms, but these bills override those state legislative decisions. Specifically, this bill preempts those states that have debated a cap on damages and decided against that step.

    For these and other reasons, the pending bills are objectionable. In fact, the entire concept of medical malpractice reform is misguided -- the right way to bring down malpractice insurance premiums is to reform the insurance industry, which is badly in need of oversight.

    A study commissioned by the Center for Justice and Democracy showed that insurance premiums more than doubled between 2000 and 2004 even though claims pay-outs remained essentially flat. Given this price gouging, it is little wonder that the profits of the nation's five largest medical malpractice insurers rose by 17.7 percent in 2005 -– more than double the Fortune 500 average.

    We need to strengthen federal oversight of insurance industry practices that contribute to these rises in malpractice premiums. Unfortunately the insurance industry enjoys almost complete immunity from the federal antitrust laws, and using this exemption, insurance companies can collude to set rates, resulting in higher premiums than true competition would achieve. Federal enforcement officials cannot investigate any such collusion because of the exemption.

    The exemption came about during the Depression with the McCarran-Ferguson Act, named after Senator Pat McCarran of Nevada. This Act was passed to give a few years of relief to the insurance industry. Now, some 70 years later, insurance companies are the only businesses -- other than major league baseball -- not subject to the antitrust laws. The rationale for this exemption has long since passed. Insurance should be subject to federal antitrust laws like every other businesses in America.

    I am proud to support Senator Leahy's bill to accomplish this goal.

    In sum, to pretend that these medical malpractice bills have anything to do with making health care more affordable is nothing but a cruel joke. These bills override the sound judgment of state legislatures and juries and substitute the arbitrary judgment of Congress.

    We should not reward insurance companies making record profits. We should help doctors by reforming the insurance industry rather than undermining the legal rights of seriously injured malpractice victims.

    I intend to vote against cloture on the motions to proceed to S. 22 and S.23, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

Michael L. Neff
The Law Offices of Michael L. Neff, P.C.
Two Ravinia Drive
Suite 1570
Atlanta, Georgia 30346
WWW.MLNLAW.COM - A law firm whose mission is to provide aggressive, competent and caring representation to personal injury victims.

May 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More tort reform smoke and mirrors

Doctors not moving to Mexico?

    It appears that Georgia’s and the rest of the country’s doctors aren’t really closing down their medical practices as frequently as some people have claimed.  Two reports in the June 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association conclude that the high costs of malpractice insurance rarely drive physicians to move their practices out of state.

    The article refers to a May 2003 survey of 824 Pennsylvania-based physicians who worked in 6 medical specialties that have a high risk of lawsuits (emergency medicine, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and radiology)

    The survey was conducted by Dr. David M. Studdert from Harvard School of Public Health.   Dr. Studdert chose Pennsylvania because medical malpractice insurance rates were rising rapidly there.  Co-author Dr. William M. Sage stated "It has been a claim of pro tort reform stakeholders that if you do not enact malpractice reform in a state, then doctors will leave the state." Dr. Sage continued, "We found instead that there is a 3.3% greater supply of physicians in states that have capped malpractice compared with states that haven't," he said. "3% is relatively modest in the big picture. It's not as if simply capping malpractice damages is going to eliminate all problems with access to health care."

    The studies show that "there are deep unaddressed problems in identifying medical errors and compensating medical injury that no one wants to confront," Sage said.
He believes that there should be systems that "identify patient injury, tell patients what happened right away and offer compensation up front. If there is a dispute, it should be dealt with in some way other than litigation, some administrative process that is likely to be quicker and cheaper and better for all involved."

    Of course, how much compensation to offer them is not addressed.  Typically the role of a jury is to determine fault and the amount of compensation an injured person should receive.  How will an administrative process that is “quicker and cheaper” evaluate a person’s losses?

    Dr. Peter P. Budetti, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City remarked, "Medicine's 30-year pursuit of piecemeal tort reform has had some results, but not all the consequences have been positive and serious problems with the quality of medical care have not been ameliorated."

For more access to the full article see:

Michael Neff
The Law Offices of Michael L. Neff, P.C.
Two Ravinia Drive
Suite 1570
Atlanta, Georgia 30346
WWW.MLNLAW.COM - A law firm whose mission is to provide aggressive, competent and caring representation to personal injury victims.

April 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jury Duty Scam - Beware!

Jury Duty Scam - Protect your personal information!

Most of us take those summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of SCAM has surfaced. Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS.

In this SCAM someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.

If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers. If you give out any of this information - your identity just got stolen. DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION!!!!

Fortunately, I am not aware that this has been reported in Georgia. So far it has occurred in in 11 states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado. This SCAM is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try and bully people into giving information by pretending they're with the court system. The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their websites, warning consumers about the fraud. Contact your police department if it happens to you and if your phone has Caller ID and shows a phone number give this to the authorities. Check it out here:

Michael L. Neff

The Law Offices of Michael L. Neff, P.C.
Two Ravinia Drive
Suite 1570
Atlanta, Georgia 30346
WWW.MLNLAW.COM - A law firm whose mission is to provide aggressive, competent and caring representation to personal injury victims.

April 26, 2006 in Safety Tip | Permalink | Comments (0)

Costs of healthcare

Are Lawsuits dramatically running up the costs of healthcare?  What about rich compensation for insurance company executives?  Its interesting that the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t complained about the $1.6 billion compensation through options for United Health’s CEO William McGuire. Is $1.6 billion maybe a little excessive for a company that makes its money cutting costs?

More commenatary at:
Michael L. Neff
The Law Offices of Michael L. Neff, P.C.
Two Ravinia Drive
Suite 1570
Atlanta, Georgia 30346
WWW.MLNLAW.COM - A law firm whose mission is to provide aggressive, competent and caring representation to personal injury victims.

April 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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