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Fraud – Court Finds Defendants & Defense Law Firm Hid Evidence

September 17, 2014

This is epic! There are often times when I suspect a defense firm of playing not entirely by the rules, but those suspicions always remain at the suspicion stage and do not end up translating themselves into actual proof of malfeasance–although it is not the result of a lack of trying, it is just that either we are overly suspicious or those who do this sort off the rules acts are just very good at it. This finding however, makes me feel that perhaps I am not overly suspicious… Read on!

Last week, an extraordinary decision was issued by the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in an asbestos case, which really should rock the corporate defense bar. In the case, Kimberlee Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalysts LLC, et al., asbestos victims provided evidence to the court that “that BASF and ['the New York law firm that defended it for years in asbestos cases, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP'] systematically collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products produced by a BASF predecessor, Engelhard, in order to evade liability and forge quick settlements.” See more here. It was enough evidence to revive a fraud case against BASF and its law firm for “lying about the toxic material, then depriving those injured by it of their day in court.”

This federal decision comes in the wake of fraud allegations made against a company called Garlock Sealing Technologies, which makes asbestos-containing gaskets. In that case, victims’ lawyers were initially accused of withholding certain information from Garlock – an absurd claim because, as I wrote in an earlier post, the supposedly “withheld” information was already in the company’s possession. If I were accused of committing fraud when I did no such thing, I’d start looking into it. And that’s exactly what happened, leading to a brief filed in June by Caplin & Drysdale, finding a ton of evidence proving the exact opposite to be true; that Garlock was the party that “violated [the judges'] discovery orders, hid evidence from the bankruptcy court and presented false testimony …. ‘Garlock has committed a fraud upon the court,’ the accompanying memo said in its first sentence.'” It’s a brutal brief, which you can read here.

via Corporate Lawyers Breaking Bad | Joanne Doroshow.

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Personal Injury Trial – Court Orders Defendant to Show Why Records Should Remain Sealed

September 15, 2014

secret

Secret

They say Democracy dies in secrecy and transparency helps promote it. Unless we are talking about protection of trade secrets (an am trying to be as lenient as possible) I see no reason why the Public should not have access to the documents that have been filed in Court and should presumably be open for the public’s scrutiny.

In United States ex rel. Harman v. Trinity, a federal whistleblower case involving dangerously defective highway guardrails, the court has ordered Trinity Industries, Inc. to show why records in the case should remain sealed from public view after the trial. Over the course of the case, dozens of key briefs and pleadings were filed under seal without any showing that secrecy was warranted, in violation of the public’s presumptive right of access to court records. The secret documents may contain important information on the safety of Trinity’s guardrails, which have been linked to numerous deaths and serious injuries.

The court’s order was issued in response to a motion to intervene and unseal filed by Public Justice on behalf of two non-profit safety groups, the Center for Auto Safety and The Safety Institute. The nonprofits are seeking to open the records because of the serious safety risks posed by hundreds of thousands of guardrails that have been installed in all fifty states – with federal financial assistance – to protect people in highway crashes. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap denied the motion to intervene on Sept. 4, but at the same time he affirmed the groups’ contention that Trinity must justify why these important records are shielded from public view.

Judge Gilstrap wrote: “the Court takes seriously the public’s right of access regarding trials and evidence presented in judicial proceedings, as well as the Court’s role in enforcing such access. Accordingly, following the trial and return of a verdict in this case, the Court will enter an Order requiring the parties to show good cause why previously sealed testimony, evidence or other material should remain under seal.”

via Court Orders Defendant in Guardrail Whistleblower Case to Show Why Records Should Remain Sealed | Public Justice.

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Medical Malpractice – Feds Will Release Hospital Mistake Data

September 9, 2014

This is very important news. Releasing publicly and naming providers who commit easily preventable mistakes such as leaving a foreign object inside a patient after a surgery is done will go a long way in helping these Hospitals to improve their practices. The important thins to remember is that these are mistakes that are preventable and leads to patient death or further injuries and complications.

This is very different and distinct from an operation that does not lead to an expected result–medicine is an art and human body is a complicated machine and bad results may occur absent any sort of negligence.

Federal regulators are reversing course and will resume publicly releasing data on hospital mistakes, including when foreign objects are left in patients’ bodies or people get the wrong blood type.

USA TODAY reported last month that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly stopped publicly reporting a host of life-threatening mistakes, after denying in 2013 that it would do so.

CMS says it will make this data on eight “hospital-acquired conditions” HACs available on its website.

“We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mail. “It’s been requested, so we will make it available.”

via Feds reverse course, will release hospital mistake data.

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Insurance – Napa Rushes to Fix Quake Damage

August 27, 2014

Wineries and hospitality businesses in and around Napa, California, near the epicenter of the worst earthquake to hit the area in 25 years, rushed to clean up rubble and broken glass ahead of the expected influx of tourists for a drought-accelerated grape harvest.“We are right in the thick of it,” said Steve Matthiasson, a Napa-based grape grower and vintner who produces wine under the Matthiasson label. “It could not be a worse time” for a quake.

via Napa rushes to fix quake damage as drought means early harvest | PropertyCasualty360.

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Medical Malpractice

July 20, 2014

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Motorcycle Personal Injury – Plaintiff Awarded $5.4M Against Government

July 8, 2014

motorcycle-accident

motorcycle-accident

I see this happening all the time. A City or a City owned entity simply refuses to even negotiate a reasonable settlement, preferring to take the matter all the way to trial instead of coming to the table where reason can prevail and chances are that a settlement for a lesser amount can be reached. Unfortunately, this strong arm tactic works in the long run. Because, even if the defendant ends up paying more in litigation cost and/or verdict amount, knowing the defendant hardline position serves as a warning to others who may want to file a lawsuit against this defendant that they will be in for the long haul. That alone, probably causes many trial lawyers to forgo taking on cases where the liability may be hard to prove or damages too small to worth the lengthy battle.

A judge in San Diego awarded $5.4 million in damages against the US government and in favor of a motorcyclist, whose severe injuries in a collision with an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent ended his music recording career.After a four-day trial, US District Court Judge Larry H. Burns of the Southern District of California, awarded over $6.3 million on July 20, 2014 to John B. Hendrickson of Chula Vista, CA. The judge apportioned fault 85% to the U.S. Government and 15% to Hendrickson, for a net verdict of nearly $5.4 million.

[...]

“During the five years of litigation leading up to the trial, the government denied responsibility for Hendrickson’s injuries and refused to engage in settlement negotiations,” Francavilla said. “There was a zero offer heading into trial, and we are pleased justice has been served after all these years. The verdict acknowledges the responsibility the government has to do its job safely and protect the public.”

via Government to Pay $5.4M to Recording Artist in Career-Ending Motorcycle Crash | The National Trial Lawyers.

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Supreme Court: Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant

June 26, 2014

United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.

“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

via Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant – NYTimes.com.

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Consumer Abuse – “Like” a Company’s Page; Give Up Your Rights!

April 18, 2014

At first, I thought this was a joke, or an article from Onion. I could not fathom that in fact it was real and General Mills really, in fact, is making an attempt to force it’ s customers to give up their right to sue for negligence… simply by “liking” their Facebook page or even perhaps by simply buying their products!

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.

In language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.

“We’ve updated our privacy policy,” the company wrote in a thin, gray bar across the top of its home page. “Please note we also have new legal terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”

via When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue – NYTimes.com.

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