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September 25, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Federal Judges Are Bewailing Again

Category: News Defused

Federal judges have perfected the art of bewailing. Whenever the opportunity arises they bewail the poverty in which they live. They seize upon any available statistic as an argument for higher pay, even if they have to twist the facts 180 degrees.

Judges Make More Headlines Bewailing Low Pay

Federal judges think they're paid too little. They earn $165,200 a year, placing them in the top 10% income bracket among Americans.

Here is a provocative chart, courtesy of the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, that accompanied the story:

Empty Benches: Number of federal circuit and district court judges departing, by decade:

1958-69: 3

1970-79: 22

1980-89: 41

1990-99: 55

2000-2009: 68 (51 have left: 17 are projected departures)

"This trajectory is of great concern to us, and we are fearful that we are approaching the tipping point," says Brock Hornby, a federal judge in Maine and chair of a judges' panel on salaries. He called the rising number of departures "historic."

From WSJ Law Blog

I calculate the percentage increase in departures of federal judges from the 55 in the 90's to the 68 in the first decade of the our new century to be 24%. Standing alone that increase may seem "historic" to Judge Hornby, but doing some more math shows a very different picture.

The percentage increase in departures from the 80's to the 90's was 34%. And, from the 70's to the 80's was 86%. These percentages indicate that the increase in departures is actually at an "historic" low in this decade.

Furthermore, if the overall size of the federal judiciary has been dramatically increasing decade after decade, which numerous studies of the federal judiciary since the early 1900's show is the case, a substantial increase of departures would have to be expected. The graphs in one study show upward growth curves which would be the envy of any Fortune 500 company. Let's face it - the federal judiciary is a very protected and favored industry. Outsourcing to foreign countries is not an option. Judges get lifetime appointments during which they can annually complain about their compensation. More and more lawsuits and criminal prosecutions occur each year as our population increases.

With due respect, your Honors, cut the bewailing.

September 01, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Your Widow Has A Better Chance Of Reading Your Medical Records Than You Do

Category: News Defused

You can file this item in the "Great Ideas With No Prospects For Success" category.

Another Reason Patients Should Review Their Health Records

You should check to see if your doctor is using your medical records for CYA purposes. This is especially true if you are a patient with a potentially expensive medical problem which, if your doctor followed all the guidelines to the letter, could result in substantial "medical loss" for the third-party payer (i.e., the doctor's boss).

[There are times when...] your doctor's note does not accurately reflect what happened to you, or what you actually told him about [an] episode. Instead, it alters the facts just enough to make it seem reasonable for him to skip any further medical evaluation. If you have no further problems, no unnecessary dollars will have been spent and everybody's happy. If you die, that's terrible and all, but nobody reading the records will be able to fault him for doing what he did (or rather, for not doing what he didn't). So it's a win-win.

This is another reason for routinely reviewing your health records. In an era of covert rationing, you can protect yourself by not exposing your doctors to the ever-present temptation to "spin" the records. (Some doctors are regular DJs.) If your doctor knows you are going to read whatever he puts down, he's a lot less likely to color the story to your disadvantage.

From The Covert Rationing Blog

Now, try to make arrangements wth your doctor to obtain regular copies of your medical records. Military secrets would be easier to get.

August 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Psychiatrists May Be Group Averse

Category: News Defused

For many years I have observed that a high percentage of the psychiatrists who evaluate and treat my clients are, themselves, in need of a mental health evaluation and long-term therapy. So, when I came across this news article from Canada I was not surprised.

Disorders plague court psychiatrists, judge concludes

EDMONTON - Name-calling, factions and conspiracies are common in the "dysfunctional" office of more than a dozen psychiatrists who analyze criminals for the courts, an Edmonton judge has found.

In a 55-page decision released Friday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Erik Lefsrud ruled that allegations of defamation in the department were unfounded, but the department was plagued by infighting and lack of leadership.

"What emerged is a picture of a very dysfunctional working environment in which name-calling, finger-pointing, intransigence and conspiratorial workings have thwarted the best intentions of all the psychiatrists involved," he wrote.

"How such a group of obviously intelligent professionals could work themselves into such a state is beyond comprehension.

It is well within my comprehension that a group of psychiatrists would exhibit dysfunctional behavior. In fact, I would doubt that any group of a dozen psychiatrists could avoid name-calling, finger-pointing, intransigence and conspiratorial workings. It may be in their genes.

August 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Off-Label Use Sometimes Works, More Often Fails

Category: News Defused

A medical experiment was successful - at least partially successful. Does this singular success mean we should encourage, support or defend off-label use of medical devices or drugs? One legal blog appears to argue it does.

Why We're Proud To Support Off-Label Use

Today's papers, both in Philly and Cleveland, are reporting on a remarkable medical story. It's as close to a resurrection as today's scientific, secular world is likely to see. A man hospitalized in New Jersey, in a near-vegetative state for six years after being mugged, had his consciousness restored by deep brain stimulation.

The Neurological Restoration group at the Cleveland Clinic in Hermann's home town apparently achieved this near miracle by using a "pacemaker-like" device and to deliver electric current to the man's thalamus. Supposedly there are as many as 400,000 patients in similar circumstances.

....it sounds like off-label use to us - the therapeutic use of an FDA approved drug or device for indications other than those for which it has been approved.

Off-label use - the next life it saves could be your own.

From Drug and Device Law

And, the next life lost to off-label use could be your spouse's.

For patients in vegetative or near-vegetative states, with virtually no hope of recovery, off-label use of approved medical devices would not likely be the most far-out treatment option considered. In fact, in such a circumstance who would deny the patient any treatment option presented by any practitioner of the healing arts who seems capable of rational thought.

But, the much more common off-label use of drugs is not limited to these unfortunate patients. And, the harm often far outweighs the anecdotal benefits.

July 26, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Guess Who Is Fighting To Protect The Health Of Truck Drivers

Category: News Defused

American Trucking Associations is fighting to protect the 24-hour circadian rhythm of America's truck drivers. That's what the press release says.

Trouble in Truckin': Court Limits Hours Behind the Wheel

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Bush administration's rules that increased the number of hours a trucker can spend behind the wheel. In an article by Stephen Labaton in the New York Times, we read that the Bush approach increased weekly hours to 77 from 60 over 7 consecutive days, and to 88 hours from 70 over 8 days. The rules also permitted up to 11 hours of driving per day.

The court found that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had ignored the results of its own study, [this is news?] which reviewed more than 50,000 truck accidents from 1991 to 2002. Using the data, the study extrapolated a substantially higher risk of fatigue-related accidents in the extra hours of service allowed by the new rules.

The American Trucking Associations have already challenged the ruling. Their press release states:

The current rules limit driving time to 11 hours and mandate a 10-hour rest time. ATA supports the current regulation, which promotes a regular work-rest cycle for truck drivers and a schedule that is closer to a 24-hour circadian rhythm. The 11th hour of driving time safely provides flexibility for trucking operations without increasing driver fatigue. The 34- hour restart gives drivers much greater flexibility to manage their time, relieving stress and allowing more time at home.

July 14, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Promise To Resign Or Else

Category: News Defused

In the waning days of the Bush administration Congress has finally started to exercise its clout on presidential appointments. The Senators are extracting resignation promises from nominees. No more consents for unprincipled hacks.

National Politics & Policy | Surgeon General Nominee Holsinger Says He Would Resign if Politically Pressured To Change Recommendations

President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, James Holsinger, on Thursday during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing said he is dedicated to science and would resign if the Bush administration officials pressured him to skew his recommendations for ideological reasons, the Los Angeles Times reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 7/13).

Why not, instead, a promise to do the damn job as the nominee knows it should be done even in the face of pressure to skew recommendations? That would be unique.

July 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Potential Juror From Hell

Category: News Defused

In my years of trial practice I have been dealt jurors with less than desirable opinions and personal traits. Some of them had also intentionally sought to avoid jury service. I suspect the juror described in this New York Times article actually was compelled to serve in one of my cases. If not, it was his twin brother residing in another state.

Jury Duty Excuses Could Bring Charges

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) -- A Cape Cod man who claimed he was homophobic, racist and a habitual liar to avoid jury duty earned an angry rebuke from a judge on Monday, who referred the case to prosecutors for possible charges.

''In 32 years of service in courtrooms, as a prosecutor, as a defense attorney and now as a judge, I have quite frankly never confronted such a brazen situation of an individual attempting to avoid juror service,'' Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson told Daniel Ellis, according to a preliminary court transcript of the exchange.

Ellis then admitted he really didn't want to serve on a jury.

''I have the distinct impression that you're intentionally trying to avoid jury service,'' Nickerson said.

''That's true,'' Ellis answered.

Memo to Judge Nickerson - At least Daniel Ellis openly admitted what he was doing and was removed from the jury pool. My concern is the juror who has all the same feelings and intentions who remains on the jury and takes out his frustration on my injured client.

July 09, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Cap On Frivolous Tort Reformers Needed

Category: News Defused

Mention the cost of medical malpractice insurance and some people immediately leap to ending frivolous lawsuits and putting caps on damages. Most of these folks label themselves tort reformers.

Exhibit A:

NY Gov Spitzer Looks Into Spiraling Malpractice Insurance Costs

With doctors' malpractice insurance in the Empire State going up 14 percent, Governor Eliot Spitzer has decided to appoint a commission to find out why these insurance costs are spiraling. According to Walter Olson of Point of Law, with the new rates, an obstetrician in Brooklyn will be paying $173,000 a year and a Long Island neurosurgeon $309,000 annually.

We tort reformers know exactly where that review will wind up: Focused on the plaintiff bar. This might be the beginning of the end to frivolous lawsuits and no-cap on awards.

From Law And More

Does knee jerk reaction come to mind?

Because of the wonders of the federal system of government in the U.S. we have had years of damage caps and have banned frivolity in just about every courthouse. Yet, through tremendous perserverance, medical providers keep violating the standard of care and insurance companies continue making outrageous profits. Is it possible the problem is not with the plaintiff bar?

What the country really needs is a cap on frivolous tort reformers. Followed by caps on insurance profits and a banning of frivolous commissions.

June 27, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Another Day In Iowa, Another Litmus Test Announcement

Category: News Defused

There must be something about the air in Iowa. It causes presidential candidates to see things very clearly and to announce litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees. They must feel voters like the certainty of using litmus paper as opposed to writing promises and positions on toilet paper which is often flushed after election. A recent example of a litmus test pronouncement:

Richardson would test nominees with Roe v. Wade

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Friday that if he is elected president, he would use abortion as a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, rejecting candidates who don't support the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

"I know that I am going to upset some people," Richardson said. "I would say, 'Do you believe Roe v. Wade is settled law?' and if they say, 'Yes,' they have a good chance of being picked. If they say 'No,' I will not pick them."

Richardson, running in a crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke to about 150 people at a forum at Drake University in Des Moines. He said he would not "dance around" abortion and other civil rights issues when questioning potential nominees.

Presidents must use particular care in selecting Supreme Court nominees because they have the potential to shape legal policy for generations, he added.

"That is the biggest legacy of a president, and we are already paying for the Bush legacy in these last few decisions on privacy and choice with this Supreme Court," Richardson said.

I agree with Gov. Richardson about the importance of Supreme Court appointments, but think litmus tests belong in chem labs.

June 26, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Doctors Object To Retail Medicine

Category: News Defused

WOW!! The AMA is considering calling for a ban. The guardians of the health of the nation are discussing a rising threat to....their wallets.

AMA takes on retail clinics

The American Medical Association should call for a ban on in-store clinics being opened by retail giants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Walgreen Co., several doctors groups urged at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago on Sunday.

Faced with an onslaught of competition that is forecast to bring several thousand retail health clinics to U.S. consumers, AMA members testified that such clinics are endangering patient care, particularly for children. The doctors say the clinics, largely staffed by advanced-degree nurses and physicians' assistants, are largely unregulated and, therefore, put patients' health at risk.

"There is no more urgent issue than this for the AMA," Dr. Kamran Hashemi, a family physician from South Barrington, said, urging the organization to push for more regulation of retail clinics. "This issue speaks to what all of us do every day in practice." If the AMA does nothing, Hashemi said, "in five years, the chairs [at the AMA] meeting will be filled with representatives from Walgreens, Wal-Mart" and other retail outlets.

From the Chicago Tribune

June 22, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Show Me The Money, Not A Task Force

Category: News Defused

Diane Levin, posting on the Online Guide to Mediation, tells us how one civil lawsuit was settled when the defendant governmental entity agreed to launch a task force. At the end of these excerpts from Diane's well-intentioned article I will have some observations.

Creative path to resolution: money not the only way to settle lawsuits

The images on the five o'clock news tell the story: greedy plaintiffs, overreaching lawyers, justice in chaos.

This month's issue of the American Association for Justice's Law Reporter paints another picture. In a print article, "Family of slain journalist agrees to nonmonetary settlement with city to improve emergency services, " it reports on the unexpected outcome of a lawsuit stemming from the death of a prominent journalist as the result of alleged deficiencies in the District of Columbia's emergency services.

According to the family's lawyer, their goals in litigation shifted from obtaining monetary compensation from the defendants to instead finding ways to ensure that other families would be spared a similar experience. In exchange for the family members dismissing their claims against the District, the District agreed to establish a task force to investigate the circumstances surrounding the response of the District's Fire and Emergency Medical Service and to issue a report of recommendations for improving the delivery of emergency medical services.

The family's attorney observed, "I hope that the example set by the Rosenbaum family will prompt other attorneys to consider creative resolutions to cases where the focus shift from an entirely monetary settlement to a resolution that has a broader impact than just on the litigants in the case." [This may mean that the task force was in addition to significant monetary compensation.]

Mediators of course will nod their heads in recognition--this is a story familiar to all of us. It's too bad it's not a story familiar to the public. Lawyers and mediators alike need to do a better job of telling these stories--stories which reveal the creativity and change that justice can produce.

Without minimizing the personal and public good which undoubtedly could come from this particular task force and any non-monetary agreement in settlement of an injury or death claim, I point out the following:

1) The governmental entity should have had the responsibility to create a task force or to otherwise remedy the deficiencies in its EMS operations without the need for this incentive.

2) No single person or family should be required to bribe a governmental entity (by relinquishing a valid claim for compensation) to do the right thing, whatever it is.

3) No governmental entity should accept this bribe to do what should be done (while smiling behind the backs of the victim or family of the victim).

4) Personal injury lawyers are supposed to fight for just compensation for each individual client. Clients should not be persuaded to accept, as total compensation, something as hollow as a task force. Mediators need to be extremely careful, especially in wrongful death cases, to keep the proper goal of a civil lawsuit on the table. Shifting to remedies in the public good (remedies that should be added to just compensation rather than substituted for it) may be a productive mediation skill but not one that should be utilized in the place of normal efforts at reaching fair economic compensation.

The bottom line - a greedy trial lawyer is not a mayor, city commissioner, legislator or policy-maker; he needs to focus on maximizing the compensation of each victim he represents. That is what his clients deserve and what best serves the civil justice system.

June 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Lessons To Be Learned From Very Expensive Pants

Category: News Defused

RiskProf is having some fun with what is probably the most expensive pair of pants in the history of jurisprudence.

We Need More Flacks Like this One

The trial of the Administrative Law Judge who is claiming $54 million for a lost pair of pants at a DC dry-cleaner is being live blogged by a reporter from the Washington Post.

Interesting tidbit ....

One colorful courtroom personality I forgot to mention earlier was a flack for the American Tort Reform Association, who showed up in a seersucker suit with a green lapel button reading: "$65 Million "Pantsuit' Perverts DC's Consumer Protection Law." So he was off by a few million (Pearson initially sued for $65 million but later reduced his claim to $54 million). The point stands. Everyone who wanted a button got one.

I'd like a button!

According to RiskProf, "the web log is our outlet for discussion of public policy regarding risk and insurance issues." Maybe, just maybe, the Administrative Law Judge is using his lawsuit to accomplish the same purpose.

June 07, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Wheels Of Progress

Category: News Defused

New products often require a period of adjustment. Think about how long it must have taken for folks to get comfortable with riding escalators.

Heely Injuries a Case of a Lack of Safety or Product Liability?

A recent report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed that 64 injuries and one death were reported last year involving the Heely, which is a popular children's shoe containing a wheel on the bottom that can be used to roll around like a roller skate.

It will be interesting to see if there are any more stories in the future about Heely injuries or whether this is just a matter of the need for better safety with the product.

Source: The Injury Blog

Despite the injury reports for this extremely creative product the idea of putting wheels on traditionally wheel-less products or devices is brilliant. It opens the door to mobility enhancements in products foolishly designed to be stationary or, at least, carried.

Here are just a few applications of the Heely concept:

* Pots, pans and kettles. With the new smooth range tops there is no reason to prevent these common kitchen implements from zipping from spot to spot on wheels.

* Gas station pumps. Why is it only the cars that get to move around?

* Vases. This would avoid all the heavy lifting.

* Toilets. For the men who want to shave while attending to nature's call this would be the answer.

* ATM's. They could go where the people go instead of just sitting in holes in the wall.

June 05, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Libby Sentencing Watch - The Watergate Lesson

Category: News Defused

Expecting Scooter Libby to say anything significant at his sentencing today is...well, naive. And, remorse is not even a remote possibility. Scooter's defense was compromised by his desire to protect his buddies in the Bush Administration. Why would he now destroy his prospects for a pardon from his Chief Buddy?

On the other hand, if he were to draw a couple of years in prison without any suspension for an appeal and, after a few months in the slammer was not seeing a pardon on the horizon, that is another story. I believe Watergate tongues loosened under similar circumstances.

Libby faces sentencing Tuesday, but will he speak in court?

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawyers, politicians and pundits have had their say for years. Now, as former White House aide I. Lewis «Scooter» Libby faces sentencing in the CIA leak trial, the world may hear from someone new: Libby himself.

Libby has not spoken publicly about the case since his 2005 indictment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Throughout his monthlong trial, and following his conviction in March, he always let his lawyers do the talking.

On Tuesday, however, before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton hands down a sentence, he will ask the former vice presidential chief of staff whether he has anything to say.

Defense attorneys, who argue that Libby should not have to serve any jail time, have not said how Libby will respond. It's a delicate decision, one made more difficult because Libby has maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction.

«The only thing any sentencing judge wants to hear is remorse, and if they don't think it comes from the heart or they think they're only sorry for getting caught, for losing their job, or for going to jail, it doesn't count,» said Hugh Keefe, a Connecticut defense attorney who teaches trial advocacy at Yale University.

June 04, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Has Starbucks Lost Its Mojo?

Category: News Defused

The purity and goodness of the Starbucks experience has always been the dedication to the coffee and its natural accompaniments. Now, the accompaniments have broadened to include music CD's. Will the experience next include movie trailers for the Captain Starbucks Trilogy of science fiction flicks?

Starbucks' Music Label Releases First CD

SEATTLE -- Caffeine junkies who go to Starbucks for their daily fix will get a nonstop dose of Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" on Tuesday as the coffee company's new record label releases its first CD.

Starbucks Corp. estimates that some 6 million people will be among the first to hear the new album as they line up for their lattes in more than 10,000 stores in 29 countries, where it will be playing on continuous loop throughout the day.

It's a tactic most retailers would not likely attempt "probably for no other reason than not wanting to drive their workers insane," quipped Mike McGuire, a media analyst for Gartner Inc.

Still, McGuire said Starbucks has proved to be adept at selling music and thinks it's smart for the company to tap into its vast customer base.

"Let's face it. The energy has kind of gone out of the CD store launch," McGuire said, "so you've got to go where (consumers) are, which is typically buying coffee at a Starbucks."

June 02, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Christian Right May Not Be Right, But It Is Heard And Heard And Heard

Category: News Defused

How important is it to be quoted, mentioned or interviewed as a religious leader? Apparently, conservative religious leaders have found it to be very important. And, the news folks are helping them become the dominant voice of religion in America.

LEFT BEHIND: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media

It would surprise few people, conservative or progressive, to learn that coverage of the intersection of religion and politics tends to oversimplify both. If this oversimplification occurred to the benefit or detriment of neither side of the political divide, then the weaknesses in coverage of religion would be of only academic interest. But as this study documents, coverage of religion not only overrepresents some voices and underrepresents others, it does so in a way that is consistently advantageous to conservatives.

As in many areas, the decisions journalists make when deciding which voices to include in their stories have serious consequences. What is the picture of religious opinion? Who is a religious leader? Whose views represent important groups of believers? Every time a journalist writes a story, he or she answers these questions by deciding whom to quote and how to characterize their views.

Among the study's key findings:

*Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

*On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable news channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

*In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

Despite the fact most religious Americans are moderate or progressive, in the news media it is overwhelmingly conservative leaders who are presented as the voice of religion. This represents a particularly meaningful distortion since progressive religious leaders tend to focus on different issues and offer an entirely different perspective than their conservative counterparts.

Source: MediaMatters

Could all of this have anything to do with the decreased acceptance of evolution? Or, the embryonic stem cell blockade at the federal level? Or, the restrictions on sex education in our schools? What good is a free press if it consciously or unconsciously favors one brand of religion in our media?

May 30, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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No Medicare Payments For "Avoidable Hospital Associated Complications"?

Category: News Defused

Stand back. AHAC's are about to debut. Your government is trying to save some of your money. Medicare has a novel idea, but it likely will open Pandora's Box.

Medlaw.com reports the following:

Medicare has issued a proposal that will stop paying for avoidable hospital associated complications (AHAC's), and with it, major private insurance companies are expected to follow the lead and cut out payments for this common and expensive complications. The denial process will alert patients to the fact that their condition resulted from hospital error, and can be expected to increase malpractice claims for such complications and create a legal argument that these issues are automatically malpractice. The issues targeted by the plan include:

1. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

2. Bed sores.

3. Objects left in after surgery.

4. Air embolism, or bubbles, in bloodstream from injection.

5. Patients given incompatible blood type.

6. Bloodstream staph infection.

7. Ventilator-associated pneumonia.

8. Vascular-catheter-associated infection.

9. Clostridium difficile-associated disease (gastrointestinal infections).

10. Drug-resistant staph infection.

11. Surgical site infections.

12. Wrong surgery.

13. Falls

The proposed regulations are open for comment and are planned to take effect in October 2008.

Who decides what is an avoidable hospital associated complications? Is the hospital always legally responsible for the wrong surgery or objects left in after surgery or a fall? What is the patient/victim to do about the billing he or she will likely receive from the hospital for the care necessitated by each scenario? [Will hospitals just waive their legal right to payment from patients?] Why are these items any different from delayed or erroneous diagnoses by doctors which cause many hospitalizations and lengthen others and, yet, are fully paid by Medicare? What about misfilled prescriptions which sometimes cause unnecessary hospitalizations?

My initial reaction to the Medicare proposal: this dog won't hunt.

May 29, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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PowerPoint Has Its Place, But Is It In Closing Argument?

Category: News Defused

Have you noticed the closing arguments on all of the top-rated television programs are never more than 3 minutes long and deliver strong, convincing and concise messages? And, they never include PowerPoint or other "gadgets" to augment the oral presentation.

Count me as one vote for fewer gadgets and better crafted and delivered arguments despite the thoughts and recommendations of many top trial lawyers.

Are Gadgets Replacing Oratory [In The Courtroom]?

"From PowerPoint presentations to slick graphics flashed on interactive whiteboards, computers are transforming the way justice is delivered to defendants who want their day in court...."
The quoted article is an example of the way lawyers are perceived in the lay press. But it's not really true that gadgets are replacing oratory; rather, gadgets are enabling a new kind of oratory. It's one that all lawyers should be familiar with. Though some lawyers with lesser-damage cases think that the use of technology might result in "over-trying" a case, one could argue that even if juries don't expect or demand technology in every case, they certainly won't object to it in a way that would be harmful to the client. The quoted article proves the point.

From the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog

The question of jury objections or non-objections to gadgets may miss the point. Would the jury be better persuaded by fewer words delivered from the heart without any electronic or digital embellishment?

May 23, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Drug Reps Of Italy Welcomed By GP's

Category: News Defused

I won't be traveling to Italy for my medical care.

Italian Doctors Get Their Information On Medicines From Drug Company Sales Reps

Lorenzo Moja (Italian Cochrane Centre, Milan, Italy) and colleagues say that Italian doctors still rely heavily upon the pharmaceutical industry for their information needs. For example, a recent survey showed that general practitioners in Italy receive eleven visits per week by drug company sales representatives, and that many doctors believe that the information they receive from these reps is complete and sufficiently reliable.

The survey should have determined where the Italian docs get their information re good wine and pasta dishes. That is why we should go to Italy.

May 18, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Never Let Your Butler See The Blood On Your Hands

Category: News Defused

I predict we will have butlers and valets squealing on their employers. No secrets will be safe.

CHAUFFEUR SPEAKS AT SPECTOR TRIAL

Phil Spector's chauffeur has told a Los Angeles court that the music producer admitted to killing somebody the night Lana Clarkson was found dead in Spector's home.

Adriano De Souza, who was Spector's driver, said he was sitting in his car outside the music producer's mansion when he heard a "pow".

He said Spector then came out of the house holding a gun and told Mr De Souza: "I think I killed somebody".

Mr De Souza also said that Spector had blood on his hand when he told him what had happened and that when he entered the mansion he saw blood on Ms Clarkson's face.

Spector is accused of murdering the B-movie actress Ms Clarkson at his LA home. The producer denies the charges and his defence team says the actress shot herself.

May 15, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Financial Realities" versus "Political Realities"

Category: News Defused

Nobody ever resigns a government position because they screwed up. They almost always have a stock explanation tied to family responsibilities and economics.

The latest example:

Deputy U.S. Attorney General McNulty Resigns

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty has announced that he will resign late this summer. He is the most senior official to step down from the Justice Department in the ongoing scandal over fired U.S. attorneys.

McNulty did not mention the fired prosecutors in the letter announcing his resignation. He told the attorney general, "The financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service lead me to a long overdue transition in my career."

I suspect there is a form book for government employees that contains this recommended template: The financial realities of ______________________ and _________ years of public service lead me to a long overdue transition in my career.

The political realities requiring the departure would be refreshing and informative. But, that would probably reduce the market value of the subsequent book deal.

February 04, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"When You Open Your Eyes You Will Not See The Judge"

Category: News Defused

Hypnosis has lost a round in the Canadian Supreme Court.

Ruling halts courts' use of hypnosis in evidence

Evidence obtained from witnesses under hypnosis is dangerously unreliable and cannot be used in Canadian courtrooms, the Supreme Court of Canada said in a major ruling yesterday.

"At the present time, there is no way of knowing whether such information will be accurate or inaccurate," Madam Justice Marie Deschamps wrote for a 6-3 majority. "Such uncertainty is unacceptable in a court of law."

Lawyer James Lockyer, who brought the case to the court, said that he knows of 20 to 30 cases in the past decade where hypnosis evidence was used. "Had the court ruled that hypnosis was admissible, it could have led to it being used regularly by police forces," he added in an interview.

Mr. Lockyer was representing Stephen John Trochym, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Donna Hunter, in 1992, based partly on the evidence of a witness who, while under hypnosis, altered her testimony to conform to the police theory of the crime.

The court majority said yesterday that witnesses who are hypnotized are liable to fabricate recollections, embroider existing memories or modify their recollections in a way that favours information they have received from authority figures.

The question now is what will the Canadian courts do to prevent testimony from non-hypnotized witnesses who fabricate recollections, embroider existing memories or modify their recollections in a way that favours information they have received from authority figures? These witnesses show up every week in every courthouse throughout the U.S. - has the Canadian system found a way to bar them from testifying?

January 25, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Bush Doctrine - Take This Tax Deduction And Get Plenty Of Sleep

Category: News Defused

Joe Paduda, at Managed Care, sees through the nonsense in the State of the Union address about a new plan to provide health insurance for the uninsured.

Bush's blithe ignorance

So a lot of folks are finding good things in Pres. Bush's plan to use tax policy to help uninsured people get health insurance.

Not me. I see it as the worst kind of incrementalism, on a par with consumer-directed health care. To the naive, it promises a quick solution using financial gimmickry that will not cost anyone very important much of anything, and may help a few folks get coverage thru a state program.

But it won't do anything to fix the underlying problem - people who need insurance can't get it, and if they can, many can't afford it, leaving the rest of us to pay for their health care. Meanwhile, insurance companies compete not on the basis of how healthy they can keep us, but on how good they are at denying coverage to anyone who may have a claim.

In the world of George W. Bush, sadly, providing a tax deduction can solve every problem. Mr. President, some of us don't earn enough money to worry about tax deductions. That is why we don't have health insurance or a brand new car.

January 13, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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State Farm Disappointed Over $2.7 M Katrina Award - Pass The Hankies

Category: News Defused

State Farm loses big time in a Katrina homeowner lawsuit. State Farm says it is "surprised" and "disappointed" by the outcome and having to pony up $2.7 Million to the Mississippi homeowners. The Chicago Tribune provides the details.

Katrina loss for State Farm

$2.7 million judgment in homeowner lawsuit

In a court decision that could spell trouble for an insurance industry facing thousands of lawsuits and claims related to Hurricane Katrina, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. must pay a Mississippi couple about $2.7 million for damage to their home, a judge and jury ruled Thursday.

In the first jury trial over how much damage was insured in a storm that wiped out thousands of homes on the Gulf Coast in 2005, U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter, deciding actual damages, awarded $223,000 for the home and belongings of Biloxi couple Norman and Genevieve Broussard.

The jury awarded punitive damages that were more than 10 times greater, ordering the nation's biggest home and auto insurer to pay $2.5 million for wrongly processing the claim.

Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm said it was "surprised" and "disappointed" by both the judge's ruling and the amount awarded by the jury.

Then, the commentary begins.

Commentary On State Farm's Loss In Broussard v. State Farm

One measure of how surprised State Farm was by yesterday's directed verdict by Judge Senter and, later, by the jury's $2.5 million punitive damages award is this: the official docket for the case shows that on December 12, 2006 State Farm made an offer of judgment for $20,000.

From the Insurance Coverage Law Blog

State Farm's offer of judgment would not mean much to me. It represents the position that State Farm was taking in this and other similar claims. Based on that position - a lack of coverage for the loss - the offer was at a level required. It would have been nonsensical for State Farm to have made an offer of judgment of, say, $500,000, even though its lawyers may have fully informed the company that a hit of $1 Million or more could occur.

I do not feel "surprised" would be an accurate description of State's Farm's reaction to the judgment. But, "disappointed" may be the understatement of the year.

January 11, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Did The High-Priced Bike Have High-Priced Brakes?

Category: News Defused

Since I have been a bicyclist for a number of years it caught my attention when I saw that Cannondale was recalling some of its bicycles because of defective front brakes.

Cannondale Recalls Road Bicycles Due to Brake Failure

Cannondale is recalling its 2007 Model road bicycles. The bicycle's front brake can fail, causing the rider to lose control and fall.

Then I noticed the sales price of the particular bikes.

The bikes were sold by authorized Cannondale dealers nationwide from July 2006 through November 2006 for between $3,200 and $4,500.

My fanny has never felt the seat of a bike this pricey. That may explain why my front brakes have always worked. Sometimes the cutting edge is not the place to be.

January 08, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The Balderdash Spoken By The Chief Justice

Category: News Defused

One man's constitutional crisis is another man's balderdash.

The Washington Post carries this story today about the claim by Chief Justice Roberts (yes, of the U.S. Supreme Court) that a constitutional crisis may occur if Congress does not raise the salaries of his fellow judges.

Outside Court, Roberts Hears Dissent

Critics Deride Fear of 'Constitutional Crisis' Over Judicial Pay

[Chief Justice John Roberts delivered] the blandly titled "2006 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary," issued, as he noted, on the typically slow news day of Jan. 1. He should rest assured that it has been noticed -- and roundly razzed by some in the legal punditry and that segment of the citizenry that likes to write angry letters to the editor and leave sputtering rants on the answering machines of reporters who write about the court.

Roberts devoted his entire address to the call for a pay raise for federal judges, a subject that he noted was not new, and one -- he didn't note this -- that might never be terribly popular with those who make less than $165,200 a year, which is what federal district judges and members of Congress make (Roberts's salary is $212,000).

There are plenty of people who agree with Roberts that judicial salaries should rise to attract and retain the brightest in the legal field. But his description of the issue as a "constitutional crisis" was too much for some.

"What should we say about a Chief Justice who suggests that it is a 'constitutional crisis' if Congress takes advantage of its constitutional prerogatives to refuse to raise the salaries of federal judges?" University of Texas law professor Sanford V. Levinson asked on the legal blog Balkinization. "As it happens, I agree with him that pay raises are long overdue, but not necessarily for members of the US Supreme Court, frankly, who have cushy jobs and are treated like kings and queens."

Matthew J. Franck chimed in on National Review Online: "According to the chief, things are bad enough that we have a 'constitutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the federal judiciary.' In a word: balderdash."

I go with balderdash.

December 29, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are Kangaroo Courts Naive And Oblivious To Real World Problems?

Category: News Defused

Using the words kangaroo and court in the same sentence is a dangerous practice in the eyes of one California Appellate Court. Appellate justices are very sensitive when they think the words are pointed in their direction.

Appellate Justices Hopping Mad Over Superior Court Judge's 'Kangaroo Court' Reference

Retired San Joaquin County, Calif., Superior Court Judge K. Peter Saiers never thought his off-the-cuff reference to a "kangaroo court" would result in a four-page written scolding from the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

But it did.

Taking umbrage at what they saw as a slight aimed at their court, three appellate justices found Wednesday that Saiers had violated the judicial canon during a September 2005 plea hearing.

According to the ruling, when a prosecutor declined to dismiss a strike count, Saiers responded, "Oh, that's right. You can't offend the kangaroos up there in kangaroo court."

In deciding that Saiers had bungled the hearing -- and possibly coerced a plea -- the court keyed in on his "perjorative [sic]" remark.

"It would appear that, in his eyes, this court was a naive, ivory-tower, obstructionist, oblivious to the real-world problems of trial courts faced with staggering caseloads," wrote Justice Rick Sims. "This view is not accurate."

Reached Wednesday, Saiers said that the whole thing is a misunderstanding, "a big mistake."

"I knew I was pissing them off," Saiers said, "but I wasn't referring to them."

Saiers said the target of his kangaroo court comment was the district attorney's "strike team," which he said doesn't believe it needs to provide reasons for its decisions on whether to pursue or drop strike allegations.

Excerpted from Law.com

The assurance of Justice Rick Sims that it is not accurate to say this court was a naive, ivory-tower, obstructionist, oblivious to the real-world problems of trial courts faced with staggering caseloads causes me to ask: which of four derogatory descriptions is the inaccurate one?

December 20, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Pull Up Your Chairs, Children, The Vice President Is Going To Speak The Whole Truth

Category: News Defused

Reality TV will not be able to top this. From Jurist:

Libby defense to call Cheney as witness in CIA leak trial

A defense lawyer for former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said Tuesday that Libby will call Vice President Dick Cheney to testify in Libby's upcoming trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Libby is charged in connection to the Justice Department's investigation of the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and he is expected to argue that he innocently mis-remembered facts and did not intentionally misrepresent his knowledge of the leak due to the heavy volume of his work as Cheney's chief of staff. If Cheney does testify, he will be the first sitting vice president to testify in a criminal case.

It will be fascinating to see a man who has deliberately mis-remembered facts for over 4 years selectively declassify government secrets on the fly in order to save his alter ego. I may have to watch my old video copy of Dr. Stangelove to get in the right mood. Then, I will be watching to see if the Vice President's nose grows longer as his lips move.

December 01, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Buy Uncomfortable Chairs For Your Home Theater

Category: News Defused

Our home theaters may need a ticket booth if Congress passes this law.

MPAA Lobbying for Home Theater Regulations

Los Angeles , CA - The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is lobbying congress to push through a new bill that would make unauthorized home theaters illegal. The group feels that all theaters should be sanctioned, whether they be commercial settings or at home.

MPAA head Dan Glickman says this needs to be regulated before things start getting too far out of control, "We didn't act early enough with the online sharing of our copyrighted content. This time we're not making the same mistake. We have a right to know what's showing in a theater."

The bill would require that any hardware manufactured in the future contain technology that tells the MPAA directly of what is being shown and specific details on the audience. The data would be gathered using various motion sensors and biometric technology.

The MPAA defines a home theater as any home with a television larger than 29" with stereo sound and at least two comfortable chairs, couch, or futon. Anyone with a home theater would need to pay a $50 registration fee with the MPAA or face fines up to $500,000 per movie shown.

I suggest uncomfortable chairs may be the answer.

November 19, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Tobacco Begs Out Of Movies - Wink! Wink!

Category: News Defused

Sound the trumpets! Big Tobacco boldly goes where no industry has gone before.

Tobacco Firm Makes Hollywood Plea

The biggest maker of cigarettes in the United States has asked Hollywood studios to avoid using its products in films in case such scenes persuade children to smoke.

Philip Morris USA has placed adverts saying: "Please don't give our cigarette brands a part in your movie."

But Stanton Glantz, head of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco, dismissed the ad campaign as a PR stunt.

And Matt Myers, who is president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said film studios had been unmoved by previous appeals to shield children from smoking scenes.

Next week, the firearms industry will commence its advertisements pleading with Hollywood to keep their products off the screen. Following that come the alcohol vendors, the prostitutes and the street drug dealers.

November 18, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Best Lawyers Not To Be Found In New Jersey

Category: News Defused

New Jersey is doing its best to assure its citizens mediocre (or worse) legal representation. Law.com reports on New Jersey's fight to reserve best and super for Best Buy and Super Market.

New Jersey Backs Super/Best Lawyer Ad Ban but Hints at Flexibility in Application

New Jersey's attorney general says the state's high court would be right if it stood firm, though there's some wiggle room, on a ban on advertising linked to The Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers.

Ads touting a lawyer's selection as "best" or "super" are inherently misleading, aren't protected by the First Amendment and fall afoul of New Jersey's Rules of Professional Conduct, the attorney general's office says in a brief filed on Wednesday.

At the same time, the office conceded that Best Lawyer or Super Lawyer ads that included disclaimers have been approved by ethics regulators in Arizona, Florida and Philadelphia. New Jersey could take the same tack, the brief says.

...the state lawyers brushed aside, as irrelevant, assertions by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers that the plaudits are based on objective and reasonable criteria that do, indeed, identify lawyers who are worthy of being called "best" or "super."

"Simply stated, the methodology does not matter because the labels that the publishers confer on those attorneys who are selected to be included on their respective lists -- namely the labels 'super' and 'best' -- are labels that are inherently misleading," the brief says.

I am starting a lawyer ranking service for New Jersey. Not Too Bad Lawyers will be announcing its qualified firms as soon as we can get word to them through their answering machines.

November 16, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Mel, Mel, He's Our Man - Or Is He?

Category: News Defused

We are faced with the irony that the new chairman of the Republican National Committee is a former trial lawyer from Florida.

The RNC's New Ambulance Chaser

The Republican National Committee, which has worked hard to make "trial lawyer" a dirty word, just chose an ambulance chaser as its chairman. Oh sure, he's also a Cuban senator from Florida, but Mel Martinez started out his professional life by making millions as a plaintiff's attorney. During his 2004 senate race, primary challenger Bill McCollum dubbed Martinez "the John Edwards of Florida."

Despite his litigious roots, Martinez is not likely to take lawyer-bashing out of the GOP platform. Like all good trial lawyers who move into politics after making a lot of money, he has seen the light and embraced tort reform.

From the Tortellini

Could he be a sleeper agent for greedy trial lawyers? Or, has he been dazzled by the power of politics and lost his greedy ways?

November 15, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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America Touts Freedom, Democracy And Outrageous Drug Prices

Category: News Defused

America is spreading more than just freedom and democracy throughout the world.

As part of our War On Successful National Health Plans the present administration is spreading the American drug system across the sea.

Bush Badgers Brits for Big Pharma

This is almost impossible to believe. U.S. trade zealots masquerading as health officials are in London this week to badger the British to adopt the U.S. drug industry model, according to The Guardian. The U.S. wants the British national health service to open its formularies to all drugs regardless of relative medical benefit vis-a-vis generics, allow direct-to-consumer advertising, and use insurance companies to deliver drug benefits.

Gooznews.com

October 31, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Are "Global Warming Skeptics" Spreading A Myth?

Category: News Defused

Apparently, there is this group of people known as global warming skeptics. Many of them supposedly have well-established ties to the fossil-fuel industry. Two U.S. Senators have publicly called on ExxonMobil to stop funding them (because they contribute to the climate change denial myth).

I happen to believe the evidence that global warming exists. However, I also believe the evidence should be able to withstand debate without the need to label those with an opposite point of view wackos or worse.

Integrity in Science Watch

Industry-Backed Skeptics File Brief in Global Warming Lawsuit . . .

Eight global warming skeptics, many with well-established ties to the fossil-fuel industry, last week filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's 2003 decision against regulating carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Competitive Enterprise Institute-sponsored brief argued that "it is simply impossible to conclude that the net effect of greenhouse gases is an endangerment of health and welfare." A coalition of 12 states and nonprofit organizations have filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA's decision. After the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., last year sided with the federal government, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the plaintiffs' appeal. Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, two senators asked ExxonMobil last week to stop funding global warming skeptics, ABC News reported that a letter from Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) asked ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson to "end any further financial assistance" to groups "whose public advocacy has contributed to the small but unfortunately effective climate change denial myth."

The Associated Press ran a story that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and several other papers last week that cited global warming skeptic John Christy but failed to mention his long involvement with conservative think-tanks supported by money from the energy industry. In an article about the development of global warming "hot spots," AP cited Christy's belief that concerns about an increase in heat-wave related deaths due to climate change were without foundation.

From Gooznews.com

October 22, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Judge May Need "His" Head Examined

Category: News Defused

Riverside County, California, is about to become a major tourist attraction.

Judge Says Indecent Exposure Law Applies to Men Only; Drops Charge Against Woman

A Riverside County judge dismissed an indecent exposure charge against a woman who allegedly disrobed in front of a 14-year-old boy, saying the law applies only to men.

Superior Court Judge Robert W. Armstrong said this week that the law mentions a person who "exposes his person."

"Usually when a section proscribes conduct, it's 'his or her.' This one is not," Armstrong said. "It's gender specific."

Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alison N. Norton argued that the lack of a feminine reference in the penal code was a typo and that solely applying the law to men would violate the state Constitution.

But Armstrong was not convinced.

"I'm just telling you what it says," he said. "So on that basis, this case is dismissed. And the people can take an appeal from the dismissal."

There is one big problem with the logic of the Judge's ruling. Take a look at the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.

Amendment VI Of The United States Constitution (Bill of Rights)

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

October 10, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Dr. Sensitive Quits Practice After Winning Malpractice Case

Category: News Defused

The moral of some stories is that some people do stupid things. Here is a supposedly true story of an ER doctor who was sued once in his career, won the case and was so distressed by the experience that he quit the practice of medicine. Dr. Sensitive apparently never felt the need to quit because of anything else that happened in his career. One lawsuit, and he is out of here.

Caduceus is the blogger who tells us this tale of the winner who was actually a loser all along. My take is that he won the case only because the jury gave him a pass. You will note he was humiliated in court. How many errors or breaches of the standard of care was he compelled to admit?

THE END RESULT OF A LAWSUIT

Short, but true story...

An ER doctor who had been happily practicing medicine for many years had his first lawsuit brought against him. From what I was told by his friend, this ER doctor absolutely loved his profession and helping people. Concerning this lawsuit, he did not make any medical error, showed no negligence, and performed his job to the best of his abilities. His insurance company would have easily settled out of court, which to all doctors is like a big slap in the face. His medical record would have been tarnished and he felt like it would be admitting fault, which he was morally against, so he fought the case in court to prove himself right. The court case lasted a couple years, he was humiliated in court b/c that is what a good lawyer will do, spent thousands of his own money, and eventually won the case. You would think that this win would boost his confidence, but instead, he felt betrayed by the patient and the patient's family, abused by the court system, and worried about a another possible future lawsuit. This doctor then quit the practice of medicine and refused to keep his job, despite the begging of his employer.

My congrats to those patients and lawyers out there destroying American medicine. You're doing a fine job of wasting our time and talent.

My congrats to Caduceus for bringing a tear to the corner of my eye.

October 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Unmitigated Chaos" In Iraq Predicted

Category: News Defused

Should this headline worry us?

Saddam lawyer predicts 'unmitigated chaos' if client executed

Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General and a member of the Saddam Hussein defense team, predicted Thursday that the execution of the former Iraqi dictator would lead to "catastrophic violence" and "total, unmitigated chaos." During a press conference, Clark theorized that Sunni Muslims in Iraq would view an execution as revenge taken by the current Shiite-controlled government.

How will we notice any change from what is happening now in Iraq?

September 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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HMO's Save Money By Paying Providers Less

Category: News Defused

Managed Care Matters discovers that the supposed efficiency of HMOs in the delivery of health care is likely due to lower payments to providers. Should HMO members be told that they are receiving care from the lowest bidders?

HMOs cost less because they pay less

HMOs are cheaper than other forms of health insurance due to lower provider costs. At least that's what an analysis of a 2004 study comparing HMOs to other forms of insurance discussed by Jason Shafrin in a post on Healthcare Economist says.

The difference amounted to 9.3%, with no measurable difference in utilization rates or risk selection between HMOs and other plans.

So, as an industry, HMOs are not more efficient because they are better at managing care or selecting risk, they are cheaper because they pay providers less. I would note that the analysis is based on data from the nineties, so perhaps a more accurate statement is that in the past HMOs were more efficient.

September 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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9-11 Terrorists Denied Entry Into Heaven

Category: News Defused

This bulletin just in -

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami condemned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and said those who carried them out will never go to heaven.

But, do they still get the virgins?

September 09, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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At HP, Job 1 Was To Ferret Out Board Leaks

Category: News Defused

Reuters is reporting on how not to uncover an habitual long-term leaker.

HP's Dunn says she has no plans to resign

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairman Patricia Dunn on Friday defended her role in an inquiry into a boardroom leak that has led to a California state investigation, and said she has no plans to resign unless asked by the board.

Dunn said she did not know private investigators hired by the computer maker had used questionable tactics to access private phone records of board directors and journalists.

Dunn has come under fire for her handling of investigations dating back to 2005, when the board tried to find the source of leaks to the media in the run-up to the ousting of former Chairman and Chief Executive Carly Fiorina in February 2005.

Outside investigators hired by HP had obtained the phone records of board directors and nine journalists by giving phone companies fake identities, Dunn and HP said.

Dunn said one of her top priorities when she became chairman following the ousting of Fiorina was to ferret out the source of board leaks. "Coming to grips with the leaks was one of my top priorities," she said.

HP said on Wednesday director George Keyworth was the source of leaks to the media of specific details about the company's strategy and boardroom deliberations.

"This was a person who had been a habitual long-term leaker," Dunn said of Keyworth.

Frankly, I thought habitual long-term leakers avoided phone conversations entirely and only met with investigative reporters in parking garages.

Obviously, Chairman Dunn did not see All The President's Men.

August 24, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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On Exactly Which Planet Is The Average Negligence Verdict $3 Million?

Category: News Defused

West Virginia County Feels The Pain Of Lawyers' Greed is an article written by Steven Maggi and posted on Pardon My English.

Steven Maggi is the President of Aanko Technologies, Inc., a Homeland Security Consulting firm. Steve is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Public Policy, with an M.P.A. in Intergovernmental Management. A 15-year veteran of policy and outreach work, he was awarded "Best in Public Education" from the United States Conference of Mayors for his work with the City of Burbank, CA.

Well, it certainly seems like Steven is extremely well qualified to expound on this subject. But, Steven leaves the planet behind with this whopper:

According to the Insurance Journal, in the year 2000, the average jury verdict award was over 1 million dollars, or almost 250 percent higher than it was just five years before. In personal negligence cases, the average award exceeds $3 million.

In my greediest dreams I have never imagined personal negligence cases averaging over $3 million. All I can say is that my entire career has been a real downward drag on the national average. Is it possible that Steven is hyping the numbers a tad?

August 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Sicko" Will Definitely Not Be Balanced - Live With It!

Category: News Defused

Michael Moore's next documentary, which is scheduled for release in 2007, is already being criticized because it is not likely to be balanced, thoughtful and well-researched. I doubt that anyone expects it to have these characteristics. Grenade-throwers are, well, grenade-throwers. A few well tossed grenades, however, can bring about change. And, change is what our American healthcare and pharmaceutical industry needs.

Sicko is the name of the film. Sicko is the state of our PharmoMedical System.

Moore's "Sicko" flick is worrying Big Pharma's spinmeisters

Michael Moore's upcoming 2007 documentary "Sicko", aimed at the $1.5 trillion healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, has mobilized many companies within the medical industry to try to discredit both Moore and the film, AdAge.com reports.

"A review of America's health-care system should be balanced, thoughtful and well-researched to pin down what works and what needs to be improved," said Ken Johnson, senior VP for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "You won't get that from Michael Moore."

July 04, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Blockbuster Lies Might Explain Explosion In Drug Lawsuits

Category: News Defused

The Los Angeles Times has examined the recent explosion of product liability lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies. The shocking bottom line - the business model of direct-to-consumer advertisements has produced the era of blockbuster drugs which, in turn, has created the potential for blockbuster liability.

May I add that lying, concealing and over-selling by drug companies might also be part of the explanation.

Los Angeles Times Examines 'Explosion' Of Rx Drug Product Liability Lawsuits

According to an analysis conducted for the Times by the research firm Thomson West, plaintiffs have filed more than 71,000 product liability lawsuits related to prescription drugs in federal courts since 2001, and they have filed "untold others" in state courts. Lawsuits related to prescription drugs currently account for more than one-third of all product liability lawsuits filed in federal courts, the analysis finds.

Legal experts attribute the increase in product liability lawsuits related to prescription drugs in part to "fundamental changes in the pharmaceutical industry's business practices intended to boost sales and profits," the Times reports. Since the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies have increased sales through direct-to-consumer advertisements. "This business model begot the era of blockbuster drugs" but also established the "potential for blockbuster liability," according to the Times. For example, more than 20 million patients used the COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx before Merck withdrew the medication from the market in September 2004 over safety concerns. More than 23,500 plaintiffs nationwide allege that Vioxx injured them or their family members (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 6/27).

June 25, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Should We Shed Tears Over Drop In Doctor Income?

Category: News Defused

Dean Baker is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He posts an interesting viewpoint of a recent news story that informed the public that doctors' income had fallen 7.1 %. I hope Dean does not object to my posting his entire article. He makes several important points, especially within a few days of a Senate vote not to increase the minimum wage in America which has remained the same for virtually a decade.

NPR's Sob Story for Struggling Doctors

NPR did a piece this morning on doctors' pay that leaves you wondering why they get taxpayers dollars. The basic point was that doctors, especially primary care physicians, are struggling. The news hook was a new survey that showed that doctors' net (after malpractice) pay is not keeping pace with inflation.

The survey showed that average net compensation for all physicians in 2003 was just over $220,000 a year (in 2006 dollars). This is down by 7.1 percent (adjusted for inflation) from the 1995 level. Of course there are big differences by specialty. (The decline in pay is partly explained by a 4.1 percent shortening of the average workweek.) While the survey found that surgeons average almost $300,000 a year, primary care physicians average just $160,000 a year.

The NPR story chose to focus on the latter, highlighting the difficulties of making ends meet. However, instead of finding a typical primary care physician, NPR found a doctor who claims to be making just $50,000 a year, less than one third of the average.

The doctor in the story sounded like an impressive person. According to the piece, she specialized in caring for pregnant women in the inner city. It sounds like hard work for very modest pay. According to the piece, she is being forced to change jobs (taking a position at Georgetown University) because she still has $300,000 in loans from medical school hanging over her head.

This is a good human interest story, but it has nothing to do with the pay of doctors. Why on earth would NPR talk to a primary care physician, who apparently earns less than one-third the average for primary care physicians, to find out about the financial difficulties facing primary care physicians? This would be like talking to an autoworker getting $7.00 an hour to find out about the situation facing the typical UAW autoworker who earns close to $20 an hour. Competent reporters do not do this.

The gist of this story was that we should be paying doctors more. If doctors get more, the custodian getting $7.00 an hour gets less. That's the way the economy works, one person's income is another person's cost. Maybe there is a case to be made that the average physician can't make ends meet on $220,000 a year, and the government should intervene to raise their wages. But that case must be made based on the situation of the typical doctor, not some hardworking dedicated physician who works for one-third of the average wage.

May 17, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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De Facto Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants

Category: News Defused

My take on the illegal immigrants who number approximately 11 miillion at last count is that they already have amnesty - nobody has bothered to apprehend them and deport them for 20 years. The issue is now whether they will be required to shoulder the same burdens as the rest of us.

May 14, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Groundless Label Is Frivolous

Category: News Defused

In virtually every medical malpractice lawsuit filed in the United States there is at least one medical expert who has provided a report or an affidavit indicating that, after a thorough review of the records, a breach of the medical standard of care (a medical error) has occurred. Because this has been the situation for many years it is not possible that 40% of medical malpractice cases are groundless.

It is quite possible that in at least 40% of medical malpractice lawsuits another expert has expressed an opinion that the standard of care has been met or that a jury has decided adversely to the victim and in favor of the medical provider. Neither of these circumstances justify the use of the term groundless.

Corpreform.com discusses the mistaken use of groundless by a media still in love with frivolous.

97% of Malpractice Suits Have A Factual Basis

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study on medical malpractice cases. Most media outlets are running it with a headline along the lines of "40% of medical malpractice cases are groundless." Depending upon your opinion of the justice system, that statistic is proof that the justice system works, or is horribly broken. But the media got it wrong.

Law.com reports:

"The study found 3 percent of claims analyzed were filed by patients who had no injury. Of the claims that involved injuries, two-thirds were caused by medical error. But the remaining injury claims, or 37 percent, lacked evidence of a medical mistake, and most of those -- 72 percent -- were thrown out or otherwise resolved without a payout to the patient. "

The passage above actually shows that only 3% of medical malpractice claims were groundless - cases in which no actual injury occurred. In 97% of malpractice cases, an actual injury occurred. The remaining question is whether malpractice was the cause of those injuries. As it turns out, in 37% of cases, a judge or jury decided the answer was no.

If you believe that because 37% of malpractice cases end in the equivalent of a "not guilty" verdict that the civil justice system is broken, then you should also come to the conclusion that the criminal justice system is broken, too. In California, 32.5% of criminal prosecutions result in a "not guilty" verdict. In San Francisco, a whopping 62% of prosecutions end in acquittal!

Do either of those statistics mean that prosecutors are flooding the California courts with frivolous prosecutions? No. For the same reason, a finding that in 37% of malpractice cases no malpractice occurred (but injuries did) isn't evidence that the courts are flooded with frivolous malpractice cases.

May 11, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Jitters Outbreak Spotted By Twitters In Congress

Category: News Defused

Human Events Online, which bills itself as the National Conservative Weekly, has diagnosed an epidemic that it believes is afflicting only Greedy Trial Lawyers. The disease has been identified as "the Jitters."

Researchers have yet to confirm the disease, but have detected a malignancy known as "the Twitters" among Congressional Republicans.

Senate's 'Health Week' Gives Greedy Trial Lawyers the Jitters

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) has labeled this "health week" in the U.S. Senate. In reality, Democrats have turned it into "enrich trial lawyers" week. While Republicans have sought to slow rapid growth in health care costs, the Democrats' loyal ties to the American Association of Trial Lawyers have mandated they sham consumers, hiding behind a façade made to look as if they give a damn about rising health care costs when socialized medicine is not at issue.

May 06, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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My Blind Trust Is Not Doing So Well

Category: News Defused

PUBLIC NOTICE: I do not own a coastal villa and do not belong to a country club. But, I know plenty of doctors who do.

ReviewJournal.com's EDITORIAL: Federal tort reform must have me and other trial lawyers confused with Dr. Bill Frist and his blind trust.

For Democrats, it's all about protecting lawyers

On Thursday, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., introduced a bill that would establish nationwide caps in medical malpractice judgments.

Senate Democrats, most of them lawyers themselves, say they're opposed to the legislation because it could shortchange injured patients to the benefit of greedy doctors, insurance companies and health care corporations. In reality, they oppose it because it could deprive lawyers of payouts that cover their coastal villas and country club initiation fees.

If anyone is buying coastal villas or paying country club initiation fees it is more likely to be physicians than lawyers. According to a table entitled Percentage Change in Inflation-Adjusted Median Salaries for Five Professions, Four-Year Intervals, derived from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, January 2006:

During the period 1996 to 2000, physicians saw an increase in income of 7.5% while lawyers managed only 2%. During the period 2001 to 2005, physicians achieved 34% improvement while lawyers could only do 18%. I feel like a second class citizen.

April 30, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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I Renounce Trade Libel In All Its Forms

Category: News Defused

And a dark cloud came over the land, and the dark cloud caused all of the people to think twice before they blogged on anything controversial.

At Concurring Opinions, blogger Kaimipono D. Wenger posts on the cloud that may be creeping over the blogosphere.

Blogger sued for trade libel

This suit has various elements, and it's hard to say how much of it would go forward in the absence of the (more conventional) copyright claims. This is not purely a trade libel suit based on blog content. But it contains that claim, and as such, it's a sobering data point. In particular, if these kinds of suits (trade libel over blog content) become a broader trend, that will have serious effects on blogs. After all, a good deal of the blogosphere is dedicated to criticism of some industry or other.

Let me be the first to announce my sincere disclaimer of any intention to ever libel any trade or participant in any trade. I renounce trade libel in all its forms. If anything I ever post looks even slightly like a libelous misstatement of fact it is just the ranting of a greedy trial lawyer who has momentarily veered into an accidental falsehood. Well, actually, the falsehood would be the truth as I see it. So, it really is just my opinion of a fact even if it looks like a statement of fact. And, it is not likely to be all that accidental, I suppose.

April 23, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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"Overlawyered" Plus "Overpaneled" Equals Nothing But Fewer Patient Rights

Category: News Defused

Sound the trumpets!! Stop the presses!! Overlawyered posts this announcement from Ted Frank:

"The U.S. Senate Takes On Medical Malpractice Reform"

I'm moderating a panel with this title Monday afternoon at 3 at AEI.

The U.S. Senate has announced that it will be debating new legislation to reform America's medical malpractice law in early May. Is the Senate likely to pass useful reforms? What types of reform should they consider? What is the appropriate role of the federal government in addressing the issue and what are the potential conflicts between the federal government and the states?

At the American Enterprise Institute Website we learn that -

Ted Frank, director of AEI's Liability Project, will moderate.

The AEI Liability Project (www.liabilityproject.org) seeks to promote a better understanding of the scope and consequences of the liability crisis and to help ensure that political or legal reform efforts are aimed at the appropriate targets.

Might I suggest that the panel spend the day more profitably addressing the medical error crisis or the patient safety crisis or the unnecessary hospital deaths crisis.

Coincidentally, on Monday afternoon at the same time I will be moderating a panel of malpractice victims and their families which will discuss an editorial last week in USA Today.

Surgical screw-ups are a small part of a much larger patient-safety problem in hospitals.

Incidents such as bedsores, post-operative infections and failure to diagnose and treat conditions that develop in the hospital continued to plague American hospitals, according to a new study of Medicare patients by HealthGrades, a health care ratings company.

The study found that 1.24 million patient safety incidents occurred in nearly 40 million hospitalizations from 2002 to 2004. Those incidents were associated with 250,000 potentially preventable deaths and $9.3 billion of excess costs. For the second straight year, incidents increased slightly.

Progress in reducing medical errors has been painfully slow. Speeding improvements requires making safety a top priority, publicly identifying hospitals that miss the grade and rewarding those that exceed it.

If Overlawyered would spend some time working on patient safety or similar issues pertaining to the quality of health care in America the U. S. Senate could take on something like, say, The Iraq War.

February 03, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The "Justice League" To Save The Day For Colorado Businesses

Category: News Defused

The Justice League Strikes Again should be the title of the article posted by the Denver Business Journal. It conjures up images of caped and masked vigilantes protecting the rights of businessmen from the evil claims of the wrongfully injured. After the Justice League finishes its present campaign to pack the Colorado Supreme Court with pro business judges, it will be turning its attention to the alarming tendency of some judges to mingle with ordinary people.

A group pushing lawsuit reform says five out of seven Colorado Supreme Court Justices lean toward decisions that expand liability for Colorado businesses and individuals.

In its second Judicial Economic Report, the Colorado Civil Justice League said Thursday that retiring Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis was one of two judges who more often split with the majority on the court and voted to limit liability.

The group urged Gov. Bill Owens, who is expected to name Kourlis' replacement soon, to select a justice whose views are similar to Kourlis'.

The justice league, which promotes liability caps and other measures to limit costs from lawsuits by individuals and businesses, said it based its ratings on selected cases involving insurance claims, workers' compensation, medical malpractice, general liability and employment law.

CCJL says the data show a widening split between justices who expand liability beyond current law, and those who defer to the Legislature on such matters.

January 28, 2006

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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The "Tort Tax" Ploy - Dishonesty In Tort Reform

Category: News Defused

Get ready to hear about the Tort Tax in the media. I will give you fair warning about its absurdity and purpose below. And, I will alert you to the Roadside Bombs that kill and maim our fellow Americans everyday right here in the homeland.

The latest catch phrase being repeated by big business to justify ever more tort reform (read that as less compensation for the wrongfully injured) is the supposed Tort Tax imposed upon our society by personal injury lawsuits. The Tort Tax is usually calculated to be a very large number arrived at by adding together verdicts, reserves set by insurance companies for losses in the future, litigation expenses and other related costs of the civil justice system. Then, this macro-number is divided by the population of the U.S. to come up with a cost per person. The argument is made that much of this cost is passed on to each of us by businesses and corporations as an increase in the price of goods and services.

After reading this scholarly analysis of the Tort Tax the public is expected to react viscerally and immediately recognize the need to repeal this tax. After all, who wants to be taxed in the first place? Taxes are the enemy of hardworking folks.

It should not take a Greedy Trial Lawyer to see the cute trick and absurdity that the Tort Tax really is. But, before stripping the Tort Tax of its pretences, I would direct your attention to the Roadside Bombs that corporations and businesses detonate daily all over our country, creating misery in thousands of households.

In 2004, according to federal government statistics, there were 42,636 fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Many of them were the result of business and corporate operations. Hundreds of thousands more sustained significant wounds as a result of this business and corporate onslaught. Imagine the individual agony of each victim or family after one of these Roadside Bombs accomplishes its evil purpose. You or someone you love could be the next victim. Hold that thought while we go back to the Tort Tax.

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December 31, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Shame On You, Tennessee

Category: News Defused

Tennessee has embarked on an innovative approach to drunk driving. Starting Sunday, convicted drunken drivers are required to do 24 hours of roadside cleanup while wearing orange vests emblazoned with the phrase "I am a Drunk Driver." The new Tennessee law uses the power of shame to discourage drunken driving. But -- even the governor, law enforcement officials and various experts are calling it an expensive and bad idea. CNN has the full story of this shameful effort.

The real shame is that almost every state has enacted laws that provide virtually total immunity to the servers of alcoholic beverages to adults no matter how intoxicated the patron may be. And, another shame is that there is no duty whatsoever on a bar or tavern to require any simple test of blood alcohol level as the regulars stumble out the door to the parking lot.

December 18, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Police Parody Brings Out The Firing Squad

Category: News Defused

You may have heard that the San Francisco Police Department has discovered a nest of rascist, sexist, homophobic officers within its ranks. Well, calls for the firing squad were premature according to the Thin Blue Line (Dedicated to Fallen Officers On & Off duty for their Courage & Honor). Parody, a normal and healthy outlet for the men in blue, was mistaken for truth.

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December 15, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Silence Is Golden To Neurologists

Category: News Defused

Under the guise of assuring that medical experts who testify in malpractice cases are properly qualified and ethical the American Academy of Neurology has revamped its guidelines on expert witnesses. Point Of Law calls this "Another step aimed at tackling the problem of malpractice by mouth." According to MedPage Today, "Academy officials said the changes were prompted by complaints about some of its members. The grievance committee of the academy has had an increase in complaints against neurologists about their expert witness testimony." The real agenda of the Academy is SILENCE BY INTIMIDATION. But, hey, neurologists who belong to the American Academy of Neurology never breach the standard of proper medical care anyway.

December 11, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Tort Reform Flunks Honesty-In-Advertising Test

Category: News Defused

It may be hard to use Tort Reform and Honesty in the same sentence. They may be mutually exclusive ideas. Jonathan G. Stein, a California civil trial lawyer, who may or may not be greedy, talks about the way big business is working behind the scenes to make tort reform appear grass roots instead of poisoned fruit. As Jonathan says it, "You hear a lot today about 'tort reform.' What is it? Basically, it is an attempt by big business and insurance companies to limit your right to sue in court. Why does it matter?" His article and blog are right on!

November 13, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Laundry Malice Not Likely

Category: News Defused

In Wyoming they must take their laundry very seriously. A Casper assisted living home has been sued over a woman's fall and her resulting death. These facts are serious and may deserve a lawsuit for compensation. The women allegedly tripped over laundry left on the floor by an employee of the home. Probably a negligent employee, I would say. But, the lawsuit accuses the assisted living facility of "malice, gross negligence, wantonness, willfulness and/or recklessness." Whoa!

It may turn out that the employee really had it in for the women resident. Bad blood does flow in some veins. If so, however, we are talking manslaughter here.

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November 11, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Don't Call God - Pat Robertson

Category: News Defused

Pat Robertson has informed a small town that God will not be responding to any of its prayers because it voted out of office supporters of Intelligent Design in classrooms. This may be shocking news to some, but not a totally unexpected statement coming from a true believer in the cause. As a Greedy Trial Lawyer I have been told on more than one occasion not to bother calling a doctor when someone in my family needs medical care. And, I have been informed by telephone solicitors for law enforcement charities, after I have declined to make a telephone donation, that it would be a waste of my time to call on the local police in an emergency. So, I have personal experience with the "woe be to you and your entire family" threat.

Greedy trial lawyers, however, never make this threat no matter how terrible the criticism of our work or vicious the attacks on our morals. Our greediness keeps us on an even keel. We know that when the proponent of tort reform is injured or has the tragedy of an injury or death in his family he will likely turn to us. With equal parts greed and compassion we will undertake representation and file our frivolous lawsuit on his behalf. We will not even attempt to change his thinking. After we take our outrageous fee out of his recovery we will part knowing that he is greedy, too.

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November 07, 2005

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Merck Is Not Flower People But What Is It?

Category: News Defused

Why did the Plaintiff lose the second of the Vioxx trials? It was not because Vioxx was a safe drug. Attorney William G. Pintas, posting on his Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog, tells us just how much Big Pharma has poisoned our society with its Show Me The Money approach to its products. He believes the jury that rendered the recent defense verdict in NJ gave the drug manufacturer a pass because Merck was just "doing buiness as usual" in America today. This may be a defeat that points the way to future victories.

Continue reading "Merck Is Not Flower People But What Is It?"