Articles Posted in California

The Desert Sun has an editorial on “tort abuse” that provides the following statistic: “Tort (sic) costs amount to $865 billion nationally each year — or 6.5 percent of the gross domestic product. That’s a lot of lost economic output.”

Can we get a footnote? And while I don’t want to get too demanding, how about citing the actual study that supports this figure? It is absolutely outlandish. Does the Desert Sun have any criteria for what it will publish?

Here’s another great one: “California also ranks near the bottom when it comes to farm owners’ tort losses — that is, how much farm owners pay when an outside vendor sues them for an injury incurred on the farm owner’s property. These losses translate into higher food prices for consumers everywhere.”

The San Diego Injury Lawyer Blog (post since removed) reports that the California Court of Appeals has extended the protections given to doctors under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) transporting patients because EMTs were “inextricably identified” with the health and medical care of their patients.

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 was ostensibly enacted in California to provide for affordable medical malpractice insurance for doctors because, you know, doctors are so poor and all. MICRA limits medical malpractice jury awards $250,000 in noneconomic damages and staggers payment for verdicts over $50,000 future medicals and lost wages. Making matters worse, doctor defendants in medical malpractice cases can introduce collateral sources to show medical payments made by insurance companies.

I don’t question MICRA, including EMTs. I question the logic of MICRA itself.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Joseph Shidler told the media that he did not have evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brittany Spears was aware that the paparazzo foot she ran over had been struck by the car. In fact, Mr. Shidler said that the “only way the victim’s foot could have been where the video indicates it to be was by the victim placing it in that location.”

Is he suggesting that the victim intentionally caused his own injury? In a normal situation, I would scream that this is classic blame the victim nonsense. In this case, in the bizarro world that is Hollywood? Who knows?

On July 1st, California will ban drivers using a handheld wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle. Of course, you can still text message while driving.

No, I cannot explain it. You could drive a truck through the flawed logic of the new California cell phone laws. There are no teeth to the new law either. Violators of the new law are subject to a fine of $20 for the first offense and not more than $50 for each subsequent offense. No points on your license either. But I still think California is making a step in the right direction.

A Los Angeles hospital has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a (sort of) medical malpractice case. The hospital dumped a paraplegic man in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Incredibly, this Los Angeles hospital apparently left a paraplegic man crawling around a Los Angeles’ ghetto in a hospital gown and colostomy bag. Try to imagine someone actually doing this. I say “sort of” a medical malpractice case but this is not really malpractice: this is human beings doing something deliberately awful to another human being.

The hospital, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, sounds like it is trying to do the right thing, settling the case for what I expect is more than it was worth and amending its discharge policies for patients who are homeless and indigent patients. That’s all great. I just can’t imagine – on a human level – the hospital employees who saw fit to dump a paraplegic man and colostomy bag in the middle of the street with a hospital gown. Are these people still working for the hospital?

These are the kind of cases where medical malpractice lawyers are making a difference. A part of the settlement also requires the hospital to be monitored by a former U.S. attorney for up to five years. Why did the lawyers and clients insist on this? It has nothing to do with money. But it has everything to do with justice.

The University of California San Francisco reported that two years after California the state passed legislation increasing reimbursements from Medi-Cal, average nursing home income from the state’s healthcare program went up to $152 from $124 daily. But average spending on direct patient care went down by 3.6 percent and, not surprisingly, complaints of patient mistreatment proven went up by 36 percent. The study discovered 16 percent of nursing homes in the state failed to measure up to California’s minimum staffing benchmarks.

The average nursing home netted $248,047 in 2006, a 233% increase from 2004. Charlene Harrington, the California studies lead author, told the Los Angeles Times, “They got so much money, they should have been able to do something.”

You would think.

california injury verdictsCalifornia personal injury plaintiffs are among the best compensated injury victims in the country, but that California juries need convincing that the defendant is liable. California’s median compensatory award in personal injury cases is 149,000, dwarfing the national median of $34,550. But California juries only award damages in 44 percent of personal injury cases that go to verdict. Nationally, plaintiffs prevail in 52% of personal injury cases.

These California personal injury verdict numbers, not median or average settlements in personal injury cases. But settlement values largely reflect the median verdicts.  Why?  Because exceedingly high verdicts really distort the average.

In litigation that is a byproduct of the Ford Explorer rollover lawsuits, Ford Explorer owners will be “compensated” in a settlement because of the loss of value of the Explorer because of the perceived rollover danger. This settlement covers about 800,000 people who purchased Explorers in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Texas.

Unfortunately, the only people who will get a significant recovery will be the lawyers who brought these claims. Explorer owners will only be eligible for vouchers for $300 to purchase new vehicles Ford or Lincoln Mercury vehicles (or $500 off the Ford Explorer). Practically, the car dealers will just negotiate a higher sales price on the car the sale of the car, reducing the list price less than they otherwise would.

Accordingly, this settlement is worthless to everyone except for the lawyers bringing these claims. The frustrating thing about this is that 800,000 people see this settlement and think, “Geez, what a scam, the only people that really profit from this are the lawyers.” For personal injury victims and their lawyers, this does not help when one of these 800,000 people shows up on a jury.

general motors class actionYesterday, a California judge has granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement between General Motors. The settlement would entitle about 20 million plaintiffs throughout the country in the car litigation class action lawsuit to $50 to $800 per repair for performance problems in almost three dozen General Motors car lines.

The lawyers’ fees in this case where the claimants will at most recover $800 is $16.5 million. In mass tort cases, lawyers certainly get large fees as well. But from the standpoint of a personal injury lawyer, it is odd that lawyers would get such large fees in cases where the clients have such a small vested interest.

What About These “Lawyers Make All the Money” Lawsuits?

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