Monday, June 22, 2009

Editorial Says Doctors, Lawyers Both Wrong

A USA Today editorial says the "only thing" trial lawyers and doctors "have in common" on medical malpractice "is that they're both wrong. Doctors overestimate the degree to which lawsuits drive up medical costs (malpractice costs account for less than 2% of all health care spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office). Lawyers underestimate the degree to which even a few outsized verdicts spread fear and influence doctors' behavior." Unless "doctors and lawyers move from the extremes of the malpractice debate, the public will be denied what it wants most a reduction in the medical errors that occur all too often."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Suit Filed for Victim of Sexual Assault at Underage Drinking Party

The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck has filed suit on behalf of a Fitch Senior High School student who was sexually assaulted by another teen at an underage drinking party in Groton on June 16, 2007. The girl is identified as “Jane Doe” to protect her privacy. The suit alleges that the girl and her friend obtained and consumed alcoholic beverages from the friend’s home in Mystic, and then went to the party at a second house in Groton where they drank more and where the assault took place. The suit, filed against the owners of the homes where the drinking took place, alleges claims for negligent supervision and negligent provision of alcohol, including that the homeowners failed to properly supervise their minor children and their guests at their homes; failed to take steps to prevent drinking of alcohol by minors on their premises; violated Conn. Gen. Stat. § 30-89a by knowingly permitting minors to possess alcohol on their premises, and/or failing to make reasonable efforts to halt possession of alcohol by minors on their premises; and failed to prevent sexual assault of minors on the property. In addition to sexual assault and battery, the victim alleges injuries including mental and emotional anguish and distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, social ostracism and humiliation.

The trial attorneys at The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck, LLC represent individuals in all types of personal injury cases throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island including car accidents; trucking accidents; motorcycle accidents; wrongful deaths; slip/trip and falls; construction accidents; dog bite cases; medical malpractice; nursing home abuse or neglect cases; defective products; negligent security claims; uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) claims; spine, neck and back injuries; traumatic brain injuries; birth injuries; jury trials; mediation and arbitration; and appeals. We proudly serve clients all over the state of Connecticut and the state of Rhode Island, including, in Connecticut: New London County, New Haven County, Middlesex County, Hartford County, Tolland County, and Windham County; and in Rhode Island: Bristol County, Kent County, Newport County, Providence County, and Washington County. Call the attorneys at The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck today, at (860)535-4040 or (800)597-1334.

Friday, June 19, 2009

FDA Medical Device Approval System "Broken"

From Reuters: Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), chairman of the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that "there is evidence that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval system for medical devices is 'broken' and a comprehensive review of the major issues and potential problems is needed." At a hearing Thursday, Rep. Pallone "said the standards, procedures, and rules for certain devices 'don't [meet] modern needs of getting medical devices to those in need with confidence in their safety,' and an approval process is required that keeps pace with new technology." During the hearing Marcia Crosse, the Government Accountability Office's director of healthcare, said "that the GAO has repeatedly pointed to shortcomings in the medical device approval process that continue today."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Airbag Amputates Thumb

In a New York Times blog (6/17), Christopher Jensen wrote about the case of Ken Thompson of Pittsburgh, whose right thumb was partially amputated by his air bag after it deployed following a "minor impact." Thompson "said he planned to file a suit against BMW, the manufacturer of his 2006 BMW 325xi. But Jensen says "if there is a widespread problem with serious hand injuries, it is not obvious. At my request, the American College of Emergency Physicians asked their members if they had seen many hand injuries as the result of air bags." Of the 16 doctors who responded, "only one said he had seen a serious hand injury and that involved not just the amputation of a thumb, but 'the digit was thrown out the window.'"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AAJ's Response to Obama's Address to AMA

The following is a statement from American Association for Justice President Les Weisbrod regarding President Obama’s address to the American Medical Association:

“It’s clear America’s health care system is in crisis. Over 40 million people are without health insurance and costs are skyrocketing. President Obama is right that health care reform is needed now and patient safety should be the top priority.

“Empirically-based practice guidelines, developed by independent experts, is an idea we can support, as long as it does not lower quality or standards of care. Instead, these guidelines should lead to greater patient safety.

“According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors. Eliminating these errors, not further hurting the victims of negligence, is where lawmakers should focus their attention. By taking away the rights of people to hold wrongdoers accountable, the quality of health care will suffer tremendously.

“However, the notion that ‘defensive medicine’ is leading to higher health care costs is not supported by empirical data or academic literature. Recent news reports, CBO and GAO analyses, and statements from administration officials have shown that physicians will over-test and over-treat purely for financial reasons, unrelated to liability concerns.

“Limiting the legal rights of injured patients will do nothing to lower health care costs or aid the uninsured. We will work over the coming weeks and months to educate members of Congress and the administration on how to best protect victims of medical negligence.”

AAJ has developed a primer on medical negligence and the role of the civil justice system in the current health care debate. The primer can be located at

NYTimes Says Patients Must Be Able to Sue for Negligence

The New York Times editorialized: "Hoping to enlist support for his campaign for health care reform, President Obama told the American Medical Association this week that he would work with doctors to limit their vulnerability to malpractice lawsuits. That was a reasonable offer - provided any malpractice reform is done carefully." The Times says, "Whatever the alternative - tribunals, mediation - patients must retain the right to go to court and seek higher damages than they have been offered" because "that is the only way to deter negligence by doctors, hospitals and other health care providers."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Research, Good Policies Protect Kids From Products

USA Today reports that children are benefiting "from a wealth of new research, as well as the safety laws and better products based on those research findings." Nationwide, the "death rates from unintentional injuries among children under 19" fell "nearly 50% in 1981, from 27 deaths per 100,000 children in 1981 to 14 per 100,000 in 2005, according to the CDC." According to the CPSC, "Injuries from baby walkers - which help babies stand up - have fallen 88% since the early 1990s, from 25,700 a year to 3,100 annually today." Also, "Deaths from crib accidents have fallen 84% since 1973, decreasing from 200 deaths a year to 30, largely because of safety improvements," and "thanks to childproof caps, accidental poisonings have fallen more than 80% since the early 1970s, when 216 children died each year, the CPSC says."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Conn. Legislature Creates New Infraction re: Customer Access to Restrooms

The legislature has passed a law requiring customer access to restrooms in retail establishments when the customer has documentation of certain specified medical conditions (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or a medical condition that requires use of an ostomy device). Read P.A. 09-129.

Obama Willing to Impose Malpractice Limits

The New York Times reports that the AMA "has long battled Democrats who oppose protecting doctors from malpractice lawsuits. But during a private meeting at the White House last month, association officials said, they found one Democrat willing to entertain the idea: President Obama." The Times adds that "in closed-door talks, Mr. Obama has been making the case that reducing malpractice lawsuits -- a goal of many doctors and Republicans -- can help drive down health care costs, and should be considered as part of any health care overhaul, according to lawmakers of both parties, as well as A.M.A. officials."

There is NO EVIDENCE that caps on malpractice awards reduce insurance premiums paid by doctors or lead to savings on healthcare costs. This is a horrible idea, and just another myth used to appeal to a particular interest group for political advantage. Tell your elected leaders to oppose caps on damages.

Incidentally, the New York Times also editorialized (6/14) that "As the debate over health care reform unfolds, policy makers and the public need to focus more attention on doctors and the huge role they play in determining the cost of medical care - costs that are rising relentlessly." The paper said, "There is disturbing evidence that many do a lot more than is medically useful - and often reap financial benefits from over-treating their patients." The Times concluded, "Doctors have been complicit in driving up health care costs. They need to become part of the solution."

Bridgeport Diocese Seeks Reconsideration on Disclosure Ruling

The AP reported, "The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport asked the Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday to reconsider a ruling that would make public thousands of pages of documents that detail alleged sexual abuse by priests." The diocese argues that "the ruling fails to uphold the privacy and constitutional rights of all parties to lawsuits, especially when cases are sealed, and contends the disclosure of the sealed documents is barred by the religious clauses of the First Amendment." Read more.

Most States Don't Require Seat Belts on Back Seat Passengers

USA Today reports that "Highway safety advocates say a deadly gap exists in the nation's seat belt laws: Most states don't require adult passengers in the back seat to buckle up." Read more.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In the News

The Norwich Bulletin writes about two of my three nursing home wrongful death cases.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

RI Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

The AP reports that "Rhode Island would be the third state in the nation and the first on the East Coast to allow nonprofit stores to sell marijuana to medical patients under legislation approved Tuesday by state lawmakers." The state Senate voted 30-2 to allow three stores to sell marijuana to more than 680 patients registered with the state Department of Health. The measure now goes to Gov. Don Carcieri, who has previously vetoed bills legalizing medical marijuana.

Monday, June 8, 2009

U.S Already Had a Hispanic Justice

Judge Sotomayor would not be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. We've already had one: Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, U. S. Supreme Court Justice from 1932 - 1938, a Sephardic Jew of Spanish ancestry.

His father, Judge Albert Cardozo, was Vice President and Trustee of the famous Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in New York City, Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest congregation in the western hemisphere. It was founded in Recife, Brazil circa 1630 and moved to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in 1654 when Portugal took Brazil from the Dutch and brought the Inquisition there.

NY PIRG: Malpractice Pay-Outs Have Fallen

In a blog on the New York Times website Jeremy Peters wrote, "For years, as hospitals have fought to protect the money they receive from the state, health care lobbyists have argued that the exceedingly high cost of medical malpractice insurance was a result of a runaway legal system that allowed juries to award huge judgments to victims of doctors' mistakes." However, "a new report from an independent government watchdog group suggests that those claims are exaggerated." The study by the New York Public Interest Research Group found that "the amount of money paid for malpractice claims in New York has actually fallen in recent years, and that the number of overall claims has remained 'remarkably stable.'"

The number of malpractice suits in Arizona has fallen. The Arizona Daily Star reported, "Attorneys are becoming increasingly choosy when it comes to filing medical malpractice lawsuits - largely because doctors and hospitals usually win when the cases go to court." Some people "attribute the decline to changes in the law, the expense of putting on a case and the attitudes of jurors" and "others say it's just a cyclical phenomenon."

Friday, June 5, 2009

NJ Judge Says Gun Dealer May Be Liable for Ex-Employee's Shooting of Police Officer with Stolen Gun

In Schramm v. Sarco Firearms, MRS-L-2481-04, a New Jersey judge refused to grant statutory immunity to a gun dealer who was sued when an ex-employee stole one of its handguns and shot a police officer. "Sarco Inc. of Stirling, N.J., claimed it was covered under the four-year-old federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which immunizes gun sellers from suits by victims of gun-related crimes." But the court ruled that "Sarco's failure to tell authorities that the gun was missing violated the statute", and held that "a jury should decide whether that failure constituted negligence and whether it was a proximate cause of the officer's injuries." The court reasoned that "the PLCAA was aimed at suits that impose strict liability against firearms dealers simply because they sold guns:

'[T]he PLCAA was not intended to apply to private citizen suits like the present one in which the handgun at issue was used by the defendant's own employee, possibly due to the alleged lack of security measures at the retailer's business premises. Even if the PLCAA applies, defendant's action may fall within an exception to the Statute's immunity provisions, such as the knowing failure to report the loss of a handgun from its inventory.' notes that this week, "Sarco agreed to pay a $487,500 settlement to the injured officer, Jonathan Schramm." Read more.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Coming to a Theater Near You: "Faces of Lawsuit Abuse"

The New York Times reports that "moviegoers may get a dose of advocacy this month when they settle into their seats for the feature presentation," as movie theatres will be showing "commercials that are intended to spell out the perils of frivolous lawsuits as told by 'everyday Americans,' including small-business owners who have been hit with costly lawsuits they believed were arbitrary and abusive." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hopes that the "Faces of Lawsuit Abuse" ad campaign "can revitalize interest in restricting litigation."

Doctors Say Some Falls Not Preventable

In the Boston Globe White Coat Notes blog, Elizabeth Cooney wrote that "in October, the federal government stopped paying hospitals for extra care if a fall is deemed preventable." But, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Sharon K. Inouye, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues, "argue that because falls have proved to be such an intractable problem despite broad efforts to reduce them, they should not be included on a list of avoidable medical errors that result in hospitals not being paid." The paper contends that "falls can happen despite the best hospital care." The authors say they fear "restraints will be used" without "well-established guidelines on preventing falls."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Investing In Lawsuits

The New York Times discusses the phenomenon of investing in litigation--not personal injury cases that are potentially going to have jury trials, but "in disputes that are far larger, more costly and potentially more lucrative, often pitting major corporations against each other." The potential reward: a share of the eventual winnings.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wash. Times Says Consumers Lose in Smaller Cars

The Washington Times (not to be confused with the Washington Com-Post) editorialized, "President Obama's push to force Americans into smaller cars ignores one big problem -- small cars are less safe than big cars." The Times said, "The latest numbers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released in April show that small cars have a 55 percent higher death rate than midsize ones." It argues that "whatever the benefits -- if any -- of fighting global warming, they must be weighed against the costs of proposed policies" and "in addition to the loss of life, there is a significant price penalty to the consumer."

NHTSA: Infant Safety Improves, Older Children Fare Worse

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel says "A new report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the number of motorists securing youngsters under 1 year of age and under 20 pounds in rear-facing car seats had 'increased significantly' over the last year, researchers said, rising from 72 to 79 percent between 2007 and 2008." However, "things got worse as young passengers got older, especially if they were small for their age."

Supreme Court Expected to Reverse Sotomayor's Ruling in New Haven Case

The Los Angeles Times reports that in a decision "that could fuel controversy over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, the high court this month is expected to overrule one of her key appellate court rulings." Sotomayor was "part of a three-judge panel that, in a two-paragraph opinion, rejected an appeal by white firefighters from New Haven., Conn., who contended that they were victims of racial discrimination when they were denied promotions." The ruling "in the firefighters' case promises to be one of the most important of the Supreme Court term because it could affect public agencies across the nation."

USA Today reports the "most attention-grabbing case" of Sotomayor's "began when a Connecticut city rejected the results of a firefighter-promotion test because whites outscored blacks and Hispanics." In the case, "likely to be a hot-button issue at her confirmation hearings, city officials said they tossed the 2003 test results fearing bias lawsuits from minorities who did not qualify for elevation. Sotomayor endorsed New Haven's action. The terse opinion she joined appeared to minimize the significance of the 'reverse discrimination' claim from white firefighters denied promotions."