Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cuts to Social Security payments could cost 419,000 jobs. According to the Southern Rural Development Center, "If Social Security payments were reduced by only five percent, the nation’s economic output would decrease by $63 billion, 419,000 jobs would be lost and tax revenues would decrease by $7.8 billion."

If that is the case, then who are the geniuses who are crying wolf, demanding that Social Security gets cut down? My guess is that those critics don't rely on Social Security.
DUIs and insurance rates: This item focuses on Florida law, but the principles should remain the same even if you are in an East Tennessee or Knoxville DUI incident.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No Social Security Crisis:

It has built up a $2.5 trillion surplus, largely in anticipation of the growing numbers of baby boomers who are beginning to claim Social Security benefits. It was always expected that this surplus would shrink over time, but it is clear that the steep recession has accelerated this decline. There clearly is a need to make some changes in the program to restore its long-term funding and spending balance. But there is no crisis in Social Security and no reason to scare the daylights out of the more than 50 million Americans who depend on the program's retirement and disability benefits.

Which begs the question: who is spreading the unfounded rumor that Social Security is in imminent danger of collapse? And why are they spreading it?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Social media sites like Facebook being used to spy on injured workers. This is a growing phenomenon, which could spell real problems for personal injury or worker's compensation claimants especially. Some very worthwhile tips:

1.Make sure there is nothing you would not want your mother or the insurance company lawyer to see.
2.Search your name to see that what comes up is acceptable. Make whatever adjustments are necessary.
3.Check your privacy settings.
4.Don't answer emails or requests from people you don't know. (Keep in mind that because of the lawsuit process, the opposing legal team knows a lot about you and could send you an email that might make you think you know each other.)
5.Don’t accept a Facebook friend that you don’t know. Set up your Facebook to require an email before you will accept a new friend.

And, speaking as a lawyer who knows that most lawyers are way behind the technology curve, volunteer to your lawyer if you are prominent on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. It could make the difference between a salvageable case and getting blindsided at trial.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sober Brad Paisley pulled over for suspected DUI. My question is, why then was he pulled over?
Man to Social Security: I'm Not Dead! This part, I love: ""There could be cases where we've erroneously terminated someone," said Frank Vieria, who works in public affairs at the Social Security Administration."

I'm glad that guy's not a hit man. After all, erroneous termination is a bad thing, right?
Father fights delay in Social Security Disability payments: Terminally ill daughter died before Social Security benefits arrived.

The arbitrary five month waiting period is ridiculous. And is the "People's House" (House of Representatives) doing anything about it? No:

That bill, the Social Security Fairness for the Terminally Ill Act of 2009, was not passed before the session of Congress in which it was proposed ended.

Today there is a new bill in the House of Representatives — the Social Security Fairness for the Terminally Ill Act of 2011 — that aims to do the same thing. The bill is currently under legislative review.

What do you want to bet that the pending bill never sees the light of day?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The great Kittiwake camera mystery: do you know this diver? Apparently the camera, containing undated photos of Grand Cayman diving [that's the famous Sunset House mermaid in the photo] was found by a diver off the Florida coast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"In case you forgot -- or didn't know in the first place -- Wendell Potter, the former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, says profits drive the insurance industry, and that its highly paid executives deceive and manipulate to put shareholders first - above the health needs of their members.

Potter, certainly a guy in a position to know, said further that "there are no government 'death panels.' The law doesn't cut Medicare benefits and it doesn't call for a 'government takeover' of health care. . . . My colleagues and I came up with that term to scare the heck out of people." (emphasis added)

Anybody else feel manipulated and deceived?
Trespassing, yes. DUI, No: DUI conviction of man who was sitting in a parked car, in a private driveway, with the motor off, is overturned by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Said the Court:

We do not believe the Legislature intended to make a citizen drinking a beer while cleaning out his vehicle parked in his driveway guilty of a crime because the vehicle is overhanging the sidewalk," Justice William Connoly wrote in the 38-page ruling.

The county court concluded that because McCave had stated that he was leaving while he was in his vehicle with the keys in the ignition and the motor off, the officers could infer that McCave drove to (his father's and stepmother's) house intoxicated. We disagree.

For once, a sensible decision from the courts. Too bad it had to go all the way to the state supreme court first.

Starving the beast: "How cuts to Social Security Administration will hurt you."

You know, I see all this talk about budget cutting and how the lower and middle income people are going to have to suffer and sacrifice for the good of all. When are the wealthy people, who can most afford to make some sacrifices, going to be called upon to do their share?
New York High Court: lack of seat belts in busses actionable at law. I've always wondered how bus companies get away with having no seat belts. This court ruling shows that they will not necessarily get off scott free. From a personal injury point of view, this is a good decision.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tennessee lawmaker who pushed guns-in-bars law charged with DUI: You reap what you sow?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Citizens say: Leave Social Security, other benefits alone. The takeaway from this story is that programs like Social Security are absolutely vital to millions of Americans. Any kind of profound change could destroy lives. It's easy to pontificate that we do not need such programs. It's a lot harder when we are absolutely dependent upon them.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Social Security Disability Requests Stalled To Give SS Supervisors Bonuses, Hurting The Injured. Normally, a Social Security Disability claim can take three plus years. Deliberate delays as described in the link are a travesty.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A voice of logic and reason on Social Security: Enough with the Social Security scare tactics. What I want to know is who is spreading the scare tactics -- aside from the obvious Rick Perry references -- and who stands to gain by bad-mouthing this program?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Math doesn’t work on privatizing Social Security: "It’s just an idea that they [Republicans] throw out there, with no evidence of serious thought."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Palestinians Want Peace --- Just Not With a Jewish State. Just in case you thought there had been any movement from the palestinean arab point of view in the past 60+ years, think again:

Earlier this month in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, I interviewed Ghassan Khatib, director of government media for the Palestinian Authority and the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I asked him the same question: Do the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state?

He was more direct than the Palestinians students at Stanford.

His long answer amounted to: "No."

They don't even recognize that there is a Jewish people. Did you know that Abbas, in his U.N. speech, refused even to use the words "Jew" or "Jewish?" In referring to Israel, he spoke of "the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)...." I guess no Jews have ever lived in "the Holy Land." Ridiculous, except no one is paying attention to the continuing intransigence of the Arabs. For instance:

Two Israeli peace proposals, in 2000 and 2008 … met virtually all of the Palestinians' demands for a sovereign state in the areas won by Israel in the 1967 war — in the West Bank, Gaza and even East Jerusalem. But Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rejected the first offer and Abbas ignored the second, for the very same reason their predecessors spurned the 1947 Partition Plan.

Each time, accepting a Palestinian State meant accepting the Jewish State, a concession the Palestinians were unwilling to make.

Finally we get down to it. The issue is not settlements, or land concessions, or the right of return. The issue is as it always has been: they want the Jews dead and/or gone. The only peace the palestinean arabs are interested in is a Jew/Israeli-free peace.

By the way, I find it amusing that the media is wringing its hands at this latest "crisis." The palestinean arabs have been taking these very same positions since before 1948. It's nothing new. It takes two to tango, and the palestinean arabs have refused ever to dance with Israel.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Legislature gives nursing homes a break: Like they operated sooo well before, that they have earned lighter (read: no) regulation? Honestly, I wonder how some of these people sleep at night.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Social Security: If Ronald Reagan could fix it 30 years ago, so can we fix it now.
OK, this borders on the ridiculous: F-16s Scrambled Due to Inappropriate Bathroom Use. Or, as Kevin Underhill quipped in the caption below an F-16 photo, "Hi there! Just here to kill you if necessary. That guy still pooping?"

Seriously, though, Kevin says the following, which makes a lot of sense:

According to security expert Bruce Schneier, "[e]xactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money." After all, the 9/11 strategy stopped working on 9/11, as soon as passengers learned what was going on. (Ask the shoe and underwear bombers where all those bruises came from.) And yet we are still so terrified of a strategy that worked for less than one day that, ten years later, we scramble fighters in response to a slap-fight or long toilet stay.

Read the Schneier link, too. I think he's right.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Noteworthy Court Orders: I wish our judges has a sense of humor -- at least on paper -- like these guys. Here's my favorite, apparently directed to bickering litigants:

Greetings and Salutations!
You are invited to a kindergarten party on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2011, at 10:00
a.m. in Courtroom 2 of the United States Courthouse, 200 W. Eighth Street, Austin, Texas.

The party will feature many exciting and informative lessons, including:

• How to telephone and communicate with a lawyer

• How to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates

• How to limit depositions to reasonable subject matter

• Why it is neither cute nor clever to attempt to quash a subpoena for technical failures of service when notice is reasonably given; and

• An advanced seminar on not wasting the time of a busy federal judge and his staff because you are unable to practice law at the level of a first year law student.

Invitation to this exclusive event is not RSVP. Please remember to bring a sack lunch! The United States Marshals have beds available if necessary, so you may wish to bring a toothbrush in case the party runs late.

Hee hee.
Lowering the Bar got on this first, but it's worth a re-post. Let's just for the sake of argument say that I'm OK with nine federally-mandated medical insurance codes for injuries caused by turtles (yeah, you read that right). Now what I don't get are the thirteen codes assoiated with, ahem, "unspecified spacecraft" causing injury.

It gets better, that is, more absurd. Not only do they have a code for "Forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant; initial encounter," they also have "Forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant; subsequent encounter. I don't know about you all, but I very seldom have more than one encounter as an occupant on a spacecraft. But two?

Have I missed something? Is Lost in Space's Jupiter II for real (anybody ever wonder what happened to the Jupiter I? Or is that just me)? And where was I when they were handing out all these spacecraft for people like us to be occupants?

Shucks. I miss everything.

Justices Scalia and Ginsburg confronting the hundred pound elephant in the room.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Perry’s monstrous lies about Social Security: "Not only is Perry shooting wildly from the hip on these statements — a strategy cynically designed to attract angry, younger independent voters — he’s spewing some layered falsehoods that need to be addressed."

The takeaway: "Behind Social Security is an appallingly simple truth: We can put more money into it by asking higher-salaried employees to pay more, and by including immigrants and public-sector employees. I know that doesn’t have much political sizzle to it, but this kind of math doesn’t lie."
Well, this is a truly bad idea: Mandatory E-Verify Would Overwhelm Social Security Administration, Increase Disability Backlog.

Guess whose idea it is: The Republican House of Representatives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Man charged with DUI after towing boat, trailer upside down: "Eric A. Willis, 40, of Avondale, was charged with DUI, reckless driving, resisting arrest and resisting arrest with violence, disregarding a police officer's signal, leaving the scene of a property accident, driving at an unreasonable speed, driving on the wrong side of the highway and two counts of failure to signal intention, said state Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Gregory Rhodes."

What I want to know is whether the two counts of failure to signal intention occurred before or after he started driving on the wrong side of the highway.
This congressman has yet another plan to "save" Social Security, by converting it to an investment plan. It also creates a new federal cureaucracy to administer it. Here's the fundamental problem: Social Security is insurance, which pays out upon disability or upon reaching a certain age. By turning it into an investment plan, you fundamentally change the nature of the program. Oh, and by the way, what happens if the market tanks? Answer: "the above investment scenarios will undoubtedly have some down years where the portfolios would have a negative return...."

It might be worth thinking about if you could guarantee at least the benefit recipients currently get. But that's the problem with market-driven investments: return on investment cannot be either predicted or guraranteed.
I am seeing a lot of "news" stories excoriating Social Security lately -- more so than usual. Could it be that someone is trying to poison public opinion about Social Security in order to make it easier to gut the system? In light of Rick Perry's on-record statements condemning the program, I am skeptical about whether that's a coincidence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Florida linebacker arrested for "resisting an officer with violence" and driving with a suspended sentence. Will the Gators suspend him or find a way to play him against Tennessee on Saturday?

I know what they ought to do, and I can guess what they'll probably do. And those are two different things.
Ok, now this is just too weird: Mel Gibson to make Jewish movie. You know, Mel, just leave well enough alone. This approaches the absurd, considering your past behavior.
What to look for in a new family car. Most of this is common sense, but it's a handy checklist if you're in the market.

The newer technology airbag is especially interesting. A number of years ago, our Knoxville personal injury practice had a client who was rear-ended and whose pickup was forced into the car ahead of hers. Yhe airbag deployed, and when she came to see me, her face looked like she had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. If these improved airbags can reduce the amount of injury actually caused by an airbag deployment, that would be a good thing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Social Security is no swindle. I particularly like this part:

there's one other way that you -- and Gov. Perry -- can distinguish Social Security from a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes often leave their elderly victims penniless and with nothing to fall back on.

Nothing, that is, except Social Security.

To me, it is disturbing that a man who is governor of one of our larget states, and who thinks he is qualified to be President, doesn't know what a Ponzi scheme is. In and of itself, that ought to disqualify him from higher office. I mean, don't we want our best -- and brightest -- in these positions of great responsibility?

R.I.P. Cliff Robertson.
I've been somewhat following the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife Services search warrant executed on Gibson Guitar in Nashville and Memphis. Here is the search warrant affidavit that led a judge to sign the search warrant for Gibson.

In that affidavit, it is alleged that: India prohibits export of wood from India. Aff., para. 17; prohibited Indian ebony was imported and allegedly received by a company called Luthier Mercantile International. Aff. para. 18. While the shipment was marked for transport to Nashville, the final consignee was not identified in the paperwork. Para. 20. Luthier Mercantile's representative advised that the shipment was intended for Gibson Guitar in Nashville, id., even though customs forms indicated the final consignee to be Luthier Mercantile in Canada, contradicting the other declarations and paperwork indicating the materials were intended for Nashville. Para 21. The Indian export declaration falsely classified the shipment as being allowed parts (finished parts of musical instruments). Eleven imports in the past year have been noted to be of the prohibited type of wood. Para. 28.

The implication here is obvious: that Gibson, in order to get away with obtaining prohibited materials, set up a series of "straw men" to receive the prohibited materials. If true, that suggests Gibson knew full well what it was doing was in violation of law.

I have tried to distill the legalese in the affidavit for brevity's sake. My judgment is that the affidavit shows probable cause sufficient to issue the search warrant.

Gibson's CEO denies wrongdoing, but doesn't seem to address the implicit charge that Gibson is importing prohibited wood. He is upset that his business is being disrupted. He is mad that the Justice Department has taken the position that sending out any guitars with questionable materials would be obstruction of justice. He said the wood materials seized Wednesday are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a third-party organization that promotes responsible forest management. He does not address the implication in the search warrant affidavit, though -- that the importation itself violates Indian and U.S. law. He does trumpet the fact that he employs U.S. workers, and implies the dispute has to do with being compelled to use Indian-made finished parts.

Now, the conservative blogosphere immediately took the position that this search is a political vendetta by a Democratic administration against a CEO who is a known Republican. Aside from those bare circumstances, I see no evidence to support these muckraking allegations.

Gibson's CEO has allegedly said that "We have letters from a very high-level government agency in India that says that this product was allowable export," he notes. "And in fact, we have been buying the same product for well over 17 years, regularly." he also says that "Wood that we are buying is being bought by other companies in the industry, and they have not had any kind of action -- not so much as a letter or a postcard...." If there is evidence that other guitar manufacturers are importing wood in violation of law, then they ought to be subject to the same treatment. On the other hand, if the importation was above-board, why all the subterfuge about what was included in the shipment and who the final consignee was?

Frankly, I think it is inconceiveable that the Obama Administration is engaging in this action as some sort of low-level political chicanery, as suggested by the Administration's political/philosophical opponents. Given bureaucratic realities and the appearance of this action as a Fish & Wildlife operation, I would be surprised if the White House even had advance notice of the search warrant.

Friday, September 09, 2011

What Would Happen if Social Security Disappeared? In short, a "calamity."

Check out our Social Security Knoxville practice.
Todd Steed recalls his Blount County teenage triumph on eve of his musical return: Ah, the good old Etc. days. On the other hand, I don't remember it as a triumph as much as it was a marathon of two gigs in one night.

Actually the triumph was that my father restrained himself -- barely -- and didn't murder me the next morning when he saw the VW's dented quarter-panel and cracked window. Rock and Roll!
Reflections "from the Hill:"

I'm in my 41st year of Tennessee football, so I guess I have seen almost everything. From Bobby Scott (my first quaterback), to Condredge Holloway, to lights in Neyland Stadium for the first time (I was outside looking in -- there were no tickets to be had), to the return of favorite son Johnny Majors, to that magnificent third Saturday in October 1982 when we finally beat Alabama in the shadows of the World's Fair, to the glorious Sugar Bowl in 1986 when we whipped Miami and should have been named National Champions (nobody in the country was a better team that night), to Andy Kelly, the greatest comeback quarterback I ever saw at Tennessee, to Shuler, to Manning, to the 1998 national championship, and so forth.

In good times and bad -- and we had some terrible times -- there was always one constant: Neyland Stadium was always filled. Whether the team was good or bad, we always approached capacity. When the north upper deck was filled in, we always had in excess of 100,000 fans on hand. I would often quip: "101,000? Small crowd today." But it was no joke. Even when we were going 5-6 in 2005, we were still filling the place up.

Alas, no more.

At last Saturday's Montana-Tennessee game, the PA announcer was clearly thrilled to announce an [optimistic] attendance figure of 94,600. He's thrilled; I'm sad. For the opening game of the season. And not on broadcast TV? And no rain in the forecast? How is it that the stadium was so (relatively) empty?

The simple answer: the unbridled greed of the University of Tennessee Athletic establishment.

What do I mean by this? How about increasing mandatory "donations" from $500 to $4,000 per season for pairs of seats between the 20 yard lines?

How about building a very nice -- and totally unnecessary -- brick facade outside the stadium, and shaking down the fans to pay for it?

How about the east side skyboxes, which you don't get unless you have the net worth of, say, Warren Buffett?

How about the also-expensive club seats which took away prime seating from long time season ticketholders, with no real recomepense?

How about the apparently really nice concessions area for the club seating that we peons aren't allowed into?

How about the commercialization of the stadium experience, to the point where the constantly running ribbon ads around the bottom of the upper deck are actually more brilliant and vibrant that the football game we are there to see?

How about the concessions which, while not great before, are now licensed out to some outfit which charges more and gives less?

How about charging more for tickets to the "good" games, like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida, while charging less ("less" meaning $40) for games like FCS opponent Montana?

How about the total prohibition on smoking (no designated smoking areas on the concourses), which affects probably half the fans in the stadium, making their game experience that much more difficult,stressful, and unpleasant?

Finally, and worst of all, how about charging the students of the University an activities fee which covers tickets to University sports, and then charging them an additional fee for football tickets?

To paraphrase Martin Sheen's classic line from Wall Street, "I know what these guys are all about, greed. they don't give a damn about football or the fans. They're in it for the bucks and they don't take prisoners."

Look, I know I'm one of the disaffected. I used to go to games under any conditions or circumstances. For example, I went to the Duke game in 1988 with a raging flu (I talked myself into believing I was over it, and promptly relapsed for another week; maybe because we lost, 31-26; still bothers me). If I could physically get into the stadium, I went. I used to say that Neyland Stadium was my church, and I attended six times a year.

I showed loyalty to the University that was loyal to me. When we paid a $500 mandatory "donation," it was a pain, but it didn't break the bank. But when it became clear that U.T. was interested in me only to the extent it could soak me for as much as possible, the bloom came off the rose.

And this disaffection afflicts many, if not most, of the Volunteer faithful. Along with the advent of HD TV, there are a lot of die hard fans -- me included -- who would rather watch the game in high definition than fight for an ever-more-expensive parking spot, pay a ton of money for concessions (last week: 2 hot dogs, 2 soft drinks, total $20.00. And no chicken sandwich, dang it!), get jammed in a too-small seat, get inundated by mindless and incessant advertising come-ons, not be able to smoke (for those who do) for hours on end, and ultimately watch a mediocre football team promoted by a greedy and insensitive athletic department administration. I began my football game trip at 2:55 pm last Saturday. I got home at 11:15 pm. Almost 8 1/2 hours. That's a major investment in time and energy.

I went to two games last year. I will probably attend more this year, but more for my kids than for me. I feel most sorry for the children; when I "got it" about Tennessee football at age 10, the subsequent years were wonderful -- rooting for my team through thick and thin. I wanted my boys to have the same profound football experience. It's a shame that the marketing geniuses at the Athletic Department have turned the pure joy of college football in the "First Tennessee Instant Replay," and other banal moneymaking devices. That is what I fear my sons and future Tennessee fans have in store for themselves: watching a series of commercials with a little football thrown in every now and then.

Until the University gets back to emphasizing the football game experience and starts showing some love to the 99% of the stadium-goers who, like me, sit in regular seats and have to work for a living to pay for the experience, it's going to continue to lose its previously loyal fan base. The way WE look at it is that, if the University doesn't show us any loyalty, why should we show any loyalty by attending games?

I'm still a Tennessee football fan. I will be rooting for the team against Cincinnati tomorrow. I'll still live and die by their (our!) wins and losses. But as great fans, we deserve better from an Athletice Department that wouldn't have a program without us.

Anyway, that's why we don't fill up the stadium regularly any more.
Dramatic video of Des Moines Iowa police pulling victims out of a burning car. This is a great example of law enforcement at their best.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

This day in tech: "Handed a check for $100,000 made out to “Google Inc.,” [founders] Sergey Brin and Larry Page figure they better incorporate their fledgling search engine. So they do."

Note: it doesn't usually happen that way....
Knoxville red-light camera tickets fall sharply because of new state law. Well, it seems the Legislature -- kind of -- did something worthwhile this year.
From the "get a life" department: Two people charged with assault in Facebook fight.
According to a University of Florida study, Parents play a powerful role in predicting DUI:

for parents, even moderate drinking can result in one unintended consequence: an increased risk their children will drive under the influence as adults. . . . Writing in the current issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, University of Florida researchers found that about 6 percent of adolescents whose parents drank even sporadically reported driving under the influence at age 21, compared with just 2 percent of those whose parents did not imbibe.

I'm not sure if I completely buy this connection. The thrust of the article is that if a parent takes a drink, then the kid's chances of driving drunk increase by 4 percentage points. It seems to me that making this correlation minimizes the many other factors involved in the decision to drive drunk. Speaking personally, the times in my youth when I drove after having too much to drink had nothing to do with my parents, who drank sparingly [father] and never [mother].

Now, I do believe that a child who is raised in a household where drinking is a normal and regular part of the day is more likely to be a drinker in the same vein as the parent. Environmental factors count. Intuitively, however, taking that generality and applying it to drinking parents causing drunk driving may be a stretch.

Courtroom attire don'ts:

Deputy District Public Defender Karl Gordon once had a client, on trial for four carjackings, show up to court wearing the same sweatshirt he committed the crimes in.

Years ago, Deputy State's Attorney William Roessler watched a man argue a speeding ticket in district court while wearing a jacket with the words, "Hell On Wheels" printed on the back.

"I just wanted to ask him what he was thinking," Roessler said. "When he got up that morning and thought, 'What should I wear for my speeding ticket? Oh, I think I'll wear my 'Hell On Wheels' jacket.' "

Defense Attorney David Fischer once had a client show up to a DUI trial wearing a Bud Light T-shirt, featuring Spuds McKenzie, the iconic beer mascot of the 1980s.

"You kind of shake your head at them," Fischer said. "You want them to enter an insanity plea."

Gordon has instructed clients, who show up wearing shirts featuring 9mm handguns and marijuana leaves, to turn them inside out, at the very least.

While I generally dress casually in the office, I am very picky -- maybe more picky than other lawyers -- when it comes to what I wear in court. If I have to go to the courthouse for any reason, a coat and tie is required. Frankly, if I have to go over to the courthouse, I get uncomfortable even in a blazer/pant combination; in court, one wears a suit. Period.

Clients appearing in court want to wear clothes that show respect to the court as an institution and the judge as a person. Dressing nicely and respectfully can't hurt, and it certainly can help, when it comes to affecting the judge's opinion of you sitting in judgment of you as a litigant. On the other hand, dressing like a slob, or dressing for humor, or dressing over the top ("one couple ... after being reminded that court was a formal proceeding, came in to testify for the state wearing a tuxedo and prom gown") is not going to win you points with the judge.

Good luck applying for Social Security Disability: "Only 30% who applied in 2009 were awarded benefits, down from 44% in 1999, according to agency data." (click through to item 5 on the 10 item list)

As Knoxville Social Security attorneys, we hear all the time how easy it is to get approved for Social Security Disability. The statistic above is much more in line with our experience. From a practical point of view, it means that a lot of deserving claimants get the shaft, for basically arbitrary and unfair reasons. All the more reason to make sure that disability claims are filed on a timely basis and pursued aggressively.

Friday, September 02, 2011

"No Refusal" Weekend in DuPage County, Illinois: Those darn citizens, trying to "skirt the law by refusing to be tested" via breath test. How dare they know that breathalyzer equipment is notoriously unreliable. How dare they rely on their constitutional rights. As Knoxville DUI attorneys, we generally recommend that persons stopped on suspicion of DUI decline the field breahtalyzer because of its known lack of accuracy. There should be no stigma in insisting that the police use only the most accurate possible test to determine whether a violation has occurred. And taking blood test is the most accurate test.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The solution to our woes? Better tennis = better position in global affairs.

Hey, I miss Connors and McEnroe and Borg and Evert, too, but come on.
Allstate's new tactic: Intimidating doctors that support plaintiffs' injuries. More fun and games from our favorite "anti-citizen" company! What's really happening? This: "What Allstate is attempting to do here is to intimidate those doctors who have the audacity to actually put the interests of injured citizens first and Allstate profits second. This is the same 'delay, deny, confuse and refuse' tactic that Allstate has used for years in defending personal injury claims."
The next time you are tempted to pet the sting rays up at Ripley's Aquarium or elsewhere, consider the risks: "The parents of a child who developed a bacterial infection after petting stingrays at the Tennessee Aquarium has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $2.4 million."

As a Knoxville accident lawyer, I see the potential validity of the case. As to the amount claimed in the lawsuit, let's take a look at the Complaint to see exactly how bad the kid's injuries were: (1) diagnosis -- fish-handler's disease,a sssociated with his contact with the sting rays; (2) multiple surgeries and procedures, including several rounds of nail plate avulsion and tendon sheath incision of his right hand for debridement of suppurative tenosynovitis; (3) the kid's finger continued to swell, his nail bed turned dark blue, the skin on his right index finger turned necrotic, and he endured excruciating pain throughout his right hand, having to be put under anesthesia just to change the bandages; (4) the kid still continues to suffer from pain and loss of mobility in his right index finger and right hand and has undergone extensive therapy in an attempt to return his right index finger and right hand to normal use and function.

I'm a scuba diver, and have touched sting rays numerous times while underwater. I would think it's pretty uncommon for such an infection to occur. So the issue in this case is not whether the sting ray contact caused the injury; I see it more as whether it was foreseeable that such passing patron contact would lead to such an injury. More generally, was the Tennessee Aquarium negligent to allow patrons to touch the sting rays? Those are tough questions.

Four things you need to know about Social Security Disability. This is important fundamental information, entirely valid to Social Security disability in Knoxville.
Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the Agency for International Development, has been imprisoned in Cuba for almost two years. He has been convicted by the Cubans and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His crime: making the Internet available to members of Cuba's "miniscule" Jewish community. So, if you thought the days of the old Soviet-style repression are of the past, think again. You can sign a petition urging his release on humanitarian grounds.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wow. Here is the king of conflict of interest situations: English insurance companies sell deatils about car wreck victims, to the lawyers who will make claims against those very same insurers! The insurers apparently make over £3 billion a year from this odious practice.

I think that's called playing both ends against the middle.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Obama steps in to get help for local woman: You know something's wrong with the bureaucracy when it takes presidential intervention to get action on a Social Security Disability claim.
And Pigs Get Slaughtered: Allstate loses injury trial gamble: Now this is interesting. With $23,000 in medical bills, the arbitration panel awards a sum total of $25,000. So much for the fairness of arbitration, huh?

Allstate, who apparently wanted to rub salt in the plaintiff's wounds, refuses to accept the arbitration award and demands a jury trial. Result: "The Madison County Circuit Court jury took just 45 minutes on Aug. 16 to render the verdict. It included $23,820 for medical services, past and present, $3,500 for property damage, $40,000 for pain and suffering, and $15,000 for loss of a normal life." To those math-challenged folks like me out there, that totals $82,320.

Justice was done here.
Jockey Calvin Borel jailed for DUI. Well, sort of: " Borel was pulled over by Indiana State Police for making an unsafe lane movement. Hissam said Borel’s blood-alcohol content was “barely over” the legal limit of .08 percent." Hmm. Unsafe lane movement? What does that mean, exactly? I would be suspicious of the officer's motives in making this stop, unless Borel -- who is one of the preeminent horse jockeys around today -- was really weaving. And because the article doesn't say anything about weaving, I begin to wonder....In any event, it looks like Calving needs a DUI attorney.
Social Security Disability and SSI by the numbers.

Friday, August 19, 2011

University of South Carolina Halts Fraternity Recruitment: I'm shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that drinking is going on in college fraternity houses!

What I love is the last line of the article: "USC said sorority recruitment won’t be affected by the decision." Yeah, like girls don't drink. Riiight.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

National Public Radio has an interesting piece on Supplemental Security Income [SSI] benefits for children with severe mental disorders:

To those who believe the federal Supplemental Security Income program for severely disabled children is a lifesaver and not a boondoggle, Hulston Poe is a great example.

The 4-year-old was diagnosed with severe ADHD last October, after more than a year of violent temper tantrums, and kicked out of preschool. Case workers said there wasn't much they could do for him.

"We were at a standstill," says his mother, Suzanne Poe, who was scraping by as a single parent of two in Des Moines, Iowa.

Then doctors recommended that she enroll her son in the SSI program this year, and everything changed. A monthly check of $674 helps pay for Hulston's day care, a private tutor and medicines. Perhaps most importantly, the program made Hulston newly eligible for Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance program for the poor. He gained access to the doctors he needed.

"I can see a light in his eyes again," Poe says. "He just looks so much happier."

Let's hope worthwhile programs like this one don't end up on the cutting block.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Man Sentenced To 12 Years For Deadly DUI Crash: This guy lost control, spun out, and collided with another vehicle. The three yearold in his back seat was killed. The moral of the story is: don't drink and drive, especially with a child in your car.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Doctors who endorsed Medtronic product got millions. Reading the linked article reveals that some doctors may have received kickbacks -- that's not entirely clear at this point. More troubling, however, is the implication that allowing corporations to conduct their own safety testing is not, and may never have been, a wise procedure:

“Can we accept industry-sponsored studies as the basis to go full bore into the use of a product?” said Dr. Dan M. Spengler of Vanderbilt University. “I’m suggesting probably not, based on our experience here.”

Federal and state government agencies do not have the resources to really keep an eye on these corporations, so the government has relied on them to "self-police." But what about the temptation to buy the results of studies that are supposed to ensure reasonable product safety? Again, the suggestion here is that corporate businesses, which are notoriously amoral -- they're in it for the bucks, and they don't take prisoners -- cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.

Read more about Slovis, Rutherford & Weinstein's personal injury practice and our defective products practice here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Our Legislature has tightened up the DUI laws again: "In Tennessee you can be considered an “impaired” driver if you're operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher, the same as the national limit, however if you are operating a commercial vehicle your limit is dropped to .04, even lower is the limit for drivers under 21 (.02) If you are pulled over and your BAC level is greater than a .15, the state is now making it automatic that a igniton interock system is situated in their vehicle."

Read about our DUI representation services.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ford Pickup Recall: Ford Motor Co. has recalled 1.1 million units of its popular F-150, F-250 and Lincoln Blackwood pickup trucks due to a problem with their gas tanks that could catch fire. The recall includes models manufactured between 1997 and 2004.

Read more about our personal injury and defective products practices.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

While we do represent clients in DUI cases, I think we might have a problem with this guy: "A Louisville man pulled over for speeding was found to be wearing a shirt, shoes and nothing else, according to arrest records."


Social Security Administration to increase online presence: "SSA's long-term customer service delivery plan must recognize that a majority of the customers it will serve in 10 years will expect to conduct business electronically, conveniently and without the intervention of an agency employee," the report said, noting that SSA's Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel recommended the agency "prepare to move to an electronic self-service model where 90 percent of its business is online."

Read more about our Social Security practice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A "Smart ALEC" in Tennessee: If you thought all the pro-business laws recently passed in Tennessee were home-grown, think again. This corporate-supported outfit supplies pre-packaged legislation to legislatures all over the country, including Tennessee:

ALEC bills, which largely benefit the organization's corporate members, have been introduced in legislatures in every state - but without disclosing to the public that corporations previously drafted or voted on them through ALEC, Bottari says. More than 800 ALEC-inspired bills are listed on a website,, which was created by the center. ALEC supporters say they simply offer conservative lawmakers a resource when drafting legislation.

Many bills that have appeared to be home-grown in Tennessee have roots with ALEC, Bottari says.

"The public never knows that the bill was drafted by a corporation and approved by a corporation, because that process takes place behind the scenes at ALEC."

It's clear that what is happening, mostly below the surface of the public's attention, is a war for power. The ideological right wing fanatics are changing state law with cut-outs like this ALEC, and doing it in an organized, methodical fashion.

And many of our elected public servants here in Tennessee are tied to this odious ALEC:

. . . former Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, who is now chief clerk of the state House, traveled to an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in San Diego.

The ALEC San Diego event was the most popular destination for Tennessee legislative travel last year with 16 attendees from the state — 12 representatives and four senators. Tate was the only Democrat to attend the session, known for developing model legislation with conservative, pro-business themes. Most of billed for six days of per diem at the $185 rate in effect until Oct. 1, or $1,100 each. And most counted it as their one all-expense paid trip and those staying for the full conference had a hotel bill of $1,175 plus varying airline fees.
Oh, and those trips were paid for by -- wait for it -- Tennessee taxpayers. I'll bet Big Insurance and corporate America collectively are laughing themselves silly that you and I are paying for the privilege of them screwing -- you and I.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ron Paul has an idea to lower the debt: my thought is that it can't be that easy.

I like one of the comments, from "roidubouloi":

Some months ago I wrote that the American right is now populated by enemies of the nation who are willing to do us intentional harm to secure political power for themselves. A number of our more rightwing posters scoffed (and worse).

When do I get to say, I told you so? Now?

Sadly, I believe roidubouloi is exactly correct. The right wing zealots in the House are playing with fire, and we're all gonna get burned.

A history of air conditioning. Returning from the mega-steam bath that is New York City, I maintain my position that AC is the single most significant invention of the 20th century.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

News of the World "journalist" hacks murdered girl's cell phone, deletes messages. I love the non-denial denial of the organization's chief: "Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the paper at the time of the alleged hacking and is now chief executive of News International, told staff she was 'sickened that these events are alleged to have happened.' "

Now, is she sickened the event happened, or is she sickened that the allegation happened? I read the latter interpretation. She ought to resign, and if the UK has an obstruction of justice charge, the hacker and the paper ought to be charged and prosecuted. This strikes me as beyond the pale of decency.
What's in a name? Apparently a lot: Titanic II sinks on maiden voyage.

Wasn't he just asking for it?
Well, it looks like the rape case against French bigshot Dominique Strauss-Kahn is dead on arrival. Now, the prosecution is in trouble not because evidence has surfaced that he did not commit a sexual assault. It's in jeopardy because the alleged victim's credibility has been called into question:

Prosecutors now say the alleged victim has admitted lying about her whereabouts immediately after the alleged attack.

They also say she has fabricated her income and even how many children she has to keep her housing and increase her tax refund.

Authorities also point to a conversation she had with a jailed drug dealer about how she could benefit monetarily from going forward with the case.

None of these purported falsehoods goes to the question of what happened in that hotel room. But the whole scenario highlights what has become maybe the most important factor we, as personal injury lawyers, must consider when we look at whether to run with a case or not.

In recent years, insurance defense lawyers have taken a pragmatic approach to cases where it is obvious their client was at fault or negligent: they admit liability and try the case based on causation and damages. In other words, they take the spotlight off the defendant who caused the harm in the first place, and put the focus squarely on the plaintiff -- did the negligence cause the injuries, and how much should be awarded in money damages. By doing this, the defense will often be that the plaintiff (or his lawyer) is just greedy, is trying to get something for nothing, or that the plaintiff is just lying or fabricating in order to get money from the jury.

Jurys in East Tennessee are very conservative. Our experience has been that any hint that the plaintiff has been less than credible, less than forthright, and the jury will turn him away. In that everyone has some sort of inconsistency in his life, it becomes pretty easy for the defense to smear the plaintiff to minimize or eliminate altogether a verdict for the plaintiff.

It's happened to me, like any other plaintiff's lawyer. A number of years ago, we had a client who was rear-ended by a driver who had looked away from the road. He had $50,000 in bills due to low back surgery. There was no question as to fault, causation, or the seriousness of the injury. However, because the plaintiff had testified one way in his deposition, and differently at trial, the defense lawyer painted him as a man who would say anything to get what he wanted. It wasn't true, but it made for a good story. The jury awarded him $2,000.

The moral of the story is that claimants must be credible. Their account of the incident and their injuries must be consistent throughout the claims and litigation process. And if there is a problem, the claimant must assume the defense knows about the problem. The claimant must tell his lawyer about every "wart" as soon as possible, so the lawyer can try to minimize or eliminate the damage to the claimant's case. Too many times the claimant holds back information from his own lawyer, and they both get sandbagged at trial.

Check out more personal injury frequently asked questions here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

As a Knoxville lawyer, one of the types of cases I handle is nursing home negligence. Here is unfortunate news from Maryville: "The Tennessee Department of Health said Thursday that it has suspended new admissions to a Maryville nursing home after a complaint investigation found violations that put residents in " 'immediate jeopardy.' "

The facility is Colonial Hills, 2034 Cochan Drive, in Maryville. Apparently, the nurses failed to properly monitor coumadin levels in various patients. Coumadin is nasty stuff, a blood thinner used a lot in the elderly to reduce the instance of blood clots, which can lead to strokes and pulmonary emboli. It's basic to coumadin therapy that you must keep a close eye not only on the levels of the medication in the patient, but also food and other drug interactions.

This situation is probably another example of an overworked and understaffed facility which, while common in nursing homes, nevertheless is no excuse for shoddy practice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last night, I watched the HBO documentary "Hot Coffee." The movie also has a Facebook page. For the first time in I don't know how long, the truth is told about our civil justice system. Lawyer turned filmmaker Susan Saladoff has finally explained -- in terms everyone can understand -- exactly what Big Business and Big Insurance have done.

Says the Hollywood Reporter:
Like many excellent documentaries, Hot Coffee is more a visual editorial rather than an all-encompassing and comprehensive distillation of a subject matter, in this case, our tort system.

Saladoff's presentation is well structured and logical. It goes something like this:

(1) Big Business and Big Insurance ["The Bigs"] use unlimited funds to propagandize the big lie that there are too many "frivolous" lawsuits. They use catchy phrases like "jackpot justice." They demonize the lawyers who represent injured victims of negligence. They stereotype all claimants into the one grab bag of hustlers looking for something for nothing. In other words, they prey upon the ignorance of the public.

(2) If the negative propaganda is not enough to dissuade people from filing suit, then The Bigs work to enact caps, or limits, on damage awards to limit their exposure. Thus, even if a jury has disregarded the propaganda and returned a big verdict, it's all for naught anyway. The filmmaker cites the Nebraska case of the severely brain damaged boy [obstretrical negligence], who had a life care plan of $6 million. After trial, the jury verdict was over $5 million. The judge cut the award to $1.25 million because of Nebraska's law capping all damages at $1.25 million. So now, he's dependent on state and federal funds (Medicaid, Medicare) to pay for his ongoing life care needs. Big Business and Big Insurance don't care, as long as they don't have to pay for it.

(3) If The Bigs get a case that, despite the propaganda gets a big verdict, and despite the legislative maneuvering is not subject to a cap on damages, then The Bigs spend millions and millions of dollars ensuring that pro-business judges are elected to state appellate courts. The filmakers cover the story of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz who, having eked out a narrow victory over the U.S. Chamber of Commerce candidate, was then criminally prosecuted for three years for a variety of questionable/bogus charges. He was acquitted on all counts, but couldn't sit on the bench during that three years, and was subsequently defeated in the next election.


(4) Big Business and Big Insurance have been remarkably successful in getting businesses to require mandatory arbitration, forcing people to waive their right to a jury trial in court. The arbitrator is commonly selected by the business, and the business wins in the arbitration something like 87% of the time.

This film is truth-telling at its best, and should be required viewing for anyone interested in our civil justice system. Or what's left of it.

UPDATE: Here are some of the HBO re-broadcast dates and times:

HBO: June 30 (1:30 PM), July 2 (10:00 AM), July 5 (10:30 AM), July 10 (4:00 PM), July 12 (12:30 AM)

HBO2: June 29 (8:00 PM), July 16 (6:10 AM), July 25 (4:55 AM), July 28 (6:30 PM)

It is also available on HBO's On-Demand service.

DVDs will be available in September. You can sign up to pre-order DVDs here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

OK, this is really funny: Football Cops,starring Peyton and Eli Manning. Here's a trailer of the "first season:"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As Goes Comcast, so Goes the Nation? I like this summing up: "We in the middle class would more than gladly hand over our cash to Wal Mart, Starbucks, and yes, Comcast; if only we had some."
Bogus officer tries to stop a real one. On the one hand, that's a real "Pranked" moment for the impersonator. On the other hand, it's a bit scary that I -- or anyone else -- might be pulled over by some nut with a strobe on top of his car. And then there's the unasked question: what was this guy pulling people over for?
Pasties and thongs instead of bikinis? Not illegal in Tennessee!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's a lawyer that gets my respect:

Cobbins’ defense attorney, Kim Parton, refused Thursday to raise that issue [Judge Richard Baumgartner possibly being under the influence of pills] as grounds for an automatic motion for new trial filed in Cobbins’ case. She was so emphatic in her belief that Baumgartner, who has since resigned and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct, was in his right mind when Cobbins was tried that she sought to withdraw from representing Cobbins, who insisted she argue he deserved a new trial because of Baumgartner’s alleged impairment.

Richard Baumgartner was a distinguished lawyer and judge. As a Criminal Court jurist, he presided with dignity and grace over many of the most difficult and notorious cases in Knox County over the past two decades. Anyone who saw how ravaged his face became over the past couple of years knew that he was suffering from something. I thought it was merely him aging; I had no idea what he was going through.

For Kim Parton to refuse to raise the "judge under the influence" issue shows what trial lawyers are capable of. It's a no-brainer argument, one would think, at least if one gets one's education from the plethora of stupid lawyer shows habitually on the air. Howver, unless there is some evidence that Baumgartner actually was under the influence at the time of the trial, or that his conduct was somehow degraded to the point where the defendant failed to get a fair trial, Ms. Parton is absolutely right to refuse to raise the argument. And she is absolutely right to move to withdraw as counsel if the client is insisting she do something she believes is inappropriate. That's what lawyers are supposed to do: use independent legal judgment, regardless of how unpopular that judgment might be.

Kim Parton gets my "Lawyer of the Week" award (I invented it just now, just for her).

TDOT says Britton Bridge can resume projects; future contract eligibility in the air. Here's my problem with this wishy-washy approach. If Britton Bridge is excluded from bidding on future jobs, it would be presumably because they run an unsafe business. In that case, why would they be allowed to continue the four jobs they are working now?

Either they are a safe business and therefore eligible to bid jobs in the future, or they are unsafe and should be removed from all current work now. And if there is a finding that Britton is unsafe, is it not dangerous to the workers on their job site -- not to mention the public -- to allow them to continue? If they are a safe business, then why would TDOT implicitly defame them by tossing out the notion that they might be prohibited from future bidding? It strikes me as contradictory to let them finish current jobs, presumably safely, but perhaps bar them from future bidding.

TDOT, make up your mind.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Knoxville's finest? "A former Knoxville Police Department officer accused of plying teenage girls with booze in racy encounters inside his home and downloading pornographic videos featuring teenage girls has struck a tentative deal to confess."
Sexual misbehavior or bullying? Middle schoolers hold student down, attempt to insert felt tip pen in victim's rectum.

Who cares which way to characterize it? This is just wrong.

UPDATE: Apparently the jury saw it my way: Families awarded $100K each in Wayne County hazing case
Knox deputies raid two gambling operations, seize cash, gaming tables. Who needs Las Vegas? Or, that's why they call us "Knox Vegas."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Browns Ferry Nuclear Reactor Worst In Nation: "Despite the need for improvements, he said, safety was never compromised in a way that would threaten employees or nearby communities." Bet they said that in Japan, too.

Guys, let's fix these problems, OK?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sax solos out of style? When did that happen? At least they seem to be coming back in vogue. So I guess my 20 year plus trip off planet Pop Music now is negated. Right? Uh, right??
The final edition of the New York Times.
Slate: The Republican Party, "where magical thinking trumps rationality, and even to acknowledge basic realities about the world we live in runs the risk of damaging one's political future."
Is Tennessee's new "Special Access to Discriminate" law unconstitutional? While I'd like to think so, there are arguments both ways.

UPDATE: Sure enough, it looks like there will be a legal challenge to this odious new law.
"It was stupid of me. I was a dumbass." I love this guy (not). He gets soused at the bar, tells a passel of lies to try to pick up the girl next to him, and then -- if that's not enough -- he says he has weapons on board (knockout gas). I like a good joke as much as the next guy, but even I know not to joke about that kind of thing in an airport or on an airplane. Has this guy been under a rock for the past 10 years?
Knoxville News-Sentinel: "Haslam touted tort reform as a jobs initiative, arguing that companies were reluctant to come to the Volunteer State because they might have to pay damages if found at fault in civil litigation. There was scant evidence that Tennessee juries have been tossing about outrageous awards, however, or that businesses were afraid to move here because of it."

This is what I've been saying. Instead of working to improve our state's economy and generate new jobs, the Governor and Legislature have been taking care of their pals in Big Insurance and Big Business. If you don't like your elected representatives brazenly taking away your rights through the so-called "tort reform (I call it "rights restriction") legislation -- rights you have had for over a century -- then vote them out of office. I'll be right with you there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's be careful out there: One in 14 Downloads is Malicious.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Call her "Your Honor:" Tammy Harrington selected as new Blount County Circuit Court Judge.
Tort "reform:" Legislation by anecdote -- “What I think you are hearing today, is, we’re legislating by anecdote. ‘I once knew of somebody who was sued for this amount, for this reason.’ Legislating by anecdote. That’s not a good way to act."

Translation: Tennesseeans, your state government has just passed a bill that is not based on any proven need. They are moments away from changing over 200 years of established law based on nothing but the greed of Big Insurance and Big Business, and the legislators and governor who are eager to do their bidding.

What have we come to? And, God forbid, where are we going?
Not only does this Republican government not care a whit for the rights of Tennesseans, it's homophobic to boot.

Monday, May 02, 2011

How much is a Tennesseean's life worth? Less than the interests of Big Insurance and Big Business, apparently.

Let us consider what our Legislature is doing. For over 200 years, we have trusted juries to decide the amount of damages in civil cases. Most people don't know that the jury is backstopped by the judge, who can -- and often does -- reduce a jury verdict that he, as the "thirteenth juror," believes to be excessive. There has been no data or statistic presented to the public to support the Republican claim that this rights restriction bill would encourage businesses to come to Tennessee. They are making it up as they go.

If this bill becomes law, then the Legislature and the Governor will have completed their wholesale betrayal of the people of Tennessee, in favor of Big Insurance and Big Business. It will be a sad and catastrophic day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tort reform cap plans go against conservative ideals, that is, personal responsibility and limited government. A true statement:

The law of tort is that if someone hurts someone else, they should make up for it. Our smallest children learn this rule along with "do unto others. ..." This is very core of the principle of personal responsibility. It's why we have a tort system.
Also true:
Government telling a jury it may not award a full measure of justice for someone harmed by another — even if the harm is proved — violates the second principle of conservatism. Government imposed limits on general damages is the antithesis of limited government. Government intervention in civil matters shifts the risk of loss from the wrongdoer to the injured at the point where caps apply. Such risk shifting and responsibility forgiving is plainly government meddling in private matters.
Does anyone else wonder at the cynicism of the so-called conservatives running the state -- and the lives of Tennesseeans -- into the ground just to aid Big Insurance and Big Business at the expense of us all?
Hail damage to the Knox County Courthouse: a metaphor for our times?
Knoxville's Stacey Campfield (R) sponsors bill to outlaw reference to the word "gay" in schools prior to ninth grade: Time to Shut Down Legislative Sideshows.

I thought Republicans were for getting government out of peoples' lives. I thought Republicans were for limited government. Well, our state Republican representative is both wasting our time and his, and he is injecting government into places where it doesn't belong.

I guess Republicans are in favor of all that getting government out of peoples' lives philosophy, until they're NOT in favor of them. What's the word for that? Oh, yeah: hypocrisy.
I've always said that mobile homes seem to be a magnet for tornadoes. Now there's statistical proof that I'm right.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Illogithink" in the Tennessee General Assembly. Here's the takeaway:

[The Republican legislators] ran for office vowing to keep government off your backs and not to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong. But example after example keeps popping up of them doing just the opposite. Local school system control? Forget about it. They know best. The Metro Council deciding local contract requirements? The legislature is on its way to overriding that. Jury control over awarding damages? The legislature knows best, silly jurors.

Kerr recommends adjournment as the cure for "illogithink." But she's wrong there; adjorning the Legislature puts the problem off to another day, instead of solving the problem. Frankly, we Tennesseeans have to actually start paying attention to the representatives we elect, what they stand for, and whether they will serve us, or their own "illogithink" agenda.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Damage caps could lead lawyers to cherry-pick cases. Because the cost of going to trial can be very, very expensive, many lawyers are going to turn down otherwise good cases because, even if they spend, say, $100,000 of their own money to get a case to trial, the potential return is so relatively low that it makes no economic sense to take the case. So, many cases will not be pursued because the expense the defense makes one go through cannot justify even the best possible return.

This state of affairs, by the way, is exactly what Big Insurance and the chambers of commerce want. If they cannot prohibit a person from suing, they'll do the next best thing: make it so difficult, expensive and time-consuming that the lawyers can't take the case.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Can't any of these guys keep it in their pants: "Indy 500" priest accused of abuse in U.S. lawsuit. On the other hand, we shouldn't pre-judge.
Washington Post: How our cars got safer. Quick answer: "History shows that litigation and the civil justice system have served as the most consistent and powerful forces in heightening safety standards, revealing previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses and deterring manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the goal of greater profits."

What I tell clients is this: I cannot make it part of a lawsuit to compel wrongdoers to change their behavior or how they do business. All I can do is sue them for money damages to compensate the client. However, if pursuing a lawsuit gets the wrongdoer to change its behavior to everyone's benefit, well that's all right by me.
Quote of the Day: "Never say a humorous thing to a man who does not possess humor. He will always use it in evidence against you."

--Herbert Beerbohm Tree, British actor
The Tennessean: Tort reform bill defies principles of justice. That's why I call it rights restriction legislation.
Big verdict winners: It's not about the money. The takeaway:
State court records show that very few lawsuits in Tennessee ever go to a jury, and fewer yet end up with awards higher than the caps Gov. Bill Haslam is close to winning in the General Assembly. Last year there were 14 such trials in the state. Some people who did win awards say they didn't want the money as much as they wanted a weapon to stop actions like the ones that killed their loved ones.

When it comes to cases like defective products lawsuits or actions against businesses, the sad truth is that simply speaking sternly to the wrongdoer will not induce him to change his behavior. The only way to get their attention is to hit them in the pocket book.

Of course, the quote above shows that the whole thing is incredibly cynical from the defense side. As a colleague in the defense bar said to me recently, "No one tries big cases any more, they get settled." So, Big Insurance and the chambers of commerce may moan about the high verdicts, but the fact is that they usually will settle out any case where they think they've got serious monetary exposure. They voluntarily pay up. Because, to them, it's all about the money. It's a bean counter thing; if it's cheaper by their calculation to settle the case, they will.

Virginia's Governor vetoes bill to increase medical malpractice cap. This bill had bipartisan support, and was even favored by the Medical Society of Virginia, whose president said, "It really allows fairness but accountability for the physicians." Why can't we get that kind of legislation for Knoxville particularly and Tennessee generally?

Wouldn't want that, would we?
Here a kind of nifty graphic map showing unemployment rises from 2008 to the present. Interestingly, try as I might, I couldn't find Knox County. I found Roane, Sevier, Jefferson and Cocke Counties, but no Knox.

I guess that means we haven't had any unemployment increases here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Memphis Commercial Appeal: New law weakens consumer protection.
WARNING: Banks want to reduce the number of foreclosure notices to make it easier for them to foreclose on property. So, where they now have to publish three notices, they want to reduce it to ONE notice. If you happen to miss the notice, you could have your property foreclosed out from under you.

Among the legislators supporting the bill: The House Democratic Leader, a bank executive who is also the president of the Tennessee Banking Association. No conflict of interest there, no sir! Jeez.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: Bill to cap damages not based on reality. But it'll be a reality unless Tennessee citizens wake up and smell the spoiled milk coming out of Nashville in the form of the Civil [In]justice Act of 2011. Here's the takeaway from this op-ed:
Ultimately, the question comes down to whether a jury of peers is competent enough to assess damage for a legitimate malpractice claim and award a proper amount. Or should elected officials determine an arbitrary amount that allows for no wiggle room in cases where larger amounts can be and should be awarded?

In this case of tort reform and the proposed capping of medical malpractice lawsuit awards, the fix appears worse than the problem.

A vote for this legislation is a vote of no confidence in the judgment of the Tennessee citizens who sit on juries, and have done so for the past 214 years.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Congressman Jimmy Duncan to Tea Partiers (and everyone else): Don't forget the 3rd through 9th amendments, either. That includes the 7th amendment right to a jury trial:
I have faith in the people - I have faith in the jury system. It's one of the most important elements of our freedom, and it was so recognized in the Constitution, was felt to be so important, it was specifically put into the Constitution in the 7th Amendment. And I'll tell you, it's a very dangerous thing to take away rights like that from the people... In fact, I can tell you, you have better regulation by juries than you have by federal government regulators - it's more effective.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RIP Roger Nichols. As a music engineer and producer, his contributions to the music world, just as Steely Dan's engineer, were incomparable. Here's a nice Wikipedia bio.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tennessee Association for Justice:

A bill introduced in the Tennessee legislature would specifically allow hospitals and doctors to provide negligent medical care in Emergency Rooms in Tennessee. Unless a patient could prove gross negligence, a standard just short of criminal behavior, there would be no accountability or protection. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson, both from College Grove.

“For example, if you go to the ER with chest pains and the doctor carelessly misdiagnoses you with bronchitis and you go home and have a massive heart attack and die, under the proposed legislation there would be no recourse for this kind of sloppiness,” stated Phillip Miller, President, Tennessee Association for Justice. “In effect, a doctor would have no responsibility for careless errors that could cost
you your life.”

The current standard for medical negligence already affords protections to ER doctors. ER doctors are protected as long as they deliver care consistent with standards set by their peers—other ER doctors. Only if they fail to meet those standards and harm a patient will they rightfully be held accountable under the present law.

The immunity goes one step further and will also cover doctors in surgery and the OB unit if the patient is admitted through the ER. This means a patient who goes to the ER will have very little protection from negligence during their entire hospital stay.

This legislation has an unfair impact on women, children and low-income families since they are more likely to use the ER. Kids in sports go to the ER for injuries, pregnant women often go to the ER when they are in labor, and the elderly frequently rely on the ER for respiratory illnesses. These vulnerable citizens would be without any protection when seeking needed medical care.

If passed, HR HB 174/SB 360 would also place a financial burden on the taxpayers. If recipients of TennCare, Medicare and the uninsured are harmed due to carelessness in the ER, Tennesseans will end up paying the bill for a person’s medical care and treatment resulting from the doctor’s careless error. Medical errors cost the Nation approximately $37.6 billion per year, and this legislation would only add to that cost.

“Should a law be passed allowing ER doctors to commit negligent acts on patients in Tennessee? That’s exactly what this bill does.” said Miller. “With 98,000 people dying each year from medical errors, clearly the answer is NO. The focus should be on improving the quality of care – not on lobbyists seeking to pass a license to harm patients.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

More good news. Our (not so) wonderful governor wants to "deliver a knockout blow" to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, too. And, surprise, surprise: this bill would prohibit you from being able to sue your insurance company under the Consumer Protection Act (or most other laws) for unfair or deceptive practices if it fails to protect you properly.

This law has been in effect for 34 years. what possible reason -- other than the greed of Big Business and Big Insurance could be behind the sudden push to destroy this vital consumer law?
House Judiciary Subcommittee "rushes" vote on rights restriction bill: "Tennessee Citizen Action, a consumer rights organization, called the bill an 'attack on hard-working Tennesseans and their families. It should be called the "Miscarriage of Justice Act of 2011," ' " said executive director Mary Mancini.

This bill is bad law, bad policy, and a disaster for regular people in this state. Business and Big Insurance love it, though, because the bill, if passed into law, would prevent some types of legal redress, and make it that much harder to get compensated in other types of cases. Businesses don't have to worry so much about conducting themselves properly, and Big Insurance just keeps on rollin' on.

Tennesseeans need to tell their legislators to vote AGAINST this bill. Here's a link to figure out who your legislator is and contact them.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Would you take $750,000 for the life of your child? If the Tennessee Legislature passes the governor's rights restriction law, that's what you'll be limited to.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A word of warning here. I just ran across a site called "" The site makes you fill out all your contact info, and then -- if you're in Tennessee -- it tells you there is no lawyer to assist you. The reason for this dead end is that the site is a marketing tool. Lawyers subscribe to it. Where are these attorneys from? California, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and so forth. Looks like the closest lawyer to us is in Alpharetta, Georgia or Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Steer clear of sites like this one if you're looking for information on Tennessee law or Tennessee claims. Look for reputable Tennessee lawyers, in your locale, and who have experience in the type of case you have.
RIP Ned Ray McWherter. What's interesting is that there was no love lost between Ned Ray and Victor Ashe and Lamar Alexander. Where were their testimonials while he was still alive?
We have our own little Japan-type environmental disaster. Oh, and Japan's disaster seems to have reached East Tennessee, as well.

I don't know, but whenever I am assured that all this radiation doesn't pose a health risk, I start to glow all over.
ATT does it again! My main line is down, for some unknown reason. They are "working on it." If anyone wants to call the office, This one works:

(865) 544-5726

Sorry about the problems. Ugh.

Monday, April 04, 2011

More evidence that Republicans have no interest in the rights of regular people: The Senate has approved and sent to the governor a bill that would reduce the maximum civil penalty for a "knowing" violation of state insurance laws from $25,000 per occurrence to $1,000 per occurrence. This means that an insurance company can deliberately and in bad faith deny your claim, and there is essentially no state penalty.

And by the way, talk about conflicts of interest: "The measure was sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who both operate insurance agencies."

If Governor Haslam cares a whit about this state's policyholders, he will veto this bill. Don't hold your breath.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I just ran across this article on the history of the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg. Interesting fact: Moore County, where the whiskey is distilled, is a dry county. They can make it there, but you can't drink it there.
Molly's Plant Food confiscated by law enforcement: apparently, this stuff is considered as a synthetic substitute for ecstasy. But it's not been banned by statute, so if you wonder how the state can simply take this stuff off the shelves, read the AG's press release. In summary, the AG went to court, presumably in Nashville, and got a Chancellor to issue a temporary restraining order to allow the confiscation. Now, this shouldn't be a particularly easy task for the AG. He must prove there is a substantial risk of irreparable harm. His press release says that an emergency services doctor from Cookeville testified before the Legislature on this topic. His testimony must be how they proved imminent danger of irreparable harm.
Aha! Wait; did he really say that? Governor Bill Haslam admits his rights restriction legislation is unnecessary: "Tennessee has not had a problem with excessive awards in civil cases," he told the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville recently. But he's got to justify support for an unnecessary bill some way, doesn't he? This is the best he could come up with: Tennessee "should act to discourage trial lawyers from shifting their cases to the state in response to clampdowns on damages in other states." Well that's not right; Tennessee plaintiffs -- for the most part -- must have been injured in Tennessee before they can file suit in this state. As the retired circuit court judge author of the linked piece suggests, "Could it be that this corporate multimillionaire governor is attempting to remove yet one more layer of restraint on corporate greed and malfeasance in Tennessee?"

Uh, well yeah.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A few cosmetic tweaks to this blog. Hope you all like it!
The Tennessee Consumer Protection Act is one of the relatively few consumer-friendly laws in this state. It must be for that reason that the Haslam Administration is looking to gut that law, too. It's premium content, so here's the full article:

State lawmakers are taking a broad swing at the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, a far-reaching law that ups the stakes on legal liability for businesses while guarding consumers.

But changing the scope of the law, which could triple court damages, is about more than balancing business liabilities against consumer protection. Businesses not only deal with the risk of costly consumer lawsuits under the protection act, they use the law themselves to sue one another — as seen in high-profile cases involving May 2010 flood damage at Opry Mills Mall and Gibson Guitar Corp.

A large portion of the push comes within Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform proposal, a bill that’s drawn enthusiastic support from business interests and company leaders across many industries. Similar proposals in the Tennessee General Assembly are expected to fall under the Republican governor’s initiative, but others stand on their own and could create dilemmas for businesses.

The legal risks that come with the Consumer Protection Act are real to Jim Amos. As CEO of Tasti D-Lite — which moved to Franklin from New York for the friendly business climate — he considers steep legal liability a threat to the company’s network of small franchisees, no matter how good they are at customer service.

“That’s an extraordinarily difficult issue,” said Amos, who considers legal reform a gap in Tennessee’s business-friendly reputation. “In many cases the kind of litigation that results puts these folks right out of business.”

He and other businesses — including a new coalition across several industries called Tennesseans for Economic Growth — believe Haslam’s proposal will spur job growth by reducing risk.

Though an amendment was pending this week, Haslam’s tort proposal would make it more difficult for plaintiffs to invoke the Consumer Protection Act in a range of cases. It also would eliminate it from use in class-action lawsuits that challenge companies on behalf of a broad swath of consumers.

Critics warn that tort reform’s consumer provisions degrade the court system that’s supposed to protect everyone equally, while also opening up direct risks to businesses. Mark Chalos, a Nashville attorney with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, argued that the Consumer Protection Act is a guard for responsible companies looking to do business in Tennessee.

“Weakening the civil justice system only protects wrongdoers and encourages bad conduct,” he said.

Another bill that progressed in the legislature this week would prevent the consumer act from being used in insurance cases, which Republicans say would end improper use of treble, or triple, damages.

They say customers still have legal standing and other recourse, but companies have become accustomed to invoking the law.

Simon Property Group, owner of the still-closed Opry Mills Mall, and Gibson, the Nashville guitar manufacturer that also sustained flood damage last year, both cited the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act in suits seeking tens of millions of dollars from insurers. The companies declined comment, but the triple damages under the law would provide the sort of compensation that trial lawyers argue is fitting as insurance disputes drag on.

That bill in particular creates a careful dance for business interests, who are enthusiastic about the governor’s proposal but are mulling how to sort out matters like insurance law.

Bills address range of consumer protection
The bills that compose Republicans’ broad push on consumer protections address a number of business concerns, but also contain unexpected dilemmas.

• House Bill 2008/Senate Bill 1522 — The bills, being carried by Republican leadership in the House and Senate, compose Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform proposal. One portion of the proposal deals with the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act on a number of fronts.

Opponents warn that eroding protections damages the court system and poses business risks — like lessening legal remedies against Ponzi schemers. But Bradley Jackson, vice president of governmental affairs for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the bill’s consumer measures provide more stability for businesses without eroding consumer protections.

“(Current law) creates an unpredictable and unstable environment,” he said.

• House Bill 1189/Senate Bill 1912 — These bills would prevent plaintiffs from leveraging the Consumer Protection Act in insurance lawsuits and the triple damages it can lead to in judgments.

This reduces risk for insurance companies, and Rep. Pat Marsh, the Shelbyville Republican pushing the bill in the House, said consumer protections have been used as “blackmail” by attorneys to force big settlements. Consumers and companies alike use the act in litigation, and Democrats raised some questions about consumer protections before consenting to the bill’s easy passage in a subcommittee this week.

Marsh said consumers — and companies who use the act — still have options for insurance disputes, including suing under the insurance code.

“You’ve got all the protection you’ve ever had,” he said.

• Other bills — A range of other bills address consumer protections. Most of those that seek to scale them back will likely fall behind Haslam’s proposal, insiders say, but there also are a range of bills that add consumer protections that are getting less traction.

Just to illustrate the way propaganda works, consider this statement from the link: “In many cases the kind of litigation that results puts these folks right out of business.” I don't know. I carry business liability insurance to protect me against those kind of risks. If the businesses complaining about consumer protection don't carry proper insurance for their protection,then I see no reason for them to complain.