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.