Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What could be scarier this Halloween?

Tonight on Anderson Cooper 360° prepare to hear a chilling story of lies and deceit as two everyday Americans are haunted by undercover agents in their own church.

Progressive Insurance willingly accepted the premiums that Bill and Leandra Pitts paid them each month for UM Insurance. After a car crash in Henry County that left the Pitts with injuries and damages not covered by the at-fault driver, they turned to their UM coverage to pay for what was left—the coverage that they had dutifully paid for every month.

Progressive Insurance, in an attempt to save a buck, hired two undercover private investigators to follow the Pitts in their community and to their church where the two agents posed as prospective members. Taking the deceit to incredible lengths, the two agents talked their way into a private Bible-study held in a private home and were privy to intimate and personal disclosures of the church members. Progressive hoped that they would discover something that would free them from covering the damages. But they didn’t.

The Pitts, after hiring GTLA member Wayne Grant, have filed suit against Progressive Insurance alleging that the company’s spooky tactics against their own clients went too far. Tonight, Anderson Cooper on CNN will look into the case.

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Georgia, we don't lie and spy in church

Letter to the Editor in response to an article in October 18th's issue of the AJC.

By: Robin Frazer Clark
GTLA Immediate Past President

‘Appalling’ and ‘Reasonable.’ Two completely different words with two completely different meanings. It’s not a coincidence that Progressive Insurance referred to their own conduct as 'appalling,' and then, when faced with accountability Progressive changes its tune to say their conduct was 'reasonable.'

Progressive spied on Bill and Leandra Pitts in church—in their private Bible-Study! Good Georgians trusted these people as fellow worshipers—not undercover agents sent to spy on them so that a greedy corporation could save a buck.

I applaud my colleague for representing this family. Our Civil Justice System was designed for people just like the Pitts. In a time when so many corporations are living large and reporting record-breaking profits, we need the Civil Justice System to ensure that they aren’t expanding their profit margins by swindling families and those in need. This is the only avenue to hold Progressive accountable and to send a message to other insurance companies—Georgia does not tolerate dishonest business practices. Down here, we don’t lie and spy in church.

Drought of Leadership

**Response to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on October 18, 2007.

By: Jamie Bendall
Atlanta Attorney

My patience is drying up like my drinking supply. Commissioner John Oxendine is furiously pumping misinformation from his seemingly still deep reservoir of half-truths regarding the way consumers in Georgia are treated by their insurance companies. It great that he's offended by Progressive's spying on their policy holders in bible study . It would be better if he acted to protect policy holders from these kinds of tactics. Instead he's working right now to prevent policy holders from getting the full benefit of insurance premiums they are already paying for. He's treating insurance companies like they are defenseless, endangered mussels; always seeking to keep them floating on a sea of profits. The people of Georgia are thirsty for Justice and Mr. Oxendine should use his office to see that the benefits of a just insurance industry flow in the right direction. He should support SB 276.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tragedy could have been prevented

Last week a Kentucky jury found in favor of plaintiff Louise Ogborn after she was sexually assusalted in a Louisville McDonalds in 2004.

Ogborn was the victim of a known hoax—that had occurred 40 times previously. At just 18 years old, Ogborn was victimized by a perpetrator impersonating a police officer. While at work, and under the perpetrator’s direction, Ogborn was held prisoner, sexually assaulted and abused for hours.

This tragedy could have been prevented.

McDonalds knew of the hoax and repeatedly ignored its duty to adequately warn the employees of at least 40 previous incidents. When McDonalds became involved in this Civil Justice case, they fought every step of the way against fair compensation for the victim.

The jury of Ogborn’s peers held McDonalds responsible for its negligence resulting in both Ogborn’s false imprisonment and sexual assault. Beyond those findings, the jury even went so far as to write to McDonalds urging that the corporation offer its employees more training concerning sexual harassment and hoaxes.

Our Civil Justice System ensures that people, like Louise Ogborn, who are the victims of the negligence or wrong-doing of others can seek justice and compensation for the harm they’ve suffered.

Louise Ogborn, now 21 years old, has decided to go law school. In a press conference it was said that she is going to law school so that she can work to right wrongs—just as the Civil Justice System promises in our Constitution—Justice for All.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Half-truths and Lies in AJC Letter to the Editor

By: Joe Watkins
President of GTLA

**NOTE** The AJC printed a letter, from an Atlanta area doctor, full of half-truths and lies. Joe Watkins, the President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association responded.

Dr. Stephen D. Leonard, who, according to state records, is not on the staff of any hospital and works in the hair replacement field, paints a dishonest picture about the reality of medical malpractice in the Labor and Delivery Room. He states that doctors are performing C-Sections because they are fearful of a malpractice suit. Absent from Dr. Leonard's accusations is the truth. He fails to mention that a lawsuit will never see the light of day without the testimony of a qualified physician who states, under oath, that the physician involved violated the standard of care. Our law also limits the amount of damages which may be recovered in malpractice suits. Perhaps this doctor from New York should familiarize himself with the Georgia Code before politically spouting his views at the expense of real families dealing with real hardships as the result of medical negligence.

Monday, October 1, 2007

AAJ demand FRA withdraw preemption language from new railroad safety regulation

Immediate Release
American Association for Justice (AAJ)

Proposed Rule Endangers Public by Preempting State Tort Laws,
Eliminating Victims’ Access to Justice

Washington, DC— The American Association for Justice (AAJ) today demanded the Bush Administration halt its effort to prohibit railway accident victims from pursuing legal action against railroad companies responsible for their injury or death.

Addition of this preemptive language by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to a pending safety regulation is yet another example of the Bush Administration’s catering to corporate interests while further endangering the public’s health and safety.

“Once again, the Bush Administration has come down on the side of corporate irresponsibility against consumer safety,” said AAJ CEO Jon Haber. “This is a cynical attempt to allow railroad companies to evade accountability in the courts when people are killed and injured by their negligence and wrongdoing.”

Members of Congress also demanding the removal of the pre-emption language include House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), who represents the Southern California district that suffered a major commuter railroad accident with multiple fatalities in 2005.

The FRA relies upon Section 20106 of the Federal Rail Safety Act to claim that its rule preempts any state law governing railroad safety, despite the fact that Congress specifically reiterated that the provision does no such thing less than two months ago. According to the Congressional Conference Report the provision, “does not preempt State law causes of action where a party has failed to comply with the Federal standard of care.” The FRA’s attempt to claim otherwise is tantamount to an Administration declaration of the power to regulate with the force of law without regard to the will of Congress.

“President Bush is blatantly ignoring the law passed by Congress just weeks ago,” said Haber, “Unless stricken from the final rule, this preemptive language will only serve the interests of corporate wrongdoers looking to evade accountability for risking the lives of millions of people on our nation’s railroads.”

A copy of AAJ’s Petition for Reconsideration and the Congressional letters demanding the removal of the pre-emption language are available upon request.

Bill Schulz
202-944-2806 (Direct Dial)
AAJ Press Room