Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Clark Howard and Georgia Watch

Information from the folks at Georgia Watch:

Consumer expert and Georgia Watch board member Clark Howard believes that a donation to Georgia Watch is, “double the bang for your buck because you’re helping a great organization that’s working for you and you get savings back on your income tax.”

To watch Clark ’s special message about Georgia Watch in its entirety, visit our home page at www.GeorgiaWatch.org. While there, you can also meet our staff, view pictures from our recent consumer education programs, get important consumer resource information, and make your secure, online tax-deductible donation.

Your donation will support:

* Consumer workshops: Georgia Watch has participated in over 50 free workshops across the state on popular to pics such as identity theft, personal finance management and predatory loan scams.

* Policy: Credible research helps elected officials craft appropriate consumer protection laws and regulations. This year, Georgia enacted a law authorizing credit freeze for consumers – for one of the lowest fees in the country!

* Awareness: Increasing awareness about consumer issues with our newsletters, reports and frequent work with the media.

Georgia Watch members receive:

* Quarterly newsletters: Eight pages of consumer information and advice.
* Annual legislative reference and report: A rundown of the most important consumer legislation in Georgia every year, with a detailed account of how your elected officials vote.
* Georgia Watch member emails: Updates about events and the highlights of our work with the media.

Georgia Watch depends on member support, tax-deductible donations and volunteer hours. We look forward to continuing our service to Georgia consumers every day, and appreciate all of your dedication and support.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Being Thankful during this Holiday Season

Having been asked to write something on this Blogpost, I thought that you, the reader, would be interested to know a bit about 'why' those who write and contribute to this cause chose to do so:

First of all, this is a volunteer position, and I feel that is an important aspect for you, the reader, to realize. I say that because, at least in my life, I have only volunteered and/or seen those who have volunteered for worth-while and deserving organizations. Organizations dedicated to helping others...and this organization has the same mission: to help others, most notably, YOU, the consumer by upholding and protecting your legal rights.

I generally try to not speak for others, but, in this particular situation, I do feel quite confident that I can can say, with the greatest of sincerity, that every member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Associations (GTLA) is devoted to protecting YOU. That's right, every man, woman and child's best interest is at the heart of every aspect of what members of this organization fight for on a daily basis.

Trial lawyers are the ones who have exposed Allstate Insurance company's, well...shall we say, less than honorable practices, which effect everyone who is placed in a position to have to deal with them. A book has been written that has addressed this and I hope you have an opportunity to explore this further (http://www.trialguides.com/allstatebook.htm). In that same vein, the exposure of these types of "profit over people" posturing has lead to the state of Florida banning the allowance of Allstate Insurance selling new automobile insurance at the turn of 2008 until they complied with subpeonas that had been issued about how they had set their rates. ( http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/jan/17/business/chi-thu_allstate_0117jan17). This is just one isolated example, but these examples abound: from toxic chemicals used in toys to Drug Manufacturers seeking blanket immunity for hazards related to their drugs which they have failed to warn the consumer about, despite their knowledge of the repercusions (see Wyeth v. Levine, U.S. Supreme Court).

The examples of how trial lawyers are fighting for YOU surround us daily and I hope that when you have an opportunity that you will take notice of the battles that appear on a frequent basis and are being fought for YOU. If you ever want to hear about the plight of trial lawyers as they continually work to uphold and protect your legal rights I encourage you to look at www.gtla.org and type in your town and call one of the attorneys and ask she, or he, about the fight that is going on for YOU.

So, as everyone hopefully enjoys a safe Holiday Season, I hope that YOU know that there are a group of people fighting for your rights on a daily basis, and I know that I am quite thankful to be involved in this noble cause.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Georgia's Uninsured Ranks Swell

From the ajc.com:

It's getting worse in the state of Georgia for those without insurance.

A new Georgia State University study, released earlier in December of 2008 shows what some say is a "gloomy" health insurance climate last year.

The report notes that the level of those deemed uninsured in Georgia in 2007 stayed roughly the same as the previous year, at 20 percent of Georgians under age 65 without any coverage.

The percentage of those under 65 with private coverage, though, has dropped from 75 percent in 2000 and 2001 —- a two-year average, to increase the statistical accuracy —- to 67 percent in 2006 and 2007, mirroring a national trend.

Georgia residents with public Medicaid and PeachCare coverage has increased, according to the report.

Also from the AJC:

Georgia has 1.6 million people who lack health insurance.

Source here.

In this writer's opinion, this is a looming state budget crisis - millions of dollars will be written off because those without insurance will still continue to go to a local hospital or ER, as opposed to going to a doctor whose visit may be covered on even a basic insurance plan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Georgia's Medical Liability Environment: 4th; Access to Care: 44th (of 50)

The American College of Emergency Physicians this week released a state ranking of best and worst emergency rooms in the country. The “Medical Liability Environment” of each state makes up 20% of the rankings. Each state is ranked according to how their liability environment is (as well as several other factors), and ultimately each state gets an overall ranking.

The full rankings can be found here: http://www.emreportcard.com/statereports.aspx?id=392

The American College of Emergency Physicians press release is here.

Georgia—while ranked 4th in medical liability environment (meaning caps) is ranked 44th in the nation for access to care and only 37th in the nation for quality of care and patient safety.

What does this mean? It means to some that Tort Reform does not protect patients. What it may mean is that the lack of accountability afforded to the ER with caps and the gross negligence standard that exists in this state may actually harm the patients of Georgia.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Survey: 1 in 3 toys have toxic chemicals

Researchers for the JustGreen Partnership -- a coalition of children's safety, public health and environmental groups -- recently tested more than 1,500 toys and found one in three contained medium or high levels of chemicals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic.

Lead was detected in 20 percent of the toys, and the group says levels in some far exceed the 600 parts-per-million standard set by the federal government for a recall.

The group said it selected toys and children's products that attempted to represent a cross section of the most popular items used by U.S. children.

A group representing the toy industry was critical of the report."The Toy Industry Association finds the report from Healthytoys.org is misleading to consumers, at best," according to a statement on the company's Web site.

For more, go here.

Preemption and The Current President

Source: Tresa Baldas who writes for National Law Journal, a Fulton Daily Report affiliate.

The clock is ticking for lawyers specializing in consumer safety litigation as they wait to see what "midnight regulations" the Bush administration squeaks through before leaving office in January.

There are dozens of rules now under review by the administration that affect everything from prescription drug labeling to water quality to auto roof safety, according to the Office of the Federal Register, the government's official daily publication for rules, proposed rules and notices of federal agencies.

Midnight regulations are last-minute federal rules and regulations that a president issues before leaving office, usually in the last three months of his term.

Defense counsel are counting on the Bush administration to leave behind regulations that offer greater liability protection to manufacturers and less regulation. The plaintiffs' bar fears just that, warning that as many as 21 possible regulations could be a "nightmare" for consumer safety and the environment.

"Let's say all 21 pass - that's a worst-case scenario. You will be looking at thousands of consumers who will be left with no recourse and manufacturers who have the ability to walk away with complete immunity," said attorney Gerie Voss, director of regulatory affairs for the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the voice of the plaintiffs' bar, which is tracking the 21 pending consumer safety regulations.

Pre-emption front and center

But corporate defense counsel Matthew Neumeier of the Chicago office of Washington-based Howrey said that the "Bush administration is continuing to generate regulations consistent with its philosophy - that the regulation of business should be minimal.

"And if there is regulation, the regulation should attempt to protect businesses from liability under other state law theories if they're compliant [with federal rules]," he said. "The pre-emption issues are really front and center."

And it's the pre-emption language within the proposed rules that have the plaintiffs' bar particularly concerned. These rules include

• A proposed regulation that would require auto manufacturers - for the first time in 35 years - to increase the strength of vehicle roofs. Plaintiffs' lawyers say the roof strength standards are still too low, and that automakers that meet that rule will be granted complete immunity from all lawsuits, according to the AAJ.

• A proposed rule by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise warning labels regarding the use of prescription drugs during pregnancy and breast-feeding, and to update them with more detailed information, including clinical trial results.

This rule includes a pre-emption clause, which the AAJ fears will offer drug makers blanket immunity and give injured women no recourse.

• A proposed FDA rule that would shield companies from liability for potentially harmful over-the-counter drug ingredients. The proposed rule changes the status of some ingredients used in over-the-counter drugs, making them subject to additional FDA approval. Once they were approved, manufacturers no longer could be held accountable should the ingredients cause harm, according to the AAJ.

Some lawyers believe the Obama administration will eventually reverse what might slip through before Inauguration Day.

Defense counsel say that Corporate America isn't taking advantage of any regulatory favors, or behaving irresponsibly. Instead, they argue, businesses should be required to follow only one set of rules, and if they do so, they should be immune from state lawsuits.

Read more about this doctrine here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

State Budget Crisis Threatens Access to Civil Justice System

Budget shortfalls in Georgia have forced superior courts statewide to eliminate the use of senior judges, burdening already overloaded court dockets. Injured plaintiffs that rely on the civil justice system are likely to be victims of these cuts.

Senior judges are retired superior court judges who serve as needed to resolve backlogs of cases and preside over trials. They have been used with increasing frequency as caseloads around the state have increased.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland criticized the cuts: “It’s unfortunate the State’s mismanagement of funds has brought to a halt the most fiscally responsible way to deal with the shortage of full-time judges available to handle increased civil filings and criminal prosecutions. As a result the county jails will become even more crowded and cases will move slower through the system.”

While criminal litigants can often take advantage of speedy trial demands to move their cases through the court system, civil litigants have no such rights and cases can drag on for years before reaching trial. At least one judicial district has temporarily suspended all civil trials because of crowded dockets.

Injured plaintiffs are placed in a particularly difficult position when they are unable to have their day in court, especially when their injuries have prevented them from working. The insurance companies that are ultimately responsible for paying the plaintiff's damages, on the other hand, are likely to benefit from increasingly desperate injured parties who are willing to settle for less than the true value of their case because they cannot afford to face financial ruin while waiting years to present their case to a jury.

Contributed by John D. Hadden
Turkheimer & Hadden, LLC

GTLA - In Practice: Micah Gravley

Micah Gravley is the Statewide Grassroots Director for GTLA.

In this podcast, Jamie and Micah discuss general issues related to GTLA and the importance of member participation.

GTLA: In Practice - Jay Sadd

In addition to serving as former editor of Calendar Call, the official publication of the General Practice and Trial Section of the Georgia State Bar, Jay has also served as Chairman of the Legal Education Committee for the Young Lawyers Section of the Georgia Bar; board member of Initiative 2000, which commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act; member of the Communications and Outreach Committee of The Public Justice Foundation; and Chairperson of the Education Committee for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Currently Jay serves as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Director for the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc., and as an instructor for the Trial Techniques Program, Emory University School of Law.

In this podcast Jay Sadd and Jamie discuss how he came to be involved in GTLA and the impact it has had on his career.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Holiday Season is here

I received my first holiday card over the Thanksgiving day weekend and thought how thankful I am for lawyers. After I opened the card, I checked my email and saw a blurb from my good friend and world renowned Trial Lawyer, Don Keenan. Aside from his exploits as a Trial Lawyer, Don sends out a yearly email noting the top 10 dangerous toys.
I can't speak for Don, but I presume that he would rather you did not give those toys to your children thereby running Mr. Keenan out of his business, too. You see, Don sues manufacturers and doctors that harm children.
Many of my trial lawyer friends do the same. Big business doesn't voluntarily do the right thing and remove dangerous toys and products from the shelves. So trial lawyers sue them, put the manufacturers under the spotlight, and force them to remove the hazardous products by hitting them in their pocket books; the only thing they cherish.
We have seen time and time again where government has failed to regulate big business, too. Yet trial lawyers never fail their cause- the promotion of safety.

That's why I am thankful for lawyers this holiday season.