I have good news to report. The Governor has signed the bill that we fought for last year which increases the jury demand threshold in Maryland District Court from $10,000.00 to $15,000.00. What does this mean for the typical Maryland car accident victim? It means that your lawyer should be able to get your case to trial faster and with less expense and headache. This is a good thing. Previously, the jury demand threshold was only $10,000.00 and if a maryland resident injured in a car crash filed a lawsuit in District court (asking for a quick bench trial instead of a full blown jury trial) asking for more than $10,000, the defendant's insurance company would typically demand a jury trial forcing the case to go to the Circuit Court, forcing expensive discovery and dragging out the entire legal process in a relatively minor car crash case. Now, plaintiff lawyers in maryland can file suit in District Court for up to $15,000.00 and get a quick bench trial without the expense of circuit court discovery without having to fear that the defendant's insurance company would jury demand. This is great news for Maryland accident victims. I am proud that we passed this legislation that helps Maryland car crash victims during my term as President of the Maryland Trial Lawyer's Association. Since the legislation involved a change to the Maryland Constitution (aka Maryland Declaration of Rights), the voters had to vote for or against hte change. The Maryland voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the change and now the threshold at which point a defendant can demand a jury trial is $15,000.00. In other words, in Maryland, there is not a constitutional right to a jury trial in a civil case if the amount in controversy is less than $15,000.00.
The GCCF denied many claimants an emergency payment who are deserving of compensation. If your gulf oil spill emergency payment claim with the gccf was denied, or if the payment you received is too low, DON'T GIVE UP. There are numerous options still available to you. Even if your emergency payment claim was denied, a lawyer can help get the GCCF to re-evaluate your eligibility for compensation and get you significant interim payment or final payment. Claimants should not accept a final payment claim without consulting with a lawyer because if you accept a final payment claim you will be required to sign a very broad release that will release your right to any further compensation from BP and the other guilty parties in the Gulf Oil Spill. Most lawyers are willing to review the release with you for free and will explain the rights that you are giving up if you sign it.
The first option for those who were denied an emergency payment claim is to submit an interim payment claim. An Interim Payment Claim provides for past damages that have not yet been compensated. SO IF YOU WERE DENIED AN EMERGENCY PAYMENT CLAIM, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER HIRING A LAWYER TO HELP YOU GAIN ELIGIBILITY AND COMPENSATION. An interim payment claim is not a final payment claim and you will not be required to sign a release or give up any legal rights. The downside is that it will only pay for documented past damages and will not pay for any future damages. Our lawyers can help you with your interim payment claim and help you gain eligibility for compensation.
The second option is to submit a well documented final payment claim. BE CAREFUL WITH THIS---TO GET THE FINAL PAYMENT YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO SIGN A RELEASE. The Final Pyament claim, if accepted, will resovle your entire claim against BP and other responsible parties for the Gulf Oil Spill. If you were denied an emergency payment claim, the GCCF will reevaluate your eligibilty if you submit a final payment claim..
A third option was just announced this week. It is a Quick Final Payment Claim. It is available only to those claimants who already received an emergency payment (basically to those already deemed eligible for compensation). It is an expedited procedure where you can settle your individual claim for $5,000.00 or a business claim for $25,000.00. You will be required to sign a release. WE BELIEVE THAT THIS IS A RIPOFF FOR MOST CLAIMANTS AND IT IS ANOTHER ATTEMPT BY BP TO UNDERPAY THESE CLAIMS. BE CAREFUL! Do not take this option unless you have a full understanding of what you (or your business's) damages are and a full understanding of the legal rights you are giving up. Again, if you are considering this option, you should consult with an attorney as you would be required to sign a release giving up your legal rights.
REMEMBER---IF YOU SIGN A RELEASE--YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR FURTHER COMPENSATION FROM BP OR OTHER RESPONSIBLE PARTIES.
If you are considering your options, you should speak with an attorney (not a GCCF representative) who can explain all of this to you.
Another reason to hire a lawyer for your Gulf Oil Spill Claim is that in the event that you are unable to resolve your claim with the GCCF a lawyer can help make sure that the Oil Pollution Act's "Presentment" requirement is met. In order to file a lawsuit under OPA, your claim must be properly presented to the Responsible Party (BP). This requirement can most likely be met by filing with the GCCF but it needs to be done in the proper way such that all elements of the presentment requirement are met.
On Friday morning there was a terrible fire in a housing apartment near Frostburg State in Maryland. Two individuals died as a result of smoke inhalation from the fire. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Evan Kullberg and Alyssa Salazar who by all accounts were absolutely amazing individuals. Mr.Kullberg is from Montgomery County Maryland and Ms. Salazar is from Anne Arundel County Maryland.
Most of the time, when a fire like this occurs and people are injured or killed due to smoke inhalation it is due to the fact that the smoke detectors (required by law) either did not work or were not properly installed and/or because of other building code violations. This is usually the responsiblity of the landlord. The fire occurred at 82 E. Main Street. A properly functioning smoke detector would have saved these students lives. The landlord who owns the building---PJ Fiorita and Malino's Pizza shop would be responsible for the deaths and a lawsuit for negligence could be filed. The Maryland negligence and wrongful death claims would be proven by establishing that the premises did not meet the applicable fire code and building code through expert testimony, which would establish a standard of care that was violated (actually in Maryland, the violation of a code provision is only evidence of negligence. It is not negligence per se like it is in most other states). In a fire case it is really important to hire an attorney and/or independent investigator early on so that all evidence necessary to prove the case is preserved--and so that a proper investigation of what occurred can be done without having to rely on the local fire department's investigation which is ofen underfunded and sometimes even inaccurate and biased to keep local business owners and landlords out of hot water. It is also important that the families of those with a legal claim send out letters to the responsible parties, their insurance carriers and attorneys instructing them to preserve all evidence relating to the fire including any evidence of smoke detectors or other materials relating in any way to the fire.
Yesterday afternoon, a jury in Prince George's County Maryland returned a verdict in the amount of $1,525,000.00 in an auto negligence case. The case involved a multi-vehicle, intersection collision with a significant impact. Liability was conceded the morning of trial. The claimed medical expenses were approximately $20,616.00. The jury awarded $1,500,000 in non-economic damages. The injuries claimed were a concussion, cervical strain, left shoulder strain with bursitis, lumbar strain, left hip strain and a contusion of the left knee, as well as nerve root impingement in the cervical spine with left upper extremity tingling and numbness, and nerve root impingement in the lumbar spine with left buttocks and lower extremity radiculopathy. No surgery was recommended.
The plaintiff called her treating orthopeadic surgeon, Brett Hampton M.D. from Shady Grove Orthopeadics, and her treating neurologist from the Washington Hospital Center, Michael Batipps, M.D. There was an opinion offered from one of the doctors that the injuries were permanent. The defense medical examiner was Jeffrey Abend, M.D.
The case was complicated by a subsequent accident roughly two months after the subject incident, as well as a significant past medical history.
The jury deliberated for one hour. The case was tried before Judge Toni Clarke. The case was defended by State Farm's house counsel's office in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Darvon and Darvocet were just pulled from the market because they can cause fatal heart proplems. On November 19, 2010 got the manufacturers of Darvon/Darvocet to agree to remove the drugs from the market. Manufacturers of hte generic eqivilent drugs to Darvon and Darvocet will be removed as well. Friday's action was based on hte results of a new study taht showed that a standard dose of Darvon or Darvocet can be very harmful to the heart. Once again, the FDA is a few years behind Great Britan in identifying dangerous drugs. In June 2009 the European Medicines Agency removed the drug from the market. Yet in July 2009 the FDA in the US determined that although there were some concerns about the drug, that it would remain available to consumers. About 120 Million prescriptions for the painkiller have been filled in teh USA since England took Darvon off the market.
The most recent study of Darvocet and Darvon showed that even at recommended dose it caused heart abnormalities including heart rhythm problems and electrical heart activity abnormalities.
For more information about the Food and Drug Administrations removal of Darvon and Darvocet from the market, go to the FDA Website or click here.
Any lawyer involved in representing injured people and settling claims with insurance companies knows that in the last year or so, the new Medicare law has created insane obstacles to getting our clients paid the money they deserve once a case is settled. I recently had an adjuster tell me that even though we settled the case with their insured over a month ago, they would not issue payment until they could confirm my client was not on Medicare. My client is young and is not disabled. I offered to give an affidavit that the client was not on Medicare. This was not enough for this adjuster. We still have not received the check and the client and I are very frustrated....
Those on Medicare are typically at least 65 years old or disabled. If Medicare pays medical bills that a third party is ultimately responsible for, Medicare will assert a lien against the third party recovery known as a "Medicare Lien." Personal Injury Attorneys and Medical Malpractice Attorneys are always careful to be sure that Medicare receives the money it is entitled to because otherwise still penalties apply to the lawyer and the client.
CMS, which is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has finally recognized the problem and on November 9, 2010 issued a revised timeline for implementation of the Section 111 Reporting Requirements. The reporting requirements now will not go into effect until October 1, 2011. To see the Medicare bulletin, click here
To see an article written by Kevin Goldberg and Richard Neuworth on the new medicare law, click here
A well known Baltimore Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, recently agreed to pay $22 Million Dollars ($22,000,000.00) to settle claims against the U.S. Government (yes--the feds)- relating to allegations that it was involved in a kickback scheme with MidAtlandic Cardiovascular Associates. The settlement agreement resolves claims under the False Claims Act and the Federal Anti-Kickback Act and the Stark Law. This settlement includes the reimbursement of funds the baltimore hospital received for medically unnecessary coronary stent procedures performed by Dr. Midei when he left Mid Atlantic Cadiovascular and became a full time hospital employee. There are currently still over 100 lawsuits pending against St. Josephs. To see the U.S. Department of Justice Press Release click here
The legal showdown regarding these stent cases is going to be fascinating. The patients shuing the hospital and Dr. Midei will likely be arguing that they are entitled to punitive damages because the wrongful actions were not just negligent, but they were also essentially an intentional tort--a battery--and a fraud upon the patients. While punitive damages are usually difficult to get in Maryland, this is a case where it is quite possible that punitive damages will be awarded to the victims. The seminal case on punitive damages in Maryland is Owens Illinois Inc. v. Zenobia, 325 Md. 420.
In this case, certain doctors hired counsel adn brought suit under the qui tam whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.. These doctors will most likely receive a portion of the $22 Million Dollar Settlement. If you are a medical professional and you are aware of improper kickbacks call us at 888-213-8140 to discuss the possibility of bringing a whistleblower claim.
Congratulations to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland's Commercial Litigation Branch, to the private attorney for the doctor realtors, and to the doctors who had the courage to bring this injustice to light for this amazing result that will benefit all tax payers.
The Maryland Department of Health and Human Hygiene issued a consumer alert warning Maryland consumers not to drink Baugher's Apple Cider. The cider may be contaminated with E Coli o 157 infection. If you have the cider in your house, you should throw it away. Baumgher's farm is located in Westminster, Maryland. To their credit, they have already issued a voluntary recall of this product. A cluster of seven Marylanders have been diagnosed with e coli contamination and this is very unusual. Only 20-40 cases of e coli 0 157 cases are reported in Maryland each year and to have 7 in such close proximity is indeed alarming. When people get sick due to the food they eat, they can consider bringing a lawsuit. It is basically a product liability case. It would be important to try to preserve the tainted food product so that it can be properly tested and analyzed. For more information about filing a product liability lawsuit in Maryland visit our website at gfmlawllc.com or call us at 888-213-8140. Click here for the consumer warning from the Maryland Health Department.http://www.dhmh.state.md.us/pressreleases/2010/ma110510.html
Voters in Maryland overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure yesterday that amends the Maryland constitution to make it so that a defendant only has a right to a jury trial if more than $15,000.00 in in controversy. The measure will help to unclog the Circuit Court system. The increase in the jury demand threshold was necessary because insurace companies would often demand a jury trial when injured parties filed a lawsuit in District Court asking for a bench trial. This would make it so that the injured party would have to go through expensive discovery including depostions and medical examinations in order to get to trial. Increasing the jury demand threshold from $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 will prevent insurance companies such as State Farm and Allstate from using this tactic. It will save judicial resources, and it will also make it so that jurors do not have to spend basically two days sitting through a Circuit Court trial deciding whether an injured person deserves $10,000.00 or $15,000.00 for their injuries. Apparently Louisiana has the highest jury demand threshold at $50,000.00. The constitutional amendment was supported by the Maryland Association for Justice,, and we worked really hard to get this legislation through the General Assembly during the 2010 legislative session when I was the president of the Maryland Trial Lawyers. For more information on this ballot initiative, click here.
Insurance companies cannot be trusted--especially in the way they treat car accident victims. I have noticed that insurance companies are becoming more and more aggressive about approaching victims of car accidents and offering them a small amount of money in exchange for releasing their liability claim. Unfortunately, many of those injured in car accidents are taking the bait and signing the release in exchange for the money. In my opinion, the main reason that this happens is that car crash victims are quite often suffering from financial hardship because they are unable to work and have lost wages because of their injuries from the crash. Therefore, when offered a couple of thousand dollars immediatley in exchange for a release it is hard to say no--they need to put food on the table for their family. The insurance companies send out highly trained adjusters with a checkbook to meet in person with accident victims and urge them to settle on the cheap. These insurance adjusters are trained to be nice, compassionate, and to essentially trick the car crash victim into thinking they are on their side (which is never true). Here is what Maryland victims of car crashes need to know about signing a release:
1. Don't sign a release without at least talking to an attorney. If you have an injury that may be permanent, then a release should not be signed until you know the full extent of your injuries and the cost of the future care.
2. Generally speaking, if you sign a release, you are giving up all of your rights to make a claim for further damages from the accident. The fact that you felt pressured to sign the release is not going to help get it voided.
3. If an insurance company tells you that you do not need a lawyer, then you need a lawyer.
4. In Maryland, there is a new law that essentially makes it so that if a release is signed within 30 days of an accident, it is voidable for 60 days so long as certain conditions are met such as returning the money and providing the insurance company with written notice.
If you have peanut allergies, stay away from Raisinets! On october 22, 2010 Nestle Corp voluntarily recalled a batch of rasinets that may contain peanuts even though the label says it does not contain peanuts. The tainted raisinets were distributed to Target, Shot Rite and Don Quixote stores. The Food and Drug Administration issued a press release on this issue and it can be seen if you click here.
Nestle has indicated that any purchaser of the tainted raisinets candy can call 800-478-5670 for a full refund. The tainted raisinets are in the 10 ounce fun bags.
If you or someone you love is injured as a result of consuming a tainted food product, you may have a legal claim for product liability, breach of warranty and/or for a violation of state consumer protection laws. In these kinds of legal cases, it is very important to save the tainted product so that proper testing can be done to prove that it was in fact tainted (dangerous) and that it in fact caused the injury complained of.
The short answer is YES. In the state of Maryland, if your child is injured due to the negligence of school officials including teachers and volunteers you have the right to sue, but the damages would ultimately be collected against the school board and its liability insurance carrier--not against the teacher or principal. This area of the law gets somewhat complicated though because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity. First of all, you cannot sue the school for failing to educate your child. Maryland does not recognize educational malpractice as a tort. But if your child suffers a personal injury or is killed and it is the result of the negligence of the school's employees you can indeed file a lawsuit. The crux of Maryland law is that teachers and school employees are not personally liable for negligence so long as they acted without malice and so long as the jury does not find that their actions constitute "gross negligence" See MD Code Cts. Jud. Proc. 5-518. Any lawsuit against a teacher must include the school board. The school board itself is not immune for amounts up to $100,000.00 and also is not immune for amounts above $100,000.00 if they have liability insurance covering them. The immunity provisions do not apply to car accidents.
A hot topic these days is bullying. If a school fails to take appropriate action to protect a child from being bullied, the child--through his parents-could file a lawsuit against school officials for any physical/emotional injuries. If a judgement was obtained against, say for example and teacher and a school principal, the judgment would only be collectable against the School Board, and not against the individuals (unless they acted with malice or with gross negligence).
If your child was injured due to the negligence of school officials feel free to call Goldberg Finnegan & Mester for a free telephone consultation. 888-213-8140
On Thursday evening Maryland Terp Offensive Tackle Pete DeSouza was injured when he was struck by a car while he was riding on a motor scooter on the University of Maryland's campus. The driver of the car that struck Mr. DeSouza was operating his vehicle in a negligent manner and was given a traffic ticket. The accident occurred at about nine pm on Campus Drive at the University of Maryland College Park Campus which is in PG County Maryland. Unfortunately, Mr. DeSouza fractured his legs and will require surgery and will be out for the rest of the season. We certainly wish Pete a speedy recovery.
Its astonishing that banks and foreclosure attorneys now admit that thousands of foreclosures throughout the United States have been based on fraudulent documents and improperly executed affidavits. What is not as clear, is how prevalent these improper foreclosure practices were in Maryland. Circut Courts throughout Maryland are reviewing foreclosure petitions to see if there is apparent evidence of improper documents (The Washington Post reported that the Prince George's County Circuit Court is reviewing 14,000 filings). Two law firms have already filed corrective affidavits---Covahey, Boozer, Devan & Dore in Towson and Bierman, Geesing, Ward & Wood in Bethesda, Maryland.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley wrote to the Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals about his concerns for Maryland consumers and Maryland homeowners over the foreclosure scandal. He urged Judge Bell to take "immediate action." A new Maryland Rule is being considered by the Maryland Court of Appeals this week that will allow Circuit Court Judges to summons Maryland lawyers into Court if there is suspicion that the supporting affidavits for the foreclosure were not signed by the lawyer. The Rule will also allow Maryland circuit courts to designate lawyers to serve as a Special Master to review foreclosure documents for irregularities in signatures and to make appropriate recommendations to the Courts.
If you believe that you are a victim of an improper foreclosure or that the documentation supporting your foreclosure was improper, you should call a Maryland lawyer.
On Sunday October 10, 2010 in the early morning hours two pedestrians were struck and killed by a car on Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro Station. Those killed, Rory Weichbrod and Adam Hosinski, were only 26 years old. The driver of the car that struck these young men was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of those killed. What is disturbing though, is that news reports suggest that Montgomery County knew that the roadway in that area was unsafe and that they will soon be making changes. Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator Jeff Dunckel says the crash happened on the edge of a known hot spot for pedestrian accidents along Rockville Pike" and that within the next year, drivers will see obvious changes including new signals, medians and other traffic calming devices. Are you kidding me? If the County knew the roadway was unsafe, the fact is that the roadway should not have been built that way in the firstplace and the changes should have occurred long ago. Roadway safety is generally governed by standards set forth in the MUTCD--Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Montgomery County and/or the contractors who designed the unsafe roadway likely contributed to this tragic incident. Legal claims against the County require that notice be provided pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act---and this must be properly done within 180 days of the incident.
Another disturbing aspect of this incident is that the driver who hit the young men may have been drunk. Unfortunately, under Maryland law, even if he was intoxicated, he will not be subject to punitive damages. There has been proposed legislation to change this aspect of Maryland law, but so far it has not passed.