August 21, 2011

Death Due to Downed Power Line in P.G. County

On Saturday a man named Indy Saunders was killed whemn a PEPCO utility pole or power line struck him during a monsoon like rainstorm. This electrocution injury occurred in Prince George's County Maryland in Temple HIlls. If this man was struck by a live PEPCO powerline, he was likely hit with over 10,000 volts of electricity. The death and reasons for the PEPCO power line striking Indy Saunders are currently being investigated by P.G. County FIre officials. Neighbors interviewed after this incident said that they believed PEPCO should have cut the trees back prior to the storm. A spokes man for the fire department named Mark E. Brady said that Mr. Saunders suffered crush injuries and burns to a large percentage of his body, and that the death occurred because an enourmous tree fell onto PEPCO power lines causing the lines to and tree to snap a PEPCO utility pole.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Indy Saunders. While a lawsuit is probably the last thing on anyone's mind right now, the family should know that it is crucial that a preservation of evidence letter should be sent to PEPCO and whatever officials have the electrical components, wires, and pole that caused Mr. Indy Rober Saunders death. Preservation of evidence after a serious injury or death is critically important to the success of any future product liability claim or negligence claim relating to the death. A lawyer can help make sure that evidence such as the PEPCO utility pole, wires and electrical components is preserved and maintained with a proper chain of custody documented. The family/friends should also consider that a notice of claim should be sent to the government officials who may have also been negligent. This notice typically needs to be sent certified mail pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act, State of Maryland Tort Claims Act, or if in Washinton, D.C. pursuant to Section 12-309 of the D.C. Code. A lawyer can help make sure that this is done properly, and that evidence is collected so that a future lawsuit relating to the death of Mr. Indy Saunders can have the best chance for success.

The claims that can be considered include negligence claims, product liability claims, wrongful death claims and a survival claim. PEPCO is known for taking a strong stance against lawsuits and they typically vigorously defend claims brought against them and deny any responsibility for the death and injury to others. Our law firm---Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester---has had success litigating against PEPCO.

August 15, 2011

Should I accept a Final Payment from the GCCF?

We urge any business or individual to have a lawyer who understands how the GCCF operates review the Gulf Oil Spill GCCF Determination Letter before accepting or rejecting an offer. We have noticed that quite often the calculations done by GCCF accoutants are wrong and that many of those victimized by the Gulf Oil Spill are being short-changed. Not only are the calculations done by the GCCF sometimes wrong, but it is equally important to carefully review the "Methodology Used To Calculate Projected Revenues." A lawyer who understands how the GCCF operates can review your Determination Letter and may be able to get the GCCF to do a recalculation based on a methodology that is more favorable to the claimant. For example, if an oysterman or fisherman had a much better year in 2008 than in 2009 for some reason, then it would be more advantageous to have the methodology rely on just the 2008 numbers for comparison rather than an average of 2008 and 2009 or even just 2009 numbers. The GCCF has shown some flexibility in this regard and if a good argument can be made as to why a single years as opposed to an average of years should be used, many of the GCCF accountants will accomodate this request and do a recalculation. The methodology used by the GCCF can be found at the top of Attachment A of the GCCF Evaluation of Claim Form.

Another area to carefully focus on is the Loss of Income Percentage (LOI %). We have noticed that the GCCF is making a lot of errors in calculating the LOI % and this is something that can have a huge impact on a victim of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill's claim value (Not just the Final Payment Claim Amount, but also the Interim Payment Claim). In order to make proper arguments to the GCCF in order to get the Loss of Income Percentage recalculated it is important to understand what this percentage is. It is meant to reflect the amount of saved expenses, and therefore is the percentage of revenue that represents saved costs that were not incurred due to the spill.

If you received a Final Determination Letter from the GCCF it is important to take note of the expiration date of the FInal Payment Offer. This can be found on the GCCF Form 1012 which is the Election Form For Determination Letter On Lost Profits Claim.

Our team is available to discuss your determination letter at no cost to you. Call us at 888-213-8140 or email Kevin Goldberg at kgoldberg@gfmlawllc.com. Remember that the GCCF is basically "BP" and you need to be careful when dealing with them directly.

August 14, 2011

August is Deadly On Maryland Roads

As expected, August 2011 is shaping up to be a horrible month in terms of the number of catastrophic car accidents on Maryland roads. Today the Washington Post reports that 9 people died in Maryland area road accidents, including 4 peoples whose vehicle caught on fire. Many others were injured. AAA has reported that the most dangerous time to drive is generally August 1 through Labor Day. In fact, John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid Atlantic Region, has explained taht stats from 2000-2008 indicate that 7 of the the 15 deadliest days to drive a car are between August 3 and September 2.

On Friday August 12, 2011, according to Maryland Police there was a horrible motor cycle accident in St. Mary's County, MD. A man named Devin Sweeting was driving a Yamaha motorcycle on Route 5 in Lexington Park and it left the street and struck a cement object, turned sideways and skidded for over 150 feet while Mr. Sweeting was still in the seat. Mr. Sweeting, according to the Washington Post suffered multiple pelvic fractures and other injuries. He was flown to Maryland's Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, MD and later died from his injuries. (Unfortunately, many motor cycle insurance policies in Maryland do not have PIP Coverage).

Then, there was another fatal car accidneti in Montgomery County, Maryland on the Capital Beltway near Silver Spring, Maryland on 15700 block of Holly Grove Road in Cloverly. A 2002 Subaru was on fire and two people were found dead inside of the vehicle when rescue workers arrived. Crash investigators are still investigating the cause of this crash but reporters have indicated that they think the vehcile was going on Holly Grove Road and may have crashed into a tree. (Anyone with info about this crash is asked to call the Maryland Accident Reconstruction Unit at 301-840-2435).

A few hours later there was another fatal Maryland car crash on the Baltimore Washington Parkway in Prince Georges County Maryland. A Sports Utility Vehicle left the roadway and crashed into a tree causing vehicle occupants to be ejected from the vehicle. Two people were pronounced dead as a result, and at least 5 others including several children were taken to Maryland hospitals in critical condition. Tragically, it is reported that a 3 year old child also later died in this crash. (Those involved in this crash should strongly consider hiring a lawyer to make sure the vehcile is preserved and to evaluate the vehicles crashworthiness as there could be a product liability claim against the car manufacturer. A lawyer can help with this).

Maryland residents need to know that our roadways are indeed very dangerous this time of the year and drivers need to drive defensively. Drivers should not be using their cell phones or sending text messages while driving in Maryland. To do so is now against the law. It seems that we are seeing more and more single car crashes in Maryland where vehicles are straying off of the roadway and crashing into trees, telephone poles and other fixed objects. I believe that this is often the result of driver distraction, drivers checking their email on their cell phones, and/or drivers texting while driving.

The families and friends of those killed in these Maryland car accidents are obviously grieving right now. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. These families should know and undestand that they most likely have Personal Injury Protection Benefits (also known as PIP Benefits) that can help pay for funeral expenses and medical bills. These are no fault benefits meaning that it does not matter who is at fault for the crash. The next of kin just needs to contact the insurance company and a check for $2,500 will be sent (An estate may need to be opened first---depending on the insurance company). Family members should also strongly consider engaging an experienced car crash lawyer to conduct an investigation and make sure that all evidence is properly preserved. For example, skid marks fade, witness memories fade, and vehicles invovled in the crash are often junked or salvaged if immediate action is not taken. Since there is liked limited liability insurance coverage for drivers invovled int he crash, whenever there is a wrongful death car accident in Maryland it is important to consider whether there may be a product liability case. If there is, the vehicle (the product) needs to be preserved in the proper way. For more information about alternative theories of liability in catastrophic car accident cases in Maryland read the article titled "Not So Fast...Don't Accept a Low Policy Limits Settlement Offer for Your Catastrophically Injured Client."5D.pdf">summer-article-2008[1].pdfsummer-article-2008[1].pdf

While getting a lawyer now, in the immediate aftermath of a tragIc car crash, may seem seedy to some, it is crucially important in light of the fact that evidence can disappear and memories can fade. Evidence preservation and proper investigation is crucial (and it is NOT ALWAYS SUFFICIENT TO JUST RELY ON THE POLICE INVESTIGATION). Furthermore, there are strict deadlines such as statutes of limitations and notice requirements to governmental entities that need to be complied with. The notice deadlines can be as short as 6 months after the car crash. The bottom line is that the insurance companies who will be defending the legal claims related to the crash are doing everything possible to minimize their potential liability. You cannot trust insruance companies to make srue that crucial evidence is preserved or that the crash facts are properly investigated. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help with this and ususally, with absolutely no out of pocket costs to the person hiring the lawyer. Injury lawyers almost always do not charge a fee unless there is a recovery, and the lawyer/law firm usually will advance the costs of the investigation/preservation efforts.

August 5, 2011

Hospital Performance Not Always in Line With Perception

Medicare recently released data that shows that hospitals that have been given high marks for patient care by patients are not always the safest hospitals. Some hospitals have high death rates for heart failure patients despite the fact that patients applaud the hospital's patient care. The data looks at death rates and readmission rates for heart failure, heart attacks and pnemonia. Medicare basically looked at 4,600 hospitals throughout the USA and found that 323 of them had above average death rates for heart attack, heart failure and pnemonia.

These new statistics indicate that nationally 15.9 percent of patients who suffer a heart attack will die, that 11.3% of patients who suffer heart failure will die, and 11.9% of patients who have pnemonia will die.

In the State of Maryland the death rates for those admitted with a heart attack are as follows:

Howard County General Hospital 12.3%
Shady Grove Adventist Hospital 14.4%
Montgomery General Hospital 14.5%
Suburban Hospital 14.9%
Holy Cross Hospital 15.7%
Prince George's Hospital 16%
University of Maryland 16.2%

These statistics can be found at

This information can be helpful to those who have risk factors for heart failure or heart attack. It is good to know which hospitals have the lowest and highest death rates for heart failure and heart attacks because if, God forbid, you or a loved one suffers from a heart attack you want to be able to choose the hospital which has the most resources and the best track record and survival rate.

July 25, 2011

Gulf Oil Spill Update-And A Few Suggestions For Those Dealing with the GCCF

Our Law Firm continues to represent individuals, small businesses, fishermen and oystermen with losses as a result of the Gulf Oil Spill. We represent claimants before the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and also in Court Proceedings in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Today an important filing was made---Doc 3423 Supplemental Memorandum filed by Plaintiff in In Support of 912 MOTION Supervise Ex Parte Communications with Putative Class (2).pdf In this filing efforts are made to bring to the attention of Judge Barbier the unfairness of how BP has handled the Interim Payment Process. In a nutshell, the brief establishes that the GCCF and BP have violated the Oil Pollution Act by failing to implement a fair Interim Claim Process. It is well supported by statistics, affidavits and news accounts. The brief alleges that BP's failure to make timely Interim Payment Claims as required by OPA essentially forces claimants to take lowball quickpay settlement offers ($5,000 for individuals and/or $25,000.00 for businesses). A couple ofstatistics are noteworthy:

(i) As of December 2010, Less than 13.6% of Interim claimants have been paid, yet about 95% of quick claim payments had been made. "Statistics clearly indicate that hte GCCF is paying quick pay claims and not paying interim claims..." Brief p. 5.

(ii) Only 36% of all GCCF claimants have received any compensation at all from GCCP or BP.

(iii) As of June 1, 2011 there were 514,263 GCCF Claimants. Of 139,950 Final Payments issued, 114,482 were Quck Payments ($25K or $5K) and 25,468 were fully reviewed.

For any small businesses and/or oyster lease holders out there---here are a few tips:

1. At a minimum, be sure to consult with a lawyer before accepting a Final Settlement Offer and Signing a Release. We are seeing a lot of indivduals and small business owners who are settling their claims for pennies on the dollar. It is important that you consult with a lawyer to understand what damages you may be entiteld to, and if you are accepting a settlement its important to understand the legal rights you may be giving up. Remember, you can continue to get interim payments without having to sign a release.

2. If you disagree with your Final Settlement Offer from the GCCF or believe that it just was not calculated properly, a lawyer can help obtain a recalculation. We have successfully obtained recalculations for several of our clients that resulted in a significant amount of increased compmensation. We have seen inconsistencies in how GCCF Accountants are doing their calculations and it is important to ask questions, and understand how your 2010 lost profits were calculated.

3. If you receive a settlement offer, DO NOT ASSUME THAT GCCF CALCULATED YOUR LOSSES PROPERLY. We have seen many settlement offers where 2010 lost profits were improperly and/or unfairly calculated by the GCCF.

4. If you receive a deficiency letter from the GCCF it is important to respond to it in a timely and professional manner. Failure to do so will result in a delay in payment of your claim, or possibly even in a denial of your claim.

5. Oyster lease holders should NOT SETTLE WITH GCCF YET. We have reason to believe that a revised compensation formula will be published by Ken Feinberg and the GCCF in the very near future that will SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE COMPENSATION FOR OYSTER LEASE HOLDERS. That is not to say that what the GCCF offers to oyster lease holders will be fair compensation. Unfortunatley, BP and hte GCCF continue to only look at the economic lost profits of oyster lease holders and they are not yet taking into consideration that it is damage to real property that has a separate legal significance. ALL OYSTER LEASE HOLDERS SHOULD---IN OUR OPINION--RETAIN AN ATTORNEY TO BE SURE THAT THEY ARE PROPERLY COMPENSATED. it is quite possible that the best outcome for oyster lease holders will be through the MDL litigation and not through the GCCF. Oyster lease holders should discuss their particular situation with an attorney.

Our legal team is available to answer your questions about your GCCF Claim and to discuss your options. We can be reached at 888-213-8140.

July 25, 2011

Prescription Drug Shortages Here In The USA----Are You Kidding Me?

A friend of mine is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. He is an incredible person, strong as an ox physically, and I am 100% confident he will pull through. He also has some of the very best doctors treating him. My friend is a Montgomery County, Maryland School teacher and also is the coach of the Scotland Stars Basketball Team that Goldberg Finnegan & Mester sponsors.

I was shocked to learn that despite his doctors best efforts, they will not be able to get his final dose of Bleomycin (chemotherapy agent) because there is a nationwide shortage of this drug. You see, the drug is no longer on patent and it is now manufactured by a generic drug maker--I believe Tevis Pharmaceuticals. Drug companies may choose not to continue to manufacture certain prescription drugs that have a relatively low profit margin, and instead focus their manufacturing resources on drugs that have a higher profit margin. This is another example of how greed and money are what drives the decision making process within pharmaceutical industry.

I have been thinking about whether drug companies that stop making a drug that saves lives and that people need are legally obligated to continue to produce the drug. Honestly, I don't think pharmaceutical companies necessarily have a legal duty to continue to manufacture a life saving drug if they don't want to. In other words, I do not think that a consumer who wants a life saving cancer curing chemotherapy drug can sue the manufacturer under general negligence and/or product liability laws because the manufacturer does not necessarily have a direct duty to consumers in general. That said, the pharmaceutical companiesmay have a legal duty to inform consumers and doctors of upcoming forseeable drug shortages--especially to patients who already have started therapy with a particular drug. The pharmaceutical industry certainly has a moral and ethical obligation to continue to produce life saving drugs, even if it does not make Big Pharma money in the short term. It is simply the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, big pharmaceutical companies don't have a heart. Moral and ethical duties do not resonate with most corporations. Since there does not seem to be a legal duty for the drug companies to do the right thing, we need legislation to protect patients such as my friend. This is an area where our government---The FDA--and perhaps State Regulatory agencies should step in. These regulatory agencies should be able to issue orders requiring the continued manufacture of much needed cancer curing drugs. Also, the FDA should require drug companies to issue notices to the medical and patient community of upcoming shortages and be forced to state the reason for the shortage.

Prescription drug shortages are a serious problem and it does not only affect cancer drugs. Drug shortages also occur with antibiotics, heart medication, blood pressure medication (Dyazide and Maxide) and even ADHD drugs such as Adderall. In 2010 there were 211 reported shortages. So far in 2011 there have already been about 196 known shortages. This is not a good trend. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not have the legal authority to require drug companies to report shortages or reasons for shortages. There is some information available on the FDA Website Drug Shortages FDA.pdf-- but the Website clearly states:

"The informaiton provided in this section is provided voluntarily by manufacturers. FDA cannot require firms to report the reason for shortage or duration of the shortage or any other information about shortages."

Without accurate information from the pharmaceutical industry about why there are shortages and when these shortages will occur, it is impossible for doctors and patinets suffering from cancer to make appropriate medical decisions. Patients and doctors are encouraged to report known drug shortages by email at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov

I was shocked to learn that drug shortages could occur with life saving drugs such as Blyomycin. The good news is that there is currently legislation making its way through Congress that may solve the problem. The text of The Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011 (H.R. 2245) can be found here.HR 2245 Preserving Access.pdfBleomycin.jpg The proposed law requires drug manufacturers to report planned discontinuances of at least 6 months in advance of the discontinuance or as soon as they become aware of the discontinuance. If drug manufacturers knowingly fails to provide this information they are subject to a fine of $10,000.00 per day up to $1,800,000.00. The law also requires the GAO to conduct a study to analyze the law's impact on the FDA ability to prevent prescription drug shortages.The law does contain a few loopholes that allow for drug companies to reduce the 6 month notice period

My analysis of this proposed law is that it is a good first step in the right direction, but it does not quite go far enough. Most likely the law was watered down by lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. Ideally the law should require the drug company to certify the reason for the shortage and/or discontinuance of the drug. The law does not seem to require such information but ironically, it requires that the FDA examine the causes of drug shortages. Wouldn't it make sense to have the manufacturers provide the FDA with the critical information needed to conduct this study/examination???

I am also concerned that the proposed legislation gives too much Rule Making Authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services--thus allowing lobbyists for the drug companies to continue to weigh in on how the law is implemented and enforced. Hopefully, as soon as Congress resolves the debt crisis T"he Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011" will be passed with an added provision that requires the reason for the shortages. In the meantime, we recommend that consumers do the following:

1. Call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and urge them to pass the The Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011.

2. If you have prescription medications, don't wait until you are totally out to refill the prescription. Get an earlier refill so that if you run into an issue with the drug being out of production you have time to speak to your doctor about a reasonable alternative.

3. Consider asking your pharmacist if they are aware of any problems getting adequate supplies of the prescription drugs you rely on.

4. If you are diagnosed with cancer, be sure to ask your doctor about whether supply issues may impact the proposed treatment plan. Do your own research on the Internet and the FDA Website. Ask questions!

Kevin I. Goldberg
Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC
(888) 213-8140 x102

July 18, 2011

Bedore Tour Bus Crash in Western New York Impacts Washington DC Residents

Unfortunatley there was another terrible tour bus accident in New York this weekend that has killed and/or injured residents of the Washington, D.C. area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those involved in the crash. The purpose of this blog post is to provide some preliminary information to the Washington, D.C. Victims of the bus crash that may be helpful. This does not create an attorney client relationship though. If you are interested in hiring a lawyer for the crash, call us at 888-213-8140 or email me at kgoldberg@gfmjustice.com. Whether victims of the crash hire our firm or another firm, I strongly suggest that the victims and families of those killed hire a lawyer promptly for this kind of serious accident case.

The Bedore tour bus was carrying passengers from Washington, DC to the Niagra Falls area of New York. Two passengers were killed and 35 other Bedore passengers suffered injuries---news groups have reported that the passengers were mostly from India. The accident happend in Steuben County, NY on Interstate 390. While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, preliminary indications are that it was caused by either a tire blow out or by the tour bus driver falling asleep (a passenger has reported that the driver fell asleep).

Our law firm has been actively involved in prosecuting and investigating the May 31 tour bus crash in Virginia. The tour bus industry is under intense scrutiny by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as there have been a huge uptick in fatal accidents on tour busses. Frankly, the tour bus industry needs to do a much better job of regulating itself, making sure that its busses are safe and properly inspected, and making sure that the drivers are not overworked and have adequate training and supervision. At first glance, it appears that the company that owned the tour bus, Bedore Tours (DOT # 16811) out of North Tonawanda, NY, has a satisfactory safety record (satisfactory as of 2/10), further investigation is necessary to confirm this. To learn more about the safety record of Bedore Tours, you can look on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Website, or click here to see the relevant reports Bedore Tours FMCSA.pdf.

Although we do not know for sure, it seems that the bus crash was likely caused by driver inexperience, the driver falling asleep at the wheel, failure of Bedore to conduct proper safety inspections and maintenance of th bus.

Public Records indicate that the Bedore Tour Bus that crashed in New York had only $5,000,000.00 in insurance coverage to cover alll claims relating to the crash. While $5 Million Dollars sounds like a lot of coverage, this is basically the minimal limits for this kind of tour bus, and unfortunately, may not be enougth to properly compesate the Washington, D.C. District of Columbia individuals and families off of those injured and/or killed in the crash. The insurance policy probably also has MedPay and/or PIP coverage that may cover up to a certain amount of medical bills and/or funeral expenses (often with this kind of insurance policy it is a low amount of Medpay Coverage---likely $2,000.00-$5,000.00 per passenger). The Washington, D.C. victims of the Bedore Tour Bus crash should notify their auto insurance carrier of the bus crash and talk to a lawyer about possibly making a claim for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in case the liability coverage on the bus/driver is not adequate to cover all losses. Also, the Washington, D.C. victims may have PIP coverage on their auto policies that may cover medical expenses but making a PIP claim in Washington, D.C. can be tricky, must be done within 60 days of the loss and you will possibly give up your right to pursue a liability claim. Victims should speak to a lawyer before making a PIP claim on any auto policy issued in the District of columbia. For more information you can call us at 888-213-8140.

Again our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected by this tragic accident. My advice is that anyone injured in the tour bus crash, and the families of those killed in the crash should hire a lawyer who can hold those responsible for the crash accountable and make sure that the victims are properly compensated. We are here to help and the consultation is free. 888-213-8140 or check out our website www.gfmlawllc.com or email me at kgoldberg@gfmlawllc.com.

Kevin I. Goldberg
Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC

June 29, 2011

Punitive Damages in Maryland Gas Leak Case against Exxon

Get ready for a huge verdict coming out of Baltimore County this week. A Baltimore County jury will be awarding punitive damages in an environmental law gas leak case that is in Baltimore County Circuit Court before Judge Robert N. Dugan. The Maryland environmental law case involves Exxon Mobil leaking gas that damages the properties of 154 households, 7 commercial property owners and two business owners. More than 25,000 gallons of fuel leaked from the Exxon gas station over the course of 5 weeks before it was discovered in 2006. The plaintiffs asked for damages for diminution of their real properties value, emotional trauma, medical monitoring, and fraud. The case was tried to a jury of all women. Yesterday the jury reported that they have decided to award punitive damages. Therefore, the attorneys gave argument about that specific issue yesterday afternoon and the jury will continue to deliberate today. The final jury verdict of both compensatory damages and punitive damages will be announced at the same time. Most likely later today or tomorrow. The fact that the jury will be awarding punitive damages basically tells us that they found Exxon Mobil guilty of "fraud" as that is an intentional tort which would allow for punitive damages under Maryland law.

Punitive damages are very rare in Maryland because in 1992 the Maryland Court of Appeals held in Owens-Illinois v. Zenobia that punitive damages can only be awarded when there is actual malice and in intentional tort cases. What this means is that even for egregious conduct in Maryland punitive damages are not available. For example if you are injured by a drunk driver in Maryland, you are not entitled to punitive damages (the jury will not even be allowed to consider it). But if the driver of a car intentionally strikes a person, then punitive damages could be awarded (but there probably would not be any insurance coverage becaue of exclusions for intentional acts). It should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has put further restrictions on awards of punitive damages by basically limiting such damages to a multiplies of about 8 times the amount of compensatory damages.

Punitive damages are especially appropriate in Maryland Environmental law cases because they deter future misconduct by corporations. It is important that Maryland lawyers keep in mind that by pleading and proving fraud you preserve your client's right to punitive damages. However, at the same time, you may lose applicable insurance coverage if the insurance policies have an exclusion for intentional misconduct. Therefore, Maryland trial lawyers need to determine whether the defendants have the ability to pay for punitive damages at the pleading stage. One thing is for sure---Exxon Mobil and other large corporations that cause environmental damage in Maryland can afford to pay punitive damage awards.

June 24, 2011

Pliva v. Mensing-A Horrible Decision Stripping Away The Rights of 75% Of Us!

WARNING: IF YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GENERIC DRUG OVER A BRAND NAME OF THE SAME DRUG YOU NOW MUST RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHT TO SUE THE DRUG MANUFACTURER FOR FAILING TO WARN OF KNOWN DANGERS.

Once again the United States Supreme Court has sided with the powerful pharmaceutical industry--this time manufacturers of generic drugs---- at the expense of just about everyone else---consumers who choose to take less expensive generic drugs instead of the brand name drugs. About 75% of prescription drugs sold in the USA are generic brands. So basically the rich---who may be able to afford the Brand Name Drugs, retain their right to sue but just about everyone else has now been stripped away of our right to sue and hold drug manufacturers accountable.

Four Supreme Court Justices dissented from this opinion explaining that "Today's decision leads to so many absurd consequences that I cannot fathom that Congress would have intended to pre-empt state law in these casees" ...."As a result of today's decision whether a consumer harmed by inadequate warnings can obtain relief turns solely on teh happenstance of whether her pharmacist filled her prescription with a brand-name or generic drug."

The U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Pliva v. Mensing, essentially holds that Generic Drug Companies do not have to provide warnings to consumers/patients who take the Generic Drugs. In this case, the manufacturer of Metoclopramide (brand name is Reglan), a dangerous drug used to treat acid reflux and speed the movement of food through the digestive system, did not have to warn consumers that the Reglan causes Tardive Dyskinesia even though the generic drug makers knew that long term use of Reglan carried a high risk of Tardive Dyskinesia. The generic drug labels did not adequately warn of this risk. State Law would have required the generic drug companies to warn of this known risk. The Supreme Court Opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas adopted a perverted analysis of the pre-emption doctrine and held that since the FDA had previously approved a label for the brand name drug Reglan, the generic manufacturers did not have a separate tort duty to warn of the newly discovered dangers of Reglan/Metoclopramide because the FDA had approved a warning label for Reglan in 1980. The Court found that the "impossibility pre-emption" doctrine applied even though it was conceded that it was not impossible for the generic manufacturers to comply with federal and state law.

The decision is significant because about 75% of all prescription drugs filled in the USA are generic brands. Generic Drug Sales in the USA is a $66 Billion Dollar Industry.

The take away---before you agree to accept a generic drug instead of a brand name make sure you know that you are likely giving up your right to sue the drug manufacturer as a result of their failure to warn of known dangers. In this case the generic drug manufacturer knew that 29% of those who took the drug would develop Tardive Dyskinesia. Yet this $29 Billion Dollar Industry was given a fee pass and the Supreme Court has chosen to put the cost of this risk on the individual generic drug consumer rather than on the drug companies.

Pliva v. Mensing. USSC.pdf

June 13, 2011

$11.8 Million Dollar Verdict in Carroll County Maryland

Carroll County Maryland is not a venue known for large jury verdicts. In fact, many plaintiff lawyers bend over backwards to avoid filing suit in Carroll County because of its reputation for lower jury verdicts than neighboring Baltimore City. But last week a Carroll County jury awarded $11,800,000 to a Westminser Maryland gentleman injured in a Carroll County car accident in which a drunk driver caused a rear end collision. The case was a rear end car accident negligence case. Although there was not a lot of property damage to the vehicles involved in the crash, the plaintiff lawyers proved that Michael Wayne Harris suffered from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (known as and RSD Injury). In this case the Maryland jury verdict exceeds the insurance policy limits available. The Daily Record reported that there was $1.3 Million in insurnace coverage, and apparently teh defendant insurance companies--State Farm and Brethren Mutual--did not make a pre-trial settlement offer. The jury compensated Mr. Harris with $2.6 Million for future medical expenses, $800,000.00 for past and future lost income/earnings and/or lost earning capacity, and $256,000.00 for home modifications. The Carroll County Maryland jury also awarded $5.6 Million for non economic damages and the effect of the car crash injuries on his marital sexual relationship (sometimes referred to as loss of consortium). Maryland's cap on non economic damages may reduce the amount the jury awarded for non economic damages but will not effect the economic damages awarded (economic loss in Maryland inculdes medical expenses, lost earnings and other provable economic/out of pocket losses.

The driver of the vehicle that struck the plainitff in this Maryland car wreck case fled the scene of the crash and was workign for a lawn company at the time of the crash (thus involving a commercial insurance policy which typically has more coverage than a smaller individual car insurance liability policy). the driver failed two sobriety tests and was booked for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The Carroll County jury that compensated Mr. Harris with the $11 Million Dollar verdict did not hear evidence of the alcohol or the fact that the driver who caused the crash was drunk. The case was tried by attorney Robert Weltchek and other lawyers from his firm.

June 12, 2011

Deadly Car Crash in Silver Spring

There was a car crash on 16th Street in Silver Spring Maryland on Friday night. A Honda Accord was attempting to avoid a Ride-On Bus. The Honda driver swerved to avoid hitting the bus, and apparently the car flipped over and the driver was tragically killed. The accident is still being investigated by police and if you witnessed this crash on 16th Street in Silver Spring, Maryland you should call 301-840-2435 which is the number for the Maryland Car Accident Reconstruction Unit.


SILVER+SPRING+DEADLY+CRASH.jpg
I did not see this crash and have no first hand knowledge of how it occurred. But I can tell you that the bus operators in Silver Spring, MD who operate the Ride-On Busses and the Metro Busses can be ruthless. I often see them slamming on their brakes unexpectedly, making unsafe lane changes, running red lights and exceeding the speed limit.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the person killed in this crash. Although a lawsuit is not generally on a grieving family's mind, in a case like this it is important to get good legal representation on board right away. First of all, police investigations of bus accidents often are flawed in favor of the bus operator who is, like the Maryland police investigating the crash, seen by the police as a public employee. Also, in a fatal crash, unfortunately the operator of the Honda who was killed cannot give his version of hte story. Evidence can fade. Skid marks can disappear. An INDEPENDENT investigation is crucial and it should be done soon after the crash.

Another reason to consider legal representation right away is because if there is a product liability claim relating to the Honda Accord or the roadway condition(s), then the vehicle needs to be preserved and cannot be junked or destroyed. A Maryland lawyer can help make sure that crucial evidence such as the vehicle itself and skid marks, do not disappear as they often do in the days and weeks immediatley after a fatal Maryland car accident.

Any Maryland family who loses a loved one in a car accident should also make a prompt personal injury protection claim (PIP Claim) with the car insurance policy covering the vehicle the person was operating and/or the operator's car insurance policy. PIP in Maryland generally covers funeral expenses and it is a no fault insurance that will be paid right away before a liability investigation is complete. The amount of coverage varies from $2,500.00 to $10,000.00. For more information about Maryland PIP claims and Maryland uninsured motorist claims visit our website or call us at 888-213-8140.

The family of the person killed in this accident with the Ride-On Bus should also know that proper notice of the claim must be filed within 6 months of the crash pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act. A lawyer can make sure that this requirement is complied with. This is an additional statutory requriement in addition to the 3 year Maryland statute of limitations for general negligence claims.

June 9, 2011

Maryland Wrongful Death Claims

A new law goes into effect on 10/1/11 in the State of Maryland that will alleviate one of the major headaches that lawyers handling Maryland Wrongful Death and Maryland Survivial Claims have had to deal with. The new law changes Estates & Trusts Section 7-604 of the Maryland Code so that lawyers will not have to obtain Court Approval from the Maryalnd Orphans Court (or, in some counties, the Register of Wills) for contingent fees in Maryland personal injury cases resulting in death, Maryland Car Accident cases resulting in Death and Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases Resulting in Death. The new law simply requires that the attorney fee agreement needs to be filed with the Register of Wills and tha thte attorney handling the Maryland Contingent Fee Matter file with each estate a statement that the scope of representation did not include administering the estate in Maryland.

June 5, 2011

Kin Yiu Cheung Charged With Manslaughter

The driver of last weeks deadly tour bus crash in Virginia has been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. The maximum prison term is ten years in prison for each count. It is believed that this tour bus left Greensboro, North Carolina about an hour later than originially planned. The tour bus driver was frustrated because the passengers wanted to make two stops on the way to New York. The bus driver, Mr. Kin Yiu Cheung, did not want to make the additional stop. While there is no way to be sure, it seems that the bus driver was likely speeding in order to make up for the time lost by making the stops. Newspapers and blogs on the internet have reported that Mr. Cheung who operated the Sky Express Tour Bus that crashed, had a history of driving violations including 4 speeding tickets. In the days after the Sky Express Crash the New York Legislature passed a bill requiring all tour bus drivers to undergo a criminal background check. The next step is that this tour bus driver law will go before hte entire New York General Assembly.

Those injured and those who have family that were killed in the Sky Express Crash have good reason to be angry. The reasons for anger increased on Friday when it was reported that even after the DOT revoked the license of Sky Express to sell tickets and operate, they apparently were selling bus tour ticekts under different company names including 108 Tours, 108 Bus and even painting some of its busses. Bottom Line----It is not just Mr. Cheung--the bus driver who should be locked up. Sky Express and its owners/principals deserve to have criminal charges brought against them as it is the corporation and its officers who allowed a corporate culture to exist that did not put a priority on safety and caused the 4 deaths and numerous injuries last week. The owners of Sky Express---Dr. Xiangping Cehn aka Jimmy Chen, President and CEO of IVy Media Corporation/GotoBus.com have been subpoenaed to appear before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding this issue and a Cease and Desist Order was issued June 3, 2011 to stop this nonsense. This is the subpoena and cease and desist order for Sky Express. SkyExpressSubpoena[1].pdf

It is disturbing that there have been so many deadly crashes and fatalities on tour busses in the last 6 months. The tour bus industry seems to have low safety standards and they are not regulated in the same manner as even tractor trailers. For example, I do not believe that the FMCSA requires Tour Bus Drivers to keep driver logs. By contrast, drivers of 18 wheelers and tractor trailers are indeed required to keep driver logs showing how many hours they have driven and the law limits how many hours per week big rig operators can drive. The Tour Bus Industry needs to adopt similar safety policies or else more needless deaths will occur.

There are reports in the media that a passenger overheard Kin Yiu Cheung talking on his portable phone about how tired he felt and upset that he did not have any down time between trips..

June 2, 2011

Sky Express, Inc. Put Out of Service by DOT

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those injured and killed in this week's tour bus crash including the families of Karen Blyden-Decastro, Josefa Torres, Giok Giang, and Denny Estefany Martinez who were killed in this crash that never should have happened.

The Sky Express, Inc. bus company that operated the tour bus that rolled over and killed 4 people in Virgnia this week was put out of service by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as a result of multiple safety violations on May 31, 2011 (after the fatal crash). Sky Express is not permitted to operate across state lines and will no longer be able to provide transportation from North Carolina to New York. TALK ABOUT TOO LITTLE TOO LATE! This is maddening. The public should be concerned that the Sky Express Bus Company was permitted to continue operating until 5/31/11 despite the fact it had numerous safety violations and a status from the FMCSA indicating that consumers should be concerned about the company's safety. Why wasn't this tour bus company put out of service before the crash that killed 4 and severely injured dozens of others? How many other unsafe tour busses are continuing to operate?

Families of those injured or killed in the crash should know that Sky Express Inc. had violations for unsafe driving, fatigued driving, inadequate driver fitness and vehicle maintenance in the 24 months prior to the 5/31 tour bus crash in Virginia. The 5/31 crash was likely the result of fatigued driving. Sky Express performed worse in the area of fatigued driving safety than 77% of other tour bus companies in this group. Sky Express performed worse than 97% of other carriers in the area of Driver Fitness. This statistic was published by the FMCSA long before this month's crash. So why the heck wasn't this bus company taken out of service until after the crash? The statistics are right here.fmcsa sky express.pdf

In a recent press release the FMCSA seems to brag and take credit for putting this company out of service now--after the crash. Photo of Bus.bmppress.pdfIt seems to me that the FMCSA should have put this company out of service before the crash. The FMCSA press release indicates that they have a strike force that issued citations to 127 drivers and 315 vehciles from May1 through May 15, 2011. My question and concern is why ---if a company has numerous violations---shouldn't they be put out of service sooner??? The whole goal is to stop these companies that cut corners with regard to safety from operating. Somehow the system failed with regard to Sky Express and as a result there are dozens of families griving and struggling.

Attorneys at our law firm represent victims of the Sky Express Crash and we are actively looking into these issues and also Goldberg, Finnegan Mester is investigating the crash. We are interested in speaking with passengers on the bus about what they recall about the crash and what was happening on the bus from the time it left North Carolina until the time of the crash. Kevin Goldberg can be reached at 888-213-8140 x102.

Families of those involved in the Sky Express crash should putting their own uninsured motorist carriers on notice of their injuries from this crash and consider making a PIP/Medpay Claim on their own insurance policies. Our initial investigation shows that there was only $5,000,000.00 in liabilily insurance on the Sky Express Bus and we are concerned that this may not be enough to compensate everyone that was injured and killed in this catastrophe.

May 31, 2011

Horrific tour bus crash on I-95 in Virginia

Bus Crash VA.jpgThis morning there was a terrible tour bus crash on I-95 in Virginia. The Virgnia tour bus crash is still being investigated, but it seems that it occurred due to driver error/driver fatigue. The driver of the Sky Express Bus was Kin Yiu Cheung who lives in Flushing, New York. Sky Express Tours have been cited for numerous safety violations in the past year or two. The tour bus overturned and went off of the right side of the road. This occurred in Caroline County, Virginia. After the crash, he was charged with reckless driving and is being held in jail in Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County, Virgnia which is near Kings Dominion. There were over 50 people on the bus travelling from Greensboro, North Carolina to New York. The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a full blown investigation into the cause of crash called a "Go-Team" Investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those injured and killed in this crash. Those injured (and the families of those killed) should be sure to make a claim with any auto insurance carrier they may have in their own name or with resident relatives for first party benefits. First party benefits are often called Personal Injury Protection Benefits (PIP Benefits) or Med Pay Benefits. This is a no fault benefit that often will pay immediately for funeral expenses, medical bills, etc. Those injured and killed obviously will also seek compensation from the liability insurance carrier for Sky Express Bus Tours and the driver Kin Yiu Cheung. Payments from a liability carrier, however, require a finding of fault and are typically a lump sum settlement/payment for all past and future damages. Anyone seriously injured or who has a loved one killed in this tour bus crash should hire a Virginia car accident lawyer to assist them.

Sky Express Bus tours is a very low cost service that drives people on the east coast to and from new york city. For example, a ticket from Greensboro, NC to New York on a Sky Express Bus would typically cost just $30.00 or so.

Those injured in this horrific accident can feel free to call the lawyers at Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC at 888-213-8140 x102 for a free phone consultation about how to protect your rights.