Articles Posted in Commentary

This is part one in a two part series relating to social benefits from personal injury lawsuits.

People in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California are hurt in auto accidents and through the negligent of others all the time.

Luge%20wake%20KUMARITASHVILI-GEORGIA-WAKE-PICTURES-PHOTOS.jpgEveryone hates lawyers. Juries tell us there are too many lawsuits. Governor Schwarzenegger is taking aim at lawyer with his supposed tort reform proposals.

Too many Encino auto accident’s result from Los Angeles driver’s being selfish. Saving a minute for yourself may put someone else, or their children at risk.

Yesterday was the Halloween carnival at my children’s elementary school. The school is at the top of a hill on a blind corner. A child was killed by a car at this location in the past five years. The school takes safety very seriously.

Halloween_child_car_crash.jpgAs I was walking my family to our car after the carnival, I saw a horrifying site.

A Rhode Island Hospital has been fined for the 3rd instance this year of a doctor performing brain surgery in the wrong side of the patient’s head. Last Friday, a chief resident started operating on the wrong side of an 82-year-old patient. In August, a similar error caused the patient’s death.

These types of issues are not limited to Rhode Island as this issue is similar to battles we often face at Rice & Bloomfield. What is most frightening is that in Los Angeles, as in all of California, the most that could be recovered from litigation of this type of error is $250,000. From that amount must be paid litigation costs and attorneys fees. Because of that problem, many victims of medical malpractice often cannot find an attorney who will accept there case.

Los_Angeles_Juliani.jpgAlthough we are here to help people who have been injured, we must also make a living. We cannot continue to operate when faced with these type of limitations. This has become a common problem faced by injured patients throughout the state.

We hear a lot about frivolous lawsuits and the havoc they supposedly wreck on – well – everything, if the politicians and pundits are to be believed. But, what is a “frivolous lawsuit”? I’ve never heard anyone try to define what this means. Maybe it’s one of those things that we think we will recognize when we see or hear about it.

From a legal standpoint, a frivolous lawsuit would be one that is without any merit. Someone making a legal claim has the burden of proving his or her case. If there is no evidence to support the claim, it could be said to be without merit or frivolous. These cases generally do not get to a jury because there are various procedures the Court uses to dismiss such claims.

Many of us think the McDonald’s coffee case is the perfect example of a frivolous claim. What we heard in the media was that a lady spilled hot coffee on herself and a jury gave her millions. That just sounds wrong. Why would a jury of twelve supposedly rational people make someone who has made a frivolous claim rich? The answer is simple – because there is a whole lot more to the story than you probably heard about in the media.
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I needed to have a physical examination done a couple of months ago, so I asked around and found the name of a respected internist in my community. When I appeared for my appointment several weeks later, I was given a clipboard with lots of documents to fill out and to sign.

One of the documents was a binding arbitration agreement. In effect, the doctor – whom I had not even met at this point – was asking me to agree to waive my Constitutional right to a jury trial in order to obtain health care from her. Because I am a lawyer and I understand why a patient should not be required to agree to binding arbitration, I was more than a little offended.

I told the nurse at the desk that no one had mentioned this to me when I made my appointment and that I objected to binding arbitration. She told me that the doctor couldn’t see me unless I signed the paperwork, so I did – knowing that I had 30 days to send a letter to the doctor rescinding the agreement.

I liked the doctor a lot. She seemed genuinely interested in me and my health care concerns. I was impressed by her thoroughness. She reviewed some lab work I’d had done with me and we settled on a treatment plan for a possible thyroid problem. She gave me a prescription and we agreed I would see her again in three months. She also referred me to another doctor for some routine testing I knew I needed.

When I returned to my office, I wrote a letter to her office, rescinding the binding arbitration agreement and three days later, I got a certified letter dismissing me as her patient. Her insurance company would not permit her to treat patients unless they agreed to waive their right to a jury trial, her letter said.
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