Archive for November, 2007

Kanye West’s Mother

November 14, 2007

So, some government officials want caps on malpractice claims.  The plastic surgeon who operated on Donda West, mother of Kanye West, has faced two malpractice lawsuits which resulted in settlements, and he has been arrested twice for driving under the influence.  Kanye West’s mother is now dead at age 58 most likely because this doctor is still practicing.

This is the problem.  The profession does not properly police itself, and what the profession does to its own is not made public.  Would Donda West have allowed this doctor to treat her if she knew about his history?  It’s doubtful.  Is Ms. West’s life worth only $250,000.00 in non-economic damages (the proposed cap by the George Bush administration)?  No!  The insurance carrier which insured this doctor should have taken action to put this physician out of business instead of providing insurance, and that carrier and this doctor should pay through the nose for her death if it is shown he committed malpractice.

Caps do nothing but allow incompetence to thrive.  This physician may not have committed malpractice in this case, but based upon his history, he shouldn’t have been given the chance to commit malpractice – AGAIN!


Merck Changes Mind

November 13, 2007

Merck vowed to fight til the death.  They vowed to litigate each Vioxx case to conclusion.  Apparently, that vow only applied until the statute of limitations ran on most of the cases. 

On Friday, November 9, 2007, Merck agreed to a global settlement for the Vioxx cases in the amount of $4.85 billion dollars.  According to Merck’s executive vice president, Kenneth Frazier, “without this settlement, the litigation might very well stretch on for years.”  Didn’t they know this when they defiantly stated they would try each case?  Surely, their thousands of attorneys making enormous hourly rates informed them of this fact.  So, why settle at this stage of the game?  After only fifteen (15) trials (they estimate that there are 45,000-50,000 lawsuits pending)?  That’s a far cry from fighting to the death.

Maybe it’s because Merck knows it has problems.  In fact, in the settlement agreement, Merck makes a huge concession which contradicts its position over the last few years.  To qualify for the settlement, claimants will have to show that they received enough pills to support a presumption that they were ingested within two weeks before injury.  Previously, Merck claimed that Vioxx caused harm only after eighteen (18) months of use.  Hmmm.  That’s a pretty big concession from a company that was fighting every case to verdict.

A Montgomery, Alabama attorney, Andy Birchfield, a partner with the law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis, & Miles, P.C. led the negotiating committee for the MDL (Multi District Litigation).  According to Jere Beasley, “it was a very good settlement which will ensure that those who suffered injuries as a result of Vioxx are compensated fairly and efficiently.”  Isn’t that what Merck should have done to begin with?

Bankruptcy Law Changes – Bad Idea?

November 12, 2007

Well, the credit card companies (major financial institutions) wanted to make it more difficult to bankrupt on credit card debt (even though they will issue a card to a five year old).  So, they got what they wished for – tougher bankruptcy laws passed a couple of years ago.  The result, payments on credit cards and a subprime mortgage mess.

According to Bloomberg News, Washington Mutual, Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup spent $25 million lobbying for bankruptcy changes in 2004 and 2005 in order to protect their credit card industry.  This has now led to a $40 billion writedown due to the increase in foreclosures.  Basically, people are putting their credit cards ahead of their home mortgages according to Richard Fairbank, chief executive of Capital One Financial Corp.  Seventy percent (70%) of people who are three (3) months behind on their mortgage are current on their credit card payments.

What does this mean?  It means consumers cannot get the relief they used to get through bankruptcy, and it means the major financial institutions are losing a lot of money due to foreclosures.  Consequently, instead of getting the large mortgage payment, the companies are getting the small credit card payment and having to figue out what to do with the glut of properties they will soon own.

Sometimes, consumers and consumer attorneys do know best.

Wear Your Seat Belt

November 12, 2007

Do seat belt laws work? Not Alabama’s.  According to a Birmingham News article, sixty percent (60%) of those killed on Alabama highways in 2006 were not wearing their seat belt.  Consequently, representatives are clamoring for tougher seat belt laws.

According to another statistic from various traffic analysts, the lack of a seat belt increases your risk of dying in a crash by eighty percent (80%).  The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that if eighty-two percent (82%) of the public wore seat belts, deaths would be reduced by 15,700 nationwide, and serious injuries would be reduced by 350,000.

Why do people fail to wear their belt?  Here are some of the reasons: 

     (1)  wrinkles clothes;
     (2)  if the car plunges into water, the person can’t get out; and
     (3)  discomfort due to height or weight.

This issue brings up an age old question:  Does the government have a right to tell individuals that they must wear a seat belt?  The rationale is that it costs the public more if there are more serious injuries involved:  an ambulance must come to the scene (or maybe air transportation), and there could be long term healthcare needs which must be paid by insurance or even Medicare or Medicaid.  All of these issues, and more, affect the public at large.  Notwithstanding the above, if someone is dumb enough to choose not to wear their seat belt, shouldn’t they have the right to not wear it?  Isn’t this a free country?  Not when it comes to seat belts.