August 2011 Archives

Court Lowers $60 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict to $600,000

August 31, 2011

When it comes to large medical malpractice and personal injury verdicts, the mainstream media loves to highlight these "outrageous" or "runaway" jury verdicts. After all, they feed into the common perception that juries are regularly out of control with their awards. A prime example of this is the McDonald's Coffee case. There, the media went into a frenzy when a jury awarded $2.9 million to an elderly woman who spilled scalding hot coffee between her legs. Although the judge reduced the verdict to $640,000, the mainstream media never covered that part of the story. Instead, they only focused on the initial jury verdict (citing it as an example of a broken legal system). Nor did they give attention to the fact McDonalds provided their coffee to customers at between 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (just below the boiling point of water), the eight-day hospitalization and multiple surgeries the plaintiff endured, or the fact there were over 700 prior complaints and settlements involving McDonald's scalding hot coffee. The fact is judges regularly reduce jury verdicts that are deemed "excessive." Indeed, that is exactly what happened recently when a New York appellate court reduced a $60 million dollar medical malpractice verdict for pain and suffering to $600,000. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I am always frustrated when I hear others complain about the need for caps on damages because of out of control jury verdicts. Invariably, these critics do not know that trial judges reduce these awards or refuse to mention this in their article because it is not as sensational.

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Deadly Hospital-Related Infections Drop Under One State's Plan

August 29, 2011

How safe are our hospitals? Recent studies show 1 in 20 patients admitted to U.S. hospital develop a hospital-related infection. These infections contribute to 99,000 deaths a year. In terms of cost, hospital related infections add $33 billion annually to healthcare spending. However, one state, California, has initiated a program that has managed to both save lives and cuts costs. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I was very encouraged to read about this new California initiative which has the potential to save thousands of lives every year from unnecessary hospital infections.

Hospital acquire infections do not discriminate. New York's Time's columnist Maureen Dowd recently lost her brother after he developed a hospital infection. She described how her brother went into a hospital with pneumonia. While there, he contracted four different infections. According Dr. Peter Provonost, director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at John Hopkins University, "[t]he math...is pretty gruesome." About 100,000 people die each year "from infections we give them in the hospital."

Until the new California initiated, an estimated 12,000 patients died every in California hospitals from hospital-related in infections. Under a three-year campaign designed to reduce costs and save lives, the Golden State has seen a substantial drop in hospital-acquired infections. The program is credited with reducing urinary traction by 24% and ventilator infections by 41%. Indeed, 800 lives have been saved since the initiative. Lower hospital infections have also saved the state an estimated $11 million dollars in healthcare costs.

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Effects Of Medical Board's Failure To Discipline Its Doctors

August 17, 2011

According to a recent report, the California Medical Board has failed to take any disciplinary action on 710 troubled doctors, despite the fact these doctors have been disciplined by hospitals, surgical centers, and other healthcare organizations in the state. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, this story is not surprising. Disciplinary actions against doctors are seldom taken absent truly outrageous misconduct. As a result, many problematic doctors are allowed to continue practicing their profession, which may include leaving one state for another.

The report involving California was issued by Public Citizen, a non-for-profit group out of Washington, D.C.. The report was based on data compiled by the National Practitioner Data Bank from records generated from 1990 to 2009. Initiated by Congress, this Data Bank tracks all disciplinary actions taken against US doctors, as well as medical malpractice payments and other actions.

The purpose of the Data Bank is to improve patient safety and quality patient care by encouraging state licensing boards, hospitals, and other professional societies to identify and discipline doctors who engaged in unprofessional behavior. The Data Bank was formed with the additional purpose of preventing incompetent physician and/or unprofessional physicians from moving from state to state without the discovery of prior adverse actions taken against them. Therefore, the failure to discipline a doctor in California can have a direct impact on the safety of patients in other states like Illinois. After all, a doctor who avoids discipline in California for an otherwise actionable offense could simply move to Illinois and obtain staff privileges at an Illinois hospital without the hospital knowing the doctor's prior offenses.

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Man With Breast Cancer Denied Medical Insurance Because Not A Women

August 9, 2011

Initially reported as a local news story, a twenty-six year old male from Charleston, South Carolina has been denied government medical insurance simply because he is not a women. Raymond Johnson first noticed a lump in his breast this year and went to a Charleston emergency room. There, doctors initially thought his pain was related to his heart. However, when they felt a lump on his chest, they sent him for biopsy; the results came back positive for breast cancer. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I was shocked when I began reading this story. But it turns out the mistake lies with the United States Congress who drafted the statute.

The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevent and Treatment Act of 2002, Public Law 106-354, was signed into law on October 24, 2000. The Act gives states the option to provide medical assistance through Medicaid to "eligible women" who have been screened (through a CDC program) and diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. For Mr. Johnson, he meets all the requirements of the Act except one: he is a man, not a women. The medical bills for Mr. Johnson would run at least several hundred thousand. As a result, Mr. Johnson, who ears $9 an hour, cannot afford the medical bills needed to treat his breast cancer.

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Tests Show Kids' Car Seats Have Potentially Dangerous Chemicals

August 4, 2011

As a Chicago personal injury lawyer and father of two children, I am always concerned about the safety of any product my children use. Cars seats are certainly no exception. Like many parents, when researching the safety of car seats, I focused primarily on how I thought the seats would hold up in the event of a crash. As revealed in a recent study, crash worthiness (ie, the ability of the seat to protect a child during impact) is not the only important concern. We as parents must also consider whether the car seat is filled with dangerous chemicals. Indeed, healthystuff.org found more than half of 2011 child car seat models contain one or more potentially hazardous chemicals.

Healthstuffy.org is a project of the environmental not-for profit group, The Ecology Center. The group found "chemicals of concern" in 60% of more than 150 seats tested. "Chemicals of concerns" are defined as any chemical linked to serious health problems including reproductive troubles, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances, and cancer.

Arsenic was one of many potentially hazardous chemicals found in the 2011 child car seat models. Although arsenic a naturally occurring element in our environment, excessive exposure to arsenic is known to cause many dangerous conditions, some fatal, including cancer. Very high doses of arsenic have been used in murder and suicide cases.

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Doctor Convicted Of Falsifying Medical Records And Unneeded Surgeries

August 1, 2011

When we got to a doctor for medical care, we place our lives in the doctor's hands. We trust the doctor will only order tests that are necessary and assume a doctor would never order a surgical procedure that is completely unneeded simply to increase their paycheck. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I know doctors on occasion inadvertently order treatment for a variety of reasons including an innocent misdiagnosis. The thought that a doctor, however, would intentionally order an unneeded surgical procedure is unconscionable. But that is exactly what Maryland cardiologist did according to a federal jury.

Dr. John McLean, a retired interventional cardiologist, was just convicted on six counts of insurance fraud for implanting coronary stents on patients that were not needed, ordering unneeded tests, and making false entries in those patients' records to justify the unneeded treatment. Dr. McLean surgically implanted unnecessary cardiac stents in at least 100 patients from 2003 through 2007. These procedures were performed at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, where he had staff privileges according to the U.S. Justice Department.

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