Civil Justice News for CT Legislators

09/04/2015 // Hartford, CT, USA // cttriallawyers // Neil Ferstand // (press release)

This ongoing effort by the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association transmits weekly a variety of news items reflecting the importance and extent to which civil justice and the civil justice system enters our lives. This week CT legislators received access to national civil case filing statistics compiled by the National Center for State Courts and showing that tort cases are less than 3%  of the total caseload of the 12-24 states reporting and that medical malpractice case filings represents less than 1% of civil caseloads. In addition, the Washington Post reports how companies make millions off of poor black families selling structured settlements for less than value for lead poisoning victims and, several articles regarding the recent National Labor Relations Board decision making it easier for workers’ at fast food franchises to deal directly with the corporate entity rather than franchisee also another Washington Post story highlights the growing calls to make some information about doctors available through the National Practioners’ Data Bank to be made available to consumers. Currently, some NPDB information is only released to doctors, regulators and their insurers. Finally, notice from the Department of Justice that Governor Jindal’s defunding of Louisiana Planned Parenthood is a clear violation of the Federal Medicaid Act making it an illegal act.


NCSC Data: Civil, Tort and Medical Malpractice Caseloads


According to the most recent National Center for State Courts (NCSC) data, in 2013:Tort cases represented less than 3 percent of the total civil caseload in 12 of 24 states reporting.Tort cases represented from 3 to 5 percent of the total civil caseload in eight states reporting.Tort cases represented over 5 percent but not more than 7.5 percent of the total civil caseload in in four states reporting.These rates are consistent with NCSC data from the previous year.


NCSC data from 2013 show that med mal cases ranged from 0.06 percent to 0.20 percent of the total civil caseload in 13 of 14 states reporting.   The highest rate was 0.35 percent in one state reporting.  These rates are consistent with NCSC data from the previous year.

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks

Every case spells out the deal’s worth. It lists the aggregate value of the lead victim’s payments, their present value and the agreed purchase price. A random survey of 52 of those deals shows Access Funding generally offers to pay around 33 cents on the present value of a dollar. Sometimes, it offers more. And sometimes, much less. One 24-year-old lead victim sold nearly $327,000 worth of payments, which had a present value of $179,000, for less than $16,200 — or about 9 cents on the dollar. Another relinquished $256,000 worth of payments, which had a present value of $166,000, for $35,000 — or about 21 cents on the dollar. Taken together, the sample shows Access Funding petitioned to buy roughly $6.9 million worth of future payments — which had a present value of $5.3 million — for around $1.7 million.

Connecticut hotel reaches ADA compliance agreement with DOJ.

The Meriden (CT) Record-Journal (8/27) reports that a hotel in Meriden “has reached a voluntary agreement” with the Justice Department “to make improvements over the next 18 months to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” In a statement released on Wednesday, US Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said “her office reached the agreement with the owners of Comfort Inn & Suites” that “is meant to ‘resolve allegations that the hotel was not being operated in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.’” The improvements “will take place over the next 18 months.”

NLRB ruling says contractors’ employees may bargain with parent company

The AP (8/28) reports that a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday could make it easier for unions “to bargain for better pay and working conditions on behalf of millions of workers at McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food chains.” The ruling, in a case involving a waste management company and its staffing company, “refines the board’s standard for determining when parties can be identified as employers.” The AP notes that the ruling “could have broader implications for unions that have struggled to organize workers at many fast-food restaurants, which often are owned by big companies but run by franchisees.”

The New York Times (8/28) reports that the ruling provided a way for “organized workers at fast-food chains and other franchises to negotiate with corporations like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, rather than with individual restaurants, where they might have a harder time achieving their goals.” The ruling, “which may eventually be challenged in court in a variety of individual disputes,” alters “the definition of a crucial employer-employee relationship that had held in some form since the 1980s.” As a result of the ruling, “a company that hires a contractor to staff its facilities may be considered a so-called joint employer of the workers at that facility, even if it does not actively supervise them,” and a union representing those workers “would now be legally entitled to bargain with the upstream company, not just the contractor, under federal labor law.”
The Wall Street Journal (8/28, Trottman, Subscription Publication, 5.95M) reports on its front page that the board’s 3-2 ruling was split along party lines, with the three Democrats on the board supporting it and the two Republicans dissenting. The Journal also notes that the ruling, which was denounced by several business groups, comes as more firms are turning to temporary contract workers as a part of their business models.

The Washington Post (8/28) reports that the board “sided with labor advocates and academics who have described an increasingly ‘fissured’ economy, in which whole industries have been built on business models that offer workers few of the protections of a traditional employer relationship. ‘With more than 2.87 million of the nation’s workers employed through temporary agencies in August 2014, the Board held that its previous joint employer standard has failed to keep pace with changes in the workplace and economic circumstances,’ the Board said in a release accompanying its decision.”

Shine a light on medical errors

The Aug. 26 news article “Increased push to document surgeries” mentioned that Wade Ayer of the National Organization for Medical Malpractice Victims has been “pushing for a national database of doctors who have had their licenses taken away after they made medical errors.” Such a database exists.The National Practitioner Data Bank, operated since 1990 by the Department of Health and Human Services, contains records for all serious licensure disciplinary actions, not just revocations, as well as records for all serious hospital and HMO clinical privileges disciplinary actions and all malpractice payments. Unfortunately, by law all this information is secret and is made available only to licensing boards, hospitals and certain other health-care entities. Members of the public cannot check the record of their doctors or doctors they are considering seeing.

Doctors’ Most Damaging Hit Piece

With public opinion of medical professionals at an all-time low, an anonymous essay exposing disturbing doctor behavior may have dealt the final blow.Nobody is perfect. To err is human. Everyone makes mistakes.There are plenty of ways of saying the same thing, and there is one very good reason for that: because it is true. Most mistakes that people make are relatively benign, but in my line of work (medicine), they can be deadly.But some mistakes that doctors make aren’t the potentially fatal type. They’re the “what the hell were they thinking” type. Unfortunately these types of medical mistakes are making their way into the public eye with increasing frequency.

EPA plans to reduce flushing of pharmaceutical waste.

The Washington Times (9/1) reports that the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it “will dramatically limit the flushing of pharmaceutical waste at hospitals and other health-care facilities as part of a larger effort to improve water quality across the country.” The proposal “will prevent the flushing of at least 6,400 tons of pharmaceutical waste each year, the agency said in a statement.”

NHTSA tool helps consumers track vehicle recalls.

Edmunds (9/1) reports that an NHTSA video “helps consumers understand the importance of their car or truck’s Vehicle Identification Number and whether their vehicle is subject to a safety recall.” Consumer can enter their VIN number on the “NHTSA’s VIN Lookup Tool, an easy way to check if the vehicle has been recalled,” the article reports.
NHTSA warns 2015 will be a more deadly year for drivers.

Car Connection (8/31)  reports that the NHTSA shared “preliminary figures for the first three months of 2015” which “show around 7,500 deaths, significantly higher than last year’s estimated 6,850.” Accident fatalities are also up 9.5 percent. “Last year, the US had 0.99 roadway deaths per million miles driven,” the article reports, but “according to NHTSA, the first quarter of 2015 had a rate of 1.04 deaths per million miles.”

DOJ says Jindal wrong to defund Planned Parenthood

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (8/31) reports that the Justice Department said in a court filing late Monday that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “decision to cancel Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s contract appears to be in violation of the federal Medicaid Act.” The filing “comes two days before Planned Parenthood and the Jindal administration are set to square off in federal court over Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction barring Jindal from defunding the organization.” Jindal said “he was canceling the contract after viewing a series of videos produced by an anti-abortion group released in July.” The Justice Department’s filing “says that the Jindal administration has not done enough to show why Planned Parenthood’s contract should be canceled, making it in violation of laws allowing patients on Medicaid to choose their medical provider.”

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