Plaintiffs' Lawyers Aim to Overturn Supreme Court Ruling on Medical Damages
By Todd Roberson on 02/27/2012 @ 02:00 PM
As expected, a plaintiffs' lawyer-backed bill to undo last year's California Supreme Court ruling in Howell v. Hamilton Meats has been introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The bill, SB 1528, was introduced on Friday and would allow an injured plaintiff to recover the costs of medical services "without regard to the amount actually paid."
In its ruling last August, which you can read more about here, the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff may only collect as damages the amount that was actually paid by insurers for medical treatment rather than the retail rate that medical providers would charge for that treatment.
Medical providers establish negotiated rates of reimbursement with insurance companies that are lower than what they would charge an uninsured patient who receives medical treatment.
In the Howell v. Hamilton Meats case, the plaintiff had health insurance for which a negotiated rate was already agreed upon, the medical providers were fully reimbursed at the negotiated rate, and the plaintiff was compensated for all out-of-pocket costs.
Thus, the Court stated that it is not appropriate to “expand the scope of economic damages to include expenses the plaintiff never incurred.”
Plaintiffs' lawyers, however, want the higher rate used to determine damages to increase the size of the settlements from which they get paid.
Look out for a major a battle this year over SB 1528...
Big Win for Arbitration in U.S. Supreme Court
By Todd Roberson on 02/22/2012 @ 12:00 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court kept up its defense of arbitration yesterday, finding that a West Virginia court's attempt to prohibit pre-dispute arbitration of claims against nursing homes is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The case, Marmet Health Center v. Brown et al., dealt with three negligence suits brought against nursing homes in West Virginia. The Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia's prohibition against pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate personal injury or wrongful death claims against nursing homes is a categorical rule prohibiting arbitration of a particular type of claim, which is contrary to the terms and coverage of the FAA.
We applaud the Supreme Court for standing up for arbitration as a fair, effective, quicker, and cheaper way to settle disputes than civil trials. And in case there is anyone in California interested in prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration agreements in our state, this ruling makes clear that you shouldn't bother.
Read more about the ruling here.
$50,000 in Attorneys Fees Over a $261 Dispute?
By Todd Roberson on 02/14/2012 @ 08:00 AM
In last Thursday's edition of the Daily Journal (Feb 9th), Los Angeles attorneys Joseph Lipner and BJ Ard take a look at significant civil law developments in the California Supreme Court over the past year ("The Final Word: Civil Law Development in the State Supreme Court").
We have to point out one that we are disappointed with.
In Serrano v. Stefan Merli Plastering Co., the Court ruled that a court reporting service that lost a dispute over a $261 fee charged for expediting a deposition transcript is liable for up to $50,000 in attorneys fees!
While the appellate court accepted the challenge to the $261 fee, it rejected the attorneys fee claims, as the trial court had.
The Supreme Court unfortunately ruled in a 6-1 decision that attorneys fees were authorized when an action has enforced "an important right affecting the public interest."
We're going to have to say that a pay day of $50,000 over a $261 fee which may or may not have been improper seems a bit out of whack.
You can find the column by Lipner and Ard at www.dailyjournal.com (subscription required).
Daily Journal Column on Prop. 65: Reining in the Bounty Hunters
By Todd Roberson on 02/06/2012 @ 10:30 AM
A must-read column by Chapman University Law Professor Anthony Caso on Proposition 65 was printed in last Wednesday's issue of the Daily Journal.
Caso explains how California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently filed objections to an "outrageously high proposed settlement," and offers cautious optimism that her objections may be a first step towards reform.
He reminds us that between 2000 and 2010, 68% of the money paid out in settlements (or $90 million) has been for attorney fees. Furthermore, the practice of attorneys suing businesses and then demanding that payment be made to them directly or to another organization "in lieu" of a civil penalty has steered Prop. 65 way off course.
The intent of Prop. 65 was for the bulk of payments to be given to the state for enforcement efforts, not diverted to private organizations who are often front groups for plaintiffs' attorneys.
Harris should be commended for her objections in this most recent case, and must continue to "scrutinize proposed settlements," as Caso writes.
You can read the column at www.dailyjournal.com (subscription required).
ADA Workshop in Lakeside on Friday, Feb. 3rd
By Todd Roberson on 02/02/2012 @ 02:30 PM
CJAC President Kim Stone will be hosting an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) workshop tomorrow in East San Diego County in the town of Lakeside. The event will be co-hosted by the Lakeside and Santee Chambers of Commerce and State Senator Joel Anderson. The workshop will be from 7:30-9:00 a.m. at Café 67 in Lakeside. You can RSVP by contacting the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce at 619-561-1031.
CJAC has held these workshops for several years now, and they help small business owners understand the importance of complying with ADA to avoid a costly lawsuit. While CJAC seminars are educational only, not specific legal advice, they help small business owners become more familiar with the law and what's at stake. The ADA rules can get very complicated so it can be difficult to know if you're in compliance, and the only sure-fire way to avoid a lawsuit is to become fully ADA-compliant.
For more on tomorrow's workshop check out this column co-authored by State Senator Joel Anderson, Kathy Kassel (Executive Director of the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce), and John Olsen (Executive Director of the Santee Chamber of Commerce).