AIG – Arrogant, Ignorant, and Grossly Immoral

We have all read the headlines over the past months worthy of making an individual sick. Constantly we are told of how drastically irresponsible some insurance and financial institutions have been with the bailout money they have received from the Federal Government. At the top of that list sits AIG.

You may remember this, from an article in the Washington Post, dated October 8th, 2008:

Only one day after it was revealed that AIG had sprung for a $440,000 spa vacation shortly after getting an $84 billion government-loan bailout comes this report: The government is loaning AIG another $38 billion.

If that wasn’t enough to make you gag, wait until you hear this. While spending exorbitant amounts of taxpayer dollars on pedicures and vacations, AIG has been simultaneously dragging a suffering family through the mud for over a decade. After a fatal fire killed two Brooklyn firefighters in a, “fireproof,” building insured by AIG, the families of Lt. Joseph Cavalieri and Christopher Bopp were awarded several million dollars in damages by a unanimous jury decision.

AIG however, has continued to refuse to pay. By exploiting the appeals system of the courts, AIG has dodged payment for over 10 years.

“How do you possibly appeal something like this?” Mother of Christopher Bopp, Deloris Bopp recalled saying when she first heard of the appeal. Indeed, it seems hard to find grounds on which to appeal when the jury only needed an hour to award the families with $10 million dollars.

As the appeal was moving forward, the wheels began to fall off the oversized AIG corporate machine. When Ms. Bopp found out that AIG would be receiving $85 billion in bailout money, she became furious, and rightfully so.

How can a company pay millions of dollars in bonuses and all expenses paid vacations for its employees, while denying payment of the $10 million dollars that is rightfully owed to the victims under their policy? Easy: by taking massive amounts of taxpayer’s dollars and ignoring all moral responsibility to the public.

Both Parties Agree: Corporate Civil Justice Myths are Bogus

Recently released data from the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice has confirmed what politicians on both sides of the aisle already knew: Corporate attacks on the validity of the civil justice systems are unwarranted and false.

As part of an ongoing lobbying campaign, the Chamber of Commerce has continuously hassled politicians trying to get them to, “pull in the reigns of greedy trial lawyers who exploit our courts.” They however have been surprised to find out that Democratic President Barack Obama and Former Republican President George W. Bush both agreed that their tales of, “jackpot justice,” practiced by, “opportunist attorney’s,” were bogus.

Recently, the Chamber of commerce, through its political action committee, The Institute for Legal Reform, had pressed President Obama to reform the legal system to benefit corporate interests and make it more difficult for citizens to sue (See our December 23rd article for more information.) Fortunately for President Obama, he only had to look as far as former President George W. Bush for some data on the chamber’s claims.

The Department of Justice, under the Bush Administration, released a study confirming that the Chamber of Commerce’s claims were drastically over exaggerated. The study supplements a recent American Association for Justice study, which discovered the following facts:

Tort Cases make up only 6 percent of civil filings in state courts.

Tort cases represent less than one percent of civil filings in federal court

Manufacturing companies ranked “fear of litigation” as their lowest concern, well behind material costs, energy prices, foreign competition, and taxes.

Median legal expenses of individuals who incurred them were not exorbitant, and usually ranged between $5,000 and $4,000.

Although it is rare, both parties in Washington can agree that the Chamber of Commerce’s claims are not to, “protect the legal system from greedy attorneys,” but instead to bolster corporate image and interest at the expense of the people and the legal system established to protect them.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Hospitals can be Held Liable for the Negligence of Non-Employees

Hospitals are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. However, much of the time, due to a variety of reasons, the doctor seeing you at the hospital is not actually a direct employee of the hospital. Many hospitals would like to make you believe that they are not responsible for the actions of non-employed doctors. Could it be true that hospitals are protected when a visiting doctor makes a life changing error?

The answer is no. First cited in New Jersey in the case, Arthur v. St. Peter’s Hospital, the doctrine of apparent employment establishes that hospitals are generally not liable for the acts of physicians who are not employees but rather independent contractors. However, because the hospital holds out a physician as its employee, the, “…plaintiff had a right to assume that the treatment was that was being received was being rendered through hospital employees and that any negligence associated with that treatment would render the hospital responsible.

If you have been subject harm due to the negligence of a visiting physician, do not let the hospital fool you into thinking you have no case. Please contact an attorney immediately to find out just who is responsible.

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New Jersey Health Care Audits Go Too Far

The New Jersey State Board has found another way to cut the budget – to sell short its employees. State workers are appalled at a recent audit released by the state in order to crack down on what it calls, unqualified dependents, who are receiving health care through the state.

According to some employees, letters were sent asking them to gather copies of birth certificates, marriage or civil union licenses, and 2007 income tax returns. They were told to send the information to a post office box in Illinois.

Union leaders say workers were asked for extremely invasive, personal information with little or no advance notice. The letters warned that failure to provide the information Feb. 20 would result in terminated benefits.

The current economic turmoil requires compromise and spending cuts for all Americans, however denying state employees and their families their rights to basic health care is not the answer.

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Supreme Court Overrules Public Safety

A Supreme Court ruling last year has begun to show its true colors, as many federal cases against Medical Technology Corporations will go unheard. In February of 2008, the high court decided to restrict the legal options for patients who claim they have been injured by a defective device. If the Food and Drug Administration has approved the device after, “rigorous review,” than a suit cannot be filed under state laws.

This unjust ruling will prevent many individuals who have been subject to hard due to faulty design from collecting the compensation they need to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Devices that are not properly engineered can have catastrophic effects when implanted in a patient. Janet Moore, of the Star Tribune, provides us with an example:

“Make it stop,” Liz Fossum remembers thinking.

For about an hour early that November morning two years ago, Fossum’s implanted defibrillator repeatedly shocked her heart — 54 times all told. It felt like a horse was kicking her in the chest.

The 68-year-old grandmother from Golden Valley now knows that part of her heart device, an insulated wire made by Medtronic Inc., had been recalled by federal regulators because a small number had malfunctioned, occasionally causing unnecessary shocks.

Unfortunately for people like Ms. Fossum, there is little she can now do under the new law. Several Hundred cases had been filed against Sprint Fidelis, all of which were subsequently dismissed as a result of the Supreme Court decision. Obviously, all those affected by the faulty product were outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to protect corporate interests over the interests of the public.

This new decision has left consumers without any means to remedy the harmful situation they were put in by a lack of vigilance on the part of the FDA. Henry Waxman, a Representative from California, believes that the Supreme Court puts too much faith in the FDA testing process. He stated that, “The Supreme Court assumed that FDA approval ensures medical devices are safe, but many recent stories of patients harmed by faulty devices have proven those assumptions false.”

Waxman along with New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone plan to introduce legislation that would circumvent the Supreme Court ruling and protect Americans from dangerous medical devices. Until that time however, citizens must remain vigilant. If you are in need of or considering the possible use of a medical device, please research all companies and available options fully. Until the government decides to protect consumers again, self-education is the best defense.

If you have been subject to a faulty medical device, please contact an attorney immediately. There are several possible options, which may allow you the compensation you deserve.

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