March 2012 Archives

Proposed Tennessee Legislation May Infringe on the Privacy of Medical Malpractice Victims

March 28, 2012

As a result of their injuries, medical malpractice victims often face a lifetime of pain and suffering, whether it be physical or emotional, as the result of the damage they suffered at the hands of a negligent health care professional. And now, a proposed piece of Tennessee legislation threatens to add to that suffering, and possibly infringe on the privacy of the victim, and may also make it harder for medical malpractice victims to prevail in their lawsuits.

If House Bill 2979 passes the Tennessee legislature, and is enacted into law, Tennesseans who file a medical malpractice suit against a doctor or healthcare facility could find themselves opening up their lifetime's medical records to scrutiny. According to The Murfreesboro Post, House Bill 2979 is currently being considered by the state House Judiciary Committee. If it is passed, the bill would permit healthcare providers to give open access to the medical records of a victim of medical malpractice who files a claim in court.

The bill would supersede federal HIPAA laws and allow an attorney, representing a healthcare provider, to get access to a plaintiff's lifetime of medical history, including any and all mental-health and past drug or alcohol-abuse treatments, whether or not the information pertains to the medical malpractice claim.

Attorney Matt Hardin, a partner with a Tennessee law firm, says that while the committee appears ready to pass the bill, there may be further issues ahead. According to Hardin, "I believe the bill is in violation of federal law because it effectively is less restrictive than what the federal law is. HIPAA was drafted to protect the privacy of patients. When looking at this issue I found that 34 other states currently have strong restrictions in place that don't allow this type of communication."

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Minnesota Nursing Home may Escape Liability for Alleged Nursing Home Abuse

March 22, 2012

It is always unfortunate when reports arise of abuse occurring in our nations nursing homes and other assisted living facilities meant to make the lives of our elders more peaceful. Many are disturbed by elder abuse or nursing home abuse because it involves elderly individuals, who are particularly vulnerable, being taken advantage of, either medically, physically, financially, or emotionally. When individuals and facilities that are responsible for this type of abuse are held responsible, it is refreshing. However, unfortunately, one Minnesota nursing may escape liability for the abusive actions of employee against an elderly female patient.

As reported by the Star Tribune, a female resident of a St. Paul, Minnesota nursing home was sexually assaulted repeatedly over a period of months by a staff member, according to a state investigative report released Tuesday March 20, 2012. The abuse, which not only included physical abuse, but included sexual abuse, such as forced sexual acts and fondling, as well, occurred at Highland Chateau Health Care Center in St. Paul. The Health Department report did not give the age of the resident or the employee. Fortunately for the resident involved, as well as all of the other residents of Highland Chateau, the employee was fired. The administrator of the nursing home has yet to comment on the incident to the press.

According to the Star Tribune, St. Paul police tried to question him, but the phone numbers he provided weren't working. Officials with St. Paul police were checking Tuesday afternoon to see where the investigation stands. A spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office said the Health Department forwarded a case for consideration of charges but prosecutors have yet to make a determination.

According to the Health Department's report, which did not reveal the identities of the staff member or the resident, the abused resident had limited mobility and needed help dressing, bathing and with her bathroom needs. The report also revealed that when confronted by a state investigator, the staff member responsible for the abuse denied the allegations, saying that the woman would at times not make sense and was under the impression he would marry her. However, other staff members described the woman as "alert and oriented." One said the woman told her "she just wanted it over," the report said.

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Wrongful Death Suits in Virginia Tech Shootings Successful: School Found Negligent Due to Premises Liability

March 19, 2012

Five years after a campus shooting spree left 33 dead and numerous injured, a jury has finally weighed in on a negligence suit filed by the parents of two of the deceased. This week jurors sided with the families, finding that Virginia Tech was negligent when it delayed warning students and faculty that a shooter was on campus. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the events that ensued were reasonably foreseeable. Adequate warnings just may have prevented the injuries that ensued shortly after shooter Seung-Hui Cho barred the doors of Norris Hall and commenced with the remainder of his plan, which included killing himself. The family elected to file suit after rejecting their portion of a 2008 $11 billion settlement, choosing instead to pursue justice in memory of the two young girls' who lost their lives, even though doing so meant they'd probably receive less money. (Washington Post)

Universities and premises liability is an ever-developing area of personal injury law. Similar to the case at hand, courts have increasingly held colleges liable for failing to exercise reasonable care in preventing invitees from being harmed by third parties. In assessing such cases, courts often examine several factors including whether similar attacks had taken place before and what security measures were put in place to protect those on campus from danger. Personal injury attorneys know adverse rulings usually result when the court finds that the school took inadequate safety measures.

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New Rule Requiring Rearview Cameras in All Passenger Vehicles May Help Prevent Automobile Accident Injuries

March 14, 2012

Personal injuries or wrongful deaths that are caused as a result of car accidents are always tragic, especially when they could have easily been avoided. Some of the most tragic incidents of automobile accidents are when they involve children. According to KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit group that pushed the government to begin tracking such tragedies, on average, two children die and about 50 are injured every week when someone accidentally backs over them in a vehicle.

As reported by The New York Times, federal regulators have finally decided to do something about at least some of the senseless deaths and injuries caused by automobile accidents. Federal regulators plan to announce that automakers will be required to put rear-view cameras in all passenger vehicles by 2014 to help drivers see what is behind them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.), which proposed the mandate in late 2010, is expected to send a final version of the rule to Congress very soon.

Cars are filled with safety features that have been mandated by government regulators over the years, including air bags. But, the rearview camera requirement is one of the biggest steps taken to protect people outside of a vehicle. Regarding the matter, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington stated, "We haven't done anything else to protect pedestrians. This is one thing we can do and should do."

A spokeswoman for the highway traffic safety agency declined to make a comment to The New York Times before the new rule was announced. However, in a preliminary version circulated for public comment, regulators predicted that adding the cameras and viewing screens will cost the auto industry as much as $2.7 billion a year, or $160 to $200 a vehicle.

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Continued Trend towards Pedestrian Accidents Gives Cause for Concern

March 7, 2012

Pedestrian accidents in Georgia appear to be on the rise, and it's a very disturbing trend for those concerned about traffic safety - which is almost everyone. In 2006 the city of Atlanta, which includes Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties, had the highest pedestrian fatality rates - 16 died that year in each respective county. Three pedestrians were struck and killed in as many days in Cobb County just last month, and a fourth was left critically injured. Even more disturbing, is that in many of these cases motorists are purposefully failing to stop, and fleeing the accident scenes.

To Atlanta personal injury attorneys, uncooperative hit and run drivers are some of the most dangerous and negligent drivers, posing a definitive menace public safety. Conviction for a hit and run or for leaving the scene of an accident are also grounds for mandatory license suspension, says the Georgia Department for Driver Services (DDS). Fines, jail time and loss of one's vehicle are also possibilities, although courts will take into account factors such as cooperation with police, the nature of the accident, personal injuries and the extent of damage done.

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