Government to Release Data on Hospital-Acquired Conditions

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

As reported in USA Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers the Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP programs, will now make data regarding certain “hospital-acquired conditions” available on its website (www.cms.gov).  These are adverse conditions that develop while a patient is in the hospital.  This information had previously been publicly available.  However, last year CMS limited its availability and, more recently, it was removed from the CMS website completely.  Now, CMS states that it will again begin publishing this data and will make it available for public use.

“Hospital-acquired conditions” include the following:

  • Foreign Object Retained After Surgery
  • Air Embolism
  • Blood Incompatibility
  • Stage III and IV Pressure Ulcers
  • Falls and Trauma
  • Manifestations of Poor Glycemic Control
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection
  • Vascular Catheter-Associated Infection
  • Surgical Site Infection, Mediastinitis, Following Coronary Artery Bypass Graft
  • Surgical Site Infection Following Bariatric Surgery for Obesity
  • Surgical Site Infection Following Certain Orthopedic Procedures
  • Surgical Site Infection Following Cardiac Implantable Electronic Device
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis/Pulmonary Embolism Following Certain Orthopedic Procedures
  • Iatrogenic Pneumothorax with Venous Catheterization

If you or a loved one have developed a hospital-acquired condition, or have otherwise been the victim of medical negligence, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Stark & Stark.

New Massachusetts Law Creates Process for Early Resolution of Medical Malpractice Claims

Posted in Legal Updates, Medical Malpractice

A new Massachusetts law has created a procedure designed to encourage early resolution of medical malpractice claims and avoid litigation.  For the most part, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, medical malpractice claims are adjudicated through the courts.  Unlike other types of personal injury claims, where a significant percentage of cases settle before a lawsuit is actually filed, nearly all medical malpractice cases end up in litigation.  Under the new Massachusetts law, anyone who intends to sue a healthcare provider must give the provider six months notice of their intuition to file a lawsuit.  The idea is that this six-month period allows the healthcare provider the opportunity to investigate the claim and, if it has merit, negotiate a resolution.

In addition to the six-month waiting period, the law requires healthcare providers to inform patients when medical mistakes are made, and also incorporates an “apology law” which is similar to the Pennsylvania Benevolent Gesture Law that was recently signed into law.  Like the Pennsylvania statute, the apology law allows healthcare providers to apologize for medical mistakes without having their words used against them in a subsequently medical malpractice case.

As I have discussed often in this space, states have taken a number of different approaches to limit, if not eliminate, the filing of frivolous medical malpractice claims and/to encourage the early resolution of such claims.  The recent trend seems to be some variation of the waiting period Massachusetts has decided to employ.  For example, in Oregon, the legislature has created a forum in which healthcare providers and patients can attempt to amicably resolve medical malpractice claims outside of the court system.  Under that program, when a patient believes they have been the victim of medical malpractice, they have the option of holding a discussion with the doctor or other healthcare provider they believe has injured them.  The conversation is completely confidential, and the parties have the option of having a mediator present.  As with the Massachusetts law, the goal is to encourage early resolution of claims outside of the court system.

While Pennsylvania has enacted certain procedural mechanisms that have been very effective at limiting the filing of frivolous medical malpractice claims, they have yet to adopt any sort of formal program that would facilitate pre-suit settlement of such claims.  However, at least in my own practice, I have seen an increase in the desire of healthcare providers and their liability insurance carriers to discuss pre-suit settlement.  Perhaps Pennsylvania, like other states, will at some point take the step of endorsing and formalizing this process.

 

Pennsylvania Verdicts and Settlements Rising

Posted in Legal Updates, Mass Tort, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

According to an article published in The Legal Intelligencer on December 19, 2014, which was based on data compiled by PaLaw Magazine, verdicts and settlements in Pennsylvania are trending higher.  The average figure of the largest verdicts in 2014 was higher than in 2013.  According to the article, medical malpractice cases dominated the list of top verdicts and settlements in Pennsylvania for 2014, a trend that has been consistent since 1994.  The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and the federal U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which sits in Philadelphia, led the way as the courts with the most cases that made the top verdicts and settlements list.

According to the article, the top three settlements involved qui tam actions.  Qui tam actions are essentially federal whistle blower claims, in which private citizens bring claims against a corporation or contractor that defrauded the government.  The individual brings the claim on behalf of the government.  The top three cases were United States v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which involved the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor; United States v. Endo Pharmaceuticals, which involved the prescription drug Lidoderm; and Brown v. Amedisys, which involved false billings to Medicare.

At Stark & Stark we have extensive experience in working with all types of cases such as those listed above right in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. If you or a loved on has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today for a free consultation.

Mortgage Reformation in Pennsylvania

Posted in Real Estate

Prior to 2008, when the Great Recession and its aftereffects brought about a sea of changes in the mortgage lending arena, it was not an uncommon scenario, post-closing on a sale or refinance of real estate, to see a mortgage signed by only one of multiple owners of the real estate. In most of these instances, it was one spouse signing the mortgage and the real estate titled in both spouses’ names, but the spousal scenario was not the only one. Unmarried co-owners and other family members might be on title, but missing from the mortgage encumbering such title. Continue Reading

Borrowers Able To Rescind Loan 3 Years Later Under the Truth in Lending Act

Posted in Business & Corporate

The Truth in Lending Act was passed by Congress in order to help consumers “avoid the uninformed use of credit, and to protect the consumer against inaccurate and unfair credit billing.” The Act permits borrowers to rescind a loan three business days following the “consummation of the transaction or the delivery of the information and rescission forms” and disclosures required under the Act, whichever is later, by notifying the creditor of its intention to do so. The borrower’s right of rescission lasts for three years after the date of consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property. In a recent case, Jesinoski et. ux. v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., et. al., the Supreme Court of the United States was asked to determine whether a borrower properly exercises its right of rescission by providing notice to the lender (as required by the Act), or whether the borrower is also required to file suit before the three-year period ends. The Court found that the Act only requires the borrower to give the lender notice, and does not require that suit be filed, within the three-year rescission period.

How Much Do I Get Paid on Workers’ Compensation

Posted in Workers' Compensation

Employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment are only entitled to weekly wage loss benefits and medical benefits. To determine the correct amount of weekly wage loss benefits payable to given individuals, their average weekly wage must be calculated. When an injured worker does not have a fixed income or salary, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act focuses on the amount of time the employee actually worked for the employer immediately preceding the work incident and the amount of wages earned during that period of time.  Under these circumstances, where varied wages are involved, the act has delineated three different methods for calculating an individual’s average weekly wage.

For long-term employees, the earnings used to calculate the average weekly wage are taken from three of the four highest periods of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury.  However, for injured workers who have not been employed for at least three consecutive periods of 13 weeks, the earnings for any completed period of 13 weeks immediately preceding the date of injury are used in calculating the average weekly wage.

Newly hired employees who have worked less than 13 weeks for their employers leading up to the date of injury are permitted to use their hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours they expected to work to determine their correct average weekly wage.

It is important to know what is considered “wages” when computing an individual’s average weekly wage.  Money advanced or reimbursed to an employee for board and lodging, profit-sharing payments and exercised stock options may constitute wages.  Bonuses are considered wages for the purpose of computing the average weekly wage and are usually prorate over the entire year.  Overtime pay must be included as wages, as well as vacation pay, which is attributed to the entire year and prorated accordingly.

It is a well-established principle that these calculations are supposed to reflect a realistic measure of what an employee could have expected to earn had he not been injured, this is not always the case.

The maximum allowable compensation rate is $932 per week.  Therefore, if an employee earned more than $1,400 per week prior to sustaining a work-related injury, the maximum amount of money that individual could receive in workers’ compensation benefits would be $932 per week.

Surgical “Black Boxes”?

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury

In the context of airplanes and motor vehicles, a “black box” is a device that records data at the time of an accident or crash.  In the case of cars or trucks, often these devices record things like speed, acceleration and deceleration, whether brakes were applied, whether seat belts were in use and steering angle.  In the case of planes, these devices record flight data such as altitude and airspeed.  By retrieving and analyzing the data recorded on these black boxes, investigators are better able to determine how or why a crash or accident occurred.  Now, researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a similar device to be used by physicians during surgery.  According to a recent article in philly.com, this surgical black box tracks a surgeon’s actions during surgery and records any errors.  As with plane and car black boxes, which help show what happened during a crash or accident, the purpose of these devices is to collect data during surgery that would subsequently help show why the patient had a poor outcome.  Moreover, collecting this data would allow researchers to analyze why surgical errors occur in an effort to prevent future such mistakes during surgery.  The device is still in its initial phase, having been used in only about 40 surgeries, all of them laparoscopic weight-loss procedures.  However, philly.com reports that a number of hospitals have already expressed interest in the device, including several in the United States.  Could this be the future of surgical error prevention?  Only time will tell. If you or a loved one has been affected by a surgical error, contact Stark & Stark today for a free consultation.

Stark & Stark Attorneys Elected to Bucks County Bar Association Board

Posted in News & Events

The law firm of Stark & Stark is pleased to announce that Shareholder Tyler Tomlinson, Esq. and Associate Bianca A. Roberto, Esq. have been elected to the Bucks County Bar Association Board.

Tyler Tomlinson, member of the firm’s Accident & Personal Injury Group, is honored to have been elected to the Bucks County Bar Association’s Board of Directors for a three-year term. The BCBA is one of the oldest and most active Bar Associations in the United States, and Mr. Tomlinson is prepared to become an integral part of continuing all of the good work that the Bar Association does in Bucks County.

Bianca A. Roberto, member of the firm’s Business & Corporate Group, has been named a Director on the Executive Board for the Young Lawyers’ Division of the Bucks County Bar Association for a one-year term. This will be Ms. Roberto’s second year on the Young Lawyers’ Division’s Executive Board. The Young Lawyers’ Division is active within the Bar Association and in the Bucks County community. Ms. Roberto anticipates another productive and rewarding year on the Executive Board.

Shareholder Appointed to the Northampton Township Parks & Recreation Board

Posted in News & Events

Michelle Christian, Esq., Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group, was appointed by the Board of Supervisors on January 5, 2015 to a four-year term on the Northampton Township Parks & Recreation Board.

The Northampton Township Parks and Recreation Department’s primary mission is to address the interests and needs of the Northampton Township community by providing facilities and services to Northampton residents for the betterment of the community. It is the goal of the Parks and Recreation Board to fairly allocate the facilities for use by Northampton Township residents as well as community sports organizations.

New Book Reveals Startling Medical Malpractice Findings

Posted in Medical Malpractice

A new book, Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers, published by the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York University Law School, revels several startling findings regarding our healthcare system and medical malpractice.  According to the press release issued by Center for Justice & Democracy, among the many findings are:

  • Medical malpractice insurance companies are making twice the profit of the entire insurance industry.
  • On any given day, 1 in 25 U.S. hospital patients has at least one infection contracted during their hospital stay.
  • At least 8 doctors whose medical licenses were suspended or revoked collectively billed Medicare more than $7 million in 2012.
  • An average of 103,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides a year were abusing or dependent on illicit drugs.
  • Military hospitals are less safe than civilian hospitals.
  • Medical malpractice insurance premiums are not rising.
  • When newly trained New York state physicians were asked their main reason for leaving the state, “cost of malpractice insurance” was practically dead last, and the state’s liability laws was not even mentioned as a factor.

Interestingly, rising liability insurance premiums due to the high volume of medical malpractice lawsuits is frequently cited as a basis for instituting tort reform (laws that limit the right to sue, or that cap the amount of money injured patients can recover for their injuries).  According to this book’s findings, however, medical malpractice insurance companies are making twice the profit of the entire insurance industry, and malpractice insurance premiums are in fact not rising.  Moreover, constituents are often led to believe that physicians are leaving their state because of high insurance premiums or unfavorable liability laws.  At least in New York, this appears not be true.