If you are anything like me, this warm weather has brought about spring cleaning.  For my family, this means cleaning out and organizing the garage. We put soccer, baseball and footballs in a bin, donated or threw things away and this year we decided to hang our bikes. We went to our local Home Depot and bought hooks.  Well, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recently recalled the exact hooks we bought.  It is the Husky Securelock® vertical bike hooks.  These hooks are used with a Husky Trackwall® garage storage system. This system is sold exclusively at Home Depot and was sold between April 2011 to March 2015. It has a 3” by 3.5” black metal plate that is gets mounted to the grooves in the Trackwall. The bike’s tires is attached to a hook that protrudes from the plate.

The firm, Waterloo Industries Inc from Iowa, has had at least 22 complaints about the Husky Securelock®.  These complaints have been that the bike hooks are falling from the Husky Trackwall® system. No injuries have been reported, but property damage to the bikes and vehicles nearby been reported.  If you would like further information you can contact Waterloo Industries at 800 833 8851 or contact Home Depot.

In 2002, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania created the Patient Safety Authority, the “PSA”, to monitor all medical mistakes at health care facilities, including hospitals, free-standing surgical centers, birthing centers and abortion clinics in the Commonwealth (nursing home incidents are also documented, under a another agency).  Pursuant to the law which created the PSA, all these facilities must report every medical mistake to the Pennsylvania Patient Reporting System, which is operated by the PSA.  All mistakes must be reported, from “near-miss incidents” to serious injuries.

The PSA helps Pennsylvania healthcare facilities take their knowledge and expertise to the next level by working with each other to prevent medical errors and improve patient safety. Through these collaborative efforts, the PSA has been able to engage in review of numerous issues, including wrong-site surgery, mislabeling blood specimen events, harmful falls, surgical-site infections, central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and adverse drug events.

The PSA is funded through a fee collected from all facilities that report to it. By centralizing the accrual of such information, the PSA can examine incidents statewide over a period of time and this enables the Authority to recognize trends and then recommend practices that make medical facilities safer. The PSA is supported by a Board of Directors that includes three physicians, three attorneys, three nurses, a pharmacist and a non-healthcare worker.

The PSA has given the state a great way to track and stay on top of these incidents. If you are interested to find out more information you can visit their website here. On their website they offer not only information about the incidents but also educational tools that can help keep patients safe.

On December 23, 2013 (then) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 126, which affects Pennsylvania motorcycle riders. The law, known as Act 126 of 2013 (effective February 21, 2014) limits the number of times a motorcycle rider can reapply for a learner’s permit to three times, in a five-year period. The original Bill was sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) who had the overwhelming support of the Alliance of Bikers Toward Education (A.B.A.T.E) and statewide law enforcement. The initial legislation was designed in part to prevent the practice of continually extending the permit without having to retake the motorcycle knowledge test or skills tests. Law enforcement was particularly concerned with the growing number of motorcycle offenses committed by permitted (but unlicensed) riders. Nearly 3,500 crashes involving motorcycles occurred on Pennsylvania roadways in 2013, 500 fewer than in 2012. Those crashes resulted in 181 motorcyclist fatalities, as opposed to 210 deaths in 2012. The number of registered motorcycles in Pennsylvania decreased in 2013 by just over 3,800, while the number of licensed motorcyclists increased by nearly 6,000.

ACT 126 is designed to enable riders to continue to learn to ride a motorcycle properly while encouraging them to get obtain a full motorcycle driver’s license. In addition to limiting the number of times a rider can apply for a permit, ACT 126 requires a rider to successfully pass the motorcycle knowledge test upon each reapplication. It also prohibits PennDOT from renewing a person’s motorcycle learner’s permit. To read the law, click here.

For questions and information on permits, licensing and motorcycle training for Pennsylvania residents, visit the PA Division of Motor Vehicles or Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP).

In a recent unanimous decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a government agency cannot assert lawyer-client privilege to protect records when the state attorney general considers those records necessary to fulfill his duties.   The Court went on to say that when the attorney general’s office looks into suspected wrongdoing at a state agency, the actual client of the agency’s lawyers is the public, not the agency’s employees.   The Court agreed with the state prosecutors who argued that government lawyers have special duties to act in the public interest and address wrongful official acts.

McNeil, a local Montgomery County  healthcare company which produced the medications infant tylenol, children’s tylenol and children’s motrin in its Fort Washington,PA location will have to pay 25 million dollars.  The company recently plead guilty because in 2009 when a consumer alert was issued,indicating there were black specs in the medicine,  the company failed to  initiate a corrective plan.  Consumers found what turned out to be nickel and chromium in the medication, which was not an intended ingredient. Upon investigation, the Food and Drug Administration found that there were more than 30 batches of children’s medication that had  nickel and chromium in them. The local Fort Washington company, which is a division of Johnson and Johnson, remains under a 2011 injunction and must  take corrective measures before it is permitted to reopen.

If a loved on has been injured by a defective drug contact Stark & Stark today for a free consultation.

Immigrants who receive provisional legal status under President Obama’s new executive orders may be eligible for Social Security and Medicare or Medicaid benefits.  Under the President’s plan, U.S. residents can apply for provisional legal status if they have  lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, can pass a criminal background check and have paid their share of taxes.

Provisional legal status, which must be renewed every 3 years, would allow qualified residents to obtain legal work permits and a Social Security number.  Consequently, they would pay into Social Security and Medicare through payroll taxes and thusbe eligible for benefits. Only those years after they obtain provisional legal status would count towards Social Security benefits and these individuals would have to work at least 10 years, legally, in the U.S., to receive Social Security Retirement benefits.

Often nursing homes will require residents or their families to sign arbitration agreements before the resident will be accepted into the facility.   Such agreements vary but, in essence, they provide that, should the resident or their family believe that the resident has been the victim of negligence, abuse or neglect while at the facility, they agree not sue in court, but rather will resolve the claim via a private, binding arbitration.  An arbitration is a proceeding where the parties present their case to a neutral third-party, called an arbitrator (often a retired judge or experienced attorney), who then makes a decision and decides the amount of damages, if any.

Recently, a Berks County, Pennsylvania trial judge refused to enforce one such agreement, required by a Manor Care facility.  The judge concluded that this particular agreement was against public policy, because it was both one-sided and confusing.  The judge explained that cases involving injuries should not be the subject of routine arbitration unless both parties fully and completely negotiated and agreed to the final terms of the agreement.

By entering into these agreements, nursing home residents and their families must understand that they are giving up their right to have a future their case heard by a jury of their peers.  If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, abuse or neglect, contact the experienced attorneys at Stark & Stark for a free consultation.

If your spouse has already filed for his or her Social Security Retirement Benefit, and you have reached full retirement age (66 for the current crop of baby boomers), you can receive a monthly spousal benefit equal to half of your retired spouse’s full retirement benefit.  You can do this yourself without filing for your own retirement benefit, to which you will continue to contribute if you are still working.  The spousal benefit is not deducted from your retired spouse’s monthly check, so there is no diminution in the amount your retired spouse receives.

You can receive a monthly spousal benefit if your spouse is retired but you have not reached your full retirement age but if you take the spousal benefit before your full retirement age, you will be deemed to be filing for your retirement benefit, as well.  Your spousal benefit is then considered excess and it will definitely be less than half of your retired spouse’s full retirement benefit, and may even be zero.

Example:  Mary is going to be 66 next month.  She is working and intends to keep working for a number of years.  Her husband, John, is 70 and he retired a few years ago.  John’s full retirement benefit is $2,000 per month.  When Mary turns 66, she is entitled to half of John’s monthly benefit, $1,000 per month, despite the fact that she is still working.  Once she begins receiving her monthly spousal benefit, John will continue to receive a monthly benefit of $2,000 per month.

If you are interested in getting spousal benefits, you should make an appointment with your local Social Security Administration office to apply for the spousal benefit.

As of 2014 all new U.S. DOT physicals are required to be performed by health professionals who have qualified pursuant to stringent protocols and who are now listed on the “National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners”.  Mandatory U.S. DOT exams assess a driver’s condition to be able to competently and safely be behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.   The exam includes assessing basic vision, hearing, muscle function, respiratory systems, and also assesses individuals for cardiovascular diseases or other health ailments that could affect the driver’s ability to operate such a vehicle.   Medical Examiners on the Registry are now required to maintain a certain level of competence and must attend periodic training sessions and go through a re-certification process.  If they fail to maintain these pursuant to Federal Standards, they will be removed from the National Registry.   It is critical when assessing a commercial driver’s competence/ability to operate commercial vehicles that their medical history and status of the medical certificate be assessed, and now with the new regulation the competency of the examiner is also critical.   Competency of the examiner is now based on training standards for these medical professionals who desire to perform commercial driver physicals.   Under the prevailing regulations, all Interstate commercial truck and bus drivers are required to undergo and pass a medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain/maintain a valid Medical Certificate, which in turn allows them to have an active commercial driver’s license.

As Secretary Anthony Fox of the U.S. DOT stated “safety is our highest priority and that every commercial truck and bus driver be qualified, alert and focused when they are behind the wheel”.

In 2013, the Pennsylvania legislature passed “The Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act”, which is colloquially referred to as “The Apology Law”.  This statute allows a health care provider to apologize to a patient for a mistake or perceived mistake, or a bad outcome, without fear that the apology will be used against the health care provider in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  As long as the apology or benevolent gesture is not made after the lawsuit has been filed, or the apology is not also a statement of negligence or fault, it cannot be later used against the health care provider, in a court of law.

One of the intended results of the law was to lower the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed, however, it has had little or any effect with regard to this statistic so far.