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August 2014 Archives

Medicare to Penalize 120 Illinois Hospitals For Poor Readmission Rates

As part of an effort to force healthcare providers into providing a higher quality of care to their patients, the Affordable Care Act allows the federal government to penalize hospitals for having to readmit too many patients within thirty days of their initial release, according to an article in the August 18, 2014 edition of Crain's Chicago Business. In the article, entitled "Medicare to Ding 120 Illinois Hospitals Over Readmission," author Andrew Wang revealed that in 2015 the federal government is set to penalize an astounding 120 hospitals in Illinois for readmitting patients with certain conditions at rates higher than the national average. According to the article, Medicare has discovered that 94 percent of hospitals in Illinois had readmission rates higher than the national average between 2010-2013. In 2015, the Affordable Care Act will authorize a penalty of up to 3 percent of hospital reimbursement, according to Crain's Chicago Business. The most penalized hospital in Illinois will be Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, who will be penalized 2.94 percent of their reimbursement, up almost 2 percent from their penalty in 2014, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

Chicago Challenges Drug Industry’s “Aggressive Marketing” Techniques

Chicago and two California counties have filed two separate lawsuits against five drug makers for their “aggressive marketing” techniques that they alleged have fueled an epidemic of addiction and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in insurance claims and other health care costs, according to a story in The New York Times (”Chicago and 2 California Counties Sue Over Marketing of Painkillers,” Aug. 24, 2014).“The lawsuits assert that drug makers urged doctors to prescribe the drugs far beyond their traditional use to treat extreme conditions, such as acute pain after surgery or injury or cancer pain, while underplaying the high risk of addiction,” writes reporter John Schwartz. He goes on to say that “Such marketing, the plaintiffs say, has contributed to widespread abuse, addiction, overdose and death.”The goal of the opioid lawsuits was compared to those against the tobacco industries of the 1990s that addressed a public health problem and changes subsequently were enacted. “But there are differences: The $246 billion tobacco settlement involved a product that was at best lightly regulated, while narcotics are already heavily regulated by federal and state government.”Schwartz reports that the Chicago lawsuit alleges that “an estimate of about 1,100 emergency room visits in the city in 2009 could be attributed to opioid abuse and overdose, with the city paying $9.5 million in insurance claims for prescriptions since 2008 and much more in related health care costs.” He quotes Chicago’s Corporation Counsel, Stephen Patton, as saying, “’It was a suit we would not have brought unless we felt we had a rock-solid legal and factual basis for doing so.’”Chicago reportedly invoked its consumer fraud ordinance to subpoena internal documents from drug companies. The complaint alleges that the pharmaceutical manufacturers placed their desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers, Schwartz reported. The reported purpose of the lawsuits is to tell patients and doctors that drugs, particularly those for chronic pain, can be addictive, which is dangerous.The entire story can be found at the New York Times’ web page.

NTSB Most Wanted List 2014

Every year the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues a "Most Wanted List" highlighting safety issues that it identifies from accident investigations. The purpose is to increase awareness about the issues and recommend safety solutions. For 2014, the NTSB has identified unique characteristics of helicopter operations, eliminating distractions and substance-impaired driving, pipeline safety, rail mass transit operational safety and other important issues that it sees that need improvement. For example, the NTSB wrote, "Over the last 10 years, the NTSB has investigated numerous helicopter accidents and issued over 100 safety recommendations on helicopter-specific issues. Increased awareness and action by helicopter manufacturers, helicopter operators, and training and regulatory agencies is needed." Indeed, the Midwest has seen a number of tragic helicopters crashes and Clifford Law Offices represents a number of families who suffered in these horrific incidents, including medivac helicopters. The NTSB also pointed out, "In 2012 in the United States, more than 10,000 traffic deaths involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Drugs also affect driving ability. In order to prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives, we need stronger laws, swifter enforcement, and expanded use of technology." Again, Clifford Law Offices has represented a number of people who have innocently suffered because of alcohol-impaired drivers. The consequences can be devastating to a family. It also talked about rail mass transit: "Public rail mass transit, comprised of light rail, commuter rail, and subways, affects the lives of millions of people daily. Although each system poses unique equipment, operating environments, and challenges, all can benefit from strengthening their organizational safety cultures." Clifford Law Office is proud to say that because of some of its rail lawsuits, including that of internationally-acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton who tragically was involved in a Metra accident that severely injured her, procedures and protocol were improved at the rail company so that others would not suffer similar horrific injuries. The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress to investigate every civil aviation crash in the U.S. and sometimes is invited to do so in international crashes around the world because of its expertise. It also investigates significant accidents in railroad, highway, marine and pipeline tragedies. The agency tries to determine the probable cause of the accident and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. For more information on "critical changes needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives," visit www.ntsb.gov/mostwanted.

Clifford Law Offices to Feature Legal Educational Videos on CAN TV

Lawyers from Clifford Law Offices will be featured on the Chicago television network, CAN TV, this week in three educational interviews on the legal profession. Viewers can learn about Tort Reform in Illinois, breaches in personal data, and general information about medical malpractice and what it takes to have a case. The video interviews were filmed by Clifford Law Offices with the intent to educate the Chicago community. The interviews will be screened on CAN TV Thursday, August 21st, 2014 starting at 8:00pm. Here are the airing times: • When Personal Data becomes Compromised with Shannon M. McNulty at 8:00pm • What is Tort Reform? with Keith A. Hebeisen at 8:09pm • Medical Malpractice with Susan A. Capra at 8:13pm We invite those living in the Chicago area to tune into CAN TV this Thursday starting at 8pm to learn about these important legal subject matters. Thanks to CAN TV for airing these informative interviews.

Robert Clifford Attends American Bar Association's Annual Meeting in Boston

 Robert A. Clifford, a nationally prominent trial attorney in Chicago, attended the American Bar Association's (ABA) annual meeting in Boston which was held August 8-10, 2014. According to the American Bar Association's website, the organization is committed to serving its members, improving the legal profession, eliminating bias and enhancing diversity, and advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world. Clifford is an active supporter of ABA and has served a nine-year term as the Illinois State Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates. He was inducted in 2005 and completed his third and final three-year term in 2014. For information about the 2014 ABA Annual Meeting, please visit: http://bit.ly/1yS9yeV. To view photos of Clifford Law Offices at the Boston meeting, please visit our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1p78uTF.

List Of Recalled Vehicles on GM's Website Is Incomplete

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday that GM's vehicle identification number system which allows owners to look up whether their vehicle has been effected by the millions of recalls issued this year is not listing all cars that are in need of repairs, according to The Detroit News ("Government says GM site faulty, doesn't correctly list recalled vehicles"; 8/1/2014). Owners are able to enter their personal vehicle identification numbers with the site then telling them whether their vehicle has been affected by the recall, but many were improperly told no, according to Bloomberg News ("GM Website Misleading Consumers on Recalls, US Says"; 8/1/2014). Both GM and the National Traffic Safety Administration have been warning vehicle owners of this discrepancy, and GM has been asked to fix the problem immediately, The Detroit News reported. This is among a string of recent problems for the nation's largest automaker, which has had to recall nearly 29 million vehicles this year alone, a record for recalls in a single year, according to Bloomberg News. The company has been under intense scrutiny ever since investigations revealed that GM was delayed in recalling more than 2.5 million cars with faulty ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths, Bloomberg News reported.

Colin Dunn Pens Article on Section 3-102 of the Tort Immunity Act

Colin H. Dunn, partner at Clifford Law Offices and columnist for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, penned an article published May 12, 2014 edition entitled, "School Loses Bid For Immunity In Suit Over Girl's Fall In 'Cafetorium.'" In the article, Dunn discusses a recent First District Appellate Court decision ruling that a school's combined cafeteria-auditorium did not qualify as recreational property, and thus the district was not exempt from tort liability. Under current Illinois law, for the purpose of keeping liability insurance at a reasonable rate, a governmental entity is immune for injuries occurring on "any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds, open areas, buildings or other enclosed recreational facilities, unless such local entity or public employee is guilty of willful and wanton conduct proximately causing such injury." 745 ILCS 10/3-106. The Court began its analysis of "recreational property" by noting that it is not the type of property that determines whether the property is recreational, but instead the intended or permitted uses of the property. To read Colin Dunn's entire article, including an in-depth analysis of what is considered "recreational property," click here.

Robert A. Clifford Writes Article Questioning "Early Offer" Programs

Robert A. Clifford, Senior Partner at Clifford Law Offices and monthly columnist for the Chicago Lawyer magazine, wrote his October, 2012 column entitled "Granite State, Granite Heart." In the article, Clifford explains the dangers that come with a new medical malpractice law recently passed by the New Hampshire state legislature. In 2012, New Hampshire became the first state to approve what is known as an "early offer program" pertaining to medical malpractice litigation. Under this type of program, injured patients are allowed to recover only economic damages, such as those for lost wages and medical bill expenses, while noneconomic damages are disallowed. While New Hampshire justifies this loss of rights by claiming that the program "fast tracks" medical malpractice litigation, Clifford warns that injured persons are essentially being bribed into accepting smaller compensation solely because it will come to them sooner. To read Robert Clifford's complete article on the new medical malpractice laws in New Hampshire, click here.

Bob Clifford Quoted in Businessweek about Missing Malaysian Airliner

Senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, Robert A. Clifford, was quoted in Businessweek on July 31, 2014 in regards to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. In an article entitled, "Malaysian Air Geopolitic Victims on Hard Road to Recovery," the author explained possible compensation and claims for those affected by the flight. Clifford, whose firm focuses on aviation law, was quoted saying pilots should have not flown over a combat zone. "You and I can't run red lights. They can't run yellow lights." Clifford said. "I believe that it's not going to be a really high bar to reach to establish that Malaysia Airlines did not take all necessary measures." The Businessweek article states that the 1999 Montreal Convention, which governs Malaysia Airlines, is limited to claims unless there is negligence. To learn more about the missing Malaysian airliner, click here.

Importance of third-party warranties when selecting a builder.

Question: We’re getting ready to select a builder for our new home. How important is it to choose a company which offers a third-party warranty?Answer: In addition to their own warranties, many home builders offer third-party warranties, partly as an extra incentive to shoppers. The warranty provides an extra layer of protection not typically available in first-party warranties. If the builder were to go out of business, for example, a homeowner will still be insured.For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com. If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.

Robert A. Clifford Offers Tips To Those Who File Claims Relating to Trucking Accidents

Robert A. Clifford, Senior Partner at Clifford Law Offices and monthly columnist for the Chicago Lawyer magazine, wrote his August, 2014 column entitled "Early Steps, Vital Steps: Truck Accidents Require Quick Action to Preserve Evidence." In the article, Clifford explains the importance of quick and meaningful action on the part of a plaintiff's attorney in accidents involving large trucks. As Clifford explains, defense attorneys can have an advantage in these types of accidents because they often have their own reconstruction experts and insurance adjusters on the scene of the collision. Further, Clifford notes that these reconstruction experts may even attempt to influence the authorities in their investigation of the scene, while in all likelihood the plaintiff's counsel will not be present. Throughout the article, Clifford explains how attorneys can avoid spoliation of evidence, or, in the alternative, how to respond to evidence that has already been "spoiled." To read Robert Clifford's complete article on how plaintiff's attorneys should conduct themselves when tackling trucking accident litigation, click here.

Some Circumstances Child Support Payments Can Change.

Question: Under what circumstances can child support payments be changed? Answer: Either one of the parents can ask the court for a modification in child support payments for circumstances that include an increase or decrease in the non-custodial parent’s income; an increase in the child’s need; if the child no longer lives with the custodial parent; or the child has turned 18 and is no longer in high school. For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com. If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.

Medical Marijuana Use For Children With Epilepsy

Question: Will children who suffer from epilepsy be able to use medical marijuana once the new Illinois law goes into effect? Answer: Yes. Beginning in early 2015, a new Illinois law will allow the use of medical marijuana to provide relief for those suffering from epileptic seizures. Adults will be able to smoke the substance, but children will need to take a non-smokable form. For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com. If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.

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