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November 03, 2014

Bystander Claim of Emotional Distress in Mississippi Electrocution Case

The Supreme Court of Mississippi recently ruled in the case of Entergy Mississippi v. Mary Bethanne Acey. In the case, a minor was electrocuted on somebody else's farmland. A man who worked for the owners of the land had parked his cotton picker under a sagging power line owned by Entergy Mississippi. The minor had climbed onto the picker, touched the power line, and suffered electrocution.

The man's deposition showed that he and his son weren't aware that the minor and the owner's daughter were playing nearby. The man's son saw a flash out of the corner of his eye. The man and his son began running towards the flash and found the minor on top of the picker. The son was able to move the minor and hand her to the man, who held her until the emergency responders arrived.

When the accident happened, the minor's mother was driving to Moon Lake with her son and boyfriend. The 911 dispatcher called the boyfriend, who turned the car around. The dispatcher explained what had happened. The minor's mother saw smoke coming out of her daughter's skin, her skin flaking, fingers missing, and bones exposed, and she smelled burning flesh. The emergency responders arrived after the mother did.

Tagged: Negligence, Personal Injury, Tort Law

July 13, 2012

Child Dies of Medical Negligence When Doctors Won't Listen

An 11 year old boy died recently of sepsis (blood poisoning) and it appears the doctors who treated him are to blame.

The 11 year old, Rory Staunton, sustained a small cut on his arm during basketball practice. The cut was mentioned to his parents in passing while they were picking him up from practice. By bedtime, Rory was already feeling ill. At midnight, he awoke vomiting with a fever and pain in his leg. His parents took him to their pediatrician in the morning but she assured them the cut had nothing to do with his symptoms. She sent them to the emergency room. The doctors there diagnosed him with the flu and sent him home with Tylenol. (The doctors noted symptoms of sepsis at this time).

Tagged: Juvenile Law, Medical Malpractice, Negligence, Personal Injury, Tort Law

January 30, 2012

Mississippi Brain Injury Accident Victims Need Long Term Recovery Facility

At Coxwell & Associates, we represent people who have suffered serious injuries from accidents. However, we are limited as to what we can do for our clients (and not just by tort reform). Our legal system allows attorneys to recover money for their client's damages which includes long term medical expenses. And while it is fulfilling to help them obtain financial resources so that they can maintain their medical treatment, we know that many of our clients will never fully recover.

Sunday's Clarion Ledger had an article concerning brain injury victims in Mississippi that I found both interesting and sad. According to the article, "brain-injury survivors in Mississippi.....lack..long-term care facilities, such as Arkansas' Timber Ridge, or the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.." It is simply amazing in this day and age that Mississippi does not have a long term facility to assist our citizens who have suffered a brain injury.

The brain is a fascinating organ and a healthy brain is vital to a long and fulfilling life. Do you know why you can't tickle yourself? Because your brain distinguished between unexpected external touch and your own touch. When we blink, do you know why the "world doesn't go dark"? It's because our brain keeps the world luminated for us (we blink 20,000 times a day). Learn more more interesting brain facts here.

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, Personal Injury, Tort Law, Truck Accidents

January 27, 2012

CEO Compensation Packages aptly named "Golden Parachutes"

A parachute is defined as "a device for slowing the descent of a person or object through the air that consists of a fabric canopy beneath which the person or object is suspended." If you add the word "golden" in front of "parachute" the definition changes to "a generous severance agreement for a corporate executive in the event of a sudden dismissal (as because of a merger)." A recent GMI Ratings Report listed 21 recent golden parachutes for various CEO's. I found the payments ludicrous in light of the economic crunch this country is currently experiencing. Here is a list with the years the person acted as CEO:

General Electric John F. Welch Jr. 1981-2001 $417,361,902
Exxon Mobil Corp. Lee R. Raymond 1993-2005 $320,599,861

UnitedHealth Group William D. McGuire 1991-2006 $285,996,009

AT&T Edward E. Whitacre Jr. 1990-2007 $230,048,463

Home Depot Inc. Robert L. Nardelli 2000-2007 $223,290,123

North Fork Bank John A. Kanas 1977-2006 $214,300,000

Merck & Co., Inc./Schering-Plough Fred Hassan 2003-2009 $189,352,324

IBM Louis V. Gerstner Jr. 1993-2002 $189,005,929

Pfizer Inc. Hank A. McKinnell Jr. 2001-2006 $188,329,553

CVS Caremark Corp. Thomas M. Ryan 1998-2011 $185,415,435

Gillette Co. James M. Kilts 2001-2005 $164,532,192

Target Corp. Robert J. Ulrich 1994-2008 $164,162,612

Merrill Lynch & Co. E. Stanley O'Neal 2002-2007 $161,500,000

U.S. Bancorp Jerry A. Grundhofer 2001-2006 $159,064,090

Omnicare, Inc. Joel F. Gemunder 2001-2010 $146,001,476

Wachovia/South Trust Wallace D. Malone Jr. 1981-2004 $125,292,818

United Technologies Corp. George A. L. David 1994-2008 $122,631,309

eBay Inc. Margaret C. Whitman 1998-2008 $120,427,360

WellPoint Health Leonard Schaeffer 1992-2004 $119,041,000

XTO Energy Inc. Bob R. Simpson 1986-2008 $103,485,972

Viacom Thomas E. Freston 2006 $100,839,772

Tagged: Civil Law, Criminal Law, Tort Law

December 13, 2011

Cell Phones Cause Serious Automobile Accidents; Ban Upcoming?

I have blogged before about the danger of cell phone usage while driving. Now, the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") is urging all states to ban cell phone usage for drivers.

The NTSB recommendation comes after its investigation into an accident in Missouri caused when a 19 year old rammed into a tractor trailer and then was rear ended by two school buses filled with children. The 19 year old had sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes prior to the accident. The 19 year old driver as well as one of the high school kids was killed. 38 people were injured.

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, Negligence, Personal Injury, Tort Law, Truck Accidents

December 05, 2011

More Tort Reform for Mississippi personal injury and medical malpracitce lawsuits? Thank you sir may I have another?

Now that the Republicans have gained control of the Mississippi House or Representatives, they are seeking more tort reform. They are doing this even though the doctors' own insurance company say they no longer need any more! Yes, you read that correctly. The CEO of the doctors' insurance company, Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi ("MACM") was quoted in a Clarion Ledger article as follows: "It would be hard for me to argue more tort reform is needed," Mike Houpt said. "We're content with what we have." Yet the Republicans want to lower the caps on damages AND institute a "loser pays" system which would make the loser of a lawsuit pay the other side's cost. Whose agenda are the Republicans pushing?

The "loser pays" idea is simple. Over the course of a lawsuit, each side spends money on such things as depositions, expert witnesses, copying, etc. Costs can easily reach $10,000 in the most "simple" car wreck cases. "Loser pays" would require the "loser" of a lawsuit to pay the other winner's costs as well as their own. So who is this designed to hurt? To a huge company like State Farm, $10,000 is nothing. To the average Mississippian, $10,000 is more than most folks have in savings. There is not way the could afford to pay this which means they would not file a lawsuit for fear of having to pay this kind of money.

Now, keep in mind that the doctors are "content" with what they have. This is the same group who claimed they were being forced out of Mississippi just 10 years ago. Now things are going so well that the doctors are receiving refunds on their insurance premiums and their insurance company is making a huge profit. I wonder if the quality of health care in Mississippi is going up as well? Are the number of deaths and serious injuries due to medical negligence going down? Oh well, who really cares about that. As long as the doctors are making money and forcing us to wait an hour to see them on every visit then things are fine. But, I digress.

The Republican party is not looking out for Mississippi citizens. If they were, they would fight like hell to make sure that anyone who harms a child or an elderly person or who leaves a family without a mother or father (or both) would have to fully compensate that person or their family. Instead, they are looking out for big businesses and insurance companies. Always have, always will. If your child is harmed don't expect the Republicans to care because they will be supporting the people who harmed him/her.

Sound harsh? Well it's not. Tort reform does not protect us from so-called "frivolous lawsuits". Tort reform is designed to protect big business and insurance companies from legitimate lawsuits. "Frivolous lawsuits" scare no one. If any defendant can show me one "frivolous lawsuit" which has ever gone to trial, received a verdict, and then been affirmed on appeal I will have my partner eat his hat. Big business needs protection when their products or actions seriously injure, maim, or kill innocent people and the Republicans are paid handsomely to help them.

Tagged: Civil Law, Defective Products, Medical Malpractice, Negligence, Personal Injury, Products Liability, Tort Law

November 29, 2011

Mississippi Teens' Car Accident Stats Grim

I usually like to write entries that are light hearted and amusing (at least to me). But this is a very somber article because it deals with the loss of children. The Clarion Ledger had an article today discussing driving accidents involving teenagers and young persons in general. The Jackson, Mississippi area has been devastated recently with car and truck accidents involving young people. The families of those lost will feel this pain for as long as they are alive. As a parent of a soon-to-be driver I am already worried about my son driving. So what can we do to help our children become better drivers?

-First and foremost, no cell phones/texting while driving! Studies have shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than being under the influence of alcohol.

-Absolutely zero drinking and driving. Parents who allow their underage children to drink, and yes there are some that do, are not only encouraging poor decision making but are also endangering their children's lives and those who ride in a car with them or those of us on the highways.

-Reduce night driving. A recent study showed that driving more than 3 hours at night have the same effect as drinking. This is especially relevant during the holidays as we have so many college students coming home for Christmas break.

-Wear seatbelts at all times. And this goes for the passengers as well. How many times do we have to read about an accident where the occupants were ejected from the car because they weren't wearing their seatbelts? Buckle up!

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, DUI, Juvenile Law, Negligence, Personal Injury, Tort Law, Truck Accidents

November 01, 2011

Mississippi Lawsuit Myths Debunked

I'm sure everyone has heard of "frivolous lawsuits" and how they are to blame for rising insurance costs, driving doctors away, and the decline of Western Civilization as we know it today. The truth of the matter is certain politicians have created the fear that there are "runaway juries" which will destroy America unless there is so-called "tort reform"! Why do they want to do this? Easy. Big Insurance and Big Business lined the pockets of these politicians to push their agendas. Big Insurance and Big Businesses do not want to be held accountable for their actions. They want to be protected. Below we have listed some of the popular "Myths" in the justice systems along with the actual "Facts". You read and decide for yourselves
1. MYTH: Frivolous lawsuits are flooding our legal system.

FACT: Frivolous lawsuits do not exist as represented by tort reformers.
A May 2006 study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women''s Hospital shows that 97 percent of medical malpractice claims are meritorious . Eighty percent of those claims involved physical injury, which killed or permanently disabled the victim. Sadly, only 56 of these claimants received compensation for their losses.

FACT: The number of lawsuits has significantly decreased in recent years.
Between 2002 and 2003, the number of tort cases filed on the federal level decreased by 28 percent, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. In 2005, the Justice Department reported that the number of federal cases has decreased by 79 percent since 1985.

Between 1992 and 2001, the number of civil trials filed in state courts decreased by 47 percent, according to the Department of Justice. The number of tort cases specifically, decreased by 31.8 percent during that same time.

FACT: Businesses, not consumers, are far more likely to file frivolous lawsuits.
Businesses and their attorneys are far more likely to file frivolous claims than the average American. In a recent study, 69 of the 100 most recent sanctions due to cases of frivolous lawsuits were against businesses and their attorneys. US businesses file four times as many lawsuits than private citizens.

2. MYTH: Plaintiffs are being awarded outrageous and unwarranted sums of money for their losses.

FACT: The amount of compensation awarded in personal injury cases is in decline.
The amount of compensation awarded to victims, who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own, has drastically decreased over the past few years, according to the Department of Justice. Between 1992 and 2001 the average personal injury award decreased by 56.3 percent.

FACT: The payout in medical malpractice cases has decreased over the last four years.
A 2005 Public Citizen study revealed that medical malpractice payments to victims fell nearly 14 percent between 2001 and 2004. In 2001, juries voted against injured victims in three of four medical malpractice trials, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

3. MYTH: Capping damages lowers medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors.
FACT: Tort reform caps result in savings for insurance companies NOT doctors.
Capping damages does NOT translate into savings for doctors who continue to pay exorbitant medical malpractice insurance premiums. According to an independent research organization, "most insurers continued to increase [doctor''s] premiums at a rapid pace, regardless of caps" or reductions in plaintiff''s awards (Weiss Ratings 6/3/03).

In states with tort reform caps on damages, the average insurance premiums are nearly ten percent higher than the average in states without caps (The Medical Liability Monitor, 2004). Take it from the insurance industry, "Insurers never promised that tort reform would achieve specific savings [on insurance premiums]" - the American Insurance Association.

Medical malpractice insurance costs are cyclical. Litigation does not drive the cycle.
Therefore, doing away with fair compensation for victims will NOT help an American citizen AND it will do nothing to help doctors who pay high insurance costs.

4. MYTH: The tort system places a $300 billion burden on the economy.

FACT: There is no such thing as a tort-tax.

The figure in the myth above comes from the insurance industry, which has a vested interest in propagating tort reform myths. In this so-called cost assessment, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin included insurance company costs, overhead, and the salaries of the insurance industry's CEOs. For example, the salary of AIG's chairman--a whopping $29 million a year--was figured into this supposed cost of the tort system. The TTP assessment didn't include relevant data, which makes their figure more a reflection of the cost of the insurance industry rather than the cost of the tort system.

The idea of a "tort tax" dates back to 1988, when one man coined the term and quantified this so-called tax in a book called Liability. Several researchers immediately examined this man''s methods of determining this tax. They found that he had made it up. "The $300 billion figure has no discernable connection to reality," observed The Economist. The Congressional Budget Office has repudiated the so-called tort tax.

5. MYTH: Medical malpractice claims run up the cost of healthcare.

FACT: Medical malpractice claims have a negligible effect on US health costs.
According to the Congressional Budget Office in January 2004, medical malpractice costs constituted only two percent of the total cost of healthcare in the United States. Other figures from Public Citizen show that malpractice costs represent only 0.62 percent of the nation's expenditures for health care.

In 2003, the top HMOs in the United States reported doubling their profits, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal.

6. MTYH: Lawsuits are filed at the slightest provocation.

FACT: Many people who are seriously injured never file a claim.

Of the hundreds of thousands of people who are harmed by medical malpractice annually, only one in eight ever file a claim, according to a Harvard Study. Of the thousands of people injured by consumer products each year, only ten percent file a claim to seek compensation for their losses and suffering, according to a study by the Rand Institute for Civil Defense.

7. MYTH: Doctors are forced to practice "defensive medicine" for fear of medical malpractice lawsuits.

FACT: No evidence indicates that doctors practice "defensive medicine" as a response to lawsuit threats.

Defensive medicine, or extra medical tests given to avoid lawsuits, is a concept developed by a member of the Bush Administration. Every independent researcher who has tried to replicate this man's findings has been unable to do so, indicating that his findings were entirely fabricated (Public Citizen).

8. MYTH: Lawsuits threaten to drive doctors out of practice and bankrupt small businesses and factories.

FACT: Most lawsuits are not even filed against doctors or companies.
Most lawsuits involve complaints by one private citizen against another. Only 39 percent of tort lawsuits involve an individual filing a claim against a business (The Department of Justice). A lawsuit cannot destroy a business unless that business generates a profit based on fraudulent or unsafe practices (Public Citizen).

FACT: The number of lawsuits against doctors is decreasing while the number of practicing physicians is increasing. Evidence shows that the number of lawsuits filed against doctors has declined in recent years, while the number of practicing physicians has increased. According to the American Medical Association, the number of US doctors has increased by 40 percent since 1990. Additionally, since 1990, the number of ER doctors has doubled, the number of neurosurgeons has increased by 20 percent, and the number of OB/GYN doctors has increased by 25 percent.
There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that medical malpractice claims are forcing doctors to close their doors. While some doctors have suffered due to high insurance premiums, we know these costs have nothing to do with lawsuits and are purely the product of a rapacious insurance industry.

9. MYTH: Punitive damages are awarded to often and for too much money.

FACT: Punitive damages are rarely rewarded in civil suits.

Punitive damages are only awarded in 3.3 percent of all tort trials won by the victim, according to the Department of Justice). Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant in cases of blatant or malicious wrongdoing and prevent others from committing similar acts in the future. Given the statistics, it would seem that punitive damages are very conservatively awarded to the victims of egregious acts.

Tagged: Personal Injury, Tort Law

October 14, 2011

Truck Accidents in Mississippi Require Hands On Attorneys

I am in the middle of litigating a very serious truck accident which cost a truck driver (our client's husband) his life. As I was preparing some discovery answers which included providing documents to the defense, I noticed how many times my partner, Merrida Coxwell, and I were in the pictures taken by our accident reconstruction expert. (That's me in the photo accompanying this blog). I never thought about it much but litigating truck accidents requires the attorney to be more hands on than most other civil cases.

For instance, when our expert went to the accident scene, Merrida was with him to get a better understanding of what happened. I went to view the trucks with the expert so I could gain more knowledge on downloading blackbox information and any other tidbits.

Of course, Merrida and I have always been "hands on" attorneys when it comes to trying cases. From investigating crime scenes to viewing autopsies, we prefer to be there in person rather than have someone interpret results for us. I would like to believe it is this kind of dedication that helps us serve our clients better.

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, Negligence, Personal Injury, Tort Law, Truck Accidents

September 08, 2011

Did Tort "Reform" Contribute to the Pill Mill Epidemic in Mississippi?

In the late 1990's Mississippians were getting Fen Phen prescriptions left and right. The drug was hugely popular. Folks would car pool to their doctors to get these "miraculous" weight loss drugs. So-called "weight loss" clinics opened up all over the state and fen phen was being dispensed like Pez to second graders.

The problem for the most part is that the doctors dispensing these pills never bothered to advise clients of the dangers associated with these drugs like heart valve leakage and primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) which causes death. Most of the doctors never monitored their patients while they were on the Fen Phen combination to make sure that the drugs were not adversely affecting their health. As a result, many Mississippians and citizens across the country, began experiencing serious heart and lung problems which were associated with Fen Phen. Doctors who failed to properly administer the drugs were sued along with the drug manufacturer. Long standing Products Liability law allowed lawsuits against the entity responsible for pushing the product out to the consumers.

This same pattern repeated itself with other drugs like Propulsid and Rezulin and doctors were sued along with the drug manufacturers. Well, the doctors did not like this to say the least. Tort "Reform" was making its way to Mississippi and the suits against the doctors provided tort "reform" advocates all they needed. There were media reports that lawsuits against doctors in Mississippi were driving doctors out of the state! Malpractice insurance premiums were skyrocketing and it was all because of lawsuits! Dogs and cats were living together, mass hysteria!

With the white jacked doctors out in front, lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation which greatly curbed lawsuits against doctors. This occurred in 2002 and 2004. Since that time, there have been numerous lawsuits against drug companies for creating dangerous drugs but none against the doctors who push the drugs.

A recent article in the Clarion Ledger stated that Pill MIlls were a national epidemic. Prescription drug usage in Mississippi (and across the nation) is staggering. In July alone in Mississippi, there were 536,630 prescriptions for controlled substances filled for more than 31 million pills, according to the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy. Wow.

Tagged: Dangerous Drugs, Medical Malpractice, Negligence, Products Liability, Tort Law