Monthly Archives: March 2009

Vacancy on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City

There is another opening on the circuit Court for Baltimore City. This is due to the retirement of the Hon. John M. Glynn. I have had the privilege of appearing before Judge Glynn many times over the years. I’ve always found him to be a smart, fair judge. The following people have applied for the open seat:
Charles Joseph Peters
Angela Denise Shelton
Yolanda Alicia Tanner
Honorable Nathan Braverman
Honorable Videtta Arthyne Brown
Glenn M Grossman
Stephen James Sfekas
Donald Edmund Zaremba
I don’t know any of the applicants other than Judge Braverman. I have appeared before him several times in the District Court of Maryland, and think he would be a fine appointment. He is a jurist who is receptive to argument and carefully considers the authority relied upon by counsel.

Keep an eye out to see who Governor O’Malley appoints. This is a court that has had several new appointments in the last few years, so we will see how any new appointment changes the makeup of the court. This is always a topic of interest to Baltimore City lawyers.

Doctors Who Will Treat You, As Long As You Don’t Tell Anyone

The internet has proven to be a valuable tool for consumers. With a few keystrokes, it is easy to obtain multiple reviews of a product or service. This is true for electronics, appliances, restaurants, hotels, even lawyers.

This “consumer review” phenomenon has caught up to the medical industry. Many doctors have become concerned about reviews posted online by patients. The Baltimore Sun’s Consuming Interests blog reports that some doctors are requiring patients to sign waivers promising not to post these kinds of reviews.

Great customer service, guys. What are you afraid of? Judging by the comments to the Sun’s story, consumers of medical services don’t like this idea too much.

The Sun also reports that four doctors have been sanctioned by the Maryland Board of Physicians, for sexual misconduct, improper prescription practices, and failing to meet the standard of care.
If you are curious about lawyers who get disciplined, you can find that information here.

Hospital Visits for Seriously Injured Clients

Representing very seriously injured clients is the most rewarding part of my practice. Like most personal injury lawyers, one of the services we offer for those who need it is a home or hospital visit. I always feel strange doing these, like I am feeding into the “ambulance chaser” stereotype. I even have an uncle who calls me an ambulance chaser. He pretends it’s funny, and I pretend I don’t want to kill him.

Last week, I did a hopsital visit for a client at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. This unfortunate gentleman was in a motorcycle accident at high speed and was very badly hurt. In fact, he is lucky to be alive. Despite wearing all of the appropriate protective gear, he has several broken ribs, a broken wrist, a broken thumb, a broken leg, and a concussion. In addition, he has “road rash” over half his body, including a spot on his leg where you can see down to the bone.

I was called from the hospital by this man’s brother. Our firm had handled his wife’s auto accident injury case, and he was so impressed (particularly with how responsive Lisa Miller was to his wife’s needs) that we were his first choice when his brother was seriously injured. So off I went to Shock Trauma to meet with the client and his family.

There are a few layers of security to get in. Once I actually obtained a visitor’s badge and got upstairs, I was stopped by a nurse as I looked for the room. I told her who I was there to see, and she asked if I was a family member. I sheepishly replied that no, I was a lawyer. She gave me a look that said I might as well have told her I carried the SARS virus, and then showed me to the room.
You know what? These people were happy to see me. They repeatedly told me how grateful they were that I was willing to take the time and come right to the hospital to help them out.

It is actually hard to describe what it felt like for me to stand in front of this man, listening to a heart monitor mark each heartbeat while blood still drips from his wounds, and have him and his family thank ME for taking time out of my day to come and meet with them. They were happy to see me, and that we were going to try to help them.

I’m never going to feel ashamed doing a hospital visit again.

What’s A Frivolous Lawsuit?

I see and hear a lot in the media about frivolous lawsuits.
Apparently these are a huge problem. It has even led to the creation of a wildly popular and wholly fictional forwarded e-mail describing the facts of these ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits. It is called the “Stella Awards”, and circulates every few months to make to public aware of what a danger these stupid lawsuits are. They are called the “Stella Awards” because Stella was the first name of the Plaintiff in the infamous McDonalds “hot coffee” case.

It turns out, however that the lawsuts profiled in the “Stellas” are pretty much completely false.
So that doesn’t help me much in my quest to find out about these frivolous lawsuits that are such a problem. I continued searching on the web.

It turns out that there are entire groups devoted to ending frivolous lawsuits. One of these groups is right here in Maryland. Surely Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse will be able to tell me what a frivolous lawsuit is. They are “a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to educating the public about the costs and consequences of lawsuit abuse and ensuring that our legal system is used for justice, not greed.” They go on to tell us why this is so: “[l]awsuit abuse hurts the economy, threatens our access to affordable, quality healthcare and delays justice for the truly injured. MDCALA’s goal is to help restore balance, fairness and common sense to our civil justice system by shining a light on frivolous lawsuits and abusive personal injury lawyer tactics.”

Well, I am not in favor of frivolous lawsuits or lawuist abuse. At least I think I’m not, if I could find them defined anywhere. The MDCALA website shows some stories of abusive lawsuits. Only two of them appear to have happened in Maryland, and neither of those is a personal injury case. In fact, I read MDCALA’s entire website, and I could not find “frivolous lawsuit” or “lawsuit abuse” defined anywhere on the site. How can you have an entire “grassroots watchdog organization” dedicated to stopping something that you can’t (or won’t) define? I also think it’s a little weird that a group opposing “abusive personal inury lawyer tactics” wasn’t able to find a single example of a “frivolous” or “abusive” Maryland personal injury case to post on its website. I don’t believe I file frivolous or abusive lawsuits. Maybe Maryland personal injury lawyers are just more ethical and professional than those in the rest of the country?

Who are these people anyway? Usually grassroots organizations are built out of a wide-ranging groundswell of public support on issues relating to the common good. Like, for example, the NAACP.
I tried to figure out who exactly MDCALA is. I discovered a few names. Apparently Todd C. Lamb is MDCALA’s Executive Director. I found this out because their website posts various newspaper op-ed pieces by Mr. Lamb that state his position with MDCALA. Another article lists Dr. Ron Elfenbein, an Annapolis physician, as a MDCALA board member. Other articles list Earnest Hines, M. Jerome Miller, Patricia A. “Trish” Miller, Jerome Leonard and Ron Vitkum as past or present MDCALA board members.

The MDCALA website does not contain a list of its members, officers, or board of directors. The names I found were gleaned by viewing several articles posted in various places on the site. I think that is very strange. Normally, individuals want to publicize their involvement with a cause they think is righteous.
For example, I am a member of the Maryland Association for Justice. It is easy to tell who we are. Our officers and board members are prominently featured on our website, with contact information and biographies because we are proud of the MAJ and what we stand for. What is MDCALA hiding?

I did a little digging to try and find out. Lets start at the top. Todd C. Lamb is a former political lobbyist. He has previously worked for Dutko Worldwide, a Washington, D.C lobbying and public relations firm, and before that, for Chesapeake Govermnent Relations. Dutko integrates “traditional bipartisan lobbying, with research, polling, message development/testing, grassroots.grasstops advocacy and new media strategies….”
Next: Ron Elfenbein, M.D. Dr. Elfenbein is an emergency room doctor at Harbor Hospital and a “physician activist” who lost an election to the Maryland General Assembly. According to Maryland court records, he was sued for medical malpractice in 2007. The outcome of the suit was not available.
Earnest Hines: Mr. Hines is the former CEO of the failed local insurance company American Skyline Insurance. Before that, he worked with USF&G and the St. Paul Companies. He is also a member of the Baltimore County Board of Education. When he was with American Skyline, he was quoted as saying “[w]e want to go wherever the money’s green.”
Patricia A. Miller: She is an attorney in Annapolis, Maryland. A search of Maryland court records reveals at least 50 cases where she has served as a mediator to resolve cases out of court. She is also a principal of the National Institute for Conflict Resolution, where she works “with business, government and industry on conflict resolution processes.” Her official biography does not mention her affiliation with MDCALA.
Ron Vitkum: He owns “Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts”. He had a long career in the corporate world, and is now a member of the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
Jerome Leonard: He is the owner of the Taylor-Leonard Corporation. They offer “Risk Management Solutions for Your Business” and also shill for Pre-Paid Legal Services.

OK. Let’s review. MDCALA is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to educating the public about the costs and consequences of lawsuit abuse and ensuring that our legal system is used for justice, not greed.” They don’t tell you what lawsuit abuse is, and don’t list their board of directors.

By digging I found out that at various times their board has consisted of a D.C. lobbyist who created grassroots campaigns, a doctor and “activist” who has been sued for malpractice, the CEO of a failed insurer who would “go wherever the money’s green”, an attorney who gets paid to work with business and industry on conflict resolution, and a guy who sells risk management and prepaid legal services.

Do you think these guys have an agenda? I don’t see one single private citizen in that list without an axe to grind. I do see a list of folks with ties to business and insurance that are in one way or another acting out of economic self-interest. So why the cloak and dagger? MDCALA should admit who they are and stop claiming that it is a “grassroots organization.”

I am a Maryland trial lawyer who earns a living by representing injury victims at Miller & Zois, LLC. Personally, I would be suspicious of any group that seems to conceal its leaders and true agenda. When you get your information about tort reform, make sure you know where that information is coming from.