Monthly Archives: May 2009

Maryland Accident Lawyer: Another Tip

The Maryland Accident Lawyer Blog provides a good tip for Maryland accident lawyers trying to serve out-of-state defendants in car accidents in Baltimore.

What’s An Ear Worth?

In the Maryland Accident Lawyer Blog, Laura Zois recently discussed the value of cases involving an injury to an ear. Laura talks about how it’s not really possible to lump all ear cases together because of the variety of ways in ahich they arise, and the varying severity of the possible injuries.

A case where the injury is a burst eardrum that heals with no hearing loss will be valued much differently that a case where the physical injury to the ear resulted in a permanent imparment. You tend to see ear injuries fairly often in carr accident injury cases. I think this is because often the force of the collision will slam the side of the head into a door pillar or window, or because of the force of an exploding airbag.

I am handling a case now in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County involving an ear injury. My client was involved in an auto accident, and now suffers from permanent tinnitus (ringing in the ears). She has recieved 25k from the liability insurer. I don’t think this is enough to cover her damages, so I am waiting to see what value the jury places on a permanent, irritating, ringing in the ears.

More “Two Faced” Opinions On Frivolous Suits

Today’s Daily Record reports that some resident agents are upset at being named as defendants in lead paint cases. The article mentions the use of Md. Rule 1-341 as a way to seek redress for the filing of frivolous lawsuits.

I have often written about the mostly imaginary problem of frivolous lawsuits. I say “mostly imaginary” because although I am sure meritless filings are made, I believe existing law and the rules of court provide ample mechanisms to discourage the filing of meritless claims.

Md. Rule 1-341, which is titled: “Bad faith- Unjustified proceedings”, is one of these mechanisms. Basically, this rule says that if any party brings or defends a pleading in bad faith or without substantial justification, the court may order that party or its counsel to pay the costs of the other party, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Just one more way the law protects against frivolous lawsuits. I wonder why we never hear the “tort reform” people talk about these kinds of existing protections? Maybe they have an agenda outside the actual facts of the “lawsuit abuse” problem they claim exists?

Protecting Victims of Pharmaceutical Negligence

I recently attended the Maryland Association for Justice’s President’s Dinner. In addition to the usual speeches by attorneys and politicians, we were given a chance to remind ourselves why what we do is worthwhile on many levels.

One of the recipients of this year’s Civil Justice Award was Diana Levine. Who’s that, you ask? Have you heard of Wyeth v. Levine? Yeah, that Levine.
Ms. Levine lost an arm due to an inadequate warning label on the drug Phenergan. A Vermont jury awarded her 6 million dollars in damages.
The drug maker appealed this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The argument was that because the FDA approved the warning label, Ms. Levine’s state tort claim was preempted by federal law.

Well, they lost. Because of Ms. Levine, victims of pharmaceutical negligence can still pursue fair compensation through a claim of negligence, to be determined by a jury of ordinary citizens.

Her struggle shows the many levels on which the civil justice system can be a positive force for change. First, Ms. Levine was able to secure compensation for her injury. Second, Wyeth has the opportunity to change the drug labeling to protect consumers from similar occurrences. Finally, this protects consumers as a group by ensuring that drug manufacturers can not merely do the bare minimum required by the FDA and escape liability for the foreseeable consequences of negligent acts.

Miller & Zois, LLC has recently launched the drugrecalllawyerblog which may be of interest to people injured by dangerous pharmaceutical products and their attorneys. Look there for regular updates on issues of concern in this area.

More on Frivolous Lawsuits

As regular readers will know, this blog is open to comments. I generally publish all legitimate comments because I think part of the deal with writing this blog is that I should be willing to stand by what I write.
Saturday night at 11:53 p.m., I received the following comment to a post I wrote on the “tort reform” movement and the issue of frivolous lawsuits:
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
IP Address: 67.122.211.65
Name: Bob
Email Address: bob@gmail.com
Comments:
“Apparently these are a huge problem.”
Duh. Are you for or against our legal system?
Frivolous lawsuits DO hurt the economy. Your article is two-faced and you sound like a greedy attorney. Go get a life you scumbag.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
OK. This is me again. I hereby issue an open invitation to “Bob” to contact me if he is seeking a real opportunity to discuss frivolous suits and tort reform. I am FOR our legal system, and I believe it has sufficient systemic controls to address meritless lawsuits. For example, the summary judgment procedure is designed to weed out meritless claims. After you get past that hurdle, then you have to convince six jurors who would rather be doing anything else.
Since I’m part of the system, I admit I am biased. But I do not believe my post can be described as two-faced, since I think it is clear about my beliefs and which side of the discussion I am on. Also, I think “greedy” is an unfair characterization, although I am committed to helping my clients seek the maximum compensation permitted under the law. My name and phone number are right on the website, and I stand behind my views.

So, “Bob”, if you want to step out from behind the cloak of anonymity the internet affords you, I invite you to email me and tell me why I’m wrong. I will be happy to address any points you raise.
P.S.: Perhaps I do need to “get a life”, but I’m not the guy responding to blog posts on tort reform at 11:53 p.m. on a Saturday night. I can only conclude that “Bob” lacks formal legal training in the “pot-kettle doctrine.”

Cross-Examining Defense Doctors on Financial Bias.

The best way to attack a defense medical witness’ testimony is to conduct an effective cross-examination. One of the ways we do this is by exposing the doctor’s financial interest in acting as a professional witness.

Maryland law allows discovery of how much a professional witness earns from testifying, as well as what percentage of his overall income is earned from working as a paid witness. At Miller & Zois, we don’t take the doctor’s word for it. Our practice is to issue a subpoena for the financial records that document the amounts the DME (Defense Medical Exam) doctor is paid by insurance companies and defense attorneys.

The doctors do not like this very much. Usually the response we receive is a Motion for Protective order from the doctor’s attorney asking that the records not be produced. If the court orders that the financial records be produced, usually that is the last you see of the DME doctor. Doctors will generally refuse to testify before producing these records.

I had a hearing on one of these motions filed by an DME doctor last week in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. The doctor lost. He was ordered to produce the 1099 and other tax forms showing how much he has been paid in the last two years by insurance companies and defense attorneys. I am waiting to see if he appeals or just bails from the case. Every time this particular doctor has been ordered to produce these records, he has either appealed or withdrawn.

The doctors and the defense bar think we do this because we know that if the records are ordered to be produced the doctor will refuse to testify. Obviously that makes my job as plaintiff’s counsel easier. The truth of the matter is that we subpoena these records because it is the only way to ensure a good cross-examination. Otherwise the witness can make up any number that he thinks won’t make him look bad, or claim not to know the answers at all, because some mysterious “bookkeeper” has that information. I don’t think it’s my fault that these doctors will refuse to testify before they admit the extent to which their opinions are bought and paid for by the insurance industry and the defense bar.