Obama Death Panels –We don’t need them in Texas!! (Because we already have them!)

There has been a lot of talk and fear about the so called Death Panels which can decide whether a person should be denied life sustaining care even over the objection of the family.  It has been vilified as typical of “Obama care”.  Texas is leading the country as we have had these “death panels” for over a decade thanks to Tort Reform.  I thought it was a bad idea in 1999 and still think it is a bad idea.  Essentially it allows the physician or medical facility to determine that life sustaining care is inappropriate.  This decision can be over the objection and wishes of the family.

“The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision…”

“The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility.”

So imagine that your family member is in a car crash and lapses into a coma and the medical facility decides that there is no benefit to life sustaining treatment (the irony of “life-sustaining” care being of no benefit seems lost on them).  The committee (?) determines to end all life-sustaining care and gives you notice.  Now you have 10 days to find another facility to agree to accept your family member and if you can find one (after the current one has already decided it is futile {I am sure the economics of care have nothing to do with the decision}) you get to pay for any cost incurred in transferring your loved one. If you don’t agree, you have the option to file a lawsuit to stop them.  Do you really think that will be what you are thinking about as your loved one is essentially starving to death as they cut off life support.

The people who supported the law and are now fighting against health care will say, well that is different or just because it is the law doesn’t mean it will happen.  Harris County Texas — a patient identified only as “Willie” died after the hospital cut off all nourishment after giving the proper notice.  Probably the family didn’t care – wrong they tried to get him transferred but couldn’t find a hospital willing to take him.  Well he must not have had insurance –  1st should it matter, but he actually had plenty of coverage, but the let him die.  Texas Right to Life spokesperson Elizabeth Graham stated “Willie” was dehydrated and starved to death against the family’s desire (Thanks to Jeffrey Kreisberg).  So when you think it will not happen, it already has to someone with a family who wanted to keep him alive and had insurance. As far as I know, no such action has taken place in Fort Bend County, Texas – yet.

In the last election for governor of Texas, Perry was asked about this and he claimed he wasn’t aware of the law and would make it priority to get it overturned.

If you are concerned about “death panels” you should be because if you are in Texas it is not a possibility it is a reality and not because of the liberal democrats, but because of the Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) group.  So be mad and take action against those who supported, sponsored and passed the bill.  Ask your representative if they are supporter of Texans for Lawsuit Reform and, if so, why they are in favor of these “death panels”.  I wonder if they will claim they didn’t know what they were supporting??

Finally, if you support (or know someone who supports) TLR I posted this question on Facebook – “What do you believe needs Reforming?”  I really would like some answers to that question.

Website, I Could Have Been a NFL Superstar, Hot Coffee, Big Oil and Facebook

I haven’t blogged lately due to depositions, travel and general life, but had several issues which have been bumping around so lots to talk and comment about:

We are working on updating our website (I know — who knew that you have to update them more than once every 15 years and apparently spiders are good things). If you have any suggestions on must haves on a website let me know.

As I was driving my daughter to the airport at 5:00am drinking my coffee and listening to the sports radio about how Mario signed a deal for $100 million with $50 million guaranteed and Peyton was rumored to be signing a $95 million dollar deal I explained to my daughter that could have been me had I only been taller, stronger, faster, etc., etc.   I was just as good a player as them if you factor in those few minor differences.    Just like lawsuits.   I know that most of you have experienced the “I have a friend who had a case just like this one and they settled it for (fill in the blank – but it is a lot).”  Those darn minor differences kind of determine the true value of a case.   A back sprain is not the same as being paralyzed and a 6’0” slow linebacker is not the same as a monster defensive end or all everything quarterback, BUT it does lead to another issue… which is why is it that people seem to have no issue with an athlete or actor getting paid millions of dollars for the job they do but those same people believe that compensating a family for the injury suffered because of someone else carelessness is somehow wrong.  How much is the value of a mother, father, sister, and brother worth compared to how Mario or Peyton will do on Sunday?  I am all for them being paid the value of their worth, but also would like to see the same value be paid to the family who has suffered injury or death because of someone else.

Anyway, back to my driving along drinking my coffee.  I love coffee and I have some great friends who brought me some Columbian coffee which is amazing and may explain why my blogs are kind of a stream of consciousness event.  Anyway, Jessica mentioned how hot the coffee was which brings me to the topic of Hot Coffee and McDonalds.  You can see my prior blogs for a more in depth discussion, but for today I just want to remind you to check out the movie Hot Coffee (website link is http://hotcoffeethemovie.com/Default.asp).  You can also get it on Netflix.  Check it out and let me know what you think and if it changed your opinion on the case.

Big Oil – they are the problem with America – no wait that is trial lawyers.  Why should they get to take our top billing?  When I was last in Midland my nephew Todd asked if I had seen the movie spOILed.   When I told him no, he went (actually he asked Laura to go) and brought me two copies of the movie, one to watch and one to share.  Being the skilled negotiator I said sure, if you will watch Hot Coffee.  Todd, I expect you to comment about what you thought about Hot Coffee.  So we put the spOILed in and watched it at my brothers.  Understand that I am in oil country here and I guess because I am a plaintiffs trial lawyer I must be liberal and hate oil companies (I really don’t fit any of assumptions of what I must think or be – so that make me like – most everyone).  Anyway back to the movie.  It is great and I highly recommend it to everyone.  If you believe Big Oil is evil or if you believe Big Oil is great (don’t you love how it always Big Oil – see the movie for more information on that as well) see the movie.  One thing that struck me is the actual profit margin for oil companies. I would tell you, but why ruin the movie.  The other thing that struck me is how you could replace the term oil company with trial lawyer and most of the things said are familiar to those of us representing plaintiffs who have been injured or killed.  Regardless of your opinion of oil companies, check out the movie and let me know what you think.  Same with Hot Coffee, watch it, drink it and let me know about it.

Facebook- I have written about this before in the context of claims and litigation, but in the news today it was pointed out how some companies now request/require job applicants to allow them access to their Facebook page before they are hired and in many cases during the interview they are asked to log on so they can check it out.  What do you think?  If you are an attorney should you have a prospective client give you access to their Facebook and other social media pages before you decide to represent them?  What about twitter accounts, etc. etc.?  Is it acceptable or not?  Why?  If you think no problem, I don’t have anything bad on my account (or I deleted it before the interview), what about your friends account which might now be accessed as you have permission to see them (and now whoever is logged on as you can see your friends pages).  What about that picture of you that you deleted or never saw, but your friend has it on their page?  Facebook is it really your friend or just a twit?

What do you think about these issues?  (other than man you need to cut back on the coffee)

PETA — Are you serious???

What to blog about?  The requirement of the government to require companies to pay for insurance which is in direct conflict with their religious and moral beliefs, and how it conflicts with the separation of church and state?  Planned Parenthood v. Susan G. Komen and change of their policy relating to funding of PP due to a social media backlash.  Is that good or bad and doesn’t it really depend upon your perspective?  Nope.  Done that.  Today I will address an issue which should be on the forefront of everyone in America.  The slavery of killer whales.  Yes.  PETA has filed a lawsuit in California (is anyone surprised) claiming that SeaWorld is violating the 13th Amendment of the Constitution by having Killer Whales in their show.  For those of you that have forgotten the 13th Amendment abolished slavery stating:  “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  Ok so PETA wants it to apply to animals.  I guess that preamble of: “We the people…” kind of slipped by them.  So let’s follow this out.  First if you are a PETA supporter aren’t you a little upset that some of your money is being used to fund this suit and what happens if PETA were to win?  Wouldn’t you have to set free all your pets as they are being kept against their wishes?  Wouldn’t the next step be that every animal would have to be set free and every animal killed would result in a murder charge?  I am really at a loss to understand the logic here and why the Court did not dismiss it rather than take the arguments under advisement.  All that did is give PETA (People Eliciting Tortious Acts) as opposed to PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) some crazy idea that this has merit.  So we now have a situation where a group is claiming that the killer whales are slaves and have rights and there is no social media outcry?  Where are all the Planned Parenthood people?  Why hasn’t PETA provided funding for PP and not wasted it on crazy cases like this?  Is it because the mission statement of PETA and PP are not similar?  That can’t be it because PP and Susan G. Komen mission statements are not similar.  So where is the social media outcry? Where are the people claiming frivolous lawsuits?  Where the heck did my country go?  By the way My Party (see earlier post) is firmly against this misuse of the judicial system. What do you think?

MY Party

It’s my party and I’ll blog if I want to.  Since I can’t seem to find a party I like, I decided to create my own.  I actually had some other names for the party, but the cool ones were already taken, so I decided it is My Party.  If you wish to join – you’re in and the name works because it will be your party (wait??- no ok, when it is your party and you tell people about it  — you will tell them it is My Party so we are still good!!)  Acknowledge your affiliation with My Party by forwarding it to others letting them know about My Party.   At some point we may need to have a convention, which will probably consist of a grill and keg and selection of candidates.

My Party Platform

Flat tax everyone pays same.  The dollar you earn is the same why not the tax. If you want to pay more great the tax form will have a line for additional contribution.

Pro-life if you don’t want a baby there is a way to avoid it.

Congress —  If you pass a law then own it.  If you really believe Obamacare is what’s best for the country then it should apply to you.

Obamacare should not require anyone to pay for contraceptives or abortion if they oppose it morally or religious.

Congress — Once you leave congress your salary ends. You’re not working for the country so you shouldn’t be getting paid.

If your title or job description has the title czar in it – it’s over.  USA does not equal USSR.  We elect not create positions by fiat.

Every agency should have a justification of its job and need.

Tort reform we have it – they are called juries.  They hear the evidence and are in the best position to determine what is just –As in justice. An artificial cap on damages only impacts cases which have been shown to be requiring a verdict to correct harm.

No cap on salary if you can earn it through hard work power to you, but don’t be a hypocrite and support tort reform. Either you are for a free market or you aren’t

There is no “the problem was Bush, Obama, etc., etc.”  The problem is America’s.  Stop whining about what happened and start changing what is happening and what is going to happen.  There is plenty of blame to go around so let’s move forward and do what has to be done.

Brent Carpenter – It’s My Party

Tort Reform — Texas Style

Wal-Mart announces reduction in medical coverage due to continuing rise of cost of coverage. Premiums continue to climb while benefits drop. Auto, Home and Business insurance premiums continue to rise. It must be those lawsuits right? What about those trial lawyers they must be the cause. All those frivolous lawsuits keep driving up the cost for everyone. Great tag lines but as the old commercial says “Where’s the Beef?” The insurance industry has done a great job of advertising and obfuscating. They have convinced people that if only tort reform was passed then everyone’s insurance rates would drop. Texas has had tort reform for almost a decade. Have any of your rates dropped? I didn’t think so. Every year it is the same story, well the reforms didn’t go far enough.
Over the next few weeks I will go through some of the different legislative and judicial edicts that form our current Texas law and much ballyhooed Tort Reform. Why don’t we start with the newest fair haired tort reform -known affectionately as loser pays (if you are the one who is injured that is) which allows the Courts to dismiss frivolous cases. That is a great idea. That is probably why we have had that procedure in place for pretty much since the inception of laws in Texas.
The Courts have always had the power to dismiss a frivolous case upon request by either party. So why the need for the new law and why is it that the loser only pays if it is the person bringing the case and not the person who caused the injury. Could it be that the insurance companies defending the person causing wrecks and injuries are trying to intimidate people into not making valid claims? What a strange idea. So here we are with a whole new set of laws designed to reduce the ability to recover for injuries caused by others actions.
Even if it is an unintended (:>)) result at least the overall benefit is for the good of us all — right. Let’s look at that starting with loser pays. Sounds great, but who is the loser who is going to pay? Suppose that a driver, Rich causes a wreck and Joan is injured. Joan is taken to hospital and gets treated. She doesn’t have health insurance so who is going to pay the hospital bills? Well if she doesn’t have health insurance she probably has Medicare or Medicaid maybe — maybe not. If she does then one of those entities pays and has a right to recover all their money. So why if there is a chance of having to pay the person who caused the wrecks attorney fees and expenses would you take the risk? I mean everyone knows juries are crazy right. That is what we always hear as a reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to determine damages in an injury case which could impact a person’s life (but they are great for deciding life in death in a criminal case – but I digress), so why would an attorney agree to represent Joan if he or she has to spend months fighting with Medicare/Medicaid just to get an answer as to how much is owed, invest significant time and money out of his/her own pocket to try and recover the damages for her. It may be that the determination is that it is not worth it so no lawyer, no lawsuit.

Great tort reform works. Oh Wait.

What about the hospital bills that Medicare/Medicaid paid on behalf of Joan. Well you and I paid those bills, after all isn’t Medicare/Medicaid essentially a tax funded insurance plan. But wait there’s more (I love infomercials) and since the hospital didn’t get the full value of their services they raise their charges to offset the loss which causes the cost to go up for everyone else. So now you and I are paying for the injuries caused by Rich. So when we hear loser pays we need to just admit that you and I are paying and Rich gets a free ride for his actions. Next time we will discuss the Court Decision I affectionately call Brainless.

The opinions in this blog, as always, are mine and not necessarily those of the firm.

TWIA gets rewarded for mishandling claims and overall mismanagement.

Our Texas governor determined that an emergency session was necessary to get legislation passed which limits the amount of damages TWIA will have to pay. The main arguments they made to take away Texas citizens’ rights were:

first — the insurance company needed to be able quantify how much they would owe and they couldn’t do that under the current laws second – to keep premiums affordable.

The problem is the first issue (while true) is not a legitimate reason to take people’s right to recover their damages. If TWIA would have done the job they were supposed to do they would have been able to quantify how much they would have owed for claims. The problem is they denied legitimate claims which resulted in their policy holders having to file suit to recover the damages they were legally entitled to recover. That included recovering the damages for attorney fees and damages to punish them for their misdeeds. Those damages and fees were required by law when the company violated their duty to their policy holders.

So what do our current elected officials do to correct this violation of public trust and dishonesty by the TWIA? They protect them from legitimate claims by limiting their exposure, in effect they told them — we know you lied, cheated and stole from your policy holders, but we want to make sure that you are protected from having to pay for the mess you caused.

The only time people hire a lawyer is to help them with an insurance claim is when the company isn’t doing what they should. So your insurance company is not taking care of your claim (the claim your premiums have been paid to handle) you have to hire an attorney, you prove your case, and recover damages.

Now because of this “emergency” legislation, the damages the jury determined to be fair might be reduced. The only cases it will impact are the legitimate cases – it like all the other “tort reform” legislation has absolutely no impact on the so called frivolous cases.

The second claimed reason to keep premiums affordable is laughable.

The governor signed his “emergency” legislation and less than 24 hours the TWIA raised premiums 5% for its policy holder which is the maximum allowed. So the TWIA now has been able to limit their exposure for their own misdeeds, which increases their profits and at the same time have raised the premiums their policy holders have to pay increasing the profits even more.

Hopefully all those who determined this was an emergency have been properly rewarded for their work for TWIA.

It is unfortunate that the individual policy holders who have been and will be impacted by this legislation did not have a lobbyist, but they do have a vote and hopefully will remember how you treated their concerns and rights.