trials and tribulations
Saturday, December 06, 2003
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And now from the Celebrity Justice files...

Barbara Streisand recently took it on the chin in Los Angeles. Seems that a California environmental group had the audacity to take a photograph of Streisand's cliffside Malibu estate and then posted the picture on their website. Streisand had sued, claiming the photo violated her privacy. Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman however, thought otherwise. He decided that the under the First Amendment the group had to right to post the picture on their website. In making his ruling the judge found that doing so would not have been offensive to a reasonable person. In addition, the judge awarded legal fees to the defendant. So to add insult to injury, Barbara is going to have to get out her checkbook and write a check to the other side for the attorney fees. The photo can be seen at

And Dennis Rodman is in the news again....kind of. You may remember back in January of 1997 when Rodman kicked cameraman Eugene Amos Jr. during a Bulls game against Minnesota. After the kick, Amos promptly was rolling on the ground ostensibly in pain. Days later, Rodman and Amos came to an agreement whereby Rodman would pay Amos $200,000 to avoid being sued. Amos didn't declare that amount on his taxes, claiming the money was for a recovery for physical injuries, which are typically not taxable. The IRS audited Amos however and took the position that the entire amount should be taxable. The U.S. Tax Court ruled last week that $120,000 of the amount was indeed for personal injury, but $80,000 was paid by Rodman to avoid a lawsuit. Amos then owes taxes on the $80,000. They say that any publicity is good publicity so Rodman has to be thrilled in name in back in print. And reports persist that the 42 year old former Bull is very interested in making a NBA comeback. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday however, that little interest has been shown by the NBA. Might have something to do with Rodman's professed desire to play his last game naked.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
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There is a very interesting article in the December issue of Fortune Magazine concerning the lawsuits some 250 IBM workers have filed against IBM for allegedly being poisoned while making computer chips and other components. The author is Nicholas Varchaver. One case just began in Santa Clara, California and is expected to go on for months. The 2 plaintiffs are claiming that they were unknowingly poisoned by exposure to toxic chemicals while toiling away in the company's semiconductor and disk-manufacturing plants. They are claiming the exposure caused them to develop cancer. The article notes that although IBM claims to have state of the art worker protections in place, IBM internal reports have acknowledged that adequate toxicologic assessment of chemicals used in the development of computers usually takes place after their introduction into the workplace, not before. In addition, Dr. Bruce Fowler, a University of Maryland Professor and advisor to the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances estimated that of the 100,000 chemicals used commercially in the United States, maybe 1000 have been adequately studied. The article also points out that commercial use of the chemicals often calls for mixing them - - and science simply doesn't know the long term effects of those mixtures. Definitely worth a read.

Also an addendum to the post of 11/24 where I discussed the office manager who had been fired by her bosses after having a couple of seizures. She wanted me to sue her employer for a variety of reasons. Don't think I will take the case. My best bet is the ADA and I don't think she has been formally diagnosed with a disease. In addition, there were some other facts about the case that would have been problematic. You would like to be able to help everybody who comes to see you. But sometimes you just can't.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
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Here is a rare, but not unheard of occcurrence. A friend had referred a client who had suffered serious mold damage in her home. The client was very anxious to jump into litigation and get her complaint on file. Despite my better judgment I travelled quite a distance to meet her on the first occasion, when we were to meet in a local restuarant. Turns out the restuarant was closed, so our initial meeting was conducted in my car. She gave me lots of info in a rather hurried manner and then had to leave to get a ride home. I couldn't make heads or tails of the information provided, so we had to arrange another meeting, again at some distance from the office. She was about 30 minutes late. Again very anxious to get moving and sue the defendants. I advised her that I needed a signed contract, and she agreed to sign in post-haste, really anxious to get things moving. Adamant about having suit on file by November 1. She has now had the contract for several weeks and has yet to sign it. I have it on pretty good authority that she is shopping the case to other lawyers. Even after nearly 20 years of practice sometimes you still have to audition for the case -- sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't.

Just a quick comment on a recent criminal court verdict here in Chicago. The defendant was being tried for the murder of a woman with whom he had been carrying on an affair. The State put on evidence that he and the deceased had gotten into an argument after the woman learned he was married. Apparently things got heated and unfortunately, the woman ended up dead. There was some pretty grisly evidence about how he had disposed of the body.
The defendant testified[in retrospect, probably a bad idea]. Apparently a pretty cocky guy who even refused to acknowledge he was "dating" the deceased. He was pointedly asked on cross-examination, well then, if you weren't dating her, what would you call it when a man repeatedly takes a woman out for drinks/dinner and ends up sleeping with her. His reply? "I would call it getting lucky". Now that is one STUPID response. This guy is on trial for murder, and on cross-examination he apparently decides he should gloat about what a stud he is. I'm sure he will find a number of opportunities for love in prison.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
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Just a quick note about a medical malpractice case scheduled for trial on January 20, 2004. My client was a retired carpenter in his early 60's who had some lung problems that slowed him down some, but overall he was doing okay. In February of 1999 he is seen by his family doc for complaints of pain in his legs. The doc orders a CT scan of the pelvis which reveals aneurysms of his abdominal aorta[bulging throughout the aorta]. There aorta itself is aneurysmal and there is a large aneurysm further down the aorta. The medical literature suggests that once an aneuryms gets over 5 cm in size, it should be followed closely - like every six months a follow up CT scan to detect any growth. The aneurysm further down was nearly 6 cm. If an aneurysm ruptures in a non-hospital setting, the mortality rate is approximately 90%. In other words, you die. This is a potentially lethal condition that merits close regular observation.
Well, rather inexplicably, my client is never told about the problems. The doctor admits in his depo that he just never told him. Why? Well, because my client was pretty sick[read "I thought he was gonna die soon anyway, so why bother?"]. There is absolutely no follow up on the aneurysms. And approximately 18 months later, the large aneurysm ruptures and my client, after a valiant struggle and emergency surgery, dies.

The surgeon who did the emergency surgery testified that the patient should have been advised and further, that if an elective procedure was undertaken, the patient likely would have survived.

Haven't taken the defense expert's depo yet, but I suspect his testimony will go something like this: Your client was old. He was sick. And an elective procedure would have killed him. So we actually did your client a favor by never advising him of this condition and just letting it rupture and kill him.

Despite repeated assurances that the case could be settled, we are 60 days away from trial. I will keep you posted on developments.

And now for something completely unrelated...A Cook County judge ruled in favor of the Chicago Cubs today yesterday, allowing the Cubs to go on scalping their own fans. It appears that the Cubs had a hand in establishing a ticket brokering business. They would then dump VIP tickets etc. to the broker who would then sell them for more than face value. Ball Clubs aren't supposed to scalp their own tickets, but it appears the Cubs have been doing so and will continue to do so. Just another reason why I am a Sox fan.
Monday, November 24, 2003
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Saw a new client today and she presented an interesting scenario. She worked as a officer manager for a local medical practice group. Got along well with her bosses and was paid well. As sometimes happens, a better opportunity came along and she took it. She gave notice to her employer, who begs her to stay and promises more money. She ultimately rethinks her decision and decides to stay. And then things get interesting.

Just a week or so later, she is diagnosed with a serious medical condition that can be managed by medication. A week or so later she had to miss a day of work because of the condition. The next day she is fired, by the very people that had told her how great she was just weeks before. She has been struggling to find work and is now really up against it financially. I am looking into a wrongful discharge theory, based on her recently diagnosed condition. Unfortunately, in Illinois, employees without written contracts are typically considered "at will" employees - - i.e. they can be fired for any reason or no reason. This might be a tough - - I am doing some research and will post my findings in the future. Tomorrow I will discuss the latest developments in a medical malpractice case scheduled to go to trial on January 20, 2004.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
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Was hoping to be on trial in a couple of weeks on a case where my client was seriously injured after a collision with a semi on a local highway. My client just informed me the other day however, that she was going to be out of town the week of her trial and that she would be traveling to Mayo Clinic for additional treatment for her ankle fracture. I have to admit I was a bit flummoxed when I heard about the Mayo Clinic. Isn't that something you would want your attorney to know? Not exactly sure why a client would choose to keep that information to herself, but very little surprises me anymore. And maybe a trial won't be necessary. At an evidence depo of one of my client's doctors today, defense counsel was dropping hints that maybe we could settle the case.

The deposition of the doctor was interesting. These guys can be frustrating. This doc was her trauma surgeon when she was originally brought into the hospital. He did a laparotomy on her for repair of traumatic injuries to her liver and spleen. Had to incise her chest about six inches, clear out blood in the abdominal cavity and remove some blood clots that were forming. And he confirmed that there was damage both to the spleen and the liver. Sounds pretty serious, no? Not to hear these magnificent surgeons tell it. Too many of them think that after they repair things, the patient is good as new. Well, not so fast doctor. You see, lots of folks are well, unaccustomed to having you open their abdomens up. They don't bounce out of bed the next day and start planning their next marathon. In fact, most folks take a while to recover from something like that. In fact, every now and then, patients have been known to just plain feel crappy after undergoing abdominal surgery. After all, it isn't every day that one's chest is opened up. And some patients aren't thrilled with the scarring you leave on their chest. And then there are the medications and all the rest after the surgery. So here's a quick shout out to all you hot shot surgeons. Surgery, regardless of the specifics, is a big deal. People take awhile to bounce back. Patients aren't always good as new after you repair a spleen or set a bone. Sometimes those patients are sick or sore, or just plain hobbled for some time. And if you took a little more time with your patients you might notice that.

Thursday, November 06, 2003
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An rather non-traditional case I have is heating up and worth a comment. I represent a family who retained a local siding guy to come out and side their home last year. He comes out, rips all the siding off and apparently doesn't cover the home with the necessary Tyvek wrap. Not surprisingly, several major thunderstorms roll in and soon there is water pouring into the house. Not long after that, they got mold. Have to move out in 12/02. The carrier agrees that the mold needs to be removed, said process being pretty involved. For a number of reasons, there is one delay after another. Last week we are informed that the expert overseeing the mold remediation will no longer have anything to do with the project because he isn't being paid fast enough. So parts of the job simply aren't completed. The only problem? My clients have insurance which pays their living expenses for one year. That time is up in about a month. There house still isn't ready and now we don't have a hygenist to fix the damn thing. Winter is knocking at the door here in Chicago and I've got a family who isn't sure where they will be waking up on Christmas morning. I havd advised the carrier that we will get a new hygenist in there(on their dime) and get things done, but they haven't agreed. I will likely hear tomorrow if they are going to go along. If they don't I will probably name them as a defendant in the pending lawsuit for their failure to act in the best interests of their insured. I am actually hoping that the carrier take a hard line and says that they can't agree and they intend to cut living expenses off in a month. A Cook County jury wouldn't much like that kind of conduct from an insurance company(I hope).

I realized after reviewing the blog that I still owe a citation on the VESSA statutue and promise to get it posted soon.

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