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The Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School shared a strongly worded letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking out against H.R. 1215. The letter, written on behalf of 80 major public interest organizations, highlights the damages that could result from passing H.R. 1215, the so-called Protecting Access to Care Act. Among the most notable passages is this:

“Even if H.R. 1215 applied only to doctors and hospitals, recent studies clearly establish that its provisions would lead to more deaths and injuries, and increased health care costs due to a “broad relaxation of care.” Add to this nursing home and pharmaceutical industry liability limitations, significantly weakening incentives for these industries to act safely, and untold numbers of additional death, injuries and costs are inevitable, and unacceptable.

The latest statistics show that medical errors, most of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in America. This intolerable situation is perhaps all the more shocking because we already know about how to fix much of this problem. Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from accountability, harming patients and saddling taxpayers with the cost, as H.R. 1215 would do.”

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After a couple of false starts, H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act is going to the House floor this week.  This massive medical malpractice bill also applies to nursing home and drug and device cases.  The bill caps non-economic damages at $250,000, eliminates joint liability for economic and non-economic loss, caps attorney fees, has a restrictive statute of limitations and says that a doctor and a pharmaceutical company cannot be named in the same lawsuit.

This means, among many other things, that finding an attorney to handle an injury case will be more challenging and that financial compensation for injuries that are hard to quantify (such as pain and suffering) cannot surpass $250,000. 

The bill will not get better during floor debate.  The only amendments that will be allowed are amendments that make the bill worse for patients.  The debate on this bill will begin on Tuesday with vote on final passage scheduled for Wednesday. 

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Last year, Johnson & Johnson made constant headlines over their talc powder, sold for over 100 years and used by millions of women to keep undergarments and their body fresh and dry. When it was revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew that their product caused cancer and engaged in a decades-long cover up, many women suffering from ovarian cancer decided to sue the company, resulting in several large verdicts.

While the Johnson and Johnson crisis has blown the lid off the lengths manufacturers will go to sell a product (even with evidence indicating danger), they are hardly the first company to engage in such deceptive practices. The American Association of Justice (AAJ) recently released a report entitled “From Accutane to Zonite: A History of Dangerous Drugs and Devices Marketed to Women,” a thorough look into the ways women have been deceived by large corporations, paying big companies with their health and even their lives. The report comes at a time when the House is peddling the Protecting Access to Care Act (also known as H.R. 1215), a bill that would give significant legal protection to companies that are sued by those injured by faulty medical devices, dangerous drugs, negligent medical care, and abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

140 Years of Deceit & Claims of Curing ‘Women’s Problems’

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The FDA just issued strongly-worded letters to 14 U.S. companies that have been marketing and selling products that claim to prevent and/or treat cancer. The 14 companies sell 65 different cancer-related products that are available for purchase on various websites, including through social media.

According to the FDA news release, the companies that received the warning letters made products such as ‘pills, topical creams, ointments, oils, drops, syrups, teas and diagnostics (such as thermography devices).’

The letters request that each company notify the FDA of their plans to cease production and sale of the products or to seek product approval from the FDA. Failure to react appropriately will be met with legal consequences.

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A study conducted in Italy found several mesothelioma patients had only been exposed to asbestos during the manufacturing of dental prostheses, leading researchers to conclude that dental technicians are at an increased risk of mesothelioma.  The study included 5,000 diagnosed mesothelioma patients and took place over 14 years (from 2000-2014). The only exposure 4 of the study participants had to asbestos was as employees in a dental lab, tasked with crafting dental prostheses. In the 1960 & 1970s, asbestos was used to line dental casting rings, a container that held a dental mold for a restoration (also know as a dental prosthesis). During this process, the dental mold is heated, transferring heat to the liner, which leeched asbestos particles into the air. Breathing in of asbestos, a known carcinogen, is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer that typically does not show symptoms until 20 or more years after exposure to the carcinogen.

Asbestos & Mesothelioma in the News

Asbestos-related class action lawsuits have been making headlines recently, as the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would draw out asbestos claims and severely limit a victim’s ability to not only recover damages, but to join the class action in the first place. The bill, H.R. 985 or the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017 (more commonly known as FACT), aims to create very narrow classes that require all plaintiffs to have the exact same injury. Injuries from exposure to asbestos can range from malignant mesothelioma and lung cancers to other lung-related disorders. The odds of each person who has been impacted from asbestos exposure to have the same symptoms and diagnoses are rare, proving that the goal of this provision is to eliminate victims and prevent them from seeking action against corporations who manufactured or used asbestos materials. The bill also seeks to limit the ability of plaintiffs to receive compensation from multiple companies or asbestos trusts. It would require full disclosure of the funds each plaintiff has received and this information would be available on court dockets, a move which Joanne Doroshow, plaintiff’s attorney and executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School, argues “would force a lot of very private information about asbestos victims and family on to the public court docket, which is basically a public website.”

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We’d like to share insightful information from an April newsletter from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) regarding 5 major reasons to oppose the Protecting Access to Care Act, better known as H.R. 1215. The bill, due to be voted on at any moment by the House, has a sweet-sounding name that overrides the detrimental aftermath that will result if the policy becomes law.

ITLA’s newsletter contains information shared by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and perfectly sums up why we as Americans should oppose the passage of a bill that will take away our civil rights.

Below are the top 5 reasons to oppose The Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215):

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are on a crusade to make private health care accreditation data available to the public, believing that many major issues related to patient safety are being overlooked. CMS has taken on similar endeavors in the past and were successful – they were responsible for now public nursing home inspection reports.

Currently 9 out of 10 hospitals in the United States are surveyed by private accreditors and not the government, meaning most institutions receiving tax dollars are able to avoid making details of these reports public record. Transparency in health care has become a hot topic as reports in recent months have outed preventable medical errors as the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Accreditation Doesn’t Necessarily Indicate Quality

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After surviving a stroke, Bill Owens completed inpatient rehabilitation and was released with instructions to begin physical therapy at his home. After determining that in-home therapy would not be effective enough for Mr. Owens, he was referred to Carl Erskine Rehabilitation Center in Anderson, Indiana. The rehab facility is owned and operated by St. Vincent Regional Hospital.

Mr. Owens, a documented fall risk, relied on a walker and notified his physical therapist that he had recently fallen twice. The therapist noted that Mr. Owens seemed weaker and shakier as a result of his falls. The next day, Mr. Owens was asked to walk unassisted from the waiting room to the therapy room at rehab. While attempting to walk, Mr. Owens fell and hit his head, striking the ground with such force that he suffered a subdural hematoma, a form of traumatic brain injury that is life threatening if not immediately and appropriately treated.

A Life Forever Changed

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The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, was given the chance to ban chlorpyrifos use on America’s food crops and chose to turn a blind eye to the proven harmful effects insecticides can have on our food sources and ultimately our children.

What is Chlorpyrifos?

The insecticide is a chemical from the same family as sarin gas (yes, the same gas used to kill and injure hundreds recently in Syria) and has been proven by the EPA itself to cause brain and central nervous system damage in infants and children.  In even small doses, chlorpyrifos can cause lowered IQs and problems with language, emotion, memory and behavior.  The chemical is so potent that personal protective equipment similar to that worn by healthcare workers during the Ebola epidemic must be worn when handling it and administering it on crops. It is also mandated by the EPA that an area sprayed with chlorpyrifos be evacuated for at least 24 hours after treatment. In light of studies showing that chlorpyrifos caused direct harm to developing brains & nervous systems, the EPA banned its use in products used for residential purposes in 2001.

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Earlier this week on our blog, we shared facts from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) regarding the recent growth boom of Illinois businesses. Governor Rauner would like Illinois residents to believe a lenient workers’ comp program has caused too many claims, resulting in higher insurance premiums paid by employers. Rauner has repeatedly stated that these high premiums are scaring businesses out of Illinois and taking jobs with them. ITLA, citing multiple reputable sources, proved that workers’ comp claims are the lowest they’ve been in years in Illinois and that while premiums are still high, the cause is obviously not because of claims. Instead, ITLA has proven that the cause of high workers’ comp premiums is insurance companies not passing savings onto Illinois businesses.

We would also like to share ITLA’s recent email regarding workers’ comp claims and insurance premiums in Illinois. Particularly striking is the fact that workers’ compensation insurance is the second most profitable line of insurance, proving that there are savings to be passed to businesses, but that insurance companies just aren’t willing to do so.

The following information was taken directly from an email newsletter ITLA shared with our attorneys yesterday. To see more facts and figures on Illinois’ Workers’ Comp program courtesy of ITLA, please click here.

  •  The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI – an insurance industry rate making agency which provides workers’ compensation data) has issued its workers’ compensation advisory rates for 2017. It states that Illinois employers should see a 12.9 percent cut in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums in 2017 – the third largest cut in the nation and totaling more than all of our neighboring states combined.
  •  Since the 2011 “reforms,” the NCCI has recommended a nearly 30 percent rate reduction for Illinois insurance premiums. This reduction should have resulted in a $2 billion savings in insurance premiums for Illinois employers.
  •  The workers’ compensation loss ratio – the difference between claims paid by an insurer to the premiums earned – in Illinois has drastically improved since 2011. The loss ratio decreased by 7.2 percent in 2015, drastically ahead of the national average. This drop brings Illinois’ loss ratio below the national average.
  •  Insurers in Illinois saw profits increase by 1.7 percent in 2015, ahead of the national average. Profits in the insurance workers’ compensation market in Illinois have significantly increased since 2010, up nearly 22 percent.
  •  In 2015, indemnity payments were down $39 million and medical payments were down about $30 million from 2014.
  •  Workers compensation medical payments for injured workers treatment have fallen nearly 15 percent since 2011. Illinois’ average payments are lower than Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.
  •  Between 2010 and 2014, worker benefits in Illinois fell over 20 percent, while employer costs only fell 4.4 percent. There is no evidence that further reductions to worker benefits will yield significant savings to employers.
  •  The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) reports workers’ compensation remains the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance.
  •  There are 332 insurance companies competing for and writing workers compensation insurance in our state, more than any other state in the nation.

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