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CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN

By Lauraann Wood
Law Bulletin staff writer

A state appeals panel has ruled that jury awards for medical bills in injury cases cannot be reduced to account for the amount of bills the health provider writes off.

The opinion issued earlier this month in the Springfield-based 4th District Appellate Court addresses a long-standing debate between the state’s plaintiff bar and defense bar — which each offered their stance through bar group amicus briefs — regarding how medical bills and subsequent jury awards should be calculated.

In the underlying case, a Coles County jury awarded plaintiff Harold Miller $133,347 for medical expenses in his July 2015 medical-malpractice trial. Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge Brien J. O’Brien reduced the award by $91,724 when the defendant hospital and doctor argued that such a number represented an amount of money neither Miller nor his health-care provider had a right to recover since it was written off in his medical bills.

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The Telly Awards have announced “Amy Clark’s Story” and “The Hill Family Story” as bronze winners in the online video documentary category, created by Hurley McKenna and Mertz, P.C. and Sprout Films. With over 13,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries, this is truly an honor.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_johnson.jpgA bedroom mirror reflects a young woman, hand on her arm, facing a worn teddy bear and plastic bottle of Johnson’s baby powder. The 1980s advertisement claims “It’s a feeling you never outgrow. The powder that kept you feeling soft as a baby keeps you feeling soft today. Johnson’s baby powder. It’s the softest powder there is.” Alleged “softness” aside, recent studies have shown genital use of powder is linked with 44 percent higher risk for ovarian cancer.

 

A number of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have brought the cancerous risks of talc (the main ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder) to the public’s attention. 49 year-old Deane Berg of Sioux Falls, S.D., an everyday user of the product for over 30 years, understood the talcum powder as the probable cause of her advanced ovarian cancer almost immediately.

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Posted on in Truck Accidents

Big rigs have the potential to take more than just your lane, as the trucking industry proposes changes to safety regulations that have the potential to harm fellow motorists. Big rigs crashes, also known as semi trucks, kill nearly 4,000 Americans and injury 85,000 every year. Despite the known danger these highway behemoths pose to their own and other drivers, few changes have been made to make the driving of these vehicles safer. Big rig fatalities have increased 17 percent since 2009, with big rig injuries also on the rapid rise.

 

There is no shortage of concern regarding the safety of these vehicles, yet the trucking industry continues to push for relaxed regulations. The trucking industry’s wish list seems oblivious to the risks that such large vehicles pose to motorists. They seek to raise the maximum weight from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds, lower the minimum age so drivers as young as 18 can take the wheel, eliminate a mandatory 2-night resting period for drivers working long weeks, and remove safety ratings of trucking firms from the public inspection. 

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Automakers increasingly tout the safety of their closely regulated and high-tech vehicles, often targeting families with younger, more vulnerable passengers. Advertisements show adoring parents buckling in small children, yet fail to acknowledge the fact that many backseat passengers face continual risk as a result of front seats too weak to avoid collapsing backwards, significantly harming the passenger directly behind them.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims the car’s safest place for children is in the backseat but frequently, this is not the case. Dangerously low seat standards, which have not been substantially updated since 1967,do not adequately protect automobile passengers.

Fixing seats to meet higher safety standards “would cost on the order of a dollar or so,” for automakers to accomplish per vehicle, claims one auto company engineer. 

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Attorney Chris Hurley, ITLAOn Friday, June 10, 2016, Christopher T. Hurley will be sworn in as the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Chris is the founding partner of the Chicago firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., one of the top personal injury law firms in Illinois.  

As the 63rd president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA), Chris will lead an organization of the top trial lawyers in Illinois in its mission of upholding the Constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Illinois, defending trial by jury and protecting the rights of injured consumers and workers.

Chris received his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1981 and his law degree from Loyola University of Chicago in 1984.  He began his legal career at Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, one of the world’s largest law firms.  In 1992 Hurley founded his own firm, initially known at Christopher T. Hurley & Associates, because of his desire to use the trial skills and experience he obtained working with the most respected trial lawyers throughout the country to help wrongfully injured individuals and their families.    

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medical malpractice, Chicago Illinois personal injury attorneyAccording to recent statistics from Patient Safety America, as many as 440,000 people die from preventable medical mistakes each year. If Stanford University researchers are correct, those deaths were likely caused by just a very small fraction of doctors (about one percent). Even more concerning is that many of those doctors – doctors who have removed wrong body parts, worked while intoxicated, overprescribed medication, and so much more – are allowed to continue practicing medicine, despite their negligent or even willful and wanton actions.

The Hidden Truth

Each state has its own respective licensing board. Comprised mostly of other doctors, these self-governed boards are responsible for the licensing and reprimand of physicians who have made grave mistakes or acted negligently. The problem is that, instead of protecting patients, they seem to protect their own. In fact, only a small percentage of complaints ever lead to a sanction for offending doctors; even if it does, the information does not become a part of public record. And, because many are allowed to continue practicing during that time and have no obligation to tell their patients about any investigations or disciplinary actions against them, the public continues to be placed at risk.

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medical mistakes, doctor malpractice, Chicago personal injury lawyerWhen, in any given city, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of doctors to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one to trust. Most people turn to family or friends for help. Others peruse online reviews and forums. Unfortunately, both methods can put unsuspecting people at risk for serious illness and medical malpractice injury. A recent study provides valuable information how to choose the right doctor and why it matters so much.

Dangerous Doctors and the Damage They Do

Unbeknownst to the general public, there are doctors who are allowed to continue practicing, despite major and sometimes deadly mistakes. Intoxication on the job, removing the wrong body parts during surgery, and physical or sexual abuse are just some of their infractions. Some may be reprimanded through probation or a temporary suspension of their medical license, but after their disciplinary period, many are permitted to return to regular practice. Their patients – who are unable to look up this information because of “privacy rights” – are none the wiser.

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By Kate Thayer, Contact Reporter, Chicago Tribune

A group representing firefighters and municipalities hopes to revive a law that protects first responders from getting sued by people they try to help. The so-called "public duty rule" dates to the 1800s and provides firefighters and paramedics broad immunity from lawsuits stemming from their on-the-job actions. But earlier this year, a divided Illinois Supreme Court struck down the public duty rule when it took up a case involving the 2008 death of a Will County woman who had called 911 while home alone after going into cardiac arrest and later died.

According to a lawsuit her family filed against the East Joliet Fire Protection District, paramedics arrived at the home of the 58-year-old woman, but when she didn't come to the door they decided not to force their way in because police were not present. The responders eventually returned and entered the home after the woman's husband came home, but by then 41 minutes had gone by since the initial 911 call. The lawsuit alleged that the delay in providing emergency care to the woman contributed to her death.

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medical negligence, illinois personal injury attorneyState medical boards may be responsible for overseeing the licensing and practice of physicians, but their responsibility, first and foremost, is to the public. Yet, when looking at the large number of doctors who have committed serious acts of abuse or medical negligence and still practicing medicine, it would seem that maybe the licensing boards have forgotten their role.

Doctors Behaving Badly

While studies have shown that only about one percent of all doctors are responsible for the majority of medical mistakes, that small portion has the potential to cause great harm. Their acts – sometimes sheer negligence or incompetence and others outright abuse (even to the point of criminal) – go undisclosed to the public and, in some cases, undisciplined.  Many are permitted to continue practicing, and their patients are usually none the wiser.

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Posted on in In the News

b2ap3_thumbnail_marques-gaines.pngHurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. represents the family of popular Chicago bartender Marques Gaines in their lawsuit against the convenience store chain 7-ELEVEN for Gaines’ violent death on February 7, 2016, on a Chicago street outside of the national chain’s State and Hubbard Street location. Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. filed the lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging that the 7-ELEVEN store’s owners, operators and employees had a duty to protect Marcus Gaines while he was an innocent customer of the store. The lawsuit charges that 7-ELEVEN did not properly train personnel and did not provide adequate security during the store’s late-night hours of operation, when the store knew that high rates of criminal activity occurred in and around the store.

The complaint filed by Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. also charges two cab companies, Chicago Taxi and Globe Taxi, along with driver Mehdi Seyftolooi, with negligence in the wrongful death of Gaines.

In nationally televised interviews regarding this tragic death of Marques Gaines, trial attorney Christopher T. Hurley has stated, “There is no doubt about what happened on the morning that Marques Gaines was killed. The video record, culled from 7-ELEVEN’s own security cameras and City of Chicago surveillance tapes, shows the entire incident, from onset to escalation to horrific aftermath.”

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Attorney Chris Hurley, Marques Gaines Press Conference, Chicago Personal Injury LawyerMore than 46,000 violent crimes were committed in the state of Illinois in the year 2014. These crimes – which include rape, murder, aggravated assault, and robbery – can occur anywhere, but they frequently occur outside of business establishments. In some cases, the owners of those businesses may be held liable under premises liability laws.

This is most evident in a recent lawsuit filed by Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. against 7-ELEVEN regarding the wrongful death of popular Chicago bartender Marques Gaines. The lawsuit alleges that the convenience store chain did not properly train personnel or provide adequate security during the store’s late-night hours operation. If you have been victimized and were going to or from an establishment, understand the rights and protections afforded to you by law.

Obligation to Provide a Reasonably Safe Environment

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insurance companies denying claims, Chicago personal injury lawyerInsurance companies spend billions of advertising dollars on television ads, radio commercials, and print advertising to convince you that they are trustworthy, that they will be there when you need them. Unfortunately, their marketing tactics are nothing short of deceptive; rather than honor your injury or wrongful death claim, they will do anything and everything they can to wear you down and get you to settle for less than fair compensation. If they can, they will blame you and completely deny your claim.

But their actions go well beyond the dodgy practices of denying claims and getting victims to settle for less; these same insurance companies are also one of the key players behind movements known as “tort reform” – laws and legislation that violate the 7th amendment rights of citizens by restricting their right to a jury trial for their injuries or losses.

Who Really Benefits from Tort Reform?

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Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, tc@tcpr.net

(April 21, 2016 – Chicago) The family of popular Chicago bartender Marques Gaines sued 7-ELEVEN today for Gaines’ death on the street outside of the national convenience store’s State and Hubbard Street location. There will be a press conference at 10 a.m. (Central) on April 21 outside of this store. Chicago law firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. filed the complaint today in the Circuit Court of Cook County on behalf of Phyllis Nelson, Gaines’ aunt. Nelson alleges that 7-ELEVEN store owners, operators and employees are culpable for her nephew’s death. The lawsuit charges that 7-ELEVEN did not properly train personnel and did not provide adequate security during the store’s late-night hours operation.

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medical malpractice, Chicago personal injury lawyersSince the mid-seventies, tort reformers have put a lot of effort into getting the public to believe that the justice system is broken and that physicians and hospitals are innocent victims who must settle with patients to resolve unfounded claims to avoid ruin. But when you look at the facts, including those recently presented by the Center for Justice & Democracy, it is clear they are anything but. If anything, the evidence indicates that it is patients who are being treated unfairly by the courts.

The Human Impact of Medical Mistakes

Preventable medical errors are now considered to be the third leading cause of death in America, just after heart disease and cancer. Even more patients are seriously injured to the point that their lives are substantially and often irrevocably altered. The problem is so pervasive, in fact, that most Americans will experience a diagnostic error at least once in their life (which is twice as likely to result in death than other medical mistakes), and around half of all surgeries involve an adverse drug event or other medication error.

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tort reform, Illinois personal injury attorneysFor decades, Americans have been told that the sky is falling, that the economy is on the verge of crashing because of their frivolous claims against large corporations. But, like most carefully crafted lies, these claims are nothing more than a ploy to benefit those who wish to escape accountability. Do not be fooled; search, instead, for the truth.

Everything to Gain and Everything to Lose

Before the 1970s, large corporations were the subject of personal injury lawsuits for negligent, deceptive, and even outright illegal practices. Many were also forced to pay punitive damages, which were meant to deter other companies from committing similar acts. These lawsuits, and the forced accountability they brought with them, severely damaged the bottom line of these corporations. What they really needed was a loophole, a way to avoid large payouts and increase their bottom line.

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lumber liquidators, cancer, Chicago product liability lawyerAlthough there are regulations and protections in place to protect Americans from dangerous products, many still slip through the cracks. One such example is the laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), can increase the risk of cancer as much as three times because of its formaldehyde levels. Know your risks and what you should do if you have been exposed to this dangerous product.

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, and strong-smelling chemical frequently used in building products and household items. These items, which include everything from clothing and paper product coatings to glues and pressed woods, can release gasses or vapors into the air, leading to human or animal exposure.

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pedestrian deaths, Chicago personal injury lawyersWhen a pedestrian is involved in an automobile accident, the results are often fatal. For this reason, many cities have taken significant measures to improve pedestrian safety. Despite those efforts, many parts of the country are still experiencing a rise in pedestrian auto accident deaths and the overall national average has continued to increase. Even more concerning is that 2015 proved to be the most fatal year of all.

An In-Depth Look at the Statistics

Ever since the establishment of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the year-to-year increase of pedestrian deaths has averaged between 8.1 percent increase and a 10.5 percent decrease. Then the statistics for 2015 came in and showed that 15 percent of pedestrians died in traffic-related accidents; that equals a 10 percent increase overall, which is the biggest increase ever recorded. Not all states performed poorly, however. In fact, 21 states had a decrease in pedestrian deaths, and three states had no change. It is these states that may offer some explanation.

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concussion prevention, Chicago Illinois personal injury lawyersContact sports are exciting for both the athletes and the fans, but they are also violent and competitive sports that cause millions of concussion injuries per year. While this is known and understood by the medical community, fans, and even the general public, the civil justice system seems to be oblivious to the risks, thanks to their lack of regulations and monitoring of concussions in athletes of all ages. A report from the American Association for Justice seeks to change that for both professional athletes and those participating in sports in schools and universities.

Just How Frequent Are Concussions?

While most people associate concussions with professional athletes in high contact sports, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that athletes of all ages and at all levels of sports experience around 3.8 million concussions per year.  Concussions are also experienced by the general public at a rate of about 2.5 million per year. Falls are the most common reason, but car accidents, falling objects, and assaults are some of the other potential causes.

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high deductible, Chicago medical mistake attorneysThanks to recent U.S. policy changes, more people than ever have affordable health care coverage. Unfortunately, that benefit is extremely limited since many are still stuck on high deductible plans, emergency care only plans, or subpar employer-provided insurance. So, even though many Americans are now protected in the event of an emergency, many still do not have the coverage they need to prevent serious illness. Even more concerning is that, despite the changes, many Americans may still lack the coverage they need to catch a serious condition before it gets out of hand.

What High Deductible Plans Can Mean for Your Health

While most healthy individuals do not have to worry too much about their healthcare coverage, anyone can suddenly find themselves in a situation where quality insurance is necessary. Moreover, many Americans are needing regular medical care for conditions like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart complications much sooner than previous generations. Unfortunately, most people are less likely to seek treatment when they have high deductible insurance coverage. Or, if they do seek treatment, they may be less likely to probe the doctor further if no immediate cause for their symptoms is found.

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