On Halloween, Trick-or-Treaters Must Beware of Dangers on the Road

October 31, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Our children are very precious to us, and we want them to enjoy their childhood, including such child-pleasing major events as Halloween. But while the kids love Halloween, the occasion can be fraught with danger, too, for trick-or-treaters out to have a good time on an evening that does not have the best record when it comes to traffic safety. As a parent, San Francisco pedestrian accident attorney Gregory J. Brod, has the same concerns that every parent has for their children to have a fun yet safe time on Halloween.

As it is, evening hours are already among the most deadly on the road, and if a driver impaired by alcohol or controlled substances is a factor, that can make a bad situation even worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the combination of drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween has been a particularly dangerous one. On Halloween of 2012 alone, 54 people died in crashes in the United States. Of those fatalities, 26, or nearly half, involved a collision with a drunken driver. By comparison, on an average day, one-third of all traffic fatalities involve a drunken driver. In addition, 28 percent of Halloween collision fatalities were pedestrians, whereas, on an average day, that figure stands at 14 percent. During the period from 2008 to 2012, 21 percent of pedestrian deaths on Halloween night involved a drunken driver.

And the perils that Halloween poses extends into the next day, as Daylight Savings Time ends, because of the earlier onset of evening hours. It cannot be underestimated how dangerous evening hours are for pedestrians relative to the remainder of a day: the majority of pedestrian fatalities occur when it is dark, including 24 percent from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and another 32 percent from 8 p.m. to midnight.

The NHTSA offers the following key tips for pedestrians, particularly young trick-or-treaters and their parents, to stay safe on Halloween:

  • All children out on Halloween night and under the age of 12 should have adult supervision.
  • Children should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
  • When possible, face paint is preferable to masks, because masks can obstruct a child’s vision.
  • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and equip children with glow sticks or flashlights.
  • Always cross the street at corners, use traffic signals and crosswalks, and make sure to look left, right and left again when crossing; continue looking as you cross.

Continue reading "On Halloween, Trick-or-Treaters Must Beware of Dangers on the Road " »

Compensation & Change: Our Law Firm’s Goals Following a Pedestrian Death

October 31, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Sometimes it takes a tragedy that really hits home in order to lead to meaningful change. As advocates for safer roads who believe that commitment includes the full-range of travelers, the Brod Law Firm team is always saddened to hear about pedestrian deaths. We believe our work as a San Francisco pedestrian death law firm not only compensates victims but deters future tragedies. Our hearts go out to those impacted by the recent tragedy and we hope the death of a City Hall employee inspires meaningful changes that will make the streets safer for everyone.

Veteran City Employee Hit and Killed by Motorized Cable Car While Walking Near City Hall
As CBS San Francisco reports, officials continue to investigate the collision between a motorized cable car and a pedestrian on Thursday October 23. It was approximately 11:30 A.M. when the cable car struck 68 year-old Priscila “Precy” Moreto in a crosswalk near San Francisco’s City Hall, by the intersection of Polk and McAllister streets. Moreto, an accountant and longtime employee of the City Controller’s Office, was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died as a result of her injuries.

Investigators say it is unclear why the cable car’s driver did not see Moreto. The vehicle, which was operating as a tour bus, is owned by Classic Cable Car Charter. Managing Partner Bob Salmon told reporters that he believes there was a separate tour guide and that the driver was not serving as the tour’s narrator, but he could not confirm that with full certainty. Notably, it is legal for tour bus drivers to wear headsets and narrate while driving. Police report that something distracted the driver who said he did not see Moreto until she was underneath the vehicle’s wheels. Passengers had little to add, saying they were looking at City Hall at the time of impact.

City Responds to Tragedy, Calls for Safety Measures
pedkilled.jpgMayor Ed Lee referred to the incident as tragic, adding that it “reminds us that we all have a shared responsibility to protect and care for one another on our busy streets.” He also called it an example of the potential dangers on city streets and urged voters to pass Proposition A. Lee said that the measure calls for a $500 million transportation bond with $300 million focused on pedestrian safety including added signs and signals. A signal is due to be installed next year at the crosswalk where the death occurred. Supervisor Scott Weiner also called for increased traffic enforcement to encourage all road users to be on the lookout and navigate the city with care.

Our Work and Our Goals as a Wrongful Death Law Firm
When we are brought in to represent the grieving family in a wrongful death case, we typically begin by conducting a thorough investigation into the events. We gather as much evidence as we can as quickly as we can to avoid evidence being lost or memories beginning to fade. From the facts, we consider all possible legal claims and all potential defendants. We cannot say what claims are appropriate in the recent pedestrian fatality without all the facts, but a similar scenario might lead us to consider potential claims against the driver individually, the tour company, or even the City.

Our primary goal as a Northern California wrongful death law firm is to ensure our client(s) are compensated for their loss (see California Jury Instruction 3921 for details on damages in wrongful death cases involving adults). Prevention is often another goal in our practice. Many of our clients express a desire to help prevent others from suffering a similar loss, a goal that can help give meaning to their loved one’s passing. We hope the loss of an employee helps push the City to make safety a top priority and allow a public servant to continue to serve the City even after her passing.

See Related Blog Posts:
Government Immunity & Injury Law
Older Pedestrians: Accident Statistics & Legal Rights

(Image by Joe Shlabotnik)

Some Things Change, Some Stay the Same: Bicycle Accidents & Rider Fatalities Over the Years

October 30, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

The Brod Law Firm has long been dedicated to protecting bicycle riders in Northern California. Attorney Brod is a member of the Marin County and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions and he has many years’ experience representing bicycle accident victims. Throughout the years, much has changed…the phrase “texting while driving” would have elicited confused stares when Attorney Brod passed the Bar in 1996…and yet much has remained the same…distracted drivers remain one of the greatest threats to bicycle riders’ safety. Our firm changes our approach and strategies over the years, adapting to current times, but our commitment to being a top-notch law firm for bicycle riders in Oakland and throughout the Northern California region remains.

Study Identifies Increase in Bicycle Fatalities and Changes in Rider Profiles
The Oakland Tribune reported this week on the findings in a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. Among the most distressing statistics -- bicycle fatalities in the U.S. increased by 16% from 2010 (621 deaths) to 2012 (722 deaths). This far exceeded the rate of bikeshadow.jpgincrease in other forms of motor vehicle deaths which rose by just 1%. Focusing on California reveals even more troubling numbers. California had more bicycle deaths than any other state in the study period, 338 cyclists killed between 2010 and 2012. While this might be attributed to population and climate, California was also (along with Florida) one of the states with the highest increase in annual rider fatalities growing from 100 deaths in 2010 to 123 in 2012. Nationally, bicyclist deaths are about 2% of the all motor vehicle related fatalities. In California, the percentage is just over 4%.

One of the analysts involved in the study, Alan Williams, noted that there have been significant changes over the years in the profile of those killed in bicycle accidents. In 1975, adults over age 20 made up 21% of bicyclist deaths. In 2012, that percentage skyrocketed to 84%. Additionally, some evidence points to a change in the reason riders are travelling, with more commuters opting for two-wheeled travels.

Despite the changes, some things remained the same. The percentage of fatally injured riders who had high blood alcohol concentrations remained pretty constant from the 1980s to the present, despite a sharp drop in the percentage of drivers who were similarly impaired. Similarly, the failure to wear helmets remained a significant factor in bicyclist deaths.

Reversing the Trend: Cities, Riders, Drivers, and Legal Representation
The Oakland Times cited a number of steps cities can take to reverse the rise in bicycle rider fatalities. Many of the changes involved providing a dedicated space for bicycle riders. “Bike boxes,” spaces before an intersection for bikes only, help prevent the most common crash scenario -- cars making right turns into the path of a bicyclist with the right of way (“right hooks”). More specific recommendations for “road advocacy” can be found on the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s website. These recommendations focus on creating a network of bicycle paths with the goal of having 20% of all trips in Marin County made on foot or on a bicycle.

Road design can help, but ultimately preventing accidents is in the hands of riders and drivers. When drivers fail to pay attention to riders, they put riders (and themselves) at risk. This was true when we opened our firm’s doors; it remains true today. As a law firm for bicycle riders in Santa Rosa and all of Northern California, we provide legal representation to riders and their families when a bicyclist is hurt or killed because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful acts. Call to discuss your unique case.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Bicycle Riders’ Law Firm Examines Bicycle Accident Statistics
The (Dangerous) Streets of San Francisco and the Role of the City in Pedestrian and Cyclist Injuries

Northern California Injury Looks At the Danger of Trampoline Injuries

October 29, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Children are often so filled with energy that they appear to bounce from place to place. It is little wonder that trampolines are a beloved piece of equipment in gymnasiums and backyards alike. While they can be fun and can encourage the active exercise too many children lack, trampolines can also be dangerous and trampoline injuries are all too common. When these injuries stem from equipment problems, installation issues, or other safety failures, our Oakland child injury attorney is prepared to work with parents to advocate for their injured children.

Antioch Girl Injured in Trampoline Accident
While, as we’ll discuss below, most trampoline injuries occur on home equipment, an East Bay gymnastics center was the site of a frightening accident last weekend. ABC7 reports that 10 year old Kyla Graham was attending a Halloween party at Four Stars Gymnastics Academy on Saturday afternoon. As she neared the end of her turn on the trampoline, Kyla jumped up and, instead of returning safely to the trampoline, went flying through the facility’s large glass window and landed on the ground. Kyla sustained deep gashes on her arms and legs, requiring over 100 stitches. The gymnasium did not provide any comments for ABC7, but reporters looking in from outside the facility spotted three large trampolines standing within a couple feet of large windows.

Trampoline Injury Statistics trampoline.jpg
The October/November 2014 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics includes the results of a study on trampoline injuries, specifically fractures, from 2002 to 2011. Using a national injury database, the authors uncovered over one million emergency room visits due to trampoline-related injuries in the decade-long period, with 29% involving fractures. Focusing on patients with fractures, the study found the average age of the patients was 9.5 years and 92.7% were 16 years of age or younger. The fractures were spread pretty evenly between male and female patients. Upper extremity fractures (59.9%) were most common followed by lower extremity fractures (35.7%) with axial skeleton fractures (4.4%) in a distant third place. Notably, older patients were more likely to suffer axial skeleton fractures than their younger counterparts.

Safety Recommendations for Trampoline Use
While the recent East Bay accident involved a gymnastics center, the vast majority of trampoline accidents (95.1%) occurred at home. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a Policy Statement on Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence strongly discouraging home trampoline use. The statement updated similar past recommendations based on recent literature and studies. A notable change in recent years is the rise of commercial trampoline parks, although the authors note that changes in accident data based on the parks is not yet evident.

Among the conclusions and recommendations in the report: Limit use to one jumper at a time since having multiple jumpers substantially raises accident risk; Padding and enclosures can provide a false sense of safety, but are still important and should be inspected regularly; Trampolines should only be placed on level ground; and Moves like somersaults and flips are linked to severe cervical spine injuries and should not be done in a recreational setting.

Representing Injured Children in Northern California
Trampoline injuries range from simple scratches to fatal or otherwise catastrophic spine and head injuries. All too often, the injuries are preventable and can be traced back to a failure on the part of a manufacturer, installer, or property owner (e.g. home owner in a residential setting or owner/manager of a commercial location). These dangerous decisions can give rise to legal liability via products liability law, premises liability principles, or other personal injury principles. If your child was injured in a trampoline accident in Oakland, San Francisco, or elsewhere in our region, call our Northern California recreational injury attorney. Attorney Brod can help your child recover monetary compensation that will allow them to deal with and move forward from the unexpected tragedy.

See Related Blog Posts:
Playground Injuries: When It Is More than an Everyday Childhood Stumble
Summer Safety Primer: Avoiding Accidental Pool Drownings

(Image by Fabio Bruna)

Health Care Whistleblowers: Dedicated to Ending Health Care Fraud

October 27, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Health care whistleblowers are, in our humble opinion, pretty amazing people. They speak out against some of the nation’s biggest and most powerful companies, often taking their concern public after butting heads with company executives. Others see the same wrongs that whistleblowers spot and many are similarly upset, but whistleblowers take the critical next step -- raising their concerns in a forum that can lead to change. Sadly, some people degrade whistleblowers, suggesting they are only looking for a payout. Simply stated, our California health care fraud attorney couldn’t disagree more.

From Whistleblower…
One whistleblower who demonstrates the commitment to right shared by most is Jacqueline Nash Bloink, whose story is shared by the Arizona Daily Star. Between 2010 and 2011, Bloink worked as a corporate responsibility coordinator for Carondelet Health Network, a healthcare provider in healthcash.jpgSouthern Arizona. In that role, the certified medical reimbursement specialist noticed billing discrepancies in the files of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program enrollees. Bloink filed a whistleblower suit pursuant to the False Claims Act (“the Act”) in 2011. The suit accused Carondelet of engaging in fraudulent billing practices, citing insufficient documentation to support inpatient rehab services allegedly performed at two network hospitals between April 2004 and December 2011. The U.S. Attorney’s Office helped investigate the case which settled in August for $35 million, the biggest payout to date for a federal False Claims Act case in Arizona.

Bloink earned close to $6 million for her role in the Carondelet case. The Act grants whistleblowers a percentage of any recovery, including a 15-25% payment in cases where the government intervenes. A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona explains: “Whistleblowers — who at times have valuable, inside information — are an important part of the government’s efforts to detect and remedy fraud and abuse, and our office welcomes and appreciates their efforts.”

…To Educator
One of the best testaments to the true commitment of whistleblowers is what Bloink has done since earning the large payout. She is working to launch a campaign to prevent health care fraud. In a letter to her local community, she notes that most whistleblowers go underground after their “ordeal” ends but says “I intend to use my newly obtained silver hair to try and help our healthcare system by being open about fraud and discussing ways to prevent it.”

Taking her decades-long training in compliance matters, begun in the 1990s, Bloink is trying to train those in the health care industry to be fraud watchdogs. She suggests most providers don’t set out to defraud the government and are unaware that certain practices amount to fraud. Her goal is to have Tucson be a role model for a shift from a reactive model to a proactive approach educating medical students and others in the medical field about fraud, waste, and abuse. While Bloink is scheduled to speak to groups from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ local and Los Angeles branches early next year, she has found little initial interest from the medical community.

…or Voter Information Source
Bloink is not the only former whistleblower who, rather than resting on a large award, remains focused on preventing and remedying health care fraud. Take John Shilling, who shared in a $100 million whistleblower award. Yahoo!News reports Shilling is now focused on politics, specifically informing voters about a big-name incumbent candidate’s role in the fraud (note: the candidate was never charged but was a founder of the company involved). Notably, Shilling counts himself as a member of the same party as the candidate he is speaking out against.

Protecting Whistleblowers, Recognizing Their Import
Patrick Burns, co-director of Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, refers to whistleblowers as “force multipliers” and “guides to secret knowledge.” He suggests the complexity of the billing systems makes whistleblowers, who understand both the system and the individual companies, essential. Burns believes whistleblowers are good people doing the right thing, although he finds they can be a bit naïve in believing that companies share their positive motives.

Whistleblowers are impressive people, heroic in a way, but they have very real fears about the cost of doing good. Many are afraid to alienate their employer and possibly future employers as well. Attorney Greg Brod understands the fear. He also knows that the law provides protections against retaliation in addition to the financial award. Call to arrange a meeting with Attorney Brod, a Northern California whistleblower’s attorney dedicated to fighting fraud, recovering wrongfully diverted government funds, and protecting the people who make the fight possible.

See Related Blog Posts:
The False Claims Act and the Role of Whistleblowers in Stopping Health Care Fraud
The Experience of Whistleblowers

(Image by Flicker user 401(K) 2013)

Feds Convict Houston Group for Psychiatric Care ‘Sham’ Against Medicare

October 24, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Home healthcare, physical therapy and prescription drugs have been some of the more common examples of healthcare services that have been used to defraud Medicare, and, as our blogs have pointed out, many of the most notorious schemes have been emanating from Miami and South Florida, the national epicenter of Medicare fraud. However, San Francisco qui tam lawsuit lawyer Gregory J. Brod would note that healthcare fraud is spread throughout the country as well as focused on a variety of healthcare services. One example of a Medicare fraud scheme from a failing Houston hospital made headlines this week for its ambitious methods of stealing millions from the taxpayers.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the former president of the financially shaky Riverside Hospital, his son and two other persons affiliated with the facility were convicted in federal court Monday for their scheme to fleece $158 million from Medicare. Prosecutors in the case said that Riverside Hospital’s psychiatric care was a “sham,” and that the four people convicted – former hospital CEO Earnest Gibson III, his son Earnest Gibson IV, Regina Askew and Robert Crane – soaked taxpayers for services that were not rendered.

“For over six years, the Gibsons and their co-conspirators stuck taxpayers with millions in hospital bills, purportedly for intensive psychiatric treatment,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. “But the treatment was a sham – some patients just watched television all day, others had dementia and couldn’t understand the therapy they supposedly received, and other patients never even went to the hospital at all.”

The convictions stemmed from an FBI probe that lasted from 2005 to 2012 and resulted in an indictment in 2012 against Gibson III and 10 others, including doctors, marketers and other persons affiliated with Riverside Hospital. Several of the 10 charged pleaded guilty, including assistant administrator Mohammed Khan, who admitted to conspiring to commit healthcare fraud.

Prosecutors stated that Gibson III paid kickbacks to recruiters and owners and operators of group care homes in return for delivering supposed patients to Riverside’s facilities. As far as the others who were convicted, Gibson IV operated a satellite patient care facility and Askew recruited patients and audited documents; both were convicted of conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and pay as well as receive kickbacks. In addition, Crane, who was a recruiter and shuttle driver, was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Riverside Hospital has been financially beleaguered since the unsealing of the indictment in late 2012, which prompted the federal government to cut off funding to its facilities. As part of a bid to remain in business, Riverside surrendered its substance abuse treatment license in August and limited itself to detoxification services, no longer providing drug abuse and psychiatric treatment.

Continue reading "Feds Convict Houston Group for Psychiatric Care ‘Sham’ Against Medicare" »

Protecting Oakland Tenants from Harassment by Landlords Looking to Capitalize on Rising Rents

October 24, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Recently, there has been a lot of attention on both the local and national level to the ever-increasing rents in the city of San Francisco. Less attention has been paid to the rental market across the Bay, but the city of Oakland has experienced a similar rise in residential rental fees. When rents rise, long-term tenants often find themselves pressured to move so that the landlord can profit from the trend. In some cases, the landlord steps over the line by harassing the tenant with the intent of eventually evicting the tenant or making life unpleasant enough that the tenant feels forced to leave (“constructive eviction”). Our Oakland tenants’ rights attorney fights to protect tenants from illegal harassment and actual or constructive eviction.

Oakland Ordinance Looks to Protect Tenants from Landlord Bullies Trying to Profit from Rising Rents
oakland.jpgAccording to the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland’s rent board has been fielding calls from some 200 people each month complaining that they are being harassed or intimidated by a landlord. Tenant advocates suggest landlords are trying to force out rent-protected tenants in order to make room for higher-paying renters. With renters coming into Oakland from San Francisco, ironically because many were forced out themselves, there is growing demand for rental units. The average rent in Oakland stands at around $2,100, a 10% increase from mid-2010 to mid-2014 with an even greater increase in some desirable neighborhoods like Lake Merritt where rents have shot up 53% since 2011.

The situation has Oakland eyeing a new law to punish “bully landlords.” The provision bans interfering with tenant privacy, failing to make needed repairs, taking away an amenity (ex. a parking spot), or making threats in order to push a tenant out. While the ordinance was still a proposal on Tuesday morning when the Chronicle piece came out, a short update in The Contra Costa Times confirms the city council approved the measure. Councilman Dan Kelb, who authored the measure, says that although most of the acts were already against state law, the new rule allows the city to fine or sue landlords who engage in these tactics. Landlord groups dispute the need for the rule, saying that the evidence of malfeasance is all anecdotal.

State and Local Rules Protecting Residential Renters in Oakland
On its Renter Resources page, Oakland’s Housing & Community Development highlights some of the previously-existing protections afforded to residential tenants in the city. Under the Rent Adjustment Program (aka rent control), landlords may only increase rents for existing tenants once a year and, with a few specified exceptions, only by an announced “CPI increase rate” (1.9% for 2014, 2.1% for 2013). Notably, the page specifically states: “In most cases, there is no limit on increases when a tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in.” This makes another tenant protection rule detailed on the page even more important -- landlords may only evict a tenant for just cause.

The City’s protections supplement tenant protections under state law. California law requires all residential units conform to basic standards of habitability, a set of minimum requirements that include having appropriate heating facilities, hot and cold running water, and electrical lighting (see California Statute 1941.1). State law also addresses constructive evictions. Section 789.3 forbids certain specific actions (ex. changing locks, removing tenant property from the unit) by a landlord that are undertaken with an intent to terminate a residential lease. A more general protection can be found in Section 1940.2 which provides that a landlord may not “[u]se, or threaten to use, force, willful threats, or menacing conduct constituting a course of conduct that interferes with the tenant's quiet enjoyment of the premises…that would create an apprehension of harm in a reasonable person” in order to force a tenant out. Notably, a tenant can sue even if they did not actually vacate the premises.

A Tenant Protection Attorney
Our Oakland landlord-tenant attorney is committed to protecting the rights of renters in the city, a commitment we feel is even more important given the ever-increasing cost of rental units. If you believe your landlord is trying to force you out in order to replace you with a higher paying tenant, our team can help you fight back. We also represent renters in other disputes throughout Northern California, such as a claim that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability. Call to arrange a no-cost consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Protecting Tenants from Unscrupulous Landlords in San Francisco’s Tight Housing Market

Bay Area’s Spike in Rents Presents Incentive for Landlords to Turn Over Units

(Image by Eric Fischer)

Holding Facilities Responsible for Inadequate Supervision of the Developmentally Disabled

October 23, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

It has often been said that one of the best ways to judge a society is by how it treats its weakest, most helpless members. Individuals with significant developmental disabilities rely on their families and society as a whole for care and protection. When these individuals are placed in a specialized care facility, the facility has ethical, moral, and legal duties to protect the residents. As an Oakland law firm for the elderly and disabled, we are ready to advocate on behalf of vulnerable adults when care facilities fail to fulfill their duties. An obvious example of such a failure is when the resident is permitted to wander away from an institution that promised to care for and keep the resident safe. Wandering by developmentally disabled adults is a potentially deadly occurrence and we must hold institutions responsible for the failures that endanger their residents.

Developmentally Disabled Man Missing from Oakland Care Facility
The Oakland Tribune and other news outlets in our region are asking for help locating a missing man. On Thursday October 16 at around 1:30 P.M., Michael Kilroy wandered away from a residential care facility located on the 3200 block of 99th Avenue. Kilroy is 55 years old but has the functional capacity of a typical 6 year-old. He needs medicine that he doesn’t have with him. Police note he is 5’3” and 150 pounds with blue eyes and gray hair. Anyone who sees him is asked to call the missing persons’ unit at the Oakland Police Department (510-238-3641).

California Law and the Protection of Dependent Adults in Care Homes
California’s criminal and civil laws that address elder abuse also apply to “dependent adults,” a category that includes individuals who have physical and/or developmental disabilities that sharply limit their ability to care for themselves. Section 15600 of the Welfare & Institutions Code, part of the legislative findings at the start of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (“the Protection Act”), reads: “The Legislature recognizes that elders and dependent adults may be subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that this state has a responsibility to protect these persons.” In addition to this general responsibility, California requires that care facilities agree to provide the best possible care to their residents in exchange for Medicare and Medi-Cal funding. Those duties are described in the Care Standards set forth by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Together, California’s civil, criminal, and regulatory laws allow the state to hold care facilities responsible when they fail to provide appropriate care to the elderly and the developmentally disabled. Nursing homes and similar facilities must provide adequate supervision to prevent residents from wandering away. This can be especially important since some disabilities are characterized by a tendency to wander. Since, by definition, these individuals are not able to adequately protect themselves, wandering can lead to injury or even death.

An Oakland Law Firm Protecting the Developmentally Disabled
If you have a loved one who is developmentally disabled and was injured because a care facility failed to provide adequate care, our Northern California nursing home neglect attorney can help. Although money damages cannot reverse an injury, monetary compensation can allow you to place your loved one in an excellent facility and provide care aimed at addressing the physical and emotional consequences of neglect. Hitting negligent facilities in the pocketbook can also make them recognize the damage caused and enact meaningful change for the future.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Special Needs Lawyer Comments on Autistic Wandering & Elopement
Resident Missing from Local Assisted Care Facility

Older Pedestrians: Accident Statistics & Legal Rights

October 22, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

San Francisco is consistently listed as one of America’s most walkable cities (see e.g., CBS article ranking San Francisco #4 in June 2014). Walkability attracts both residents and tourists to our region. Pedestrian accidents are one of the biggest threats to walkability. Older pedestrians in particular deserve extra deference from drivers. Walking can keep aging bodies healthy and choosing two feet over four wheels might be safer for some. Our San Francisco pedestrian accident law firm represents injured elderly pedestrians and families who have lost an older relative in these terrible crashes.

Older Pedestrian Killed in San Francisco
Early Tuesday morning, a man in his 70s was hit and killed near the intersection of Sloat Boulevard and 43rd Avenue. ABC7 reported that the accident occurred just before 7 A.M., approximately one-quarter mile from the Zoo. Police believe the man, who lived on Sloat Blvd., was taking his morning walk. The driver was going west on Sloat, travelling the speed limit towards the ocean, when the pedestrian began crossing. Police say the pedestrian crossed mid-block and was not in the crosswalk. Light may have been a factor, daylight was breaking and fog keeps the beach area darker longer. However, the area is generally well-lit and accidents there are not common. At the time of the article, the driver was cooperating.

Statistics on Older Pedestrians
In June 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) published a report reviewing safety research on pedestrians and bicyclists conducted from 1991 through 2007. By way of introduction, the report notes that 4,092 pedestrians were killed in 2009 and an estimated 59,000 pedestrians injured. The agency notes the figures include only traffic incidents and exclude those occurring on private property (e.g., parking lots, driveways, certain trails). Lower-severity injuries are often not reported to police and thus are also excluded.

oldfriendswalking.jpgNarrowing the focus to pedestrians ages 65 and older, the NHTSA reports that 2009 saw 775 deaths and approximately 5,000 injuries due to traffic events. In comparison, 996 older pedestrians died in traffic incidents in 2000. Notably, pedestrians 65 and older had a higher population-based fatality rate in 2009 than adults ages 21 to 54. Reviewing studies, the NHTSA found that, on a per capita basis, pedestrians 65 to 74 had a lower crash rate than any other age segment. However, the likelihood that a crash would lead to a pedestrian fatality increased steadily with pedestrian age, with the 75 and older segment having a fatality rate of 25%.

The studies revealed some interesting facts about the nature of accidents involving older pedestrians. For the 65+ group, 64% of the pedestrian deaths in 2009 involved non-intersection locations versus 78% for other pedestrians. Older pedestrians were involved in more fatal crashes in the fall and winter than in spring and summer. Those age 65+ were less likely than pedestrians in other age groups to be hit on the weekend. With the exception of young children, a higher portion of older pedestrian accidents occurred during daylight than other age groups.

Obtaining Justice for Older Pedestrians
Importantly, the law compensates victims for their injuries even if the same event might not cause as significant an injury to an “average” individual. Therefore, even if a younger pedestrian would not have been as severely injured, an older pedestrian hurt by a negligent driver can recover compensation for the injuries incurred. The same principle applies in a wrongful death case; the family of an older pedestrian killed in a car accident that is the driver’s fault can recover compensation regardless of whether the same accident would have killed a younger individual.

If you are an older individual and you were injured in a pedestrian crash in Northern California that was not your fault, or if an older relative was killed by a negligent driver while walking in our region, you deserve justice. Call to arrange a consultation with Gregory Brod, an experienced lawyer representing injured pedestrians in San Francisco and surrounding areas.

See Related Blog Posts:

San Mateo Collision Is Example of Perils for Pedestrians That Go Beyond Crosswalks
The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule in San Francisco Injury Lawsuits

(Image by Martin Fisch)

The False Claims Act: From Shoddy Civil War Uniforms to Costly Defense Contracts in 2014

October 20, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

As readers of this blog know, the False Claims Act (“the Act”) is an important tool for combatting health care fraud. The Act allows our Northern California whistleblowers’ law firm to partner with private whistleblowers to fight back against schemes that divert tens of billions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs annually. This is a critically important battle, but the Act goes well beyond health care and defense contract fraud is one important example. A recently filed case illustrates the Act’s role in fighting the costly problem of fraud in military contracting. Further, the Act’s history serves as a reminder of the threat to our military personnel when companies try to cheat the government.

Government Joins Suit Alleging Defense Contract Fraud
On Thursday October 16, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued a press release announcing that the government was joining a whistleblower complaint against Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation(“Sikorsky”), a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, and two Sikorsky subsidiaries. Originally, the case was filed under the Act’s qui tam provisions by a former employee of the subcontractor. A representative of the DOJ’s Civil Division explains the decision to intervene: “Today’s complaint demonstrates, once again, that the Department of Justice will not tolerate contractors who engage in schemes to defraud the armed forces or any other agency of the United States.”

contract2.jpgThe claims involve Sikorsky’s alleged approval of a cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost subcontract. Such contracts are sometimes used when the cost of performance is not known upfront; compensation is calculated based on cost to perform plus a set percent of that cost. Defense/military contracting rules prohibit these arrangements because they provide no incentive for contractors to control costs. The complaint alleges Sikorsky approved an illegal subcontract and used it to overcharge the Navy for parts and materials used for aircraft maintenance. Echoing the DOJ official’s comments, U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle explained: ““Under the authority of the False Claims Act, we pursue fraud of this sort to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent lawfully and that overcharges and other types of contracting misconduct are addressed.”

The Act’s History: Financially Strapped Civil War Era Congress Looks to Whistleblowers to Fight Fraud Endangering Union Soldiers
Earlier this month, KRCU, an NPR station at Southeast Missouri State University, reported on the history of the False Claims Act and its modern role. The report explains that the Act that has led to the recovery of tens of billions already this year began as a way to protect Union soldiers during the Civil War. Union troops relied on private contractors for a range of necessities, but contractors often cut corners and they found themselves with uniforms that dissolved in rain, horses that were weak and even blind, and gunpowder mixed with sawdust. Since the government lacked the money to investigate these frauds, Congress created an incentive for private citizens to report on their employers by promising to pay the employee half of any fine collected.

When the Civil War ended, the law was weakened and all but forgotten until the 1980s. As reports of outrageous military spending surfaced, Congress resurrected (and revised) the Act. Whistleblowers became increasingly important, this time reaching beyond military contracts to areas such as health care and pharmaceuticals.

Fighting Fraud in 2014
The report expresses some doubt about the Act’s current power to reduce fraud given that, in contrast to an era when companies were smaller and fines could bankrupt an organization and its leaders, shareholders tend to foot the bill following a claim and there is not personal accountability. However, the report doesn’t point to direct evidence of this assertion. Regardless, it is clear that legislation that began as a way to protect an army now helps the government recover billions of wrongfully diverted funds.

It is also clear that whistleblowers remain critical, in part because the size of companies makes it difficult if not impossible for an outsider to pinpoint fraudulent acts. If you have witnessed any form of government contracting fraud, including fraud in defense contracting as well as fraud tied to government health care programs, coming forward can provide both moral and financial rewards. In today’s environment, partnering with a law firm that understands the False Claims Act (including its whistleblower protections and potential rewards) is a necessity. Call any of our Northern California government contracts fraud law offices to arrange a meeting to discuss in greater detail how a Civil War era concept can fight modern day fraud.

See Related Blog Posts:
Whistleblowers’ Attorney Discusses Guilty Plea in Case Involving Contractor Providing Substandard Parts to Department of Defense
Fighting Fraud: Government Contract Fraud Attorney Examines Procurement Fraud

(Image by Dan Moyle)

Bay Area’s Spike in Rents Presents Incentive for Landlords to Turn Over Units

October 17, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

With the San Francisco Bay Area long one of the most desirable areas in the country to live in and apartments in short supply for a variety of reasons, there is little surprise that rents in the region would be among the highest in the nation. But a report released Wednesday showed that rents have reached record highs in the Bay Area, a fact that prompts San Francisco landlord-tenant law attorney Gregory J. Brod to remind us that some landlords, especially of rent-controlled units, may be tempted to employ illegal means to get their tenants to move out so they can raise rents.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, a third-quarter report from RealFacts of Novato found that rents in the Bay Area have risen 11.4 percent from the third quarter of last year to an average of $2,234 per month, which is the highest level recorded since two decades ago. More category-specific, the rent increases are reflected in the following year-over-year gains in the nine-county region: for a studio apartment, $1,931, up 12.5 percent; one bedroom, one bath, $2,017, up 11.8 percent; two bedroom, one bath, $2,006, up 11 percent; two bedroom, two bath, $2,562, up 9.8 percent; three bed, two bath, $3,022, up 13.5 percent.
Among the five inner Bay Area counties, here are some additional figures concerning third-quarter 2014 over third-quarter 2013 average rents:

  • San Francisco: $3,400 a month, up 9.8 percent, with a 95.1 percent occupancy rate.
  • San Mateo County: $2,580 a month, up 10.7 percent, with a 94.3 percent occupancy rate.
  • Alameda County: $1,994 a month, up 11.6 percent, with a 97.3 percent occupancy rate.
  • Contra Costa County: $1,659 a month, up 8.8 percent, with a 96.8 percent occupancy rate.
  • Santa Clara County: $2,369 a month, up 10.7 percent, with a 95.8 percent occupancy rate.

With rent increases such as the foregoing, it’s not hard to imagine that there is an economic incentive for some landlords to turn over apartments, especially rent-controlled units, so that they can reap bigger rents or even take units off the market and repurpose them as condominiums for sale. The latter move is often accomplished in California through a controversial Ellis Act eviction, but landlords can also resort to various methods of harassment to get tenants to abandon their units. Harassment can appear in various guises, which include but are not limited to interrupting, terminating or failing to provide housing services required by contract or by state, county or local housing, health or safety laws; failure to perform repairs and legally required maintenance; abuse of the landlord’s right of access to the unit as provided by laws; and attempts to coerce the tenant to leave the premises with offers of payments that are accompanied by threats or intimidation. Indeed, the list of various forms of harassment is a long one, and harassment is spelled out in municipal ordinances, including San Francisco’s special provision on harassment, Section 37.10B.

Continue reading "Bay Area’s Spike in Rents Presents Incentive for Landlords to Turn Over Units" »

The Dangerous Intersection of Drowsy Driving and Big Rig Accidents

October 17, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Few among us haven’t experienced it, you feel your eyes get heavy and begin to close only to startle yourself back to reality; a moment of extreme fatigue that is extremely frightening when it happens while you’re behind the wheel. In modern America, being sleep deprived seems to be the norm and it is frightening to consider how many drowsy drivers are travelling at any given moment. Drowsy driving becomes even more frightening when the tired driver is at the wheel of a big rig truck. For too long, companies have incentivized drivers to push the limits and log as many hours as they can fit in a day. Our Oakland drowsy driving law firm represents those injured in accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers and also supports efforts to prevent truck drivers from driving while fatigued.

Truck Overturns in Vallejo, Driver Reports Fatigue Was Key Factor
On Tuesday morning, as ABC7 reports, a box truck overturned in Vallejo along I-80 West near the state Highway 37 overpass. Truck driver Jesus Osegura, age 24 of Sacramento, told the California Highway Patrol that he had been falling asleep and nearly collided with the back of another truck. Osegura made a sudden, abrupt turn to avoid the collision, causing the load to shift and the truck to overturn. CHP officers report that Osegura was able to climb out of the overturned vehicle but noted neck and leg pain. The incident occurred around 3 A.M.

Truck Industry and Safety Groups Debate Issue of Drowsy Driving Among Big Rig Drivers
This summer, the danger of drowsy big rig drivers took the national spotlight when actor Tracey Morgan was seriously injured in a crash allegedly caused by a truck driver who had not slept for over 24 hours. Reporting on the topic of drowsy truck drivers and relating the story of a previous drowsy driving truck accident that killed ten people, The New York Times noted: “What is remarkable about these events…is how common such accidents are.”

The article calls attention to a battle between authorities attempting to pass safety regulations and an industry where miles, and time, are money. Last year, federal rules reduced the maximum number of hours a trucker could work from 82 per week to 70 per week. Drivers who bigrig.jpgreach the high mark must rest for at least 34 hours including two segments of time between 1 A.M. and 5 A.M. The rules also include an 11 hour daily driving limit with at least one scheduled 30 minute break. Trucking industry officials say the new rules mean more trucks travelling during peak travel/traffic times. They say anti-trucking groups have overstated the issue of fatigue, suggesting drivers should be given flexibility in their work and shouldn’t be given mandates on when to rest.

Safety advocates disagree, taking the position is that fatigue is actually underreported (even if difficult to prove conclusively) and has become increasingly dangerous as traffic conditions demand maximum attentiveness. Part of the reason for the debate is the fact that it is difficult to prove that fatigue was a factor in a collision. Deborah A. P. Hersman, former N.T.S.B. chairwoman and current chief executive for the National Safety Council, states: “Until we have a blood test for determining fatigue, all estimates are likely going to underreport fatigue, because the dead don’t speak and the living often plead the Fifth, especially if they are facing criminal charges.”

Our Northern California Drowsy Truck Driving Crash Attorney on Prevention and Representation
While exact statistics may be difficult to pinpoint, we believe it is abundantly clear that drowsy driving is dangerous. We support efforts to combat drowsy driving in all forms. We also support efforts to prevent trucking accidents given the enormous potential for damage involved. We hope that conversations about the intersection of the two continue, the issue is too important to ignore. Our Oakland drowsy driving accident law firm will also continue to advocate on behalf of those injured or killed by drowsy drivers, whether the driver was behind the wheel of a large truck, a passenger car, or even operating a motorcycle.

See Related Blog Posts:
Sentencing in Sonoma Puts Spotlight on Underreported Problem of Drowsy Driving
Big-Rigs & California Injury Law: Considering Accident Law Following Fatal Bay Area Accident

(Image by Mark Holloway)