San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

Yes, this is a post about extreme sports and if you’ve arrived at our blog looking for information about extreme sports injuries and California law, you’ll find that.  However, this post is also relevant to those who prefer simpler thrills.  The California injury law principles we discuss in today’s blog entry apply when a person is injured in any type of recreational activity from cliff-diving to Pee-Wee soccer.  Developed over many decades, these principles even apply to newly popular activities like the fast-growing arena of adult obstacle course races.  In this first of two parts, our San Francisco sports injury law firm looks at civil claims that can arise as a result of recreational injuries.  Next week, we will continue with a look at some of the most common defenses to these claims and how those defenses can be overcome.

Famed Extreme Athlete Dies in Skydiving Accident

A stunt display planned as part of the kickoff to a golf tournament in Squaw Valley took a tragic turn on Monday.  The Press Democrat reports that while two other skydivers landed safely on the greens 39-year-old extreme athlete Erik Roner fell hard and crash landed into a tree.  Roner’s parachute became tangled, leaving him dangling some 25 to 30 feet above ground.  People on the scene scrambled to help, even attempting to form a human ladder to reach Roner, but he passed away before they could succeed.  According to a fellow athlete who spoke with the paper, there was no protocol for attempting the type of rescue needed.  Given the nature of the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an investigation.  Roner was a famed extreme athlete known for BASE jumping and his MTV appearances in addition to his skydiving prowess.

The Evolving World of Extreme Sportsmudrace2

While many think of extreme sports as a new phenomenon, they have been around in one form or another for centuries.  An article on extreme sports in the online version of the American Bar Association Journal cites gladiator matches in Ancient Rome as the historical equivalent of today’s high-risk sports.  Some sports once deemed extreme have become more mainstream, for example, marathon running.  At the same time as certain extreme sports are exploding, the ABA Journal article notes, there has also been a rise in “functional fitness” activities, such as Cross-Fit, and activities that bridge the two arenas like the increasingly-popular field of obstacle courses.

Recreational Injury Claims

Whether a person is injured in an extreme sport or a more “everyday” recreational activity, the same legal principles come into play.  Some of the claims most likely to arise in sports injury litigation include:

  • Negligence – The core of most personal injury litigation, negligence is the failure to exercise the reasonable level of care that an ordinary person would use under similar circumstances. A negligence claim might arise from allowing too many racers to participate in order to maximize profits despite the course being insufficient to handle the numbers.
  • Gross Negligence – This is, in essence, a more extreme form of negligence involving a major departure from reasonable care. In the extreme sports world, gross negligence might apply if the defendant purposefully made an activity more dangerous like hiding unannounced obstacles in a mud pit on a race course.
  • Product Liability – Product liability claims apply when sporting equipment is unsafe, such as a parachute that does not operate properly. Product defect claims are strict liability, meaning intent is irrelevant, and they cannot be waived.

Looking Ahead: Defenses

Next week, we will look at some defenses that are often asserted in recreational injury cases, including the doctrine of assumption of risk and the use of express waivers.  These defenses are powerful, but they can be defeated.

A Northern California Recreational Injury Lawyer

From acting as a San Francisco extreme sports injury lawyer to serving as a Northern California obstacle course injury lawyer in Sonoma and helping families as an Oakland children’s sports injury attorney, Gregory Brod understands California law and he has the expertise to help the wrongfully injured and/or their families recover the compensation they deserve.  Call or contact us using the form to the left to arrange a no-cost consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Northern California Football Injury Lawyer Looks at Growing Evidence of Football-Related Brain Injury

San Francisco Sports and Recreation Attorney Looks at Wave of Hang-Gliding Deaths in 2015

(photo by Kevin Cortopassi of Tough Mudder race obstacle)

bedbugbitesJust the name can make your skin crawl, but clients tell us the reality is far worse than they ever could have imagined.  Bed bugs fall in and out of the headlines, but they remain a very real problem impacting Californians.  The pests do not discriminate, attacking people of all ages, races, classes, and creeds.  In fact, as a recent news report illustrates, they aren’t even confined to beds!  As a bed bug law firm in San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa, The Brod Law Firm helps people who are afflicted with these pests because of someone else’s neglect, such as a tenant coping with repeated infestations because a landlord fails to act responsibly, ignoring the problem entirely or taking ineffective, limited action rather than the swift intervention needed to eradicate the bugs for good.

Bed Bugs Cause Temporary Closure of Palo Alto Library

Last week, per NBC Bay Area, Palo Alto temporarily shuttered one of its public libraries because of a problem more often associated with housing than libraries – bed bugs.  In addition to closing the Mitchell Park Library to treat the pests after they were spotted on two chairs, the city sent bed bug-sniffing dogs to other branches of the library system.  As NBC noted, libraries are actually not unusual spot for bed bugs to hide.  The pests hitch a ride on a borrowed book, moving from one home to the library and potentially the home of another patron.  Increased travel, pesticide resistance, and the use of ineffective pest control practices have all been implicated in the recent spike in infestations.  Contra Costa Health Services denied a rumor blaming the homeless for the library infestation, noting there is no link between cleanliness and the pests although clutter does allow an infestation to grow.

Bed Bugs Generally

According to Santa Clara County Vector Control District, one of a dozen districts in Greater San Francisco focused on pest control, bed bugs are tiny insects that evolve from eggs to nymphs the size of poppy seeds to adult bugs approximately one-quarter inch long with reddish brown flat bodies.  Bed bugs cannot fly, instead crawling and often being carried by a host from one location to another.  While they do not transmit disease, bed bugs feed on blood and their bites can cause itchy red spots or larger welts in sensitive individuals.  Bed bug bites can become infected if scratched.

Each year, Orkin ranks U.S. cities based on the number of bed bug reports.  While Chicago tops the 2014 Bed Bug Cities List for the third year in a row, the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region jumped three spaces (in the “wrong” direction) to number 16 and the Sacramento area made a double-digit jump to 27 from 41 in 2013.

Bed Bugs and California Law

California Civil Code section 1941 requires landlords to maintain all rental units in a habitable fashion, an obligation that includes ensuring units are free of vermin.  In general, California law holds landlords responsible for the bedbugbites2costs of bed bug eradication.  Effective bed bug treatment in multi-unit buildings often requires inspecting and treating units adjacent to those known to be infected, as noted in a memo from the Environmental Protection Agency titled What Landlords Need to Know about Bed Bugs, and failing to do so can lead to re-infestation.  Tenants should be prepared to cooperate with eradication efforts and maintain an uncluttered home to help limit the places where bugs can hide.  We are watching a bill pending in the California legislature that would further spell out the duties of landlords and tenants.

In some cases, human actions can prolong, exacerbate, or even initiate a bed bug infestation.  If you are in Northern California and your landlord is not responding effectively to your complaints about bed bugs, call our San Francisco tenants’ bed bug lawyer.  We are prepared to file claims against both private and “public” landlords (i.e., housing authorities, etc.) as well as any other parties responsible for an infestation.

See Related Blog Posts:

The Mental and Emotional Toll of Bed Bugs

California Bedbug Lawsuits: Damages, Compensation, and Class Actions

(Image of back by Richard Thomas, Image of hand by snowflakegirl)

Vacation – just the word alone can bring a smile to your face and even release a tiny bit of that tension we all seem to carry in our shoulders and neck these days.  We love our work at The Brod Law Firm, but there’s still something lovely about the moment we turn on our “away messages” (of course, we always have coverage plans in place so our client service is seamless and new clients can always reach someone who can help)!  Still, as illustrated by last week’s tragedy in Seattle, vacation is not without its dangers.  Vacation accidents can be a matter of time and place, a “regular” accident that happens to occur during a trip, or they can be more directly tied to the trip itself, such as an accident involving tourist-oriented activities or other recreational endeavors.  When visitors to the Bay Area, including tourists injured in Sonoma as well as San Francisco or Oakland, are hurt due to the actions or inactions of another, our San Francisco vacation accident law firm

Duck Boat Accident Kills Four Student-Tourists in Seattle

On Thursday September 24, a duck boat tour in Seattle ended tragically leaving four dead and dozens injured.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the duck boat was carrying a group from North Seattle College across the Aurora Bridge when the amphibious vehicle suddenly swerved and crashed into a charter bus. The crash killed four international students.  A woman from Fremont who suffered a broken collarbone was among the many injured in the collision.

(Update: After this article was written, a fifth person died from injuries sustained in the accident.  As of this update, NBC reported that five others remained in intensive care.)

Critics Call for Changes or Outright Ban Citing History of Duck Boat Crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) has begun investigating last week’s crash, but the Chronicle notes that many were already calling changes to the use of the amphibious crafts prior to the most recent tragedy.  While some are asking for better oversight, others are calling a ban on using the military-style vehicles as tourist conveyances.  Those opponents say the vehicles were originally built for the battlefield, specifically transporting troops from water to land, not narrow and crowded city streets.  Other safety advocates have focused on the fact that duckboatmany duck boat operators are trying to navigate the roads and the waters while also acting as an energetic, interactive tour guide (Note: Earlier this year, reported on a new ordinance requiring most San Francisco tour bus companies use a second employee to narrate while the driver focuses on driving.)

Critics of both sort point to the difficult safety record and the Chronicle article mentions several serious duck boat accidents.  In 2010, two students died near Philadelphia after a tugboat pulling a barge crashed into a stalled duck boat, ultimately sinking the tourist-packed vessel.  Last week wasn’t Seattle’s first duck boat accident either.  There, in 2011, a duck boat ran into and dragged a motorcycle rider after coming up behind him at a light.  Looking back further, the NTSB blamed inadequate maintenance for the sinking of a duck boat in Alabama during 1999, an incident that claimed thirteen lives.

San Francisco Lawyer for Injured Tourists and Visitors

We love our region and love sharing it.  As a San Francisco tourist injury lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod is concerned about the safety of visitors to the Bay Area whether they are riding a duck boat or enjoying anything else our city has to offer.  Vacation injuries take many forms including rental car accidents, serious cases of food poisoning, and injuries stemming from defective rented sporting equipment.

Although there are exceptions, usually a plaintiff files an injury lawsuit where the injury occurred.  Our team understands that this can be difficult for the countless people hurt while visiting our region for business and recreation each year, especially after a serious injury or loss.  We work hard to limit the number of times you have to return to the area to pursue your legal rights.  In some cases, we can even resolve the entire matter without the need for an out-of-town client to return at all (or at least not for such an unenjoyable reason as pursuing an injury claim!).  Call to arrange an in-person or telephonic consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Cable Car Accidents: The Potential Danger on a San Francisco Icon

Tour Bus Accidents & Liability Under California Law

(Image by Mark Hogan; pictured example of duck boat was not involved in crash)

The relationship between health care and money is the crux of some of the biggest policy debates of our time.  Still, while much is debated, there are also many principles that most Americans agree should hold true.  One such maxim – Medical decisions should be based on the best interests of patients, not providers own financial well-being.  This precept is reflected in several laws including the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Act and enforcing these rules is one of the goals of our work as a whistleblowers’ law firm for health care fraud issues.

$115 Million Settlement Resolves Case Alleging Health System’s Bonuses Violated Law

Just last week, the Justice Department (“DOJ”) announced a major settlement in a health care fraud case involving allegations of improper financial relationships between health care providers and their referral sources.  The lawsuit claimed that Adventist Health Systems, a healthcare organization with facilities in 10 states, billed for the services of employed providers who were paid bonuses that, contrary to law, were based on a formula that considered the value of the referrals to the hospital system.  More specifically, the suit alleged that doctors received monetary bonuses tied to the number of tests and procedures they ordered.  Adventist agreed to pay $115 million to settle these and other fraud allegations, but did not admit to any wrongdoing.

The Principle: Ensuring Objectivity and Impartial Medical Judgment

medicalcostAnnouncing the Adventist settlement, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division stated: “Unlawful financial arrangements between heath care providers and their referral sources raise concerns about physician independence and objectivity.  Patients are entitled to be sure that the care they receive is based on their actual medical needs rather than the financial interests of their physician.”  Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson with the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) echoed this sentiment, saying that financial arrangements like those alleged “undermine the physicians’ impartial medical judgment at the expense of patients and taxpayers.”

Two Federal Laws Addressing Referals and Provider Compensation

These basic principles form the basis of multiple federal and state laws.  Violations of these underlying laws can give rise to violations of the False Claims Act.  In a guide aimed at educating new doctors, HHS discusses some of the major federal health care fraud laws including the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) and the Physician Self-Referral Law (known as “the Stark Act”).

As the guide explains, AKS makes it a crime to give anything of value to encourage or reward the referral of patients or other business involving services covered by federal health programs.  Importantly, while often summarized as making it illegal to pay for referrals, AKS goes beyond just giving cash and could include providing fancy meals or free services.  AKS applies to both the referring party and the recipient and, as HHS explains, the issue of intent is key to liability.

Stark prohibits medical providers from referring patients to have certain specified Medicare- or Medicaid-covered services performed by an entity in which the provider or an immediate family member has a financial stake.  There are specific exceptions, but unless one applies Stark would prohibit a doctor referring patients to have x-rays performed at an imaging center that the provider has invested in or from which she receives compensation.  It would also prohibit the center from billing for such services.  Importantly, Stark is strict liability and a violation can exist regardless of intent.

Protecting Our Nation’s Health Care System

Health care fraud is a financial crime.  It is also much more.  Health care fraud endangers patients by putting money above the patient’s best interest.  In all areas of health care fraud, including violations of the rules on referrals and compensation, whistleblowers are key to identifying fraud and fighting back.  Private individuals can bring claims on the government’s behalf and they are entitled to a significant reward if their information lead to a financial recovery.

If you are aware of Medicare/Medicaid fraud, you can make a difference.  Your information can help us recover wrongfully diverted money and can also help ensure our health care system focuses on the best interests of the patient.  Call our health care fraud attorney’s whistleblower hotline at (800) 427-7020 to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:

Why We Fight: A Reminder of the Dangers Behind Fraudulent Referrals in the Health Care Arena

S.F. Qui Tam Lawyer Revisits Key Laws Supporting Battle Against Medicare Fraud



pedalsOften the most important parts of any task are also the most basic.  Drivers learn the difference between the brake and the accelerator before they even put the car in drive.  While this is a fundamental matter for any driver, pedal confusion accidents happen with alarming frequency.  Avoiding pedal errors is critical.  When accidents do happen, our San Francisco pedal confusion injury lawyer is ready to help the injured.  It is important to remember that no matter how sympathetic the defendant may be, and those involved in accidents are often good people who made one unintended mistake, those injured because of another’s actions deserve compensation.

One Dead, Five Injured Following Livermore Pedal Confusion Accident  

A frightening scene unfurled at a Livermore gym early Tuesday.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that around 6:30 A.M. an 80-year-old driver confused the accelerator and brake pedals sending her car crashing into the lobby of LifeStyleRx health club at 1119 E. Stanley Boulevard.  Livermore police told reporters that the female driver “experienced pedal confusion” while parking her Mercedes SUV.  The crash led to the death of 49-year-old Katheryn Baker, the chief financial officer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a government-owned technology company in the national security arena.  Five others were injured and taken to hospitals.  Police do not believe alcohol or drugs were factors in the accident.

Statistics on Pedal Error Accidents

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Safety Advisory released in May 2015, some 16,000 preventable crashes occur annually due to pedal error.  Pedal errors can involve a driver mistakenly pressing the accelerator when intending to brake, the driver’s foot slipping from the brake to the accelerator, or the driver simultaneously stepping on both pedals instead of solely on the brake.  These tend to be low-speed events, often occurring during parking but also at intersections and on highway off-ramps.  Drivers typically recognize the mistake quickly, but may still be unable to avoid a collision.

The 2015 advisory suggests pedal confusion is most common at either end of the age spectrum.  Drivers under age 20 and over age 65 experience pedal confusion more often than drivers in “middle” ranges. Although not discussed in the 2015 piece, a 2012 NHTSA report titled Pedal Application Errors (available for download) found females were heavily overrepresented in pedal misapplication accidents.  In that study, researchers found female drivers accounted for nearly two-thirds of pedal misapplication crashes despite the fact that women are implicated in fewer crashes than men overall.  Notably, the 2012 study contains a much lower estimate of the total number of pedal error crashes, 15 per month or 180 per year, but the authors caution that the number may be significantly under-inclusive due to reporting and archiving issues.

Preventing Pedal Error Crashes

In the 2015 advisory, the NHTSA provides five basic tips for preventing pedal error crashes.  Briefly, the agency suggests drivers:

  1. Be familiar with the vehicle and adjust the seat, mirrors, wheel, and (when possible) pedals before driving.
  2. Always aim to press the center of the brake pedal.
  3. Stay focused on driving, avoiding distractions until the vehicle is parked and turned off.
  4. Exercise caution, including proceeding slowly when entering/exiting parking spaces.
  5. Wear smart footwear, choosing flat-soled, lightweight shoes and avoiding high heels, flip-flops, or heavy boots.

Obtaining Compensation in Northern California Pedal Confusion Accidents

Prevention is always preferable, but people injured due to another driver’s pedal error deserve proper compensation.  In some of these cases, the injured party may be concerned about “going after” a sympathetic defendant such as an older individual who appears contrite and did not intend any harm.  The truth is that injuries are injuries; the costs are not lower and the pain is not lessened because the party who caused the injury is sympathetic.  Remember, it is usually the insurance company that actually pays any award to the injured person.  Additionally, personal injury cases serve to call attention to problems like pedal confusion, attention that is critical to prevention.

If you’ve been injured in or lost a loved one to a pedal confusion accident in Northern California, The Brod Law Firm can help.  Call to arrange a free consultation with our experienced car accident injury lawyer in Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or at a location convenient for you.

See Related Blog Posts:

The Surprisingly Common Danger of Vehicles Crashing Into Buildings

Study Examines Factors Influencing Pedal Confusion Accidents

(Image by Ray Sawhill)

In many ways, injury law comes down to a question of cause and effect.  Our San Francisco motorcycle accident attorney and his support team work diligently to determine (and prove) what caused the accident, the question of fault, and what has and will happen as a result, the question of damages.  The “effect” inquiry looks at both today and tomorrow, an especially complex inquiry in the case of the serious injuries or loss of life that are far too common in motorcycle accidents.  That is, however, a question for another day.  Today, we discusses the “cause” inquiry, the question of what happened in the moments before the crash, looking at a recent tragedy in San Ramon and the leading research on the cause of motorcycle accidents.  Ultimately, the cause and effect inquiries may be complex but our team is well-equipped to uncover the truth in order to help injured riders and grieving loved ones recover compensation for their losses.

Multi-Part San Ramon Accident Leaves Motorcycle Rider Dead

A multi-vehicle accident led to the death of a motorcycle rider in San Ramon on Monday.  CBS San Francisco reports that the crash occurred around 4:40 A.M. on Highway 680 South just past Bollinger Canyon Road.  The incident began when a Honda rear-ended a big-rig truck and the impact caused the Honda to spin before coming to a halt in the middle of lane three.  A motorcycle then struck the disabled vehicle and the 39-year-old rider was ejected.  Moments later, another big-rig truck hit both the motorcycle and the rider before catching aflame.  The motorcycle rider was pronounced dead at the scene.  CBS’s article does not note the status of any of the other individuals involved in the complex accident.

An Overview of Motorcyclist Injury and Fatality StatisticsmotorcycleC

According to the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) Motorcycles Traffic Safety Facts sheet, 4,668 riders died and some 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in traffic accidents nationwide in 2013.  While motorcycles made up only 3% of vehicles registered in the U.S. in 2013, motorcyclist fatalities accounted for a disproportionately large share of all traffic deaths at 14%.  Rider injuries were a more commensurate 4% of all traffic crash injuries.  The true disproportionality of motorcyclists’ share of both traffic deaths and injuries is evident when one considers that motorcycles travel accounted for merely 0.7% of all vehicle miles in 2013.  Taking these statistics together reveals that for every mile travelled motorcyclists were 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die and about 5 times more likely to be injured.

The Leading Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

There is surprisingly limited information about the cause of motorcycle accidents.  Although nearly three and a half decades old, a study from 1981 titled “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report” (known as “The Hurt Report” for its lead author) is still considered the most comprehensive, accurate, and relevant study of the issues.  A summary of findings appears on pages 416 through 419 and includes the following conclusions based on an in-depth review of motorcycle accident reports and actual accident scenes:

  • Approximately three-quarters of studied accidents involved a collision between a motorcycle and another vehicle, while around one-quarter were single-vehicle incidents.
  • In two-thirds of the multi-vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle was responsible for causing the accident and had violated the right-of-way of the motorcycle.
  • The most predominant cause of the studied motorcycle accidents was the failure of motorists to see the motorcycle either at all or until it was too late to avoid a crash.
  • The most common configuration in the accidents involved an automobile making a left turn in front of a motorcycle that is traveling straight.
  • On the side of the motorcycle operator, insufficient attention was the most common factor contributing to an accident.

Complex Cases, Experienced Counsel

Although the Hurt Report helps identify some of the most common causes leading to motorcycle accidents, the reality is that cause is rarely a simple inquiry.  In many (if not most) accident cases, multiple factors combined to lead to the plaintiff’s injuries.  The San Ramon tragedy is one example of a real-life accident that involved several smaller accidents and countless decisions on the part of both the drivers and the rider.

Motorcycle accidents can feel overwhelming, especially when it is you or a loved one who was injured.  Rest assured that our accident team works on complex cases every day, including cases in which more than one person was at fault.  We know how to read accident reports and work with experts to determine the various factors that led to the crash(es) and we know how to prove fault in court.

A final note — If you are worried because you may have contributed to the crash, rest assured that the law does not demand perfection.  Cause is a complex inquiry, something that the law and our legal team understand.  California law allows injured people to recover money even if their own negligence contributed to the accident.  Call to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:

Sharing the Road: Even the Safest Pedestrians and Motorcyclists Rely on Responsible Drivers

San Francisco/San Jose Motorcycle Lawyer on Overcoming Bias

(Image by Flicker user torbakhopper)

From the high school field on Friday to cheering on the alma matter at Saturday tailgates and watching the NFL on Sunday, for many Americans, fall means football.  While our own office certainly has its friendly rivalries, we all cheer for athletes of all ages to have success on and off the field.  As a San Francisco sports injury law firm, the Brod Law Firm believes strongly in the benefits of sports.  However, we are also very concerned about some of the dangerous health consequences that may impact professionals, weekend warriors, and young players alike including the risk of long-term brain injury from football.

Study: 96% of Studied Deceased NFL Players’ Brains Test Positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

On Saturday, Sports Illustrated (“SI”) reported on the continuing investigation into how repeated head trauma on the football field can impact players for their entire lives.  The article is based on a study by scientists with Boston University and the Department of Veterans Affairs that looked at the brains of deceased athletes.  According to SI, researchers identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”) in 96% (87 of 91) of studied NFL players’ brains footballhelmetand 79% (131 of 165) of all football players’ brains examined during the study including professional, semi-professional, and college players.

This study is hardly an anomaly and SI notes it is “remarkably in line with the center’s pas research surrounding football and brain disease.”  Past studies have suggested that less-severe but more frequent head injuries are a bigger culprit in CTE than more violent but isolated incidents such as those that might cause a concussion.  Dr. Ann McKee of the VA Boston Healthcare System dismissed those who say scientists are sensationalizing the issue, saying that CTE is a very real issue that has been easily spotted in the donated brains of former players.

The Long-Term Impact of CTE

The webpage for the Boston University CTE Center explains that CTE is a progressive and degenerative brain disease that is found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma.  Associated with boxers since the 1920s, recent studies have looked at a range of different groups who incur repeated brain trauma including football players and certain military veterans.  According to the Center, trauma leads to degeneration of the brain tissue and the build-up of abnormal proteins, changes that can appear years, even decades, after the trauma-causing events end.  While CTE can only be conclusively identified after death, it has a number of serious symptoms including memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion, Parkinsonism, and mental health issues (incuding depression, aggression, impaired impulse control, suicidal tendencies).  Eventually, CTE can lead to progressive dementia.

Protecting Athletes Today and Tomorrow

All activities, including sports, carry risk.  However, some risks are made greater by negligent or even purposeful decisions by individuals and organizations.  From a coach who dismisses a young player’s reports of dizziness to a governing conference that ignores medical research and refuses to respond to known dangers, in some cases sporting injuries cannot be dismissed as mere accidents or simply part of the game.  If you or your child has suffered from a sports injury, including but not limited to brain trauma, and you believe someone is to blame, call our Northern California sports injury law firm to discuss your rights.  Please, speak up to protect yourself, your child, and all athletes from unnecessary injury.

See Related Blog Posts:

Cheerleading: From the Sidelines to Center Stage, From Supporting Athletes to Being Athletes

Sports Injury Attorney Looks at Soccer Injuries

(Image by Stròlic Furlàn – Davide Gabino)



As a False Claims Act law firm, we are always interested to find out what people know about the law, a fundamental issue given the large role private citizens play in bring False Claims Act (“FCA” or “the Act”) lawsuits.  One of the things we’ve learned is that even the people who are familiar with the law are surprised to learn the wide variety of contexts in which it can apply.  Likewise, its many state counterparts are versatile tools for the fight against fraud.

Overview of the False Claims Act

The Legal Information Institute (“LII”) at Cornell University Law School explains that the FCA is a “[f]ederal statute setting criminal and civil penalties for falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product, or under-stating an obligation to the government.”  Although not emphasized in the LII article, false claims only violate the Act if made knowingly, with deliberate ignorance, or willful disregard of the claim’s falsity (see The False Claims Act: A Primer published by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”)).

As the LII explains, either the DOJ or private citizens can bring claims to enforce the law.  Suits filed by individuals are called “qui tam lawsuits” and the person bringing suit is called the “realtor” (or, colloquially, “whistleblower claims” and “whistleblower”).  The government can elect to intervene in qui tam actions, essentially taking over the prosecution, or allow the realtor to continue alone.  If the government recovers money via a judgment or settlement, the realtor is entitled to 15-25% if the government intervened or up to 30% if the government did not as compensation for her efforts.  Whistleblowers are also protected from retaliation.

Many states have their own versions of the FCA covering similar frauds, although the details of the laws can vary by state.

A Law Covering Many Forms of Fraud on the Government

According to the DOJ, in fiscal year 2014 the government recovered $5.69 billion in government fraud settlements and judgments.  Of this money, $3.1 billion came from financial institutions and involved federally insured mortgages/loans and $2.3 billion involved fraud on federal health care programs (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare).  These figures only include federal recoveries, although many cases also or solely involved fraud on state governments and/or private institutions.  Although not specifically referenced in the DOJ report, another common topic in FCA litigation is military contract fraud.

While there are certainly some common culprits, FCA claims arise in many different industries, not surprising given the large amount of money the government spends each year!  A few examples of cases resolved this year involving the FCA and/or state equivalents that demonstrate this breadth include:

  • On September 14, 2015, a Tennessee judge ordered a former employee to pay $5.4 million to a school district and its insurer. The suit, filed pursuant to the Tennessee FCA, accused the employee of embezzlement and included claims she diverted grant money intended for Alcoa City Schools to a personal account and forged a supervisor’s signature to cause the district to pay for personal charges on multiple credit cards (The Daily Times).
  • Earlier in September, Parsons Government Services Inc. agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle a federal case alleging it knowingly sought and received reimbursement for ineligible employee relocation costs pursuant to a contract relating to a waste processing plant at the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility (DOJ Press Release).
  • In June 2015, a federal judge ordered Trinity Industries, Inc., a guardrail manufacturer, pay in excess of $663 million for failing to tell the Federal Highway Administration about changes to its product. The guardrail systems were allegedly faulty and have been blamed for numerous deaths (WPRI 12), also see our own blog entry discussing injury and wrongful death claims involving allegedly faulty guardrails).
  • During March 2015, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company agreed to pay $44 million to resolve claims filed pursuant to the (federal) FCA alleging it knowingly issued policies under a federal crop reinsurance programs despite the policies being ineligible for the program. The California-based company allegedly forged signatures, backdated policies, signed documents after deadlines had passed, and whited-out dates/signatures (DOJ Press Release).

A False Claims Act Law Firm: Partnering with Whistleblowers, Fighting Fraud

Embezzlement from schools, employment-related billing frauds, hiding problems impacting highway supply contracts, and insurance fraud, in addition to fraud involving health care, mortgage services, and military supply contracts – varied allegations of government fraud all falling under the False Claims Act and its state law counterparts.  As a lawyer specializing in False Claims Act cases, Attorney Brod is ready to use the FCA to fight frauds that steal money from our government, money that comes from every taxpayer and is needed to fulfil the many obligations the government has to its people.  If you believe you have witnessed fraud involving money obtained by making false claims to the government, call 800-427-7020.  You can be part of the fight against fraud.


See Related Blog Posts:

The False Claims Act and the Role of Whistleblowers in Stopping Health Care Fraud

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

(image by Bruce Bortin)


Sports is an important part of American culture, a truth that is never more evident than in the fall when baseball is moving towards its championship and football, college and professional, is just beginning.  Far too frequently, however, we are seeing stories of fans turning violent.  We love our teams, but our San Francisco sports lawyer and his team find this type of violence completely unacceptable.   Holding the perpetrators of spectator violence accountable serves the dual purposes associated with all civil injury claims – prevention of future harm and compensation for the injured.

Video Captures Assault on Vikings Fan

stadiumAs reported by ABC7, a Vikings fan was assaulted in the parking lot of Levi’s Stadium on Monday night after the 49ers beat the Minnesota team.  A video shared on social media shows a group of 49ers fans attacking the individual as he tries to crawl away.  Police are talking to the victim and looking for witnesses, including some still-unidentified people on the video.

While it is not clear how Monday’s incident began, fans who spoke to ABC said that the incident is not indicative of 49er fans in general.  Still, the article notes, Santa Clara police have responded to two dozen reports of game-time assaults since the 49ers moved to Levi’s Stadium last year.  At least one incident has serious consequences with a man incurring a severe brain injury.

Reports Examine Spectator Violence

In 2008, the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (“POP Center”), a nonprofit organization dedicated to effective police work, published a guide to Spectator Violence in Stadiums examining violence in and around stadiums and similar arenas.  The Guide states, “[s]pectator violence in stadiums has been a longstanding tradition” citing recorded incidents in ancient Greece.  Spectator violence occurs during many types of entertainment events, everything from sporting events to concerts and plays to dog shows.  The review also notes that spectator violence is comparatively rare in North America and much more common in Europe.  An article from Athletic Business titled “How to Prevent Fan Violence” suggests violence may not actually be increasing U.S. spectators , but rather technology may allow for greater awareness of events that only the immediate crowd would have known previously.

The POP Center lists six of the most common types of spectator violence (also termed “spectator aggression”): 1) Verbal such as shouting taunts; 2) Gestures, including making obscene motions or threatening signals; 3) Throwing objects like bottles or debris either at specific or random targets; 4) Swarming, from rushing a field to pushing en masse towards an entrance or exit, which can lead to injury or death by, among other causes, trampling; 5) Property destruction, including damage to the venue and/or personal property; 6) Physical acts including spitting, shoving, beating, or even intentional killings.  Critically, the Athletic Business report warns intoxication is a common aggravating factor, leading many sporting venues to cut off alcohol sales prior to the conclusion of the game.

Liability for Spectator Attacks

A victim of a spectator assault (or surviving relatives in deadly incidents) may have a variety of civil claims.  The most obvious potential defendants are the perpetrators of the assault.   However, they may not have the resources to pay a resulting judgment, especially in cases of serious injury or death (this possibility is one reason the law mandates drivers carry auto insurance!).  Sometimes, the injured party may also have a claim against the venue, team, team owner, or an external security firm.  In 2014, per NBC4 Los Angeles, a court awarded Bryan Stow $18 million in a civil suit stemming from an attack in the stadium parking lot after a game.  The court found the Dodgers negligently failed to provide adequate security, holding the team and the attackers themselves liable.  An incident in 2011 led to similar allegations against the 49ers, their former stadium, a security company, and the team owner in a suit dismissed on a legal technicality that did not involve the merits of the claim (see Contra Costa Times and Law 360).  Additionally, in certain circumstances, an injured party may have a claim against the sporting league or similar organization alleging that league policies either encouraged or failed to prevent the incident.

A Sports Fan and a Sports Fan’s Lawyer

If you have been the victim of spectator violence in Northern California, please call our San Francisco fan injury law firm.  We can help you pursue a claim for monetary damages including payment of medical bills, compensation for lost wages, and money for pain and suffering.  Most cases are handled on a contingency fee so you only pay us if you recover money.

See Related Blog Posts:

Empowerment and Prevention: Twin Goals in Civil Cases Following On-Campus Sexual Assault

Sports Injury Lawsuit Filed After Attack at 49ers Game

(Image by Chris Martin)

We hear it even before we enter kindergarten: smoking is hazardous to your health.  Typically, this refers to the risk of inhaling harmful chemicals, but other hazards exist.  Cigarette fires are one of these dangers.  They are particularly worrisome in light of the dangerous conditions that have made fires a constant concern for Californians and therefore a constant concern for our legal team.  Our Santa Rosa burn injury attorney has the experience and knowledge necessary to advocate for people wrongfully injured in fires sparked by cigarettes.  (Note: “Cigarette fires,” “smoking-material fires,” and similar phrases refer to fires caused by any form of smoking materials, but do not include fires sparked by lighting implements like matches or cigarette lighters.)

Tossed Cigarette Sparks Grass Fire

Last week, the Press Democrat reported on a fire that consumed a quarter-acre grass lot in Santa Rosa, a blaze investigators blame on a tossed cigarette.  The fire occurred shortly before 7 P.M. on Tuesday September 8 near Santa Rosa Avenue and East Robles Avenue.  Thankfully, firefighters quickly gained control, stopping flames just 50 feet from a business.

Police report that a 36-year-old Santa Rosa woman admitted to tossing a cigarette into the grass.  She said she thought the cigarette had been extinguished.  When the grass caught aflame, she and a companion tried unsuccessfully to douse the fire.  Police stopped the woman as she began to leave the scene.  She was arrested on suspicion of starting a fire and an alcohol-related probation violation and held on $10,000 bail.

Smoking-Material Fires: Statistics and Trends

cigarette2Unfortunately, cigarette fires are far from unusual and often result in greater tragedy than burnt grass.  In July 2013, the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) released a study entitled “The Smoking-Material Fire Problem.”  Per the report, U.S. fire departments responded to some 90,000 smoking-material fires in 2011, a figure little changed from the 90,800 smoking-material fires the year before.  The 2011 cigarette fires are blamed for 540 civilian deaths, a substantial drop from 610 civilian smoking-fire deaths in 2010.  Additionally, the report says that smoking-related fires injured 1,640 civilians in 2011 and caused $621 million in direct property damage.

The good news: there has been a “long-term trend” of fewer and fewer smoking-material fires.  Table1b shows a marked decline in civilian deaths in smoking-related fires from 1,950 in 1980 and 2,210 in 1981 to the 540 in 2011.  The NFPA’s report attributes the drop to a decreased number of smokers, regulations requiring mattresses and other furniture be increasingly resistant to cigarette ignition, and nationwide rules mandating cigarettes be “fire-safe” (i.e. reduced ignition strength making them less likely to start a fire).

We are heartened by these trends, but remain concerned about those who continue to be injured and killed because of smoking-material fires.  Each injury, each death, is one too many.  Notably, the report finds one-quarter of those killed in smoking-material fires were not the person who smoked the at-issue cigarette and nearly half (46%) of those who died in home smoking-material fires were aged 65 or older.  The latter figure is particularly concerning given that people 65 and older comprise only 13% of the population and older people are less likely to smoke than younger individuals.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims Following Cigarette Fires

What should you do if you are injured or lose a close family member in a smoking-material fire?  First, obtain any needed medical treatment.  Next, contact legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid the loss of physical evidence, problems with fading memories, and time limits on filing claims.  In addition to potential claims against the person who improperly disposed of the materials, other claims may exist such as claims against a cigarette manufacturer that did not comply with fire safety requirements, landlord/tenant claims if the injury occurred in a rental property that lacked appropriate fire safety equipment, product safety claims related to mattress/furniture flammability, and/or claims against others whose negligence contributed to the fire and/or your injuries.

Attorney Brod serves as a fire injury lawyer in Santa Rosa and throughout Northern California.  Independently and in conjunction with experts, he thoroughly investigates each case to determine all potential legal claims.  Call to arrange a personal consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

When People Cause Wildfires: California Fire Injury Attorney on a Growing Threat

Oakland Apartment Fire Attorney on Civilian Deaths in Residential Fires

(Image by Nadia Hatoum; Note: No connection exists between pictured cigarette and fire issues discussed in post.)