San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

As a health care fraud law firm, we work with private whistleblowers nationwide to protect taxpayer money and ensure the health of millions of Americans.  Often, scammers who defraud the federal system also target state health care programs.  We work to fight this type of fraud too, recognizing that these systems are also vital to the health and well-being of countless individuals.  While we can handle health care fraud matters across the country, we have particularly strong ties to California and Florida.  In today’s post, we look at a problem plaguing California – Medi-Cal fraud involving drug treatment clinics.

Director Apologizes for Medi-Cal Fraud

Last September, The Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”) reported on legislative hearings in which Toby Douglas, the director of Medi-Cal, apologized for systemic problems involving the failure to effectively monitor taxpayer-funded drug rehabilitation programs.  In the course of those hearings, it became clear that the agency knew about widespread sham billing by “rogue clinics” as early as 2007.  In 2014, the agency temporarily suspended 73 clinics and 101 other counseling sites, locations that had bilked Medi-Cal out of more than $36 million in the previous fiscal year alone.  At the time of the report, there were at least 64 on-going fraud investigations looking into these scams.

Investigative Report: Scheme Targeted Taxpayer Money, Took Advantage of Vulnerable Californians

In December, the CIR followed up with an in-depth article examining Medi-Cal drug rehabilitation clinic fraud.  According to the CIR investigation, an illegal marketplace of grew in California in response to the demand for Medi-Cal eligible clients.  Clinics would bribe residents and provide kickbacks to home operators, ultimately using beneficiary information to bill Medi-Cal for drug rehabilitation services that were never provided and were often unnecessary.

This general scheme appeared in many different forms.  Clinics would bring teens by the busload from foster care homes despite the fact that many of the so-called clients didn’t need drug addiction treatment.  Vanloads of elderly healthcashand/or mentally impaired individuals were brought in from group homes, individuals who didn’t need drug treatment and often didn’t understand what was happening.  The clinics would bill for services even when counselors were not on duty and would create fake therapy notes for ineligible “ghost clients.”  As the report states, these individuals were not viewed as patients needing care but instead “[e]ach warm body is a renewable resource, representing about $27 in government funding for a group counseling session and $64 for a one-on-one appointment.”  A man who worked for one of the clinics described the Medi-Cal beneficiaries as “pieces on a board…being shuffled around.”  These schemes led to millions of dollars going to fraudulent clinics and into the pockets of scammers.

The Danger of Health Care Fraud, The Fight to Stop It

These schemes are a prime example of the multi-faceted danger of health care fraud schemes.  Perpetrators prey on vulnerable individuals, taking advantage of them and often putting their health at risk while stealing millions from tax-payer funded systems.  As the schemes grow, the impact grows.  People who actually need the services that the scammers purport to provide suffer as limited funds are diverted into criminals’ pockets.

Whistleblowers, private citizens who have knowledge about health care fraud schemes, are essential to the fight against fraud in the federal health care system and its state equivalents.  Like the federal system, state law specifically provides for the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation and for significant rewards to whistleblowers whose honesty and bravery lead to the recovery of diverted funds.

If you have information about fraud on the California’s health benefits system, call our Medi-Cal fraud law firm.  Our firm also serves as whistleblowers’ counsel in cases involving federal health benefits fraud and fraud targeting the health benefits systems of other states.

See Related Blog Posts:

California Whistleblowers’ Law Firm Shines a Spotlight on Medi-Cal Fraud

Medicaid Fraud: Health Care Fraud Targeting Another Government Program

(Image by Flickr user 401(K) 2013)

They blend into the everyday hubbub on streets throughout America, fitting in seamlessly because they visit most of our homes on a weekly basis.  This normalcy makes it easy to forget that they are actually powerful, heavy-duty vehicles.  Our Oakland truck accident lawyer knows that garbage truck accidents are a problem few of us ever consider – until it happens in our neighborhood or until an accident impacts someone we love.

Officials Investigate Garbage Truck Accident in Orinda, CA

A garbage truck accident in Orinda on Tuesday left many feeling grateful that the outcome wasn’t more tragic.  The Oakland Tribune reports that a garbage worker was preparing a bin for loading on Los Ceros just before 8 A.M. when the truck began to roll backwards down a hill towards the busy Moraga Way.  The worker gave chase and tried to jump into the driver’s seat but wasn’t able to hold on and eventually leapt off the truck.  After colliding with a single car, the truck came to a stop.  Both the worker and the car’s driver were hospitalized but officials say they expect both people to recover fully.  Local police chief Mark Nagel remarked that it is amazing the consequences weren’t more severe.  An investigation is ongoing to determine why the truck began to roll.

Recent Garbage Truck Accidents Show the Seriousness of a Far-Too-Common Threat

One community in Washington State is far too familiar with garbage truck accidents.  Last month, an NBC affiliate reported that Richland, WA saw two frightening garbage truck accidents in just a few short weeks.  In the first incident, brake failure caused a garbage truck to roll into a house.  In the latter case, a packed truck weighing garbagetrucksome 600,000 pounds was headed to the dump when it veered off the road and into a wall.  The driver was injured, but the local Public Works Director suggested he was lucky to be alive.

Garbage truck accidents can have much more dire results.  In May, The Times-Herald Record reported that a garbage truck in New York state veered into opposing traffic and slammed head-on into a school bus, hospitalizing a garbage worker and killing the bus driver who had just dropped a busload of children at a local school.  In March, a homeless man was killed in Allentown, PA when he was trapped in the back of a garbage truck.  Per 6ABC, he was buried beneath refuse and became caught in the trash compactor.  The same month and one hour away in Hazle Township, PA, a garbage worker was seriously injured when he was thrown through a truck’s windshield in a collision.  Per The Morning Call, the refuse vehicle ran then ran over the man and dragged him 41 feet.

A Dangerous Occupation

According to a March 2013 article on HealthDay.com,  garbage collecting is one of the most dangerous jobs nationwide.  Two-thirds of the 450 refuse worker killed during trash collection in the U.S. from 1980 to 1992 died in vehicle-related events.  The article suggests this situation has not improved, citing a 2007 government report that found a fatality rate of 22 per 100,000 refuse workers, one of the highest for any occupation.  Studies also found a high rate of injury among refuse workers.

Representing Workers and Bystanders Injured in Refuse Truck Accidents

Garbage truck accidents can be serious, even deadly, and impact workers and bystanders alike.  These accidents often have unique characteristics and may be tied to problems in vehicle design, worker negligence, and/or dangerous company policy.  Civil injury and wrongful death lawsuits can help uncover these root causes.  Importantly, refuse collection companies are often deemed accountable for the actions of their workers and for problems with company vehicles.  One complicating factor is whether the trash collection organization is public or private as cases involving public entities involve unique issues of sovereign immunity.

Our firm has decades of injury law experience in California including cases involving public entities, vehicle malfunction, and employer liability for worker negligence.  If a Northern California garbage collection accident leaves you injured or claims the life of a relative, call our Oakland truck crash attorney.  You may be entitled to compensation and your case may help prevent future tragedies.

See Related Blog Posts:

Back to the Basics – Accidents and Employer Liability

Commercial Truck Accidents and Legal Liability: Who’s Responsible When Trucks Cause Injuries?

(Image by Salim Virji)

Bicycling can provide a sense of freedom to people of all ages.  For the young, bikes expand the world, affording their rider a sense of independence.  For adults, riding evokes that feeling and also provides freedom from the expenses and hassles associated with driving, especially in urban areas.  Sadly, this freedom is sharply limited by the reality of bicycle fatalities.  Our San Jose bicycle accident law firm was saddened to learn of two deadly bicycle accidents separated by only three days and a seven mile stretch of road.

Three Days, Seven Miles, Two Fatal Bicycle Accidents

According to a report in The Los Altos Town Crier,  63-year-old Palo Alto resident Eric Palmquist was hit by a car while riding a bicycle on Friday July 10.  He died six days later.  Police believe he was riding west on El Camino Real when he was struck by a Honda Civic travelling north on San Antonio Road.  Palmquist was thrown onto the pavement and suffered a fatal head injury.  He was not wearing a helmet.  The driver of the Civic was not hurt and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

While Palmquist was fighting to stay alive, a second bicycle accident occurred along El Camino Real, approximately 7 miles away in Sunnyvale.  The San Jose Mercury News reports that a 12-year-old boy was riding across the intersection of El Camino Real and Henderson Avenue when he was struck by a car just before 10 P.M. on Monday July 13.  He passed away two days later.  Police say the initial investigation suggests the boy was crossing against a red light.

Bicycle Crashes — General Statistics

In May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) released a Traffic Safety Facts sheet bikeghost2examining bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles in 2013 (Note: References to “bicyclist deaths/injuries,”  “motor vehicle accidents/crashes,” and “traffic accidents/crashes” refer to bicycle accidents involving at least one motor vehicle on public property).  Per the NHTSA, 743 cyclists were killed and approximately 48,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents during 2013.  The fatality figure represents a 1% increase over the prior year.  This was the third straight increase in rider deaths, amounting to a worrisome 19% increase since 2010.

California saw 141 bicyclist deaths in traffic accidents in 2013, more than any other state.  Taking population into account, California was the third deadliest state for riders with 3.68 bicyclist traffic crash deaths per million population, exceeded only by Arizona (4.68 rate, 31 deaths) and Florida (a whopping 6.80 rate, 133 deaths).  Nationwide, the rate was 2.35 bicycle fatalities per million people.

Bicycle Crashes – “Who?” and “How?”

Although women outnumber men nationwide, men were heavily overrepresented in bicycle accidents.  Men made up 83% of riders injured in motor vehicle accidents and 87% of those killed.  The average age for bicyclists killed in traffic crashes 2013 was 44 while the average age for injuries was 32. Both ages rose steadily between 2004 and 2013.

The NHTSA report also provides some insight into the nature of bicycle traffic accidents.  Urban areas saw more bicyclist fatalities than rural areas (68% to 32%) and a majority of traffic crashes that led to a bicyclist’s death happened in non-intersection locations (57%).  The peak time frame for deadly traffic crashes was between 3 P.M. and midnight when 56% of the fatal accidents occurred.

A Bicyclist’s Law Firm in Northern California

Our hearts go out to the families of the bicyclists killed in the recent bicycle accidents on El Camino Real.  Two fatal bicycle accidents in less than a week’s span, seven miles apart on the same roadway, cannot and should not go unnoticed.  Regardless of who was at fault in these particular bicycle tragedies, many and perhaps most bicycle accidents stem from driver negligence.  Drivers must be attentive to all travelers and must not forget just how powerful a motor vehicle is in contrast to a bicycle.  We highly recommend all bicycle riders wear helmets every time they ride, but even a helmeted rider is virtually unprotected from a multi-ton car, truck, or SUV.

If you were injured or lost a family member in a bicycle accident caused by a negligent driver in Northern California, call to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our Bay Area bicycle attorney.  With decades of legal experience and as a member of multiple bicyclist organizations, Greg Brod is ready to represent you and fight for the compensation you deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:

Bicycle Safety in San Francisco

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

(Image by Sebastien Paquet)

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On television, the least popular cops work in internal affairs.  By the same token, one might expect us to hesitate, especially around other lawyers, to say we serve clients looking for a legal malpractice lawyer in San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, and other locations in Northern California.  The truth is we’re very proud to practice in this arena.  Legal malpractice is about ensuring lawyers do not practice with wanton disregard for our profession’s high standards.  Today, we look at legal malpractice in California.  We examine the elements of a successful claim, including the case-within-a-case concept, and look at one reason The Brod Law Firm is able to serve malpractice clients effectively and efficiently.

The Basics of a Legal Malpractice Claim

Let’s begin with what legal malpractice is not.  A meritorious legal malpractice claim is not triggered just because a “good” case was lost or a court rendered an unjust verdict.  No lawyer can promise a certain result, in fact that itself might actually be malpractice.  Legal malpractice does exist when a lawyer fails to provide professional services with the diligence, prudence, and skill that a reasonable lawyer would use in the situation.  This standard applies to all non-medical professional malpractice actions and is detailed in California Civil Jury Instruction 600 (“[A/An] [insert type of professional] is negligent if [he/she] fails to use the skill and care that a reasonably careful [insert type of professional] would have used in similar circumstances.”).

To prove legal malpractice in California, the plaintiff must show:

  1. An attorney-client relationship existed
  2. The attorney was negligent in the legal representation provided
  3. The negligence proximately caused the client harm
  4. The extent of injury

Examples of Legal Malpractice

What sort of negligence can trigger a legal malpractice claim?  Examples include: Failing to maintain communication with the client; Failing to meet clear deadlines; and Taking on a case s/he is not qualified (and does not work to become qualified) to handle.  Malpractice can also be more intentional such as overcharging or mingling client’s money with his/her own.  Legal malpractice may involve transactional services (ex. contract drafting, corporate merger services, etc.).  An example would be drafting an agreement containing a substantial error that would be obvious to another transactional attorney.

The Case-Within-a-Case Concept

Showing negligence is not sufficient for a legal malpractice case.  There must be specific proof that this negligence caused harm.  Put another way, as set forth in Civil Jury Instruction 601: “To recover damages from [name of defendant], [name of plaintiff] must prove that [he/she/it] would have obtained a better result if [name of defendant] had acted as a reasonably careful attorney.”  In litigation, this essentially means that a legal malpractice claim includes a “case within a case;” the plaintiff must show that there would have been a different result if the lawyer provided a reasonable level of legal service.

This part of the case also establishes damages.  A plaintiff must prove exactly what was lost because of the malpractice, such as how much the plaintiff would have won at trial or would have earned with a properly drafted contract.  The plaintiff must also show the damages could have been collected, i.e. that the defendant in a car accident case (or his insurance) could have paid the damages.

Why Hire The Brod Law Firm?  Why Not a Firm that ONLY Does Malpractice?

The “case within a case” requirement is one reason we are well-positioned to serve as a Northern California legal malpractice law firm for Oakland, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and neighboring regions.  While it might be tempting to choose a firm that only does legal malpractice, we believe this isn’t the best choice.  A successful case requires re-doing the initial representation, therefore clients are best served by an attorney knows the underlying field.  For example, as a premises liability and a legal malpractice firm, we could effectively handle a malpractice suit involving a slip-and-fall case.

Attorney Greg Brod is proud to practice as a legal malpractice lawyer in Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa.  If you have been a victim of legal malpractice, please call.  We would be honored to talk with you and to help uphold the honor of our legal system.

See Related Blog Posts:

Our Commitment to Legal Ethics – Adhering to the Ethical Standards of Our Profession and Protecting the Victims of Attorney Malpractice in California

State Bar Recommends Suspension After Attorney Defrauds 77-Year Old Client of $3.5 Million

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(Image by Bruce Bortin)

For-profit schools provide an education to many students who might otherwise be unable to attend post-secondary school.  However, these schools have a dual mission: a commitment to educating students and a commitment to earning money for investors and shareholders.  While many, perhaps most, are ethical and education-oriented, some for-profit schools misuse federal student aid funds perpetuating scams that hurt the government and students alike. Today, our false claims act law firm looks at federal student loan fraud and reminds readers of the importance of whistleblowers in all government fraud cases.

Education Affiliates Pays $13 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations

classroomOn June 24, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Education Affiliates (“EA”) agreed to pay $13 million to settle False Claims Act (“FCA”) claims against the for-profit institution.  EA operates 50 campuses providing post-secondary training in a range of fields in five states.  The suits were brought by five whistleblowers who will share approximately $1.8million under the FCA’s qui tam provisions.  EA denies any wrongdoing.

According to the allegations, employees altered admissions tests, created fake high school diplomas, referred applicants to “diploma mills” so to obtain invalid high school credentials, and otherwise falsified federal aid applications.  EA allegedly violated the FCA, defrauding the government by enrolling and accepting federal aid funding for unqualified students.  The settlement also resolves claims that EA violated the ban on incentive pay for enrollment personnel, misrepresented graduation rates and job placement figures, and altered attendance information.  Government officials claim EA defrauded the government and hurt students by providing them “a worthless piece of paper” instead of an actual education.

An Epidemic of Fraud by For-Profit Educational Institutions

This is far from the only case of a for-profit school facing FCA allegations involving federal student loans.  Notably, not all cases focus on loan applications and/or admissions requirements.  Per the government, it is also fraud, under the FCA, when a school accepts federal aid and fails to provide the education promised.  It seems likely that those scenarios would also include defrauding students and providers/recipients of private loans, grants, and scholarships.  Funds recovered in these cases may be used to repay the government, reduce student aid debt (or refund paid-off amounts), and provide appropriate whistleblower rewards.  Schools often settle while denying wrongdoing.

A few examples based on DOJ press releases:

Representing Whistleblowers, Fighting Federal Student Aid Fraud

Commenting on the University of Phoenix case, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin Wagner remarked, “This settlement showcases how a working relationship between the Government and private whistle-blowers can bring about effective results in terms of protecting taxpayer dollars.”  Whistleblowers, often but not always current or former employees, are crucial to uncovering fraud against the federal government including fraud involving federal student aid.  The government cannot police this growing field alone.

Don’t sit by and allow fraud to happen.  Don’t let dishonest individuals steal money from the government and an education from Americans.  Speak.  If you have information about a school committing government fraud, call our federal student aid fraud lawyer at (800)-427-7020.  Our whistleblowers’ attorney handles FCA matters nationwide.  As a team, we can fight fraud, ending fraudulent schemes and returning money to aid coffers.  Ask us about the protections available to whistleblowers and the financial reward that may be.

See Related Blog Posts:

Record Recoveries in False Claims Act Suits in 2014, Whistleblowers’ Firm Looks to Continue Trend in 2015

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

 

Trust.  It is an essential part of living in a community from trusting the food we purchase is safe to trusting opposing traffic will stop when they have a red light.  As our population ages, another form of trust becomes ever more important – trusting that elder care facilities will care for and protect their residents.  A shocking example of the violation of this trust arises when facilities fail to guard against sexual elder abuse.  Difficult as it is to think about, sexual abuse in nursing homes is a very real threat and our San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer believes elder care facilities must take swift and comprehensive action when sexual abuse occurs whether the perpetrator is a nursing home employee or another resident.

Civil Suit Follows Investigation into Nursing Home’s Failure to Report Sexual Assault

On June 16, a civil lawsuit was filed in Washington state involving allegations that a nursing home failed to take appropriate steps to protect a resident from sexual abuse.  KOMO 4 News and Wenatchee World (via San Mateo County’s Network of Care) report that the estate of Christine Trowbridge filed the suit against Cashmere Convalescent Center.  The civil action follows government investigations, including a $6,500 fine levied by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services for failing to intervene in or report the abuse.

oldsadTrowbridge was admitted to Cashmere’s dementia care ward in 2013.  In addition to other mental and physical deficits, she suffered from partial paralysis and was barely able to speak.  According to the lawsuit and the recent investigation, staff members found a male resident in Trowbridge’s room on two separate occasions during January 2015.  On the first occasion, the man took hold of Trowbridge’s hand and put it on his genital region.  After the second visit, Trowbridge told a nurse that the man was sexually abusing her.  While employees stopped the conduct, the nursing home did not report the events to state health investigators as the law requires.  According to the Complaint, in the wake of the incidents Trowbridge became depressed, suffered suicidal thoughts, and lost significant weight due to lack of appetite.  Trowbridge was hospitalized with pneumonia and respiratory failure on May 11 and died three days later.

Notably, investigators found the same male resident behaved in a similar manner with other female residents.  No reports were made until February 2 when he was found fondling a female resident in the dining facility.  The nursing director defended the failure to report prior events saying she believed the incidents were consensual and the man had a right to physical intimacy.  However, state investigators concluded the center failed to assess the ability of the female patients to consent to sexual activity and that this failure left the women vulnerable.

Sexual Mistreatment of the Elderly: An Understudied Threat

The National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the federal Justice Department, calls sexual abuse “one of the most understudied aspects of elder mistreatment.”  Disturbingly, a 2006 study concluded that cases of sexual abuse in care facilities are less likely to lead to charges and a finding of guilt than cases involving seniors living independently.  There has been a repeated refusal to recognize the immense psychological impact of these crimes including a failure to routinely assess/evaluate the psychological effects of sexual elder abuse on the victim.  Charges are often not filed unless there are physical signs of assault.

A Matter of Trust

Nursing homes are entrusted with the care of our beloved relatives and friends — and perhaps, one day, ourselves — who can no longer care for themselves.  We must be able to trust that the facilities will keep residents safe and guard them against threats including the threat of sexual abuse.  This obligation not only includes proper reporting but also taking affirmative steps to prevent sexual abuse of the elderly and infirm in the first place.

If you believe someone you care about has been sexually abused or otherwise mistreated while at a Northern California senior care facility, call the offices of our elder abuse law firm in Sonoma, San Francisco, or Oakland.  We can help you protect and advocate for your loved one.

See Related Blog Posts:

Resident Aggression: A Growing Threat in Senior Care Homes and Facility Liability

California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

A Shocking Form of Elder Abuse: Sexual Abuse Against Seniors in Care Centers and At Home

(Image by Ulrich Joho)

 

Late last week, a friend of our San Francisco landlord/tenant law firm e-mailed us an article he’d seen on Curbed LA, the Los Angeles portion of a real estate and neighborhood news website.  The article suggests that landlords in L.A. could fetch up to twice as much money on the short-term market (such as via Airbnb) than they can make via a traditional long-term rental.   He asked us: “Could the same thing happen in San Francisco?  Should renters be worried?”  We thought that the reality and the legality of short-term rentals in San Francisco might be on more than one renter’s mind (and therefore a great blog topic!), especially given the well-publicized increase in rental prices in the Bay Area in recent years.

Airbnb and the Short-Term Rental Concept

For those unfamiliar with the company, Airbnb is a locally based company that touts itself as a community marketplace connecting people looking for a place to stay with people who have space to spare.  The site covers more than 34,000 cities and allows people to rent a wide-range of spaces with many spaces offering nightly, weekly, and monthly rates.  While it is certainly the most popular, Airbnb is just one company serving the growing demand for short-term rentals.

rentSan Francisco’s Short-Term Rental Law

On February 1, 2015, a new law took effect in San Francisco allowing short-term rentals in the city, a move many called a victory for Airbnb since rentals under 30 days in multi-unit buildings had previously been banned (although the consensus is the law was rarely enforced).  The Planning Commission provides a Frequently Asked Questions page aimed at those wishing to rent out property short-term.  Under the law, (1) permanent San Francisco residents may rent out their (2) primary residence for an (3) unlimited period while they are present and for (4) up to 90 days while the owner is not present, with fines taking effect thereafter.

While the structure of the law seeks to limit the impact it will have on long-term rental availability, some renters believe the law does not go far enough.  According to KQED, last week the group ShareBetterSF presented the city with a petition to put amendments to the law on the ballot.  ShareBetterSF is a coalition that purports to be fighting the conversion of residential rental units into virtual hotel rooms.  A spokesperson for the group said the revisions are not intended to target individuals renting out a room in their home for needed income, but rather people who rent out multiple full units that previously housed longer-term tenants.  The petition seeks to improve enforcement of the law and to change the limit from 90 to 75 rental nights when the owner is not in residence.  It is just one of the attempts to amend the law mere months after it went into effect.

 

Protecting San Francisco Tenants in a Tight Housing Market

Our research suggests a wide-range of opinions on whether or not short-term rentals are further depleting the rental market in San Francisco.  Regardless, short-term rentals have changed, and will continue to change, the world of residential tenancy and the law governing this area is in flux.  We are staying abreast of legal developments in San Francisco and throughout Northern California.

We promise to continue to fight for the legal rights of Bay Area renters.  If you believe you’ve been wrongfully evicted so that your former landlord can adopt a short-term rental model, please call.  As a San Francisco tenants’ lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod can also help long-term renters whose homes have been rendered uninhabitable because a neighboring short-term rental is poorly managed (i.e. excessive noise, vermin such as bed bugs) and short-term renters whose rental companies did not provide property that lived up to promised standards.  Call (415) 397-1130 or (800) 427-7020 to learn more about our Northern California landlord/tenant law firm.

See Related Blog Posts:

California Supreme Court Protects Tenants, Strengthens Rent Control

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

Uber: Rider Beware?

(Image by Mark Moz)

Picture an escalator.  Some people stand still, others power-walk.  Parents hold children’s hands.  Some people barely break stride as they board, others hesitate and wait for just the right moment.  Typically, the biggest concern is an out-of-service flight that turns would-be-riders into climbers.  However, as we were reminded this week, escalator accidents are a very real danger and can have life-altering or even life-ending consequences.  When people are injured or killed due to an escalator accident in Northern California, our San Francisco injury lawyer is prepared to fight for their legal rights and the compensation they deserve.

Escalator Abruptly Stops Causing Stumble and Minor Injuries

At the time of this writing, few details had emerged about a Sunday afternoon escalator accident at the Powell BART station.  ABC7 reports that a man fell backwards into four women when an escalator stopped abruptly between the platform and the concourse.  Four people received treatment for minor injuries.

News Reports: Examples of Escalator Accidents Causing Injuries and Deaths in 2014/2015

A sampling of news reports from 2014 and 2015 vividly demonstrate that escalator accidents can have much more dire consequences.  Last month, a 3 year old boy suffered a foot injury when his boot became trapped in a step aboard a Burger King escalator in Welescalatorlington, New Zealand (The Dominion Post).  Also in June, a toddler lost his hand when it became stuck in a gap while playing aboard an escalator in a Kuala Lampur train station (AsiaOne) and a boy in India lost three fingers when, while riding a mall escalator with his parents, he fell and his hand became stuck near where the escalator meets the floor (Times of India).  In April, a five year old girl died at a mall in Kuala Lampur after slipping through a gap between an escalator and rail (The Star).

Children are not the only escalator accident victims.  Last week, Australian sports news site AFL.com reported that a man was in serious but stable condition after falling from a crowded escalator.  October 2014 saw at least two adult escalator fatalities.  One woman fell to her death while apparently playing around and straddling the rail after a hockey victory in St. Louis (Stltoday.com).  Another woman was strangled when first her scarf and then her hair became caught in a Montreal transit station escalator (CBC News).

Researchers Examine Details of Escalator Accidents

Escalator accidents are surprisingly common.  According to a 2013 research report titled “Riding the Escalator: How Dangerous is it Really?” (available via Medscape), there are approximately 10,000 escalator-injuries each year in the United States that result in emergency room treatment, a number that has been steadily rising since the 1990s.  Researchers reviewed incidents involving 173 patients over age 16 admitted to one Swiss hospital following escalator accidents.  There were two fatalities, one suffered a cardiac event before the accident and one incurred intracranial bleeding as a result of the escalator accident.  About half of the patients received only conservative treatments and half required hospital admission, with 55% of the admitted patients staying for more than 24 hours.

Public transit facilities (62%) and shopping centers (30%) saw the vast majority of the injuries reviewed in the study.  Patients were pretty evenly split by gender, but women tended to suffer lower extremity injuries while men tended to experience head/neck injuries.  Interestingly, half of injured men but only 7% of injured women were intoxicated at the time of injury.  Researchers noted that people over age 60 were hurt at a disproportionate rate.  While the 2013 report focused on adults, a 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics found, unsurprisingly, children under age 5 are disproportionately hurt in escalator accidents.

Escalator Accidents: Fault and Compensation  

True accidents do occur, but often investigation reveals someone (or some entity) was at fault.  In some cases, a defect in the escalator’s design (ex. an unsafe gap between the steps and the rail) is to blame.  Other cases involve an installation/maintenance defect (ex. loose connections or aging wires cause electrical malfunction).  The facility where the accident occurred may bear some of the blame as may companies involved in building and maintaining the escalator.  Another individual may also bear some of the fault, perhaps maliciously pushing someone down the escalator or causing a chain-reaction injury by failing to pay attention and stumbling at the end of the flight.  As in other accident cases, the principle of comparative fault is realistic and means people can recover even if they played a role in causing the accident (ex. a distracted person trips and her shoelace becomes caught in a stair).

If you or someone you love has been injured in an escalator accident in San Francisco or the surrounding region, you may be entitled to compensation.  Attorney Brod offers a no-cost consultation at the offices of our injury law firm in San Francisco, Oakland, or Santa Rosa.  If circumstances require, we can also come to you or schedule a telephone meeting.

See Related Blog Posts:

Bay Area Injury Attorney on the Rights of Balcony Collapse Victims

“The Sky Is Falling!”: Bay Area Injury Lawyer Examines Legal Rights Following Injuries from Falling Debris

(Image by Alexander Mueller)

Few things are more important that health.  We all worry about it, especially when we think about our senior years.  In addition to worrying about our physical and mental well-being, many of us are plagued by questions like “Will I be able to afford the health care that I need?”  Medicare and Medicaid exist to ease these concerns, but they are struggling.  As an experienced health care fraud law firm, we know that fraud is a big part of the problem.  Nursing home fraud and other forms of Medicare/Medicaid fraud deplete already limited resources and impede the quality of care as (so-called) professionals place profit over people’s health.  Scammers target lucrative arenas so it is no surprise that our firm is seeing repeated cases of Medicaid and Medicare fraud involving nursing home pharmacy providers.

Tentative Settlement in Case Alleging Pharmacy Accepted Kickbacks in Exchange for Promoting Drug

According to Modern Healthcare, Omnicare, the country’s largest provider of pharmacy services for long-term care facilities, reached a tentative agreement with the federal government to settle accusations it accepted millions of pharmacydollars in illegal kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories.  According to the government, Abbott paid kickbacks in exchange for Omnicare promoting the drug Depakote as treatment for behavioral disturbances in dementia patients.  The FDA has not approved Depakote for that purpose.  Nonetheless, Omnicare purportedly promoted the off-label use and had its pharmacists review patient charts and recommend the drug to doctors.  In return, Abbott allegedly paid kickbacks in a range of different disguises from “educational funding” and grants to tickets to sporting events and money used to fund corporate meetings.

On July 2, preliminary settlement papers were filed with the court.  The amount of the settlement was not immediately disclosed and the agreement must be approved by federal and state officials.  It is not clear if Omnicare will admit to or deny wrongdoing.

Déjà Vu: July 2014 Settlement in Case Alleging Payments to Induce Facilities to Use Pharmacy Services

Just one year ago, the Department of Justice announced the settlement of another kickback-related fraud suit against Omnicare.  While the current case involves allegations Omnicare received kickbacks, the suit settled in July 2014 put them on the other side of the equation.  There, the government alleged that Omnicare provided improper discounts to skilled nursing facilities in return for the facilities selecting Omnicare to provide pharmaceuticals to Medicare and Medicaid patients.  Although the company did not admit to any wrongdoing, Omnicare paid $124.24 million to settle the case.

The Danger & How We Fight Back

Why are the alleged payments in the two cases problematic?  Kickbacks and other financial incentives can subvert the independent judgment of medical professionals.  The government claims the Abbott payments polluted the independent judgment of pharmacists and subverted their ability to ensure compliance with federal regulations, essentially turning them into Abbott salespeople.  Officials also suggest that nursing homes should choose providers based on quality and cost, not improper payments such as those alleged in the case settled last year.  Stuart Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, explains: “Schemes such as [these] undermine the health care system and take advantage of elderly nursing home residents.”

How do we fight these wrongs?  Honesty, the government needs help.  If you have knowledge regarding fraud involving long-term care pharmacy services or other forms of Medicare/Medicaid fraud, please step forward.  Your information can help the government recoup diverted funds and protect the health of all Americans.  Whistleblower-led civil suits return money to government health care programs, allowing it to be spent on worthy needs.  These suits punish wrongdoers and remind others to think twice before allowing profits to cloud medical judgment.  Call our health care fraud whistleblowers’ attorney to learn more.  The law protects whistleblowers from retaliation and you may be entitled to a substantial reward if your information leads to a recovery of government funds.

See Related Blog Posts:

Pharmaceutical Fraud: Kick-backs Limit Patient Choice

Pharmacies Engaging in Health Care Fraud

Illegal Kickbacks in Senior Care Arena: A Crime Threatening Patients’ Health and a Nation’s Wallets

(Image by Kai Schreiber)

The remnants of a picnic lunch sit on a blanket.  Mom shades her eyes as Junior calls out for her to watch.  Dad fires up the boat pulling Junior along in an inner tube.  He picks up speed and they all laugh as Junior struggles to hang on.  Most likely the day will be remembered for laughs and fun; sunburn and perhaps a bruise or two are all the family fears.  Sadly, tubing accidents can turn this seemingly idyllic summer scene tragic in mere moments.  As we look at the threat, the hearts of our Sonoma County drowning injury lawyer and legal team go out to a grieving family that will never look at a day on the lake the same again.

Holiday Turns Tragic with Lake Sonoma Drowning

On Monday, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that a dive team had recovered the body of a 14 year-old San Francisco boy who had been missing since July 4th.  According to reports, the boy and his younger cousin had been playing on inflatable toys during a Lake Sonoma gathering when they drifted further than they intended.  After persuading 13 year-old aboard a personal watercraft to tow them to shore, the boys lost their grip on the rope and slipped into the water.  Neither boy could swim; neither was wearing a life jacket.  The survivor reports he initially panicked and held onto his cousin, but the pair separated.  The younger boy made it to shore.  His cousin never followed.

There appear to be many factors at play in the terrible incident at Lake Sonoma, the Lake’s first drowning since 2009.  It is not clear exactly what types of inflatable toys were being used and whether those toys carried appropriate warning labels.  Further, state law requires operators be at least 16 years old to operate a personal watercraft solo.  Children ages 12 to 15 may operate a two-person watercraft with an adult’s supervision.  These factors could only exacerbate the dangers of more typical water tubing.

Researchers Report 250% Increase in Water Tubing Accidents

Water tubing, as we will use the term, involves one or more individuals riding an inflatable inner tube while being pulled by a tow rope extending from a boat.  In 2013, researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital shared their findings from a 19-year study of water tubing accidents.  Noting the rising number of participants, the researchers tubingreported a 250% increase in the number of water tubing injuries from 2,068 injuries in 1991 to 7,216 injuries in 2009.  Since more than 83% of the injury-causing incidents occurred during the summer months, this translates into more than 65 people arriving in emergency rooms because of tubing injuries every summer day.

Looking more closely at the reported injuries, researchers found that the head (27%) and upper extremities (24%) were the most frequently injured parts of the body.  The most common types of injuries were sprains/strains (27%) and soft tissue injuries (16%).  Nearly half of all water tubing injuries resulted from contact with the water while contact with another individual accounted for 16% of the injuries.  Parsing the results by age, researchers found people under age 20 tended to suffer head injuries and were more likely to be injured during contact with another participant while adults tended to suffer knee injuries and be injured by contact with the water.

Researchers suggest several reasons for the increase in injuries beyond the simple increase in tubing participants.  Co-author Lara McKenzie, PhD. pointed to the inability of the rider to control direction and/or speed, the positioning of riders on the tube, and the number of riders aboard each tube as key factors in tubing accidents.

Legal Options Following Water Tubing Accidents

There may be a number of civil claims available to people injured while water tubing including claims based on product liability and traditional negligence theories.  Manufacturers, rental companies, and negligent boat operators are among those who might be legally responsible for a tubing tragedy.  We strongly believe that, in addition to compensating the injured and the grieving, civil litigation can prevent future tragedies by holding individuals/entities accountable for their actions and providing a warning to others who might engage in similar behaviors.

If you or someone you love is involved in a tubing accident in Sonoma or elsewhere in our region, please call our Northern California recreational law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, or Oakland.  We help families get through the hardest days of their lives.

See Related Blog Posts:

Sports Injury Attorney Looks at Soccer Injuries

Summer Safety Primer: Avoiding Accidental Pool Drownings

Fatal Personal Watercraft Collision in Contra Costa County Points to Dangers of Recreational Boating

(Image by Kevin aka kkilometer via Flickr)