The Costs Of Car Crash Injuries

January 30, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Every accident has a story and it is often the details of that story that make a difference in civil litigation. Our Sonoma crash law firm often talks about some recurring details on this blog, looking at specific types of crashes, specific causes, and specific outcomes. Sometimes, however, we like to take a step back. Today’s post begins with a local accident and then pulls the lens back to look at the cost of car crashes in the U.S. and some proven strategies for car crash prevention.

Serious Injuries in Sonoma Crash
A frightening crash west of Sonoma appears to have involved two of the biggest dangers on the road: drunk driving and failing to wear a seatbelt. The Press Democrat that 50 year old Charles Purdon’s Jeep crashed into a tree off of Carriger Road on Tuesday night. Police suspect he had been drinking, noting they had received a call about a possible drunk driver in a Jeep shortly before the accident. Purdon was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, a factor that authorities believe contributed to his extensive injuries. It took nearly an hour to extricate him from his crumpled vehicle with firefighters eventually cutting the car away from Purdon’s leg which had become entangled in the Jeep’s dash. CHP officers arrested Purdon on suspicion of drunk driving.

crashed.jpgThe Economic Cost of Crash Injuries
On a Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries webpage, the Centers for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) Vital Signs project, looks at the enormous costs associated with car accidents. Car crashes sent more than 2.5 million people to the emergency room in 2012, with an average bill of $3,300. Of these crash victims, 200,000 were hospitalized and will face lifetime costs around $57,000. In total, Americans spend over one million days each year hospitalized because of car crashes. Collectively, the victims of crashes occurring in 2012 will spend $18 billion and lose $33 billion because of missed work over their lifetimes. The vast majority, over three-quarters, of accident-related injury costs are incurred in the first 18 months after the crash.

A Two-Part Approach: Crash Prevention & Monetary Compensation
As the CDC notes, the best way to reduce these numbers is by preventing crashes and limiting injuries using proven interventions. The CDC urges states to take several steps to advance these ends including: Using media campaigns and visible police presence to encourage compliance with traffic safety laws; Working to increase the use of seatbelts and child safety seats, and; Studying medical and crash data to shape a continuing prevention strategy. The agency also calls on employers and individuals to do their part, complying with the law and encouraging others to do the same.

Many of our clients were vigilant about safety, but fell victim to crashes caused by the negligence of others. These individuals know all too well that the costs referred to by the CDC are real. As a Santa Rosa car crash injury law firm, we work with these victims to help them recover monetary damages from those responsible. Contrary to what skeptics believe, it ISN’T about looking for a windfall; it IS about compensation and recovering money to pay the very real costs of car crash injuries. It is about responsibility, accountability, and helping victims move forward from a crash that was not their fault.

See Related Blog Posts:
Backover Accidents: Prevention and Compensation
The Impact of Alcohol: Santa Rosa Injury Lawyer Examines the True Meaning of BAC

(Image by Kel Patolog, image does not reflect accident discussed)

Civil Child Sexual Abuse Cases: Accountability for those Who Turn a Blind Eye to Abuse

January 29, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Parenthood is an intense, rewarding love. Parenthood also means never-ending concern. High on the list of every parent’s greatest fears is that someone will sexually, physically, or emotionally abuse your child. Darkness to Light, a nonprofit focused on preventing child abuse, reports that 90% of sexually abused children know their abuser(s). It is often someone the parents trust.

Our Oakland child abuse law firm believes in the dual approach of prevention and legal accountability. Accountability includes criminal and civil suits against abusers and those who turn a blind eye to child abuse, particularly when they had a legal and moral obligation to protect the victim. Civil child sexual abuse cases provide compensation that allows the child to get the help he or she will need to move forward from abuse and also makes those who allowed abuse to occur to be accountable pay for their negligence.

Judge Allows Use of “Perversion Files” in Sexual Abuse Case Against Boy Scouts
courthouse.pngOn Monday, The Oakland Tribune reported on the start of a civil trial in Santa Barbara against a group many see as emblematic of trustworthiness and a sense of civic duty -- the Boy Scouts. The plaintiff, now age 20, claims that in 2007 at age 13 he was sexually molested by a Boy Scout volunteer. The alleged abuser pled no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009. He initially received only probation, but later served time after authorities found child pornography on his cellphone. In the current civil suit, the victim alleges the Scouts failed to educate parents and volunteers about the threat of child sexual abuse.

At a pre-trial hearing, the judge ruled that the plaintiff could use thirty years’ worth of files referred to as the “perversion files,” including documents from 1991 through 2007 that have never been publically available. The files may provide insight into the efforts made since the Scouts instituted an official youth protection policy in the late 1980s. That policy followed high-profile abuse cases including a $20 million penalty imposed on the Boy Scouts by a jury in a 2010 molestation case. Previously seen files showed that prior to the new policy more than a third of abuse allegations were never reported to law enforcement and that, even when a police report was made, little was often done by the Scouts. While post-policy files were sought in previous matters, settlements kept them private. The current case is not expected to settle and any documents used in the plaintiff’s case will be made public. Files not used in the litigation will remain sealed, but interested parties may ask the court to release the complete set of files post-trial.

Mandatory Reporting and Civil Negligence Suits
Schools and recreational groups involving children not only have a moral duty to protect youth, they have a legal duty. California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act includes a lengthy list of mandated reporters, people who must report knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse. Mandated reporters include teachers, doctors, and employees of youth organizations and recreational groups.

In addition to possible criminal penalties, California law has held youth-related groups responsible in civil court when their negligence contributed to a child being abused. Civil child abuse suits provide monetary compensation to the victim including both economic (ex. medical bills) and non-economic (ex. mental suffering) damages. Additionally, punitive damages in civil actions punish defendants for their action or inaction. These potentially large verdicts are one way to force accountability and encourage change.

Our Commitment to California’s Children
Parents of sexually abused children often express great regret. While we understand these emotions, we encourage parents to focus on the future and helping your child move ahead. Criminal cases are vitally important, but criminal law focuses on the offender. Civil law focuses on the victim and, in addition to providing compensation that can pay for professional help, civil suits can provide a critical sense of empowerment and closure to abused children and their families.

If your child was sexually abused and a group your trusted to watch out for your child failed in this duty, call our Bay Area child protection lawyer in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa to discuss your child’s case. We promise to always treat you and your child with the utmost respect and never forget the very sensitive nature of these cases.

See Related Blog Posts:
Sexual Assault of Minors: the Ultimate Abuse of Power
Seeking Justice After Trauma: Legal Considerations After a Case of Sexual Abuse In an Oakland-area School

(Image by Robert Linder)

Bed Bugs in the Courts (Not Literally!) -- Using Individual Lawsuits and Class Actions to Protect California Renters

January 27, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Landlord-tenant lawyer Greg Brod is often asked whether an individual tenant’s case can really be big enough to justify a lawsuit. Often the answer is “Yes.” Recognizing the potential for power imbalances and the critical importance of a safe home, rental contracts and state/local laws often provide extra legal protection for tenants, even allowing triple damages in some cases. Our team is proud to advocate for individual tenants, a practice that includes helping renters who’ve faced a major bedbug problem. In some cases, however, our San Francisco bedbug lawyer finds that the best way to fight back against an individual landlord or rental company that neglected its responsibilities is for tenants to work together through a bedbug class action.

Bed Bug Class Action Filed Against Public Housing Authority
We previously reported on a $2.45 million settlement in an Iowa class action involving the bedbug infestation at two apartment buildings in Des Moines. In October, another bed bug class action case was filed in Iowa’s capital, this time involving the city’s largest public housing complex. The Des Moines Register reports that the lawsuit alleges the public housing agency failed to properly address a bedbugs.jpgmajor bedbug infestation creating unconscionable, substandard conditions at the Royal View Manor apartment tower. In addition to asking for monetary compensation, the suit also asks the Agency to immediately eliminate the bedbug problem.

Royal View includes 200 units reserved for disabled and low-income renters. A total of 55 current and former residents of the building are listed as class representatives for a group that could include hundreds of residents, many of whom faced painful/itchy sores, persistent sleep loss, and property damage. The complaint alleges that the bedbug problem dates back to 2007, an allegation supported by numerous reports to the Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency. Although exterminators have visited the building, residents say they continue to find new and on-going infestations. Some tenants also claim they were not notified of the infestation when they moved into the building.

The Purpose of Class Actions
While we handle individual bed bug cases, sometimes the best approach is for tenants to bind together and file a class action. As a guide published by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School explains:

A class action is a procedural device that permits one or more plaintiffs to file and prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, or "class". Put simply, the device allows courts to manage lawsuits that would otherwise be unmanageable if each class member (individuals who have suffered the same wrong at the hands of the defendant) were required to be joined in the lawsuit as a named plaintiff.

The American Bar Association adds: “In other words, people whose claims might be too insignificant to litigate alone can band together. The class action device can eliminate redundancy in the judicial system, streamline litigation, and in some cases, create significant institutional change.”

California Bed Bug Lawyer
Our firm represents the victims of bedbugs in Northern California. We have represented families who were impacted physically and emotionally by a bedbug infestation caused by a landlord’s neglect of his duties. Despite being a small firm (a size that confers huge advantages, pun intended), we are also equipped to handle class actions and have the knowledge and experience crucial to success.

Call to schedule a no-cost consultation with our bed bug law firm in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or Oakland to discuss your case and the tools we can use to protect you and your family. In addition to serving all of Northern California, we represent bed bug victims in Central California and Southern California, including tenants in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Attorney Brod also welcomes the opportunity to speak to tenant’s associations and other tenants’ groups about bed bugs.

See Related Blog Posts:
Major Settlement Reached in Des Moines Class-Action Bedbug Case
The Return of the Bedbug and Need for Bedbug Lawsuits
Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: A Rising Problem in the Bay Area

Note: In addition to these former posts, a post to come in February will provide a “refresher” on bedbugs, looking at the pests, the damage they can do, and discussing methods of preventing/controlling outbreaks.

(Image by Michael Wunderli)

Mental Health Benefits Abused By Medicare Fraud Scammers

January 26, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

lonelysenior.jpgThere has been growing awareness in recent years about the importance of mental health. More people are seeking help and health professionals are becoming more educated on the importance of a well-rounded definition of health. Sadly, there are also scammers out to take advantage of this trend including the perpetrators of Medicare fraud. As a health care fraud law firm based in California, the Brod Firm partners with whistleblowers to fight mental health benefit fraud, working together to return money to government coffers and ensure that the benefits are available for those who truly need them.

Sentencing in $97 Million Fraud Scheme
The government’s commitment to fighting health care fraud has extended into 2015 as demonstrated by the sentencing of two Houston area physicians who used their ownership in a mental health clinic to perpetrate a $97 million Medicare fraud scheme. As a Department of Justice press release details, Dr. Mansour Sanjar, 81, and Dr. Cyrus Sajadi, 67, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and related counts involving kickbacks via a jury trial last March. This month, they were sentenced to 148 months and 120 months in jail respectively and ordered to pay restitution of approximately $8 million. A group home owner, Chandra Nunn, was also sentenced to a 54 month jail term and ordered to pay over $1.8 million restitution. Several other co-defendants are still awaiting sentencing.

According to the evidence presented by the government at trial, the physicians owned Spectrum Care P.A., a community mental health clinic, and used the clinic to defraud Medicare from 2006 until their December 2011 arrest. The clinic purported to provide partial hospitalization program (“PHP”) services, a special form of intensive outpatient treatment used in cases of severe mental illnesses. Evidence showed that Spectrum billed Medicare for PHP care for beneficiaries who neither qualified for nor needed such care. When the doctors were allegedly providing this intense therapy, the “patients” were actually playing games, coloring, and watching movies – activities not covered under Medicare. Additional evidence showed that Drs. Sanjar and Sajadis paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and group home care operators, including Nunn, in exchange for providing the (ineligible) Medicare beneficiaries. Per a government report, these individuals received money, gift cards, or cigarettes for providing beneficiaries willing to attest to receiving care. Overall, Spectrum allegedly billed Medicare for some $97 million in care that was not medically indicated and sometimes not provided.

Fighting Fraud, Advocating for Health
There is something especially disturbing about health care fraud perpetrated by doctors. Referencing the Spectrum case, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell noted: “Doctors are not only bound by oath to serve the health of their patients, they are bound by duty to serve as gatekeepers for Medicare spending…In this case, without the criminal participation of Drs. Sanjar and Sajadi, this fraud simply could not have happened.” Involvement in health care fraud risks the health and well-being of patients in addition to draining money from already strained budgets.

Fighting Medicare fraud schemes often involves both criminal and civil prosecutions. Frequently, it is a private individual who alerts the government to fraudulent conduct. Pursuant to the False Claims Act, a piece of legislation described in a Justice Department “Primer”, private whistleblowers can bring civil claims on the government’s behalf and the government may or may not choose to be involved in the case (and may choose to also file related criminal charges). Civil suits are critical in that they help return the wrongfully diverted money to the programs and ensure money is available for those who truly need it and qualify for care. The Act provides a significant reward for whistleblowers whose information leads to the government recovering money, funds that recognize the important work whistleblowers do in this arena, and also protects the whistleblower from retaliation by the defendant(s).

If you have information about mental health Medicare benefit fraud or another form of fraud on government health care programs, we can help you fight back. We handle cases in federal courts across the country. Call to arrange a consultation with our Medicare fraud whistleblower’s attorney.

See Related Blog Posts:
Record Recoveries in False Claims Act Suits in 2014, Whistleblowers’ Firm Looks to Continue Trend in 2015
Hardly a Victim-less Crime: The Victims of Health Care Fraud

(Photo by C & More)

The Threat of Overmedication in California Nursing Homes

January 23, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

In modern day America, many working adults find themselves as a caregiver two times over, caring for their growing children and aging parents. Often the needs of aging parents become too great for their adult children to address on their own and, especially when physical or mental illness is an issue, a nursing home is the best option. However, while there are many places that provide excellent care, others are the stuff of nightmares. Overmedication in nursing homes is a major problem and it is one of the forms of abuse we help people fight as a San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer.

NPR Reports on the Overuse of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes
Last month, NPR reported on the problem of drugging in nursing homes, opening with the fact that almost 300,000 nursing home residents receive antipsychotic medications. These medications are approved for serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but are often used to suppress anxiety and pillhand.jpg agitation in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is despite the fact that the medications carry a black box warning, the most serious warning a drug can carry while remaining on the market, indicating they can raise the risk of heart failure, infection, and even death when used by dementia patients. Even when they are medically indicated, these drugs should be used for as short a period as possible, often only a month. Still, as in examples cited in the NPR article demonstrate, many care centers use these drugs for the convenience of the staff because they can sedate patients and blunt behaviors. Guardians and patients often agree to the medications without knowing the drugs are unnecessary.

Both federal and state laws prohibit the use of antipsychotics and other psychoactive medications as “chemical restraints.” A government study in 2011 found 88 percent of antipsychotics prescribed for Medicare patients in U.S. nursing homes were used to treat dementia, despite not being approved for such a purpose. The federal government responded by starting a campaign to reduce the misuse of antipsychotics. Reducing the use of these drugs in nursing homes by 15 percent took nearly two years instead of the expected timeframe of under a year. Still, nearly 300,000 patients remain on the dangerous medications.

Lack of Accountability for Homes that Medically Sedate Patients
A related NPR piece notes that, despite a continuing campaign by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to reduce the number of nursing home patients using antipsychotic medications, there are few consequences for nursing homes that oversedate patients. Although there have been a number of training initiatives aimed at preventing overmedication, NPR found that CMS has rarely used the penalties available to it when nursing homes are found to have given patients unnecessary drugs. Notably, even if current goals are met and overuse is reduced by an additional 15% by the end of 2016, there will still be close to a quarter of a million nursing home residents receiving unnecessary and often dangerous antipsychotic medications.

Northern California Nursing Home Attorney Fighting the Ovemedication Epidemic

If you suspect a loved one is being dangerously overmedicated, our San Francisco overmedication law firm can help. As a Northern California nursing home abuse attorney, Greg Brod can help you protect your loved one, bringing the mistreatment to an end and holding the care center responsible for their behavior. Our team can also help you recover compensation for the harm done, money that can be used to obtain top-level care for your loved one.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abuse Through Medications: The Threat of Dangerous Drugging
Drug Misuse at Nursing Homes is the Same as Abuse, says San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney

(Image by v1ctor Casale)

Backover Accidents: Prevention and Compensation

January 22, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Driving is a risky activity and far too many of us fail to give it the attention it deserves, especially when we’re travelling a common route. For many, trips begin by putting the vehicle in reverse and backing out of a garage or driveway. While drivers may be on the lookout for other traffic, sometimes people neglect to look directly behind them, assuming their usual path is clear. Drivers may also look too quickly, only glancing long enough or carefully enough to register the presence of large objects like another car. It is this type of everyday neglect that leads to tragic backover accidents. Our San Francisco backover accident attorney represents the victims of these terrible accidents and their families, a group that all too often includes injured children or grieving parents.

Backover Crashes & Child Victim Statistics
Backover accidents is one of the focal issues for the non-profit group In a Backovers Fact Sheet, they note that every year thousands of children are injured or killed because a driver failed to see them when backing up. Most of these backovers occur in either a parking lot or a residential driveway. In a typical week, 50 children in the U.S. are involved in a backover incident including 48 who are treated in emergency departments and two who are fatally injured. Children between 12 and 24 months are the most common victims and in 70% of backover accidents either a parent or other close relative is the driver. Most of these backover incidents involve a larger vehicles like a van, truck, or SUV.

backup.jpgNew Rules Aimed at Preventing Backovers
In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA) issued a rule requiring that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds have rear visibility technology by May 2018. According to the press release, the rule “enhances the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries caused by backover accidents.” The NHTSA’s statistics are even more shocking than those cited by Kids & Cars, in part because the NHTSA includes all ages, with the agency attributing 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries annually to backover accidents. In order to comply with the new rule, vehicles must carry equipment that allows the driver to see a 10 foot by 2- foot zone immediately behind the vehicle. Other requirements in the rule address durability, image size, and deactivation.

Dual Goals of Prevention and Compensation
The NHTSA action will help keep children and other safe. However, ultimately it is up to the driver to use the equipment and to check twice before putting a vehicle in reverse. If you, your child, or another loved one has been injured or killed in a backover accident, we can help you hold the responsible parties accountable and help you recover the compensation you need and deserve. We understand that cases involving children are particularly emotional and we promise to always respect our clients and, in the case of a fatality, the memory of their child. Monetary damages are particularly important in cases involving seriously injured children who will live with the consequences of the incident for the rest of their lives.

See Related Blog Posts:
The Surprisingly Common Danger of Vehicles Crashing Into Buildings
Northern California Product Injury Lawyer Examines Recall Linking Unexpected Braking to Ignition Panel Design

(Image by Ray Bouknight)

The Surprisingly Common Danger of Vehicles Crashing Into Buildings

January 20, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

It’s the type of news story that always grabs attention. Yet, it is also an event that happens much more often than you might imagine. As the following blog post notes, vehicle-into-building crashes happen dozens of times each day in the United States. These crashes can cause injuries and death, putting the driver, the building occupants, and other bystanders at risk. Depending on the circumstances, the driver and building management may be liable to those injured in the crash. Our Alameda County injury attorney is prepared to help the injured and those who have lost a loved one recover needed compensation from all those responsible for the crash.

Car Plows Into Newark Macys Store
Last week, ABC7 reported on an accident in Newark, a California city located about 25 miles south/southwest of Oakland. Shortly before 5 AM on Wednesday, a car jumped a curb and crashed into the Macys store at NewPark Mall located south of Interstate 880. A 63 year-old woman was driving the vehicle which ended up about 50 feet inside of the store. Six people, the driver and five bystanders, were taken to the hospital including one customer in serious condition. A subsequent ABC7 article indicates one young woman nearly lost her right foot in the incident and one man remained hospitalized the next morning. Police believe the driver may have suffered some form of medical condition that contributed to the crash.

Vehicle-Into-Building Crashes: Statistics & Causes carbuilding.jpg
According to the Storefront Safety Council (“the Council”), crashes occur more than 60 times each day and cause more than 4,000 injuries and 500 deaths each year. Founded by a man who was injured when a car crashed into a 7-Eleven store in 2008, the Council’s research has been cited by numerous sources including ABC World News Tonight, the Miami Herald, and the journal Risk Management. California has the second highest number of vehicle-in-building crashes.

What causes cars to crash into buildings? The Council’s research suggests that 36% of the crashes are the result of pedal confusion and 17% involve another form of operator error. Additionally, 20% of vehicle-in-building crashes involve drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A whopping 45% of vehicle-in-building collisions involve the 19% of licensed drivers who are age 60 and older. Discussing accident prevention, the Council suggests that focusing on reducing driver error is important but is insufficient to keeping vehicles from slamming into buildings. The Council strongly advocates for installing barriers to protect “vulnerable buildings,” their occupants, and other bystanders.

Liability & Compensation
Vehicle-into-building crashes can cause serious injury or even death. As with all of our accident cases, when handling a vehicle-into-building case our Oakland car crash injury lawyer works to help the victims recover compensation from all responsible parties. In some cases, particularly where a building owner knowingly took risks and failed to install appropriate safety barriers, a claim against the property owner may be appropriate. Repeat vehicle-into-building crashes are more common than most people would imagine. A claim against a negligent property owner or manager would typically be in addition to a claim against the driver. These claims not only help victims recover needed compensation, they also hold people responsible for their actions or, as in the case where an owner chooses not to erect a safety barrier in a misguided attempt to save money, their inactions.

See Related Blog Posts:
Utility Pole Collisions
Guardrails: When a Safety Device Becomes Dangerous

(Image by Fred Sharples)

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

January 19, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Regular visitors to this blog are familiar with the False Claims Act (“FCA” or “the Act”), a piece of federal law aimed at recovering money wrongfully taken from government coffers. The Act contains detailed provisions that allow ordinary private citizens to bring suit on the government’s behalf through a process known as a qui tam suit. These suits are essential to the FCA’s efficacy, permitting individuals with knowledge about fraud to help ensure wrongfully diverted money is returned to the already strained budgets of programs like Medicare and agencies like the Department of Defense. In this post, our California-based government fraud whistleblowers’ law firm takes a look back at recoveries made via the FCA in 2014 and examines the importance of whistleblowers in False Claims Act litigation at both the federal and state level.

Justice Department Announces $5.69 Billion in FCA Recoveries in 2014, Recognizes Role of Whistleblowers
In late 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that recoveries (settlements and judgments) as a result of civil claims against entities and individuals that allegedly filed false claims and engaged in related fraud on the government hit a record-breaking $5.69 billion in the fiscal year ending September 30. This brings the total amount recovered since January 2009 to $22.75 billion. The recoveries for fiscal year 2014 cash2.jpgincluded $3.1 billion obtained from banks and financial institutions accused of making false statements in the process of filing federally insured mortgages and loans. Additionally, the federal government recovered $2.3 billion in health care fraud recoveries, making 2014 the fifth straight year that FCA claims involving Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and other federal health care programs exceeded $2 billion. These payments came from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, managed care entities, and other major players in the health care market. Another significant portion of the total recoveries came from cases against federal contractors including IT service providers and companies that supplied products to the military.

Whistleblowers were essential to the record-breaking FCA recoveries. As the DOJ states, “With more whistleblowers coming forward since the act was strengthened in 1986, the government opened more investigations, which led to the surge in recoveries we see today.” For the second year in a row, these were more than 700 qui tam cases filed during fiscal year 2014. Suits filed under the whistleblower provisions accounted for nearly $3 billion of the $5.69 billion in false claim act recoveries. Realtors, the individuals responsible for filing these cases, received $435 million for their efforts.

The Growing Role of the California False Claims Act
The state of California also has its own version of the False Claims Act. The California Act was amended effective January 1, 2013 to increase the protections provided to those who blow the whistle on misconduct. Since then the number of cases filed under the state FCA have also exploded, including a case that recently ended in a settlement agreement pursuant to which Office Depot will pay $68.5 million. That case, detailed in the journal Corporate Crime Reporter, was initiated by a former company employee who alerted the state to a range of pricing misconduct.

A Whistleblower’s Law Firm, A Partner in Fighting Fraud
Our firm works with brave, honest men and women from across the country to force wrongdoers to repay money taken from government coffers, money they obtained by lying to the federal government. We also serve as a California whistleblower’s law firm, prosecuting similar cases on the state level. If you are aware of a fraud being committed that has led to money being wrongfully taken from the federal or state governments or their agencies/programs, we can help you pursue justice while also protecting you and your family. Call for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
How the Federal Government Fights Health Care Fraud
Giving Thanks to Those Who Didn’t Stay Silent

(Image by Nic McPhee)

Repeat Drunk Drivers: A Look at the Problem of DUI Recidivism

January 16, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

We can answer many questions for the clients of our Santa Rosa DUI injury law firm. We can tell them about the law and the legal process. We can help them evaluate settlement offers and understand the unique world of the courtroom. While we are not medical professionals, we can help them understand what an injury may mean for their future. We cannot, however, answer one of the most common questions – Why? We cannot tell them why someone got a car while intoxicated, despite the fact that everyone has heard about the dangers. That decision, a decision that altered innocent lives, is especially hard to understand when dealing with the all-too-common situation of repeat drunk drivers.

Santa Rosa DUI Arrest is Man’s Second in 2015
Early Sunday morning, just eleven days into 2015, police arrested a Hayward man on his second drunk driving charge of the year. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, at 6 AM on Sunday Mendocino County law enforcement sent an alert to their Bay Area peers about a suspected drunk driver in the area. Twenty minutes later police in Santa Rosa pulled over a gold Pontiac heading south on Highway 101 and weaving on the roadway. Behind the wheel they found 26 year-old Antonio Becerra Jr., a Hayward man with two previous DUI convictions and an arrest on suspicion of DUI earlier this month. Once again, police charged him with suspicion of driving under the influence.

duikeys.jpgNHTSA Updates Research on Repeat DUI Offenders
In March 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) released a report titled, in part, “DWI Recidivism in the United States.” The report updated research on the rate of repeat drunk driving arrests and tried to control for the impact of varying state laws (specifically, the varying “look back periods” i.e. the length of time a prior DUI remains on a driver’s record) in order to combine state statistics into a national outlook. In 1995, the NHTSA reported that 31% of drivers arrested for DUI were repeat offenders. The 2014 study, which was significantly broader than the 1995 report, placed this figure at 25%.

Presumably, people arrested for multiple DUIs drove drunk many times between the two arrests, each time jeopardizing their own safety and that of those around them. The NHTSA references one study that found only 1 in 200 impaired drivers are detected and arrested and a second that estimated that 112 million drunk driving episodes occurred in 2010 with only 1% leading to an arrest, numbers that are due in part to the limited resources of our police departments.

There is certainly some “good news” in the NHTSA’s update, namely that the rate of repeat drunk drivers fell significantly. Even better, the number of DUI arrests (which may or may not equate to fewer intoxicated drivers on the road) fell as well. However, 1 in every 4 drunk driving arrests still involves a repeat drunk driver. This means people who have already been strongly cautioned and in many cases punished for their behavior chose to do it again. We support the NHTSA’s effort to study recidivism and determine what methods are most effective for preventing repeat DUIs.

Our Commitment to the Victims of Drunk Drivers
We cannot explain why people drive drunk despite presumably knowing the dangers. It is even harder to explain to a family whose lives have been turned upside-down why someone who was already arrested for DUI chose to drive intoxicated again, this time with terrible consequences. We cannot answer “Why?”, but we can help. If a drunk driver in Northern California injured you or claimed the life of a close family member, we can help you recover the compensation you need and deserve. Our DUI injury clients only pay us if they recover money and a consultation with our Santa Rosa injury attorney is always free.

See Related Blog Posts:
Repeat Drunk Drivers: An Epidemic Endangering All of Us
Drunken Driving by the Numbers: a Sobering Set of Statistics

(Image by James Palinsad)

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

January 14, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

Nursing home abuse is a terrible crime that preys on the very people whom society should most respect. Abuse in senior care facilities can take a range of forms including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial mistreatment as well as neglect. Often, abuse is perpetrated by overworked staff members and the law typically holds both the individual abuser and his/her employer criminally and civilly responsible. There is, however, a less talked about scenario – resident-on-resident nursing home abuse, also known as peer abuse Our experienced Northern California nursing home abuse law firm believes that care centers should be held liable when their negligence or failure to provide adequate care allows one resident to abuse another.

Resident Dispute Ends With Stabbing at Sacramento Senior Care Facility
A case of peer abuse is believed to have left a 75 year-old woman with serious injuries according to an article in Monday’s Oakland Tribune. Police believe that 70 year-old Barbara Holland had an ongoing dispute with her neighbor at St. Francis Manor, a senior living facility in Sacramento. According to investigators, Holland arrived at her neighbor’s door last Saturday armed with a knife and stabbed the 75 year-old before fleeing the scene. Eventually, Holland was found in her own apartment, arrested, and booked on suspicion of attempted murder. Doctors say the 75 year-old, who was taken to an area hospital, is expected to survive.

oldhands.jpgStudy Finds Peer Abuse Impacts Nearly 20% of Nursing Home Residents
Weil Cornell Medical College recently released a study focused on the growing threat of aggressive encounters between nursing home residents. Researchers found that nearly one out of every five (19.8%) nursing home residents experienced at least one negative, aggressive encounter with another resident (or multiple residents) in the previous four weeks alone. These encounters, termed resident-to-resident elder mistreatment, included verbal, physical, and sexual interactions as well as invasion of privacy. The study is the first attempt to study the prevalence of mistreatment of one resident by another using interviews and observation.

Researchers noted that the problem is under-reported and urged the need for effective intervention. Most of the perpetrators suffered some form of cognitive disability, including dementia, but were physically able to move throughout the facility. The study authors recommended facilities train staff to recognize and report peer mistreatment and issue guidelines for addressing incidents of resident-to-resident aggression.

Holding Nursing Facilities Responsible for Peer Abuse
The backbone of California’s elder abuse law is the "Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act” (“EADACPA” or “the Act”). The Act defines abuse broadly including both affirmative acts of abuse as well as neglect that leads to physical harm or mental suffering. Under the EADACPA, negligence amounts to the “failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.”

Given the prevalence of peer abuse and the well-known tendency of some dementia patients to act out in a way that may harm others, failing to protect patients from resident-on-resident abuse is likely to constitute negligence. Inadequate staffing can be a key factor in these cases. In California, a patient who experiences an assault by a fellow resident or another form of resident-to-resident mistreatment may have a civil claim against the nursing center.

The Brod Firm is dedicated to helping victims of nursing home abuse recover appropriate damages and escape from an abusive situation. If you, your parent, or another close relative has experienced peer abuse in a nursing home or other senior care facility, please call our firm. With nursing home abuse law offices in Santa Rosa, Oakland, and San Francisco, we are committed to a safe living environment for all of Northern California’s seniors.

See Related Blog Posts:
Despite Legislation and Regulation, Elder Abuse Remains a Major Problem in California
Understanding Senior Care & Preventing Elder Abuse

(Image by Jonas Boni)

An Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution

January 13, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

lawbooks.jpgIt is no secret that courts are crowded these days. This fact is largely responsible for the turn to alternative dispute resolution, also referred to by the acronym “ADR”. Sometimes parties agree to try ADR, sometimes courts or individual judges require parties attempt some form of ADR before proceeding to trial. Likewise, in part because of concerns about the costs of trial and the time it takes to resolve a case through the court system, an increasing number of contracts that include a clause requiring disputes be heard in an alternative tribunal. As a Northern California alternative dispute resolution law firm, we are fully prepared to guide our clients through ADR. This blog entry looks at two key forms of ADR, mediation and arbitration, and some advantages and disadvantages of turning to an alternative forum.

Mediation and Arbitration Explained
The website for the Superior Court in Alameda County discusses the forms of ADR used in civil matters. There are two types of ADR that all potential civil litigants should know about: mediation and arbitration.

In mediation, a neutral mediator meets with parties and attempts to help them reach a consensus to which they agree to be bound. Mediation may be thought of as assisted negotiation. While less formal than trial or even arbitration, it is important that a party entering into mediation be well-prepared and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case. Mediators often meet with the parties together and separately to gain an understanding of the dispute and each party’s goals. While the mediator may suggest possible resolutions, the mediator does not impose an outcome on the parties. Importantly, if mediation fails (i.e. no agreement is reached), information shared at mediation cannot be used at trial. Mediation is particularly useful when the parties wish to maintain a relationship after the dispute is resolved, such as a disagreement between a manufacturer and long-time seller. Mediation is also useful when parties want more than just money, such as a seller who might want a right of first-refusal before a competitor is given access to a new product.

Arbitration might be described as a more relaxed trial. In this type of ADR, an arbitrator makes a ruling after hearing the evidence and the parties’ arguments. Arbitration can be binding, meaning a ruling cannot be appealed and there will not be a traditional trial or non-binding meaning either party can reject the ruling and request a courtroom trial. Parties should prepare for arbitration much as they would for trial, although they should be aware that the rules of evidence are typically relaxed in arbitration. Arbitrators are typically experienced attorneys, retired judges, or subject-matter experts. In some cases, there may be multiple arbitrators who release a joint decision.

ADR Advantages & Disadvantages
There are, as the Alameda court website further notes, advantages and disadvantages to using ADR. As noted above, mediation can be a good choice when the parties wish to preserve an amicable (or at least functional) relationship or simply prefer a more cooperative style of resolution. ADR tends to be much faster than trial and offers parties more flexibility and control. This can result in parties feeling more ownership over the outcome, something especially useful in the family law arena or when the outcome requires action rather than just payment. Traditionally, ADR has been cheaper than trial, but that is not always the case these days.

ADR is not without its disadvantages. Some parties do not take ADR very seriously and some find ADR’s discovery limitations frustrating or dislike sacrificing a jury of peers. While confidentiality is often a positive, it can be a negative if a party wants to make a public statement about the dispute. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that ADR, particularly mediation and non-binding arbitration, may fail to resolve the case and the parties may still have to go to trial. Even so, ADR can help parties to see the weaknesses and strengths of their case and be more prepared when a trial occurs.

The Brod Law Firm is fully prepared to engage in mediation or arbitration, whether by agreement of the parties or by judicial mandate. As with trial, our San Francisco area plaintiffs’ law firm ensures our clients are prepared for and understand the ADR process.
See Related Blog Posts:
Business Alert: California Approves Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Clauses
Resolution to Trademark Suit Reminds Businesses of the Importance of Pre-Litigation Representation

(Image by Eric E. Johnson)

Working With Whistleblowers in the Fight Against Hospice Care Fraud

January 12, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

It takes a very special individual to work in the end-of-life care arena. We have the deepest respect for the men and women who support both patients and their loved ones in the hospice care environment. These professionals offer much more than medical care, they offer emotional support to people facing some of life’s hardest moments. It is out of respect for the vast majority of these workers who are honest and good-hearted and a belief in the importance of the services they offer that our San Francisco-based Medicare fraud law firm is committed to uncovering and redressing cases of hospice care fraud.

Hospice Care Generally
The Eldercare Locator, a program operated by the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), helps connect older Americans and their loved ones with a range of senior services. The website offers a Hospice Care Factsheet which explains that hospice programs help the terminally ill and their families with 24-hour care aimed at making the patient’s final days as comfortable and dignified as possible. In addition to medical services, hospice care offers psychosocial support to patients and their loved ones.

Government Joins Case Alleging Hospice Care Fraud
As the Eldercare Locator Factsheet explains, hospice care is often covered by Medicare and sometimes by Medicaid. This allows eligible individuals to access services they couldn’t afford otherwise. Unfortunately, it also means the problem of Medicare fraud seeps into the hospice care arena.

In an August 2014 press release, the Justice Department announced that the United States government opted to intervene in a whistleblower-filed lawsuit involving allegations that a hospice provider violated the False Claims Act. The hospice benefit is available to Medicare patients who are terminally ill and have a life expectancy of six months or less. The pending lawsuit alleges that Evercare Hospice and Palliative Care (“Evercare”) knowingly submitted Medicare claims for hospice services for patients who did not meet this threshold. Additionally, the complaints allege that company management put pressure on employees to admit and retain ineligible patients and pushed them to ignore physicians who said patients should be discharged.

Discussing the government’s decision to intervene in the complaints originally filed by former Evercare employees, Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery emphasized the desire to protect qualified individuals’ right to end-of-life care. Likewise, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh explained “When companies systematically overbill Medicare by keeping people in hospice when they don’t need to be there, it jeopardizes this important benefit for others under the program. We will not tolerate such conduct.” Another official contrasted the desire to care for a terminally ill individual with a desire to boost company profits.

The Role of Whistleblowers and Our Medicare Fraud Law Firm
As with other forms of Medicare fraud, company insiders are usually the people best suited to bring claims involving fraud in the hospice care field. An article on Denver news site Westword explains that the Evercare litigation began with a 2011 suit filed by Lyssa Towl and Terry Lee Fowler, both former Evercare employees. The women provided information that suggests up to half of the company’s hospice patients were not eligible for the service. Like most whistleblowers, both women attempted to comply with the law and raise their concerns internally before filing a False Claims Act suit. Towl alleges she was fired after discharging ineligible patients and Fowler alleges she was placed on a “corrective action plan” after questioning company policy.

The Brod Firm works with whistleblowers to bring suit against perpetrators of hospice care fraud and other types of health care fraud in federal courts nationwide. Together we help the government recover wrongfully allocated funds and bring an end to fraudulent schemes. While whistleblowers are entitled to a substantial reward when False Claims Act allegations lead to a recovery via settlement or verdict, we find that it is a belief in justice and a desire to do right that motivates these individuals, not money. If you have information regarding Medicare fraud, including hospice care fraud in California, Florida, or another jurisdiction, call our office to learn how you can play a part in the fight to end health care fraud.

See Related Blog Posts:
Illegal Kickbacks in Senior Care Arena: A Crime Threatening Patients’ Health and a Nation’s Wallets
Medicare Fraud and the Home Health Care Industry