San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

A bed bug is only about the size of an apple seed and, while an initial bite often goes unnoticed, repeated bites can cause itchy welts that get worse with continued exposure.  A single female can lay 540 eggs(!!) in her 6 to 12 month lifetime, so missing even one or two bugs can give the pests the upper hand.  In residential rentals, landlords/owners bear primary responsibility for combating bed bugs – it makes sense and, pursuant to a wide-range of rules and regulations, it is the law.  Our San Francisco bed bug lawyer helps renters when landlords fail to live up to this obligation.

Law & Reason Require Property Management to Effectively Address Bed Bug Infestations

Image by Mick E. Talbot

Image by Mick E. Talbot

There are many reasons why landlords/owners/management (unless otherwise noted, references to “management” includes all three groups) should be and legally are required to take the lead role in exterminating a bed bug infestation; notably, this duty frequently includes engaging and paying for a professional extermination company.  In the legal system, “mandatory” authorities, which can range from federal and state laws to local regulations, must be followed and would control if a dispute reached the courts.  There are also “persuasive” authorities, a big group that might include a law from another state or even scientific research.  Courts are not required to follow persuasive authority and mandatory authority would trump conflicting persuasive rationale, but courts often use persuasive authorities to support their decisions.

 

Here is a small sample of the authorities that support legally requiring landlords to exterminate bed bugs:

  • California Civil Code 1941.1 – Mandatory authority holding management responsible for keeping the property “free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.”
  • HUD Policy (mandatory or persuasive based on situation) – This 2012 Memorandum applies to HUD-assisted and HUD-insured rental housing. It requires that management “respond with urgency to tenant reports of infestations…[and] endeavor to take appropriate action within a reasonable time period.”  Tenants are expected to cooperate with reasonable extermination efforts and to allow a reasonable time for response.
  • San Francisco Health Code (mandatory within San Francisco, persuasive elsewhere) – The Code requires that managers develop policies and provide employee trainings on bed bug issues. Managers must obtain pest removal companies to verify complaints and eliminate bed bugs in units and common areas.  Tenants must take reasonable steps to cooperate in these efforts.
  • Pestworld (the website of the National Pest Management Association) and a study in the Journal of Economic Entomology — While only persuasive authority, these references explain that infestations commonly spread to multiple units in a multi-unit dwelling.  Therefore, an effective treatment regime must include inspecting and, where necessary, treating surrounding units.  Management is in a better position to provide this effective treatment than individual tenants would be.

 

This list is far from complete.

 

Protecting Tenants, Forcing Landlords to Effectively Respond When Bed Bugs Invade

We’ll be the first to admit — the law doesn’t always follow common sense.  In the case of bed bugs, however, it does.  Landlords in California are required to respond to complaints about bed bugs by investigating the problem and, if bed bugs are found, effectively exterminating them.  In most cases, this means engaging a pest control professional who will, with the cooperation of tenants, take an approach to extermination that reasonably protects all residents against the current infestation and repeat invasions.

 

If your landlord, property owner, or other management personnel fail to provide a timely and effective response to bed bug concerns, call our Northern California bed bug law firm in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa.  We can assist renters elsewhere in the state on a case-by-case basis.

 

A quick note: Often, tenants gain power when they band together.  In some cases, it may be appropriate for tenants to bring a class action against building management.  Call to learn more.  Attorney Brod is also available to address tenant groups on bed bug issues and other residential landlord/tenant matters.

 

 

See Related Blog Posts:

California Bedbug Lawsuits: Damages, Compensation, and Class Actions

Repeat Bed Bug Infestations Raise Issues of Landlord Liability

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

 

 

Imagine you’ve been hit by what feels like a nasty stomach flu.  You feel nauseous, develop diarrhea, and spike a fever.  Your body aches all over.  You feel miserable.  You haven’t heard about anything going around until you learn that a friend is battling a similar illness.  You and the friend shared a meal (or even just a snack) a few days prior.  The culprit may be listeria, a potentially deadly foodborne illness making headlines recently.  While symptoms can sometimes pass quickly, listeria can lead to life-threatening complications.  Listeria in particular is a major threat to an unborn baby if a pregnant woman is exposed.  Our Oakland foodborne illness attorney, Greg Brod, works to help victims of tainted foods recover compensation and obtain justice.  Attorney Brod and our firm’s clients also work to protect our nation’s food supply against future outbreaks by holding companies responsible for their products.

Massive Blue Bell Recall Tied to Listeria

On Monday, Blue Bell Creameries took an unusual step and recalled all of the company’s products from stores and food service establishments nationwide.  According to CNN, the recall follows weeks of narrower recalls linked to concerns the compbluebellany’s frozen treats might be contaminated with listeria.  Blue Bell representatives say it is unclear how the bacteria was introduced, but note that products sold in different states and produced in different plants have tested positive for listeria.  Current tests in Oklahoma revealed a strain of listeria nearly identical to that involved in an outbreak in Texas as far back as 2011.

Health official say three deaths and five other illnesses have been linked to listeria.  The officials say Blue Bell’s products may be to blame.   In a case of cruel irony, five of the sickened individuals had been treated at a Kansas hospital for unrelated ailments and at least four had consumed milkshakes made at the hospital using Blue Bell ice cream.

Hummus Recall

Blue Bell is not the only company facing a Listeria problem.  Earlier this month, the Oakland Tribune carried an Associated Press article that reported the recall of approximately 30,000 cases of hummus.  The recalled hummus was manufactured by The Sabra Dipping Co., a joint venture by the Strauss Group and PepsiCo.  Although officials are concerned the hummus may be tainted with Listeria, there have not been any reports of illness linked to the products.

Son of Listeria Victim Fights back

Listeria can be deadly.  This week, ABC reported on the emotional, regulatory, and legal fall-out of a deadly listeria outbreak last fall.  Eighty-one year-old Shirley Frey was one of seven people who died from listeria believed to have originated in an apple-packing plant in Bakersfield, California.  A total of 35 people in 12 states fell ill during the outbreak.

Frey’s son says he is committed to preventing future outbreaks and saving other families from heartbreak.  Brad Frey is expected to testify this week at a hearing in Washington, D.C. examining the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”).  The FSMA, signed into law by President Obama, attempts to institute a more preventative approach to food safety.  Prior to the FSMA, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) took a reactive approach and only responded after someone was sickened by foodborne bacteria.  Notably, it can be several weeks before someone who has been exposed to listeria becomes ill which means a reactive approach puts the FDA far behind and gives the bacteria the upper-hand.  Frey’s son is also pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.  As he told reporters, his mother had been conscious of food safety but consumers can only do so much and strong food safety rules are critical to the fight against foodborne illness.

Ensuring a Safe Food Supply

Civil suits involving foodborne illnesses, including both personal injury and wrongful death claims, often rest on a product liability theory.  Product liability law holds companies responsible for the products they manufacture and/or sell.  These claims may involve allegations of a manufacturing or design defect or can involve a claim that the company failed to provide adequate warnings/instructions.   In most cases, product liability involves a strict liability rule which means the plaintiff does not need to prove the company was negligent.  However, there can also be traditional negligence claims in addition to the strict liability allegations.

As a food poisoning law firm San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa, the Brod Law Firm is available to help victims of food-related illness throughout Northern California.  Please call to schedule a free consultation with our skilled product liability attorney.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Sonoma Food Poisoning Lawyer on Food Safety Law and Allegations of Arsenic in Wine

Spotlight on Listeria as Retailers Pull Dips from Shelves Nationwide

(Photo by Johnny Hunter)

Identity theft is a common fear and a common problem.  Readers of this blog know that identity theft is a problem that reaches beyond the financial sphere.  Quite often, health care fraud cases involve an element of medical identity theft.  In a previous post, our medical identity theft lawyer discussed the problem of scammers stealing consumers’ medical identities and using the information to submit and collect on false claims.  However, consumers are not the only targets of medical identity theft.  Provider identity theft is also a component of many health care fraud scams, criminal enterprises that divert critically needed health care dollars and endanger the health and well-being of countless Americans.

Clinic Owner Allegedly Filed Claims Using Former Owner’s Provider Information

In late August 2012, NBC New York reported on the arrest of a man who operated a radiology practice in Queens on charges that he engaged in health care fraud.  According to the article, a 34 year-old man by the name of Ting Huan Tai was taken into custody by federal agents who arrested him at his luxury apartment in a Lower Manhattan high-prescriptionrise.  In May 2010, as alleged in court filings, Tai took over operations at United Medical Diagnosis (“UMD”), a radiology clinic in Flushing, New York.  From May 2010 through May 2012, Tai and his staff allegedly used the identity of the clinic’s prior owner, a radiologist, to submit more than $30 million in claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  The claimed services were not actually performed and the bills were submitted without the knowledge or consent of the former UMD owner.  United States Attorney Loretta Lynch explained, “The defendant sought to enrich himself and fund his lifestyle first by stealing a doctor’s identity and then using that stolen identity to steal Medicare and Medicaid funds…While the documentation provided was a sham, the money stolen was very real.”

Two Main Types of Fraud Involving Provider Identifier Information

A Provider Education pamphlet authored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) notes that there were more than 3,600 reported cases of physician and patient medical identity theft in 2009 and more than 12,000 reported cases between 2007 and 2009.  CMS suggests that there are two main ways scammers use stolen provider identification information to file fraudulent claims.  The first involves using provider identification to create the appearance that the provider ordered/referred patients for services like diagnostic testing, home-based care, or durable medical equipment.  The second approach uses the misappropriated physician identifiers to make it look like that medical professional provided and billed for services directly.  In both cases, the physician does not consent to the use of his/her identity and often doesn’t even know the perpetrator.

Preventing Theft and Misuse of Physician Medical Identifiers

CMS further suggests that providers take active steps to protect their medical identifiers.  Four strategies suggested by the agency involve: 1) Actively managing enrollment information, including notifying payors of significant changes like closing a practice so they can alert the provider to suspicious claims (ex. billings from a closed practice); 2) Implementing and overseeing billing and compliance processes, a strategy focused on maintaining responsibility for billings in the provider’s name; 3) Avoiding sharing unique medical identifiers; and 4) Engaging patients by raising awareness about medical identity theft and explaining the importance of reviewing medical bills/explanation-of-benefits (“EOB”) forms.

Combatting Fraud: Working with Our Medicare Fraud Team to Catch Scammers and Recover Funds

Whether you are a provider, medical staff, or a medical consumer/patient, you can play a role in combatting medical fraud.  Call our medical fraud law firm at (800) 427-7020 if you believe you have witnessed medical identity theft or any other form of health care fraud.

See Related Blog Posts:

The Dangers of Medical Identity Theft

Beneficiary-Reported Medicare Fraud

(Image by Kathea Pinto)

explosionThis September will mark the five-year anniversary of the massive San Bruno pipeline accident that killed eight and left dozens injured.  Sadly, pipeline explosions remain a very real and very present threat as became all-too-clear to another California community on Friday.  As a California pipeline explosion lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod stands ready to help when pipeline explosions cause injury and/or death.  Our legal team strongly believes that holding companies accountable for pipeline accidents not only compensates the injured/grieving but also helps prevent future tragedies.

Pipeline Explosion Rocks Fresno

It was just before 2:30 P.M. on Friday.  At the Fresno County Peace Officers’ Range near Highway 99, deputies, a prison work crew, and others were hard at work.  Suddenly, as reported by The San Francisco Chronicle (discussion based on version revised at 9:03 A.M. Saturday) the day turned from routine to unforgettable as an explosion rang out.  Flames sprouted to the treetops, rising more than 100 feet in the air.  The explosion and the intense heat it generated left at least 11 people injured and requiring hospital aid, including four in critical condition and two in serious condition.

Authorities believe that the explosion occurred after a tractor-trailer punctured a 12-inch Pacific Gas and Electric (“PG&E”) natural gas pipeline.  A public works employee was operating the tractor, reinforcing a berm behind shooting range targets while deputies practiced nearby and a more than a dozen inmates dug bullets out of the berm.  According to a PG&E spokesperson, the company had not been notified of any digging in the area.  As detailed on PG&E’s Call Before You Dig website, anyone digging outside must receive clearance from local utility companies.  However, a representative from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office suggested that the front-loader may have only been scraping the ground when the explosion occurred.

The explosion might have taken a larger toll had it not been for the deputies who quickly sprung into action.  Likewise, more bystanders might have been injured or even killed had the explosion occurred on a bustling city block or a residential neighborhood instead of an area surrounded by grasslands.  Amazingly, the tractor driver was able to walk to an ambulance for treatment.  Still, at least one person incurred injuries serious enough that he had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.  Fifteen water-carrying vehicles responded to the explosion.  About 200 feet from the epicenter, intense heat melted plastic garbage cans into something that more closely resembled trash can lids than the receptacles themselves.  A nearby rail line was also damaged and officials closed Highway 99 in both directions for at least two hours.

Pipeline Accident Statistics

Like those affected by the 2011 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, those impacted by Friday’s explosion will never forget the terrifying blast.  Perhaps surprisingly, pipeline explosions are not all that uncommon.  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration tracks pipeline accidents, deeming an incident “significant” if any of the following occur (excluding incidents caused by a nearby fire): 1) Death or an injury requiring in-patient hospitalization; 2) Expenses exceeding $50,000 (in 1984 dollars); 3) Five or more barrels of highly volatile liquids or 50 barrels or more of other liquids are released; or 4) A liquid release results in an explosion or unintentional fire.  Over the past 20 years, the number of significant pipeline incidents per year has held relatively steady with an average of 280 incidents per year between 1995 and 2014.  On average, these incidents resulted in 18 deaths and 68 injuries per year for a total of 360 lives lost and 1,368 people injured over the two decade span.  Twenty-seven deaths and 98 injuries resulted from 375 significant pipeline incidents in California during the 20 year period.

Civil Pipeline Lawsuits: Compensation and Prevention

In addition to compensating the injured and grieving, civil suits can help prevent future tragedies.  Sometimes it takes hitting them in the wallet to force companies to prioritize safety.  In some cases, a civil verdict or settlement may require prospective changes in addition to (essentially retrospective, even when future costs/suffering are included) payments.

Attorney Greg Brod has the knowledge and experience to act as a legal advocate for the injured and grieving following pipeline accidents.  As a pipeline injury law firm in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Oakland, The Brod Law Firm works to compensate victims and prevent future pipeline accidents.  In addition to serving all of Northern California, we can also work with local counterparts to represent pipeline explosion victims in Central California.  Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Minor Pipeline Accident Brings Back Hard Memories of the 2012 San Bruno Explosion

Further Developments in the San Bruno Explosion Investigation

(Image of unidentified pipeline explosion by Flickr user Fiveflower)

It’s a frightening image and one that many of us at The Brod Firm, your Santa Rosa personal injury law firm, have contemplated.  Imagine you are in a car accident, that’s scary enough imagine that during the crash, you are thrown from your vehicle.  The frightening truth about ejection crashes?  Most people who are completely ejected from their vehicles don’t live to tell the tale.

policelineFatal Ejection Crash Near Santa Rosa

The unfortunate reality of ejection crashes has become all too real for the family and friends of a Santa Rosa man who perished in an accident Tuesday night.  According to The Press Democrat,  the incident occurred around 8 P.M. on Guerneville Road near Highway 116 and Laguna Road.  Police report a white Ford pickup was driving east when the driver crossed over a double-yellow line in order to pass other vehicles.  When he tried to return to his lane, he left the road and ran into two trees.  The driver was thrown from the truck.  Despite emergency responders’ attempts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Ejection Crash Statistics

The most recent edition of the National Highway Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) Traffic Safety Facts Overview report  (released May 2014, data from 2012) includes some notable statistics on ejection crashes.  In that year, 79% of vehicle occupants who were total ejected perished.  Seat belts are incredibly effective in preventing ejections with only 1% of belted occupants experiencing total ejections versus 30% of non-belted vehicle occupants.  Ejections accounted for 25% of occupant fatalities in 2012, with ejection rates at 18% for passenger cars and 34% for light trucks.

Although it is admittedly a bit outdated, a November 1997 report titled “Analysis of Ejection in Fatal Crashes”  helps tie these facts into larger trends.  The authors conclude that the risk of dying in a crash is more than three times greater for someone ejected during a crash than for a non-ejected vehicle occupant.  Further, the study reports that the ejection rate for unbelted individuals grew from 25% in 1982 to approximately 33% in 1996.  The NHTSA suggests that an increase in rollover crashes was the primary reason for the increased ejection rate.

As both the 2012 data and 1997 study demonstrate, seatbelts are essential to preventing ejection.  During the 1982 to 1996 time frame, the percentage of fatalities involving total ejection was 2.5% for belted vehicle occupants and 29.4% for unbelted occupants.  Other factors associated with an increased risk of ejection include speed, vehicle type (specifically, the odds of ejection are approximately 1.4 times higher for light trucks, vans, and SUVs than passenger cars), and driver age (younger drivers have a higher ejection risk).

A Northern California Law Firm Representing Accident Victims

If you were injured in an ejection crash or lost a close relative in one and someone else was to blame for the crash, you may be entitled to money damages.  As a reminder, the law does not demand perfection.  A victim injured in a car crash caused by someone else may be entitled to compensation even if the victim’s own behaviors (e.g. not wearing a seatbelt) contributed to the accident itself or its severity.  In such cases, a court can still award money damages but the amount will be reduced to take into account the victim’s role.

As a car crash injury law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland, the Brod Law Firm serves all of Northern California representing people who were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongful acts.  Call to arrange a free consultation.  Most cases are handled on a contingent fee basis so if you don’t recover compensation, you don’t pay.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Statistics and Law in Northern California Ejection Accidents

Serving Victims of Rollover Crashes Throughout Northern California

(Image by Tony Webster via Flckr)

Oil and gas are essential utilities that help keep our modern world moving and the oil and gas industries are important parts of our nation’s economy.  However, as the residents of San Bruno know far too well, oil and gas lines can be incredibly dangerous.  At the Brod Law Firm, our Northern California pipeline accident lawyer believes that safety must be priority number one and our team is ready to step forward to help anyone injured in a pipeline accident.

SanBrunoRecalling a Day Many Will Never Forget

Last fall, ABC7 marked a somber anniversary, calling September 9, 2010 “the day no one can forget.”  On that date, a PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno sparking a huge fire that one resident compared to “a geyser of flames.”  The blaze ultimately claimed eight lives and left 66 people injured.  Thirty-eight homes were destroyed and more than a dozen lots remained vacant as of the four-year anniversary.  Not surprisingly, residents remain angry with PG&E despite the $1.4 billion fine levied against the industry giant, noting that the incident could have been prevented and saying the company has not properly apologized to those impacted by the tragedy.

Audit Points to Failures at Public Utilities Commission

This week, The Oakland Tribune followed up on the safety recommendations issued in the wake of the San Bruno pipeline explosion.  An independent audit by Crowe Horwath identified 12 major issues that the Public Utilities Commission (“PUC” or “the Commission”) must address to provide a safer environment for all Californians.  The audit follows a finding that PUC’s lax safety procedures played a major role in the 2010 disaster.  Among the most important problems identified in the audit are poor record-keeping, outdated technology, delayed inspections/incident reports, poor communications, a failure to analyze risks, and a lack of accountability and standards.

To date, the PUC has only begun to work on 10 of the 33 recommendations contained in the audit.  The initial response was hampered by frequent changes in management, uncertain priorities, and a reactive approach that created confusion and hampered trust.  Commenting on the need for change, State Senator Jerry Hill stated “Before we can expect PG&E to seriously prioritize safety, the PUC has to embrace safety as a serious part of the commission’s culture.”

Mixed Reviews for Public Utilities Commission

Overall, reviews of changes made by the Commission in the past five years are mixed.  Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network suggests the PUC is headed in the wrong direction.  Others note a change in tone under the Commission’s new leadership with Michael Picker at the helm. Picker helped craft the punishment levied against PG&E by the PUC.  He takes over following the departure of agency president Michael Peevey who left amid allegations he fostered an atmosphere of lax oversight and too-close ties between the Commission and the large utility companies.

Prioritizing Safety: Preventing Tragedies While Helping Victims

If there’s one central theme running through our blog entries it is the importance of prevention.  Whether the topic is car accidents, elder abuse, or pipeline explosions, we believe prevention should always be the goal.  Civil litigation helps right wrongs, it can’t turn back time but it can help victims move forward.  We hope the PUC and PG&E take this opportunity to re-prioritize and focus on safety.  We hope no other community has to go through the terrible experiences that San Bruno has faced.  However, if an oil or gas explosion has impacted you and/or your family, our San Francisco pipeline explosion law firm is here to help.  We will work to get justice for you, recognizing that paying damages forces companies to recognize that lax attitudes towards safety will not be tolerated.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Gas Leak Prompting S.F. Neighborhood Evacuation Comes on Heels of PG&E Indictment for 2010 San Bruno Explosion

San Bruno to CPUC: Stop Dragging Your Feet on Disclosure of Public Records

(Photo credit: KRON 4 via Flkr User “A Name Like Shields Can Make You Defensive”)

At times, it seems like reading the paper or watching the news requires a level of detachment.  With so many stories of personal tragedy, connecting emotionally with every report can be overwhelming.  Yet, connecting the story to the law is a key part of what we do at our San Francisco wrongful death law firm.  Connecting allows us to serve our clients on the emotional, as well as the legal, journey that follows tragedy.  Ensuring the jury connects with the plaintiff and/or victim can help us recover compensation for the client.  A personalized story can also drive home a message about accident prevention.  Today, we look at the story and the law behind a recent pedestrian fatality and we consider the potential legal implications for an accident caused by someone fleeing the police.

Kind, Warm-Hearted Woman Killed in Pedestrian Crash

crosswalk2Last Friday, a 42-year-old female pedestrian was struck and killed in San Francisco’s Financial District.  On Monday, one of the headline stories on the San Francisco Chronicle website took a closer look at the victim and the fatal accident.  At around 10 P.M., police say three men held up an individual near the intersection of Clay and Larkin.  Shortly thereafter, officers attempted to pull the trio over and the suspects fled in a Toyota Corolla.  Around the same time, Bridget Klecher was walking in the Financial District after dining with a friend.  With police in pursuit, the Toyota sped north on Leavenworth Street and plowed into Klecher as she crossed near Kearny Street.  The vehicle continued fleeing and hit another person at Post and Powell Streets before the suspects abandoned the car on Treasure Island.  While the second victim is expected to survive, Kearney later died at San Francisco General Hospital.

Friends held a memorial service for Klecher on Sunday.  They described her as kind and warm, a jokester, and “the coolest girl I’ve ever met” without a mean bone in her body.  She’d moved to San Francisco from Maryland in the mid-1990s.  Klecher was a Giants fanatic and eagerly awaited the home opener.  Now, her friends await a break in the case

Civil and Criminal Implications of a Death Caused By Perpetrators Fleeing Police

Often, mourners find some solace in seeing those responsible for an untimely death held responsible.  Regular readers of this blog know that the criminal and civil arms of the law operate separately.  Family members can pursue a wrongful death case in civil court at the same time as prosecutors bring criminal charges, or even if authorities choose not to prosecute.

Special criminal charges may apply when someone is killed by perpetrators fleeing the scene of another crime.  Vehicular Manslaughter, defined in Penal Code 192(c), involves (1) killing another (2) when driving with negligence or gross negligence and (3) committing either a non-felony unlawful act or a lawful act that might lead to a death.  While murder typically requires proof of malice, a special Felony Murder Rule (CA Penal Code Sec. 189) allows the charge when the death occurred during the commission of one of the listed felonies (including robbery, burglary, and sexual assault) or another inherently dangerous felony.  It can apply even if a co-conspirator actually killed the victim.  The Felony Murder Rule only applies if the death occurred during the commission of the felony, but that generally includes an immediate escape attempt that continues until the individual reaches a temporary place of safety (see Criminal Jury Instruction 3261 which further defines a place of temporary safety as having escaped from the crime scene and no longer being chased).

On the civil side, the case would most likely be brought as a wrongful death action under Civil Code 377.60 et. seq.  This claim typically belongs to the deceased’s closest relative(s).  Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the responsible party rather than compensate the victim, may be deemed appropriate.  This can greatly increase the amount of money that the defendant owes the plaintiffs.

Choosing a Lawyer

Choosing a lawyer is a difficult decision.  We encourage you to look at the information on our webpage and arrange an initial consultation with Attorney Brod, a skilled and experienced San Francisco injury lawyer.  We promise to handle your civil claims with the utmost respect, keep you informed throughout the attorney/client relationship, and, of course, provide top-notch legal services while never forgetting the human side of our relationship.  Please call to learn more.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

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

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule in San Francisco Injury Lawsuits

(Image by Robert Vega)

Often, Medicare fraud is brought to light because a brave employee saw a wrong and spoke up.  Notably, however, insiders are not the only ones who can bring a Medicare fraud whistleblower lawsuit (aka a qui tam action).  Medicare beneficiaries can also witness and report Medicare fraud.  We are proud to partner with Medicare beneficiary whistleblowers  in addition to working with current/former employees on health care fraud matters.  We investigate the whistleblower’s concerns and, when appropriate, file suit.  Our mutual goal is recovering wrongfully diverted funds and preventing on-going/future frauds.  As a Medicare fraud whistleblower’s law firm, we also vigilantly work to protect the whistleblower from retaliation and ensure s/he receives fair compensation should the information leads to a recovery.

Example 1: Over $5 Million Recovered in Action Initiated by Medicare Beneficiary Whistleblowers

healthcashIn Fall 2012, RxAmerica (a subsidiary of CVS) agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle a Medicare fraud action that consolidated two suits brought by Medicare beneficiaries.  According to Law360, Robert Fischer filed suit against RxAmerica in a New York federal court after noticing suspiciously large payments on an Explanation of Benefits (“EOB”) report sent to him by Medicare.  As explained in a Business Wire report, Jan and Max Hauser also filed suit against RxAmerica bringing their claim in a North Carolina federal court.  The Hausers also carefully reviewed an EOB statement and they noticed that RxAmerica was charging the government more money for prescription drugs than had listed in the Plan Finder tool they had used when selecting their Medicare Part D plan.  This discrepancy meant the Hausers consumed their allowed benefits faster than expected/promised and had to pay out-of-pocket for their prescription medications.

Both the Hausers and Mr. Fischer were able to determine that RxAmerica was overcharging Medicare, filing higher prices than they had represented previously, a discrepancy Mrs. Hauser called “astronomical.”  According to the above-cited sources, in some cases RxAmerica asked for 10 times the advertised cost.  The dual beneficiary-filed suits illustrated that pricing misrepresentations were not a one-time fluke.  The consolidated action resulted in a settlement agreement that required the company pay $5,250,000 which would be used to compensate beneficiaries who spent money out-of-pocket because of the fraudulent pricing.  Pursuant to the False Claims Act, the Hausers and Mr. Fischer will receive 15%  to 30% of the settlement for reporting the fraud and their work investigating and prosecuting the case.  CVS/RxAmerica also agreed to a plan intended to prevent future pricing fraud.

Example 2: HealthSouth Pays $325 Million to Settle Fraud Claim, Beneficiary Whistleblower To Receive $8 Million

medicalcostIn another Medicare fraud action, a claim brought by a beneficiary resulted in a $325 million settlement that included an $8 million payment to the whistleblowing beneficiary.  According to The Houston Chronicle and information resource HCPro,  James DeVage sought physical therapy for back pain.  He noticed HealthSouth was billing Medicare for treatment even after he stopped receiving care from the office.  Although he tried to alert Medicare, his concerns weren’t addressed until he engaged legal counsel and filed suit.

Mr. DeVage’s  claim was consolidated with accounting fraud claims and other health care fraud claims based on the same or similar conduct.  The 83 year-old stands to garner more than $8 million for his efforts.  The Chronicle reports that Mr. DeVage is a former tax examiner who spent 30 years in the Army, served in three wars and earned a Bronze Star.  He told an interviewer: “The money is nice. The real reason was to stop the fraud, and we did stop it. When something’s wrong, I like to do something about it.”  In addition to the payment, HealthSouth agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement.

Helping Beneficiaries Fight Back

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy.  It can, however, be made much easier when you have the right people to help.  If you’ve witnessed what you believe is Medicare fraud, whether you witnessed it as an employee or as a beneficiary, we can help you fight back.  Medicare fraud steals money from every U.S. taxpayer and endangers the health of Medicare patients.  Call (800) 427-7020 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our Medicare whistleblowers’ attorney.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Hardly a Victim-less Crime: The Victims of Health Care Fraud

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

(Image with piggy bank by Flicker user 401(K) 2013; Image with dollar sign by Neff Conner)

Earlier this week, we examined a report on the potential dangers lurking in San Francisco’s BART network and discussed the legal standards that apply to mass transit accidents.  Today, we focus on tour buses, a unique part of the bustling transportation sector in Northern California that mixes transportation, tourism, and entertainment.  We will look at a proposal intended to keep both tour bus passengers and bystanders safe and discuss three tragic examples of California tour bus accidents.  Safety is our top priority, but when accidents occur our San Francisco tour bus accident law firm is here to help.

(image by Greg Goebel)

San Francisco Ordinance Prohibits Tour Bus Operators from Driving While Narrating

According to the Oakland Tribune, on Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits tour bus drivers from simultaneously narrating and driving.  The Board hopes the rule will ensure drivers focus all their attention on the task of driving.   Drivers who are caught violating the ordinance will be cited.

One of the measure’s sponsors explained that it will keep pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists safe and will protect residents and tourist alike.  He emphasized the belief that a vibrant tourism industry should not jeopardize the safety of residents and visitors.  A co-sponsor said he is working with legislators across California to create similar regulations in other municipalities.

Three Tragic Examples of Tour Bus Accidents

In part, the measure was passed in response to a crash that killed a city employee last fall.  On October 23, 2014, a tour bus trolley struck pedestrian Priscila Moreto who was crossing in a Polk Street crosswalk near City Hall.  Moreto was a 68-year old San Francisco resident who worked in the Controller’s Office.  The driver of the tour bus was allegedly distracted at the time of the deadly accident.

Sadly, the October 23 accident is far from the only California tour bus tragedy in recent months.  On November 23, 2014, a tour bus overturned killing one and injuring 26 others, six seriously.  As KCRA reported, the bus was travelling from Los Angeles to Washington State and the same bus had crashed into a Denny’s restaurant in Red Bluff earlier in the day.  The deadly overturn accident occurred just off Interstate 5, approximately 100 miles from the California-Oregon border.  Speaking to the press in the aftermath of the crash, investigators suggested driver fatigue may have been a factor.

Just this week, a Southern California tour bus accident claimed the life of a 26 year-old man.  According to The Los Angeles Times, on Sunday April 5, 2015, a tour bus collided with a car driven by Pedro Lira in Bloomington, San Bernardino County.  The crash occurred around 6:45 P.M. when the bus attempted to make a left-hand turn.  Four passengers incurred minor injuries.  Lira was trapped in his vehicle.  Response teams freed him and took him to the hospital where he died about an hour later.  An investigation is underway.

San Francisco Tour Bus Law Firm

Tour buses can be a terrific way to see a city, allowing riders to see the city with the help of a knowledgeable guide.  However, as the sponsors of the San Francisco ordinance note, tourism should not come at the expense of safety.  As always, our San Francisco tour bus injury attorney believes in “Safety First” and our team supports efforts to make the streets safe for everyone from life-long residents to visitors who may only have a day to enjoy our city.

When a tour bus crash occurs in Northern California, our California tour bus law firm can help injured victims and/or grieving families recover monetary compensation from those at fault.  Often, the actions of the bus driver (e.g. narrating while driving, falling asleep at the wheel) can be imputed to the tour bus company.  This means victims can sue the company itself and helps ensure a potentially large judgment or settlement can be paid.  Call to schedule a no-cost consultation and learn about our contingent fee system which means you only pay us if you recover money.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

Tour Bus Accidents & Liability Under California Law

Passenger Vehicle Accident with Transit Buses Cause Serious Injuries

Party Bus Accidents and California Law

(Image by Greg Goebel)

We are proud to live in a city and a region that are committed to making public transportation a viable, workable option. Public transportation is good for the environment. It is also a healthy option since those using public transit are more likely to walk for a portion of their commute than drivers using their own private vehicles. Public transportation systems such as The San Francisco Municipal Railway (“Muni”) and Bay Area Rapid Transit (“BART”) also shape a region’s identity and promote a sense of unification. Nonetheless, public transportation accidents are an unfortunate reality. Even a single-vehicle crash can impact dozens of travelers. As a San Francisco public transportation injury lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod helps these victims. Whether dealing with a Muni crash in town or a BART accident anywhere in the region, Attorney Brod helps injured people recover the compensation they need and deserve.

Shining a Light on “BART’s Track Troubles”  

On Monday, The San Francisco Chronicle published a column titled “BART’s Track Troubles Can’t Be Ignored.” The report, a must-read for users of the rail network, suggests that hazardous and/or deteriorating tracks may put the safety of thousands at risk. In recent years, public officials have focused on expanding BART’s reach and its BARToperating hours; twin goals that may come at the expense of maintenance on existing lines. BART opened in 1972 (43 years ago). Since then, only about 20% of the tracks have been replaced. In contrast, federal officials estimate tracks have a 25 year life span while BART officials say tracks should last 20 to 35 years depending on location.

BART plans to slow train traffic at more than three dozen locations because track conditions could put travelers at risk. At one site, between the Oakland Coliseum and Fruitvale stops, officials plan to shut down for 11 weekends while workers replace some 3,000 feet of worn rail and 1,000 wood ties that have degraded. Shutdowns are also planned on the elevated crossover rails near Daly City, San Leandro, and Bayfair to work on interlockings, the places where trains switch tracks. An anonymous insider explains: “[BART officials] are afraid a tie could come loose, cause a derailment and send a train plunging off the tracks.” Officials say that the system needs “a complete overhaul,” a $4.8 billion project.

The risk of derailment is real. One site in Concord has seen two derailments in the last five years. In early 2013, an incident left a (thankfully, empty) train car teetering off the side of elevated tracks. Officials eventually blamed “a slight jog in the track.” The previous derailment occurred in March 2011 when a wheel slipped off the rails. That accident was blamed on uneven track wear and flawed wheel maintenance. While no one was seriously injured, 65 people had to be evacuated.

An Elevated Standard and Special Procedures in California Mass Transit Accident Cases

There are special laws and procedures applicable to accidents involving public transportation. Mass transit systems are deemed common carriers. While typical drivers owe a duty of ordinary care, common carriers have a much higher duty. As explained by section 902 of the California Civil Jury Instructions: “Common carriers must carry passengers [or property] safely. Common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person. They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers [or property].” This rule is codified in Civil Code Section 2100.

The common carrier standard provides an extra level of protection to the public. However, an injured person can only take advantage of this standard if s/he follows the special rules for bringing a claim against a government authority. In addition to special procedures, there is a greatly reduced limitations period. A would-be plaintiff must file a claim document within six months of the underlying incident. This is in contrast to a two year limitations period applicable to most personal injury claims.

An Experienced Northern California Mass Transit Lawyer

If you are injured or lose a loved one in a mass transit accident Northern California, you may have a legal claim. Given the shortened time frame, contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is particularly important. Attorney Brod has the knowledge and experience to serve as a mass transit lawyer in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area. Call to schedule a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

$14.3 Million Dollar Award to Woman Injured While Riding Transit Bus
Major Initiatives Are Launched to Encourage Railroad Safety in Wake of Tragedies

(Image by Nick Doty)