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Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 3:23 pm    

The New York Times, recently reported on what appears to be a growing practice in the medical industry where a surgeon will call in an outside physician to assist in the surgery. The reason this is significant, is that often the physician called in to assist in the surgery will be an out-of-network surgeon who according to The Times article will often bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and end up collecting the full or a substantial portion, of the billed amount.

In one case featured in The Times article, an individual who underwent back surgery received a bill of $117,000 from an out-of-network assisting physician. The patient’s primary surgeon, who was in network, accepted a negotiated fee from the patient’s insurance company which ended up being about $6,200. The patient was not told in advance that an out-of-network physician would be assisting with the surgery. Eventually the patient’s health insurance company paid the entire $117,000 charge.

This practice has caught the attention of the state legislature in New York and they recently passed a law which will offer some protection against surprise charges and require more advance disclosures from doctors and hospitals on whether or not their services are covered by insurance.

According to The Times article, in some countries such as Australia, it is seen as a patient’s right to be informed of out-of-pocket costs before hospitalization.

Source: Article appearing in The New York Times on September 20, 2014 entitled After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know, by Elisabeth Rosenthal.


Posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 at 2:33 pm    

In a recent New York Times article, The Times reported that Honda recently disclosed that for more than ten years it grossly underreported the number of deaths and injury claims linked to possible defects in its vehicles disclosed to federal regulators.

According to the Times article, an independent audit commissioned by Honda and conducted by an outside law firm discovered that Honda did not report over 1,700 written claims or notices of injuries or deaths from mid-2003 through mid-2014. That number is about two times the claims/notices reported by Honda for the same time period.

In a statement, Honda said that the audit attributed the underreporting to inadvertent errors in data entry and coding. However, Honda did acknowledge that the potential problem was first reported by an employee in 2011, and federal regulators notified Honda of the possible underreporting in early 2012, but that it did not take action until September of 2014.

According to The Times, the reporting is mandated under a system referred to as the Early Warning Reporting which requires automakers to disclose any claims they received that blame vehicle defects for serious injuries or deaths. This system was created in 2000 in response to the wave of highway rollovers in Ford Explorers with Firestone tires.

The Times also noted that Honda’s failure to properly report such claims could trigger civil penalties up to thirty-five million dollars.

Honda says that it has instituted retraining of its workers on data entry methods and made organizational changes to address this problem.

Source: Article entitled Honda Failed to Report Defects’ Full Human Toll by Hiroko Tabuchi appearing in The New York Times on November 24, 2014.


Posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2015 at 2:30 pm    

According to a recent New York Times article, two former Takata employees revealed that Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata secretly conducted tests on some of their airbags which they retrieved from scrap yards. Apparently, the tests were conducted when Takata became alarmed by a report in 2004 that one of its airbags had ruptured and spewed metal debris at a driver in Alabama.

According to the Times article, during testing, the inflaters in two of the airbags cracked, a condition which can lead to a rupture. The employees reported that the results were so startling that Takata engineers began designing possible fixes in preparation for a recall.

However, instead of alerting the federal safety regulators to the danger, Takata executives discounted the results and ordered their lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and to dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash.

Perhaps equally startling, the Times article reports that, the tests were conducted after normal work hours and on weekends and holidays during the summer of 2004.

Further, per subsequent regulatory filings, this testing was done more than four years before Takata stated it first tested the problematic airbags.

Takata is one of the world’s largest suppliers of air bags, accounting for approximately one-fifth of the global market. As a result of the defective airbags manufactured by Takata, eleven automakers have already recalled more than 14 million vehicles because of the defective airbags and more than four deaths have been tied to the defects.

If you have been injured by a defective product, a lawyer from the Law Office of Bill Pelhan may be able to help you hold its manufacturer accountable. Discuss your options in a free consultation by calling 717-392-6362.

Source: An article appearing in the New York Times entitled Takata Saw and Hid Risks in Airbags in 2004, Former Workers Say by Hiroko Tabuchi appearing on November 6, 2014.


Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 at 4:29 pm    

A state store manager was recently awarded workers’ compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder that he suffered as a result of a robbery in April 2008. According to the AP article, Gregory Kochanowicz was the manager of a state store located in Morrisville, PA when a masked robber put a gun to the back of his head and duct tapped him to a chair during a robbery of the state store. This was the only robbery that Kochanowicz experienced in more than 30 years of working with the Pennsylvania State Store System. And, Kochanowicz has been unable to work since because of PTSD.

Initially, Kochanowicz was denied workers compensation because the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its insurer took the position that robbery was a part of the normal working conditions and therefore his resulting PTSD should not entitle him to workers comp benefits. Although the lower court awarded Kochanowicz benefits, the LCB appealed and the Commonwealth Court reversed the lower court and denied Kochanowicz benefits.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set aside the Commonwealth Court’s ruling and directed the Commonwealth to reconsider its opinion in light of a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court awarding workers compensation benefits to a state trooper who suffered PTSD when he struck and killed a pedestrian. The pedestrian committed suicide by jumping in front of the trooper’s vehicle. At a subsequent hearing the Commonwealth Court reversed its decision and awarded benefits to Kochanowicz.

Source: An article by Max Mitchell entitled Robbery Not a Normal Work Condition of Liquor Store appearing in the The Legal Intelligencer on January 5, 2015.


Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 at 3:30 pm    

In a recent article in the N.Y. Times, it was reported that approximately two and a half years after learning that Trinity Industries failed to report a potentially hazardous design change to its guardrails,the Federal Highway Administration has directed Trinity to perform additional crash testing.

The guardrail in question – the ET-Plus guardrails are, according to The Times article, in use in almost every state. Although the states are ultimately responsible for their highways and related equipment, states rely heavily upon the Highway Administration’s reviews of safety data and its certification that products are eligible for federal reimbursement to insure that the equipment is safe.

In addition to requiring additional testing, the Federal Highway Administration is prohibiting Trinity Industries from using Texas Transportation Institute to conduct the crash test because the Institute is part of Texas A & M University which owns the patents to the ET-Plus guardrail system. Texas A & M licenses the patent to Trinity Industries. Interestingly, previous crash test of the ET-Plus done in 2005 and 2010 were conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute.

At least one senator has questioned why the Federal Highway Transportation Agency didn’t investigate the crash worthiness of the ET-Plus system earlier. The Times reported that Senator Richard Blumenthal recently directed the Highway Administration to expedite its investigation stating that: “This federal agency is now asking the right questions, but way too late”.

Source: U.S. Orders More Testing on Guardrail After Ruling by Danielle Ivory and Aaron M. Kessler appearing in the New York Times on October 21, 2014.


Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 at 3:16 pm    

A winter snow storm on Wednesday afternoon, January 7, 2015 near the Clarion exit of Interstate 80 resulted in an 18-vehicle pileup which left three people dead and approximately twenty people injured. An AP report appearing in the LNP indicated the pileup involved nine trucks, including several tractor trailers and nine automobiles.

Clarion County Emergency Services director Vern Smith said that “There was a whiteout. There was very heavy snow at the time with visibility virtually zero”. The Pennsylvania State Police stated that two of the individuals killed in this incident where struck after exiting their vehicles.

Unfortunately, whiteouts like this seem to be a fairly common occurrence in northwestern Pennsylvania during severe winter snowstorms. Tragedies like this one remind us that it is important to consider carefully whether or not it is necessary to venture out onto the highways during winter snowstorms and hazardous weather conditions. Apparently the National Weather Service had issued warnings about lake-effect squalls for the area where this pile-up occurred.

For tips on winter weather driving see our blog article titled Winter Driving Safety Tips posted on November 21,2014.

Source: An AP article entitled 3 killed, 20 injured in whiteout on I-80 appearing in the LNP on Thursday, January 8, 2015.


Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015 at 3:35 pm    

The New York Times recently reported a woman in Malaysia bled to death following injuries caused by metal shrapnel sprayed at her after the Takata airbag inflater ruptured during an automobile collision.

Although the accident occurred in July, Honda just recently publicly linked this death to the faulty airbags. According to The Times article, this is the first death linked to a defective Takata airbag outside of the United States. It was reported that although the faulty inflaters were made in North American plants, they were installed in automobiles shipped overseas.

Source: Article appearing in the New York Times on November 18, 2014 entitled Defective Takata Airbag Grows Into Global Problem by Neil Gough, Jonathan Soble and Hiroko Tabuchi.


Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 at 2:58 pm    

According to a recent article published in LNP, as of December 23, 2014, fifty-nine people were killed in traffic accidents in Lancaster County in 2014. This is an increase from last year where only 45 people were killed in 42 traffic accidents. However, 2013 was the fewest number of traffic-related deaths in 51 years.

The most killed in a single accident occurred when three young men were killed on September 19th when the pick-up truck operated by one of the young men pulled out in front of a tractor trailer on Rt. 340 in Salisbury Township. Two of the young men were members of the Honey Brook Fire Company.

In another very tragic accident, an 18 year old Lampeter-Strasburg graduate, Meredith Demko, died as a result of injuries she suffered when her vehicle was struck by a speeding vehicle operated by Thomas Gallagher, Jr. According to the LNP article, Gallagher was charged with driving drunk and under the influence of heroin, as well as third degree murder.

Per LNP, Gallagher was a repeat DUI offender and was also driving on a suspended license.

Tragic automobile accidents are always devastating for the victims and their family. If you are in such a situation, you may be able to lessen your burden by pursuing damage claims against the responsible drivers. Call us at 717-392-6362 to find out how we may help you.

Source: Article appearing in LNP entitled 59 people die in traffic accidents this year by Ryan Robinson on Sunday, December 28, 2014.