Friday, June 28, 2013

New Law Proposed to Study Burn Pit Toxic Exposures

The “Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act” (H.R. 2510) has been offered in Congress to create Centers of Excellence to care for service members exposed to burn pits, the open air fires sued to dispose of waste in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Actions have been brought against KBR and Halliburton - military contractors who operated burn pits.  - 
New Law Proposed to Study Burn Pit Toxic Exposures:
Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) were joined by representatives from veteran advocacy groups, physicians, and family members of veterans today to announce new bipartisan legislation to address the health crisis among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were exposed to open-air burn pits and other airborne hazards during their service overseas. Original cosponsors of the legislation also include Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Jim Cooper (D-TN)....

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let Shooting Victims Sue -

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Let Shooting Victims Sue -
by Robert M. Morgenthau  (Manhattan District Attorney 1975 - 2009)
Decades ago, the tobacco industry hired doctors to plug the health benefits of cigarettes, and the auto industry claimed that seat belts were an unnecessary extravagance. The results were an epidemic of deaths, followed by civil law suits, followed by industry reform.
Today, smoking is down and cars are safer. In part, we have the market to thank. When these industries acted irresponsibly, basic principles of civil liability placed the costs of illness and accident where they belonged. Once their bottom line was affected, even the most myopic executives had to take notice.
I believe that with rights come responsibilities. By immunizing the gun industry from basic principles of legal liability, Congress kept the rights and repealed the responsibilities.
The Second Amendment right to bear arms is an important right. But the contours of that right must not extend to those who look away as their guns enter the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. Congress should immediately repeal the 2005 gun immunity law, and let free-market incentives encourage responsible behavior by the gun industry.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Obligatory Nutshell Version of Veterans Benefits - The Faculty Lounge:

The Faculty Lounge: The Obligatory Nutshell Version of Veterans Benefits:
by Jasmes Ridgway
There are three elements that determine whether disability benefits are granted:  (1) current disability, (2) in-service disease or injury, and (3) nexus.  These elements are similar — but not the same as — the issues in many tort claims:  (1) injury, (2) violation of a duty by the defendant, and (3) proximate cause.  However, there is no issue of duty.  The veteran is simply trying to prove that his or her current problem is related to something that happened while he or she was in service.  Many veterans misunderstand and think that all their disabilities are subject to compensation regardless of whether they are “service connected,” but this is not the case.  (“Service connection” is a term of art, and it is incredibly common to hear claims for disability compensation referred to as claims for “service connection” for a condition.)

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Monday, June 3, 2013

TortsProf Blog: Catastrophic Payments and Medical Malpractice

TortsProf Blog: Catastrophic Payments and Medical Malpractice:

by Christopher J. Robinette, Widener Law School
Terry Baynes of Reuters has written an article about the recent study by a group of physicians at John Hopkins finding that large med mal awards do not contribute significantly to healthcare costs. The article quotes the lead author of the study, Dr. Marty Makary, and me on the issue. My comments appear somewhat more skeptical of the med mal tort system than I actually am (through no fault of Ms. Baynes), and that caused me to reflect further on the significance of the study. 
The study (pdf) finds that catastrophic judgments (of over $1M) constitute approximately .05% of national healthcare costs (as measured in 2010). I believe the inferences and recommendations that Dr. Makary and his colleagues draw from this are generally correct. First, they determine that catastrophic payouts are not a major driver of health care costs. Second, at least in interviews, Dr. Makary argues that defensive medicine due to the vague standard of care is a bigger expense than catastrophic payouts. Third, acknowledging the study does not include costs of defensive medicine, the authors conclude that the financial savings due to malpractice reform may be minimal compared to other drivers of health care costs. Fourth, at least in interviews, Dr. Makary argues that malpractice reform should not be focused on caps, but on the standard of care.

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