Archive for September, 2013

Horrific Crash in Pennsylvania Claims the Lives of Six, Including Two Children

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, an accident in Kane, Pennsylvania claimed the lives of six people—two of whom were children.  Two motor vehicles were involved in the head-on collision.  One was driven by Gary Beimel, and the other was driven by Kathy Douglas.  All four people in the vehicle driven by Gary Beimel were killed.  Two of the four individuals in the vehicle driven by Kathy Douglas were killed, including her daughter and her nephew.  All of the six individuals that passed away as a result of the accident were pronounced dead at the scene.  The road was closed while the local authorities attended to and cleared the scene of the accident, which took approximately seven hours.  The authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident, which resulted when the SUV driven by Kathy Douglas crossed into oncoming traffic, directly in the path of the sedan driven by Gary Beimel.

The death of a child is a tragedy that is simply beyond compare.  This accident is a grim reminder that, as innocent as they are, children can nevertheless be the victims of horrific circumstances.  In situations similar to this, through the daze, fog, and sheer grief that the parents of a child who has been killed must wade, questions also naturally begin to surface.  Questions including “Why me?” and “How can I go on?” are also often accompanied by questions such as “How did this happen?”, “Who is responsible?”, and “Is my family entitled to any compensation for our loss?”

Although it is not something a parent ever wants to focus on after the loss of a child, the answer is yes—your family may be entitled to compensation.  During this time of loss, families are in a state of shock and can be very confused about what options they have.  This article discusses some of the options in brief and general terms.  If you live in Mississippi, have suffered the loss of a child, and have questions or would like to talk with an attorney about your options, Barrett Law PLLC is here to help answer your questions and guide you through your legal options.  We can be reached at (800) 707-9577.

The death of a child can involve recovery several different types of damages.  First and foremost, parents are entitled to damages resulting from medical and related expenses arising from hospitalization or other medical services provided to the child due to the accident.  These are actual, out-of-pocket damages sustained due to the accident.  Parents may also be entitled to damages stemming from their loss of companionship and loss of community with the child.   These types of damages are often referred to as loss of consortium and loss of love and affection.  Parents may also be able to recover the lost earning capacity of a child, depending on the family’s and child’s situation.

As in any type of lawsuit, retaining an attorney experienced in personal injury matters is important in ensuring that you recover the full damages to which you are entitled.  It is also important to retain an attorney as quickly as feasible.  Details and memories fade, evidence is lost or destroyed, and other events happen over the course of months and years that can make a lawsuit more difficult to prove.  Do not delay hiring an attorney.

If your family has suffered the tragedy of the loss of a child, you do not need to struggle through this time alone.  Let Barrett Law, PLLC help you through the legal aspects of your loss so that you and your family can focus on your healing.  We can be reached at (800) 707-9577.

Dump-Truck Accident in Dallas, Texas, Highlights Dangers of Heavy Truck Versus Car Accidents

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A recent accident on the Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway in Dallas, Texas, highlights the dangers when a heavy truck is involved in an accident with cars.  On September 10, 2013, a dump truck was travelling east down one side of the divided road when, according to eye-witnesses, a plume of smoke erupted and the truck slid over one car and pinned it underneath the truck.  The dump truck then jumped across the concrete median barrier into the westbound lanes of traffic and came to rest on a Lexus sedan travelling in one of the westbound lanes. The two individuals in the Lexus—Tarleton and Benna Mullikin—were killed.  Daniel Cerean, the driver of the other car that was pinned underneath the back of the dump truck, sustained injuries but is recovering.  The freeway was closed for five hours in both directions while local authorities attended to the scene.  Authorities have not yet issued details about the cause of the crash.  The dump truck belonged to a company that is a subcontractor working on the roadway construction on the freeway.

Accidents involving large, commercial vehicles and smaller, consumer vehicles often end with disastrous consequences due to the disparity in size between the vehicles.  When accidents like this occur, it is important to ensure that an accident reconstruction expert is retained to thoroughly examine the potential causes of the accident.  Commercial trucks, including semi-trailers, construction trucks, dump trucks, and similar large commercial trucks, are more complicated that vehicles designed for consumer use.  They also experience much more extreme wear, use, and strain simply because of the purposes for which they are designed.  Because of this, proper maintenance of commercial trucks is vital. Unfortunately, the owners of these trucks sometimes do not properly maintain them.  This inadequate maintenance can lead to accidents. Inadequate maintenance can cause issues in braking systems, tires, and load distribution capabilities.

Frighteningly, braking systems are a common area of insufficient maintenance.  The weight of commercial trucks and the force needed to stop them can lead to tragedy when brakes have not been properly inspected, serviced, or replaced.  Simply put, inadequately maintained braking systems prevent trucks from stopping when they should or, even worse, from stopping at all.

Inadequately maintained tires is a second major cause of trucking accidents.  Tires are vital to the safe operation of all commercial trucks.  When tires are not replaced at the end of their useful like, the risk of a tire blowout increases dramatically. Tire blowouts can cause drivers to lose control or be unable to maneuver the truck or to be unable to slow or stop the truck.

Trucks haul things; that is what they are specifically intended to do.  This function is made possible by a multitude of coupling devices, bolts, and locking mechanisms, just to name a few. If these parts are insufficiently maintained, eventually they can fail.  When such a failure occurs, the load a truck is transporting can shift or completely fall loose from the truck.  Obviously, loads falling completely loose represent a hazard to all oncoming traffic.  Shifting loads can also cause the truck to lose control.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a commercial truck, it is important to retain an attorney experienced in this type of personal injury lawsuit.  You need an attorney who understands when an expert is necessary, and knows which experts on which to rely.  You also need an attorney who understands how to fight insurance companies—sometimes, many of them at the same time.  Barrett Law, PLLC has been fighting for the rights of individuals injured as a result of trucking accidents for decades.  We are here to fight for you.  Please contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to learn more about how we can help you.

New Concerns Raised About Staffing at G.V. Montgomery VAMC in Jackson, Mississippi

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Over the span of the past several years, beginning in 2009, serious complaints about the management of G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center located in Jackson, Mississippi, have surfaced.  The issue boiled over earlier this year when, in March, the United States Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to the White House indicating that the Office of Special Counsel had found a pattern of problems at G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The United States Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency responsible for receiving whistleblower complaints and prosecuting claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act.  It received the complaints in question.  The Office of Special Counsel conducted interviews and ultimately issued the letter to the White House mentioned above.  The complaints involved a wide array of issues, from improper sterilization practices, poor staffing, and missed diagnoses.  Furthermore, the complaints indicated that these issues occurred over a lengthy span of time—six years.

The first of the complaints, dating to 2009, involved allegations that the VAMC failed to properly sterilize equipment.  In 2011, another employee made allegations that sterilization workers were not following proper procedure, including wearing protective clothing.  In 2012, a primary care doctor made allegations that nurses were prescribing medications that they were not authorized to prescribe.  Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck also complained that, because of inadequate physician staffing in the primary care unit, nurses were providing care that they were not licensed to provide.  Finally, in 2013, a retired ophthalmologist complained that a former radiologist at the VAMC regularly marked images as read when, in fact, they were not.

In response to the whistleblowers’ complaints and the letter from the Office of Special Counsel, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs opened an investigation.  The public disclosure of the details of the complaints by the Office of Special Counsel, which was highly unusual, also lead to an outcry by patients at the VAMC.   The VAMC and the Department of Veterans Affairs attempted to assuage concerns by holding open meeting with patients on April 3, 2013.

Earlier this year, Joe Battle, the director of G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, hired a new assistant director, who started in May.  In June, Mr. Battle also issued statements indicating that he would be recruiting a new chief of staff and nurse director.  However, despite his attempts to remedy the problem, one of the key whistleblowers—Dr. Hollenbeck—indicated that the VAMC remains seriously understaffed.  Dr. Hollenbeck’s continued concerns also came amidst statements from Representative Jeff Miller of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center needing to be taking more aggressive action to remedy problems plaguing it.

Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued findings that G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center did not have adequate physician staffing in its primary care unit, leading to nurses being responsible for too many patients.  The findings also suggested that further investigation may be necessary.

Although it does not appear that the whistleblowers in this situation suffered retaliation by G.V. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center for voicing their complaints, such is not always the case.  Unfortunately, whistleblowers often face retaliation, including termination, harassment, demotions, and the like.  There are federal laws preventing this type of retaliation if you are a federal employee.  Certain protections for private employees also exist in Mississippi.

If you are an employee and find yourself in a situation in which you have voiced or believe you need to voice complaints about practices by your employer and are facing retaliation or have concerns about potential retaliation, Barrett Law, PLLC can help you understand your rights and the protections to which you may be entitled.  We have a long history of protecting the rights of whistleblowers.  Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.

OSHA Ordered Reinstatement and Awarded Damages to a Former Employee of Signature Condominiums, LLC

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

On September 5, 2013, the United States Department of Labor, Office of Public Affairs issued a press release announcing that one of its enforcement arms, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ordered reinstatement and awarded damages to a former employee of Signature Condominiums, LLC.  Signature Condominiums, LLC, does business as The Signature at MGM Grand, which is a subsidiary of MGM Resorts International.  The Signature at MGM Grand is a condominium-hotel, specializing in high-end condominium units that can be rented as hotel suites when not occupied by the owner.  The Signature at MGM Grand is located in Las Vegas.

The employee, whose identity is not provided in the press release, disclosed that employees were engaging in actions that violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002 and established and enhanced requirements for publicly-traded companies boards of directors and management, as well as public accounting firms providing services for such companies.  The Act requires, among other things, that individuals must certify the accuracy of financial information.  It was passed in response to corporate collapses and scandals, including Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, and WorldCom.  The Act has whistleblower protections built into it.

Specifically, the individual disclosed that employees of The Signature at MGM Grand were engaging in forecasting.  Forecasting involved the employees providing expected revenue and occupancy rates for the condominiums to potential buyers.  This type of activity is restricted to security brokers, and the employees in question were not duly-licensed as security brokers.  The individual reported the activities to OSHA, which investigated the charges.  After the individual reported the activities, The Signature at MGM Grand terminated the employment relationship.

OSHA ordered The Signature at MGM Grand to reinstate the individual’s employment.  It also awarded the individual monetary compensation in the amount of $325,000, ordered The Signature at MGM Grand to delete negative information from the individual’s personnel record, and ordered it to post notices regarding employees’ whistleblower rights under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  News releases have indicated that The Signature at MGM Grand is expected to appeal the ruling.  The appeal, however, will not stay the enforcement of OSHA’s order.

OSHA’s order highlights the breadth of remedial and other actions that are afforded to prosecuting agencies under whistleblower protection laws.  While a wide variety of whistleblower protection laws exist, including provisions in Sarbanes-Oxley Act; Occupational Safety & Health Act; Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act; and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act, they all have several features in common.  The provisions protect employees who report violations, who initiate proceedings under any of the Acts in question, who testify at proceedings, or who assist in investigations.

The provisions generally also provide that any individual who believes he or she has been retaliated against for any of the aforementioned actions can report the violation to OSHA.  Depending upon the Act under which the violation occurred, the employee has thirty, sixty, ninety or one hundred eighty days to report the retaliation action.   Upon receipt of a complaint, OSHA notifies the employer.  If conciliation efforts are unsuccessful, OSHA will then move to an investigation phase.  If OSHA determines that there has been a violation, it can order reinstatement, payment of back wages, and reimbursement to the employee for attorneys’ fees.  It can also order additional actions it finds necessary to provide relief.  More detailed information about the various Acts and whistleblower protections they afford, as well as OSHA’s role in whistleblower investigations, can be found at http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-whistleblower.htm.

If you are in a retaliatory situation due to your raising of concerns about practices by your employer and live in Mississippi, Barrett Law, PLLC can help you understand your rights and the protections to which you may be entitled.  Our firm has extensive helping individuals obtain the protections to which they are entitled.  Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.

Shocking Allegations Against Vanderbilt University About Rampant Medicare Fraud

Friday, September 13th, 2013

In September 2013, a qui tam lawsuit involving Vanderbilt University was unsealed by the presiding judge in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.  (A qui tam lawsuit is one in which a private individual asserts allegations on behalf of a governmental unit against individuals or companies that have violated the law in the performance of a contract with that governmental unit.  The private individuals are entitled to a percentage of the damages awarded.)  The lawsuit was originally filed on January 6, 2011, and had remained under seal since the original filing date.  The lawsuit was brought by three former Vanderbilt University Medical Center physicians against Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and The Vanderbilt Medical Group and Clinic.  The lawsuit alleges a stunning and lengthy conspiracy to defraud the United States of America through a systematic practice of overbilling spanning over a decade.

The lawsuit seeks treble (triple) damages and civil penalties on behalf of the United States of America and double, treble, and civil penalties on behalf of twenty-two states.  Mississippi is not an affected state.  According to the Complaint, the teaching hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center receives payments from the United States Government under Medicare Part A for its residents’ training expenses and salaries.  It also receives payments under Medicare Part B for services performed by its attending, teaching physicians.  Under Medicare Part B, an attending, teaching physician is not permitted to bill for his or her services unless he or she is present during the key portion of any service and during surgery or delivery of anesthesia, during all critical portions of the delivery of services.

The Complaint alleges that since 2003, attending physicians have not been present during key portions of services and have not been present during critical portions of surgery or the delivery of anesthesia.  The scheduling practices of Vanderbilt are blamed for the inability of the teaching physicians to be present.  Specifically, the Complaint alleges that surgeons often schedule multiple surgeries at the same time and that Vanderbilt is aware of these practices and of the fact that the practices prohibit surgeons from fulfilling their responsibilities under Medicare Part B.  The Complaint goes on to allege that attending physicians in various intensive care units are charged with administrative tasks during afternoons, nights, and weekends.  This work prevents the attending physicians from being present as required.  The Complaint further alleges that attending physicians are not able to be present during all critical portions of the delivery of anesthesia.

Despite the lack of presence of attending physicians, Vanderbilt routinely, and falsely, bills as if the attending physician was present in order to comply with the requirements of Medicare Part B.  The Complaint goes on to allege that the plaintiffs, called relators in a qui tam suit, have brought these management and false billing issues to the attention of Vanderbilt.  In 2008, Vanderbilt performed an internal audit, which verified many of the relators’ allegations but rather than implementing ways to correct the problems, Vanderbilt covered them up and continued the false practices.   The Complaint includes detailed, specific examples of various attending physicians scheduling and billing for separate services on simultaneous dates and times.

One of the relators, Dr. Alexander Fisher, is also seeking damages for retaliation in response to his whistleblowing actions.  He was employed by Vanderbilt from 2003 to 2008, but two days after voicing his concerns about the staffing and billing practices at Vanderbilt, was told he would need to find another job because his contract would not be renewed.  He was denied the opportunity to appeal the decision, despite the fact that he provided a list of seventeen other physicians that left Vanderbilt due to the false billing issues.  Six months after his initial reported concerns, he was required to leave his employment with Vanderbilt as his contract expired.

Last year, news that Vanderbilt was being investigated for its billing practices surfaced and Vanderbilt issued a statement indicating that it was committed to addressing any concerns that were uncovered.  Vanderbilt has denied the allegations of wrongdoing contained in the Complaint.   The lawsuit will be back in court in October 2013.

Barrett Law, PLLC has significant experience representing individuals in Medicare whistleblower cases.  We have been helping individuals through these matters for 75 years, and will be there to help you, too. Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.

Dorel Juvenile USA Recalls Over 89,000 Car Seats

Monday, September 9th, 2013

On September 12, 2013, Dorel Juvenile USA announced a recall of more than 89,000 child safety restraint systems.  According to the recall information on Dorel Juvenile USA’s website, the recall stems from incorrect installation instructions depicted on various product labels.  The recall extends to various models of Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1, Safety First Complete Air LX, and Safety 1st Complete Air SE.  The production dates for the affected systems include July 20, 2010, through May 18, 2011.  Additional information can be found at http://www.djgusa.com/usa/eng/Safety-Notices/Detail/556-Dorel-Juvenile-Announces-a-Safety-Recall-of-Certain-Safety-1st-and-Eddie-Bauer-Child-Restraint-Systems.

If you have an infant or young child, it is vital to ensure that you have a properly-installed and fastened child safety restraint system in your vehicle.  Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death of children under sixteen years of age in the United States.  However, even if you do have a properly installed and fastened child safety restraint system, unfortunately this does not guarantee your child will be safe in the event of a motor vehicle accident.  In fact, over the past ten years or so, over 15 million child safety restraint systems have been recalled due to various safety issues.  Every year, hundreds of children die due to defective child safety restraint systems.

Several types of defects can exist.  These include: the use of flammable materials, which can easily catch fire during an accident; inadequate strength of frames, leading to collapse; latches that improperly release, resulting in children being thrown from the seat upon impact; straps that rip, tear, or become dislodged, again resulting in children being thrown or partially thrown from the seat upon impact; and latches that will not properly release, resulting in children being trapped in the seat or the car after an accident.  Clearly, any of these malfunctions and resulting effects can lead to catastrophic injuries or even death.

Nothing can compare to the loss of a child.  If you have been involved in an accident in which your child was in a child safety restraint system but was nevertheless injured in the recent days, weeks, or months, you have likely been focusing solely on your child’s return to health.  However, during this difficult time, it is important to begin thinking about retaining an attorney to ensure that your rights and your child’s rights are fully protected.  While it is not something you want to be concerned with, the longer you wait to hire an attorney, the more difficult it may be for you to ultimate recover the damages to which you or your child is entitled.  Barrett Law PLLC is here to help you understand your legal rights during this crisis in your life.

If you and your child have been involved in such an accident but have not yet retained an attorney, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First and foremost, do not dispose of the child safety restrain system.  This will be the key piece of evidence in proving that your child’s injuries were the result of a defective child safety restrain system.  It is extraordinarily difficult to prove that a product is defective if that product has been disposed of.  While identical makes and models can be analyzed and tested, it will be virtually impossible to determine exactly how your child’s safety restrain system was defective if it cannot be examined.  It is also important to keep copies of all medical records, bills, and the like, related to your child’s injuries and treatment.  While these documents can always be subpoenaed during the course of a lawsuit, it is helpful to have them in advance.  Your lawyer will be better able to analyze your rights and advise you as to the best course of action if he or she has access to this information initially.

If your child has been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you have concerns that the child safety restrain system was defective, please contact the highly skilled personal injury attorneys at Barrett Law, PLLC today at (800) 707-9577 to discuss your case.

Mother and Daughter Killed by Runaway Truck in Tupelo Mississippi

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Tragedy struck the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, on September 6, 2013, when Olidia Acosta and her daughter Vianett Castillo were killed by a runaway truck.  Ms. Acosta, just twenty years old, and her daughter, a child of only two, were sitting in the vehicle waiting for a family member to emerge from Acceptance Auto Insurance.  Sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., a semitrailer crashed into the vehicle.  The vehicle was then thrust into the Acceptance Auto Insurance building.  Reports indicate that the vehicle, a Chevy HHR, was crushed by the semitrailer.  Crews had to work in excess of an hour to lift the semitrailer off of the Chevy HHR.  Both Ms. Acosta and her daughter were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

No one was driving the semitrailer.  It had been parked on Mitchell Road Extended, but somehow rolled down Mitchell Street Extended, across South Gloster Street, and into the vehicle in which Ms. Acosta and her daughter were sitting.  Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.

Given the nature of the accident, it could be that the brakes were not engaged by the driver or that the brakes failed.  Of course, there may be other causes of the accident, as well, and the authorities will continue to investigate what happened, as indicated above.

Truck accidents involving failed brakes are of two main types, and both can have a variety of causes.  One type of braking problem is the complete failure of the brakes.  Despite the infrequency of such an occurrence, the effects are absolutely devastating.  Total brake failure can result from in the air brake system of a semi-truck, which prevents proper operation of the air brakes.  Complete failure of an air brake or other braking system can also be caused by leaks in any of the multitude of hoses, pumps, and other components of the braking system.

Aside from total brake failure, inadequate braking capacity can cause accidents such as the one that killed Ms. Acosta and her daughter.   In incidents involving inadequate braking capacity, the brakes function but do not function properly or sufficiently. Many causes of inadequate braking capacity exist, including worn or missing brake components; worn tires; overheated brakes; improperly loaded trucks; or unequal pressure in tires.

No matter the superficial cause of brake failure, the actual cause is nearly always improper care in maintaining or loading a truck.  Accidents involving failed or inadequate braking capacity can be complicated to litigate.  Generally, experts are required to reconstruct the crash scene, to analyze the vehicles in question, and to analyze the maintenance history of the vehicle that caused the accident.  Additional experts may also be necessary to provide testimony about the nature of the victim’s injuries, his or her potential for recovery, and the economic damages the victim has faced and will fact as a result of the accident.

Determining who may be at fault for the accident can also be more difficult than it may seem.  For example, was it the driver, the company for which the driver was working or contracting, the maintenance worker servicing the truck, or the company that loaded the truck improperly?  In order to ensure complete recovery of all damages to which an injured individual is entitled, all avenues of liability must be explored.

These complexities necessitate retaining a law firm experienced in representing individuals injured as a result of trucking accidents.  Barrett Law, PLLC is that law firm.  Our firm has been representing the rights of individuals injured in trucking accidents for decades, and will continue to do so for decades into the future.  If you or someone you love has been injured as a resulting of a trucking accident, please contact our firm today at reached at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation.

BP Files Documents Opposing the Extension of the BP Settlement Agreement to Moratorium Damages

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

It is hard to believe that two-and-a-half years have elapsed since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred of the coast of the southeastern United States.  Yet the effects are still being felt, and the dispute about what damages BP should be required to pay as result of the spill rages on.

Last month, attorneys for businesses that suffered damages as a result of the spill and the BP settlement claims administrator made a joint request to United States District Court Judge Carl Barbier to expand covered losses to additional businesses and claims.  These businesses include those that sustained losses as a result of the temporary, six-month suspension by the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, of deep water drilling activities.

The moratorium on deep water drilling activities was initially issued in May 2010, and was nullified by a restraining order issued by Judge Martin Leach-Cross Feldman.  The restraining order resulted from a lawsuit filed against Ken Salazar and the United States Department of Interior, among others, by Hornbeck Offshore Services, LLC, alleging that the moratorium was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of federal law.  In June 2010, Judge Feldman issue a restraining order, finding that Hornbeck Offshore Services, LLC, would likely ultimately succeed in establishing that the moratorium was arbitrary and capricious.  Several days after issuance of the restraining order, the United States Department of Interior appealed Judge Feldman’s ruling, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay enforcement of the restraining order.  As a result, in July 2010, the United States Department of Interior revised the previously-issued moratorium, which allowed certain drilling under certain conditions.  The United States Department of Interior lifted the revised moratorium in October 2010.

On September 10, 2013, BP filed documents with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, located in New Orleans, contending that the BP economic damages settlement, also referred to as the BP Spill Accord, was not intended to extend to moratorium-related losses.

Moratorium damages claims include those damages asserted by businesses in the offshore oil and gas industry, banks and financial institutions, and investment companies.  BP has consistently opposed paying such claims.  BP has asserted that the moratorium damages sustained were the result of the United States Department of Interior’s actions, not the actions of BP.  Furthermore, BP has argued that under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which is the key act governing BP’s liability for damages resulting from the spill, BP is not responsible for these types of damages.

The request for the extension of damages to a new class of businesses comes amidst recent allegations of wrongdoing and conflicts of interest against the claims administrator, Patrick Juneau, and several other attorneys in the handling of the BP settlement.  Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former federal judge, Louis Freeh, was appointed by Judge Barbier to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged wrongdoing.  Judge Freeh concluded that Juneau had engaged in no wrongdoing, but did determine that several of Juneau’s staff engaged in conduct that appeared to be improper, unethical and possibly criminal.  On September 6, 2013, Judge Freeh recommended that the United States Department of Justice engage in further investigation, but he also recommended that the payment of claims from the BP Spill Accord continue.  Judge Freeh will also continue his investigation.

The estimated costs associated with the Deepwater Horizon spill have risen to at least $9.6 billion, and will likely continue to increase as the matter continues proceeding through the court system.

Although the claims period for filing a claim for damages resulting from the BP spill have passed for many groups of businesses and individuals, if you sustained damages as a result of the spill and have any questions about your rights, Barrett Law, PLLC can be reached at (800) 707-9577 to discuss your options.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Releases Report Regarding Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent federal agency that gathers, analyzes, and monitors statistics regarding working conditions, among other things.  One of its programs, the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program, provides annual information regarding work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.  This annual information is compiled and released in a report known as the Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries.  More specifically, the program monitors how these events vary by factors including industry, occupation, and geography.

On August 22, 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its preliminary results of fatal work-place injuries for the calendar year 2012.  The Bureau will finalize the preliminary results in the Spring of 2014.  The results of the Report are discussed below, but a full copy of the Report can be accessed at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf.

As the Report reflects, 4,383 fatalities occurred at the work place throughout the United States in 2012.  This number represents an overall decrease from 2011, in which 4,693 fatalities occurred.

Fatalities decreased among Caucasian and Hispanic workers, but increased among African-American and Asian workers.  Fatalities among the youngest workers—those under 16 years of age—dramatically increased, with 14 of the 19 deaths occurring in the agricultural industry.  Fatalities among older workers declined in 2012.

Transportation accidents accounted for over forty-percent of all fatalities, accounting for 1,789 deaths.  Over half of those accidents involved motor vehicle accidents.  125 fatalities occurred as a result of aircraft accidents.  Incidents of violence, including homicide and suicide, accounted for 767 fatalities, which occurred primarily as a result of shootings.  Falls, slips, and similar accidents lead to 668 deaths in 2012.  509 fatalities resulted from injuries sustained due to being struck objects or equipment.

Of all of the fatalities in 2012, 3,945 occurred in the private sector, which is a decline from 2011.  The decline occurred in both goods-producing and service industries.   The construction industry had the highest occurrence of fatalities, accounting for 775 fatalities.  This figure represents an increase over 2011, in which 738 fatalities occurred.  Specifically, drivers had the highest number of fatalities—741, followed by farmers and other agricultural workers—216, and construction laborers–210.  The transportation and warehousing industry had the second highest number of fatalities in the private sector, with 677 deaths resulting from this category of jobs.  This figure represents a ten percent decrease from 2011.  Fatalities in the private mining sector also increased in 2012, with fatalities in the oil and gas extraction sub-set reaching an all-time high of 138.

Fatalities among government workers decreased to 438 in 2012.   Many of these involved the occupation categorized as protective service occupations, including police officers and firefighters.

In 2011, the Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries began assessing fatalities occurring amongst contract workers.  In 2012, sixteen percent of all fatalities involved contract workers.  Falls, being struck by an object, and being hit by a vehicle were the three highest causes of fatalities amongst contract workers.

Geographically, Texas had the highest number of fatalities (433), followed by California (390), and Florida (226).  Mississippi had only 63 fatalities, but this was an increase over 2011, in which 60 deaths occurred.  Of these 63 fatalities, 22 involved transportation accidents; 13 involved acts of violence; 13 involved contact with equipment or an object; 7 involved falls, slips, or trips; and 3 involved exposure to harmful substances.

Barrett Law, PLLC has significant experience representing individuals injured or killed in the workplace in the Lexington, Mississippi, area.  If you or a family member has been injured as a result of a workplace accident or other act, please contact our office today to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation to discuss your rights.  We can be reached (800) 707-9577.