Archive for November, 2013

NHTSA Announces Teen Driver Safety Initiative

Friday, November 29th, 2013

The United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) recently announced its new safety initiative designed to decrease the number of fatalities involving teenagers.  According to NHTSA, motor vehicle accidents claim the lives of more teenagers aged 14 to 18 than does any other cause.  In 2011, 2,105 teenagers died in motor vehicle accidents.

The topics covered in the initiative, “5 to Drive” include refraining from cell phone use and avoiding texting while driving; limiting extra passengers in the car; avoiding speeding; avoiding the use of alcohol before or during driving; and ensuring the use of a seat belt.  The topics are designed to address the common characteristics attributing to teenager motor vehicle fatalities—inexperience and immaturity.

In terms of contributors to fatal accidents involving teenagers, in 2011, twenty-seven percent of all fatalities involved teenaged drivers with positive blood-alcohol concentrations.  This figure represents an increase from twenty-four percent in 2007.  Speeding is also a large contributor to fatal accidents involving teenagers.  From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of fatalities involving speeding remained constant at thirty-five percent.  Finally, the most staggering statistic of all is that in over half—approximately fifty-three percent—of all fatal accidents, the teenagers that were killed were not wearing safety belts.

In fatal car accidents involving teenagers, forty percent of those fatalities involved the driver of the motor vehicle.  Twenty-eight percent involved occupants in a motor vehicle operated by a teenager.  Finally, twenty-four percent of fatalities involved occupants in motor vehicles driven by someone else.  Most of these accidents occurred between three and five o’clock in the afternoon, with another spike during late-night hours.

NHTSA regularly publishes a report addressing, among other things, strategies to reduce accidents involving teenaged drivers.  One of the most effective of these strategies includes introducing a system of graduated driver’s licenses.  According to NHTSA, all states have implemented such graduated licensing systems, although they vary from state to state.  The graduated licensing systems involves three stages—a learner’s permit, an intermediate license, and a full license.  Other equally effective strategies include restrictions on the number of passengers in the motor vehicle and restrictions on nighttime driving.  Other less effective strategies include limitations on the use of cell phones and requiring the use of seat belts.

Parents are encouraged to set ground rules early and ensure consistent enforcement.  In fact, NHTSA recommends using a driving contract with teenaged drivers.  The contract should clearly indicate ground rules and should also clearly set forth the consequences for breaking the ground rules.  Suggested rules include zero-tolerance on the use of alcohol; always use a seat belt; no cell phone use while driving; no driving after 10 p.m.; and allowing only one passenger at a time.

Talking with teenagers about traffic safety early on, before they start driving, is also key.  Parents are reminded that driver’s education classes cannot cover every aspect of safe driving and that parents need to be actively involved in educating their teenagers about safe driving habits.  Finally, NHTSA recommends modeling safe driving behaviors while your teenagers are in the care—no cell phone use, use of seatbelts, avoid speeding, and the like.

Barrett Law, PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in motor vehicle 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 motor vehicle accident, please contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation.

Teenagers Injured in Serious Mississippi Car Accident

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

In another article posted on our law firm’s website this month, the risks associated with teenaged drivers were discussed.  Three accidents that have occurred over the past several months illustrate the devastating effects of inexperienced and inattentive teenaged drivers and the need for increased focus on this issue.

In a recent motor vehicle accident in Warren County, Mississippi, six teenagers were injured and one teenager was killed.  It happened on October 15, 2013, just after 9:00 p.m.  A Toyota Corolla was being driven by a 16-year old who lost control of vehicle and crashed into a tree.  The six passengers in the vehicle included a 15-year old, three 14-year olds, and two 13-year olds.  Two of the teenagers needed to be airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical center.  One of the 14-year old passengers died from the injuries he sustained in the accident.

In a shockingly similar story, and just several days earlier, on October 12, 2013, seven teenagers were injured in an accident in Olympia, Washington, when a motor vehicle driven by a 16-year old crashed into a pillar.  Fortunately, in this accident, no one lost his or her life, though the force of the collision actually caused the engine to separate from the car.  There were six passengers in the car.  Three of the passengers were 17-year olds, one of the passengers was a 16-year old, and two of the passengers were 15-year olds.  Authorities investigating that accident indicated it was caused by driver inattention.

In a terrible tragedy in Laveen, Arizona, near Phoenix, earlier this year, three children—ages 11, 5, and 4–were killed in an accident involving a teenaged driver.  There were seven passengers in the car at the time of the accident, ranging in age from three to sixteen.  All seven of the passengers were siblings.  The driver was transporting all of his siblings to school.  Several of the children were ejected from the minivan after it crossed collided head-on with another vehicle and then rolled over.  Police had to search nearby brush and bushes to locate all of the passengers.  The four siblings who managed to survive the accident suffered severe injuries.  No one in the minivan was wearing a seatbelt.  Authorities indicated that the cause of the accident was inexperience.  Authorities also indicated that the driver may have been impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.  The driver of the vehicle was unlicensed—he had only a learner’s permit.  The driver of the vehicle that the minivan collided with also died.  He was 31 years old.

The United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) regularly publishes a report addressing, among other things, strategies to reduce accidents involving teenaged drivers.  One of those strategies includes restrictions on the number of passengers in the motor vehicle.  Other strategies include the use of safety belts.  NHTSA also recommends that parents have early and frequent discussions with teenaged drivers about safety issues and set restrictions on things such as the use of cell phone and number of passengers in the car at any one time.

Barrett Law, PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents for decades.  If you or someone you love has been injured as a resulting of a motor vehicle accident and a teenaged driver was at fault, we understand how difficult the situation can be for all individuals involved.  Nevertheless, you have been injured and you need to protect your rights and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.  We can help you receive that compensation.  Please contact our firm today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation.

Volkswagon Recalls Millions of Cars

Monday, November 25th, 2013

On November 13, 2013, Volkswagen announced it was recalling 2.64 million Volkswagen and Audi cars worldwide due to multiple potential issues.  Volkswagen is Europe’s largest automobile manufacturer.  The recall is one of the largest ever recall impacting Volkswagen.  Many of the vehicles being recalled are located in China and the United Kingdom.

One of the safety issues involves vehicles with seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes.  The affected gearboxes are known as DQ200 gearboxes.  Vehicles impacted by the recall include Scirocco 1.4Ts, 1.4Ts and 1.2Ts Beetles, Audi A1s and A3s, Golf wagons, and Golf sports convertibles.   Other affected vehicles include Boras, Sagitars, Magotans, and Tourans.  According to Volkswagen, the synthetic oil in these gearboxes needs to be replaced.  This safety issue affects 1.6 million vehicles.  Volkswagen has indicated the issue involves vehicles subjected to hot, humid conditions and stop-and-go driving.  These conditions, coupled with the synthetic oil, can cause damage to electronics in the vehicles in question.  Replacing current synthetic oil with a mineral oil has been found to correct the problem.

800,000 Tiguans are also subject to the recall.  The Tiguans suffer from a possible fault in a fuse that can affect lighting.  Models built between the years 2008 and 2011 are affected.  The recall requires replacing the fuse with a fuse with a more durable surface.  Obviously, issues with the failure of lighting can be disastrous, depending on the circumstances involved.  No one wants their headlights to fail in the dead of night while driving down dimly-lit roads.

There recall also involves 239,000 Amarok trucks.  The trucks have fuel lines that potentially leak.  The recall involves fitting protection to the fuel lines to prevent damage.

If you drive a Volkswagen or Audi vehicle, in order to verify whether your vehicle is subject to this recall, you can visit the following website:

http://www.vw.com/en/owners/parts-and-accessories/protection/recalls-campaigns.html.

Relatively minor issues such as those affecting the Volkswagen and Audi vehicles in question may seem unimportant, but it is vital to ensure any vehicle you drive is up-to-date on any replacements, modifications, etc., necessitated by recalls.  Nearly everyone can remember the safety recall and related issues that plagued Toyota during 2010.  Over five million cars involved in the Toyota recall were recalled due to issues with floormats.  While it sounded innocent enough, the floormats could cause the pedal to stick and thereby cause extremely unsafe acceleration issues.

While our law firm is certainly not suggesting that the current Volkswagen recall is at all similar to the Toyota recall, it is important to note that proper maintenance and attention to your vehicle is important for your safety, as well as the safety of all other individuals on the road.

If you have been involved in an accident and you believe a malfunction related to your motor vehicle might have caused or contributed to the accident, it is important that you retain an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Accidents involving failed or malfunctioning component parts are extremely complicated to litigate.  More than likely, your case will require extensive accident reconstruction and expert analysis. If you have been injured, these issues are the last things you want to be focused on.  You need to focus on recovery.  Let us help you through this difficult time by focusing on the legal aspects of your case.

Barrett Law, PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in trucking accidents for many years.  If you or someone you love has been injured as a resulting of a motor vehicle accident and you suspect that defects in the motor vehicle caused or contributed to the accident, please contact our firm today at reached at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation.

Debate Over How to Curb Distracted Driving in Mississippi

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Everyone has read about the dangers of distracted driving.  Unfortunately, many of us have also experienced it first hand in the form of being involved in a motor vehicle accident or having a loved one or friend who has been involved in such an accident.  There is simply no debate that distracted driving leads to increase risk of motor vehicle accidents.  However, there is a debate on the best way to deal with the issues related to distracted driving.

Many individuals have begun advocating for increased technology to alleviate distracted driving.  Devices that allow voice-activated commands, such as voice-activated texting, voice-activated GPS, and hands-free telephone calls, are on the rise.  The concept behind these products is to use technology to make current technology safer, rather than prohibiting its use while operating a motor vehicle altogether.  Despite this, there are disputes about whether ever-increasing technology is, in fact, the best way to deal with distracted driving or whether ever-increasing technology simply creates even more distracted driving.

A study published by Professor David Strayer of the University of Utah, sponsored by AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association) Foundation for Traffic Safety, indicates that ever-increasing technology does not alleviate distracted driving and actually makes it even worse.  The full study can be found at https://www.aaafoundation.org/measuring-cognitive-distractions.  The study measured cognitive distractions while driving a motor vehicle.  According to the study, three types of in-vehicle distractions exist:  impairments to driving (such as taking your eyes of the road); manual impairments to driving (such as taking your hands of the steering wheel); and cognitive impairments to driving (when attention is withdrawn from the task of driving itself).

To evaluate cognitive distraction, researchers evaluated reaction time and physiological measures, such as brain activity and eye movements.  Drivers were given a series of eight increasingly cognitively-demanding tasks in various simulated laboratory and driving simulator and real-life situations.  These activities included no distractions at all; listening to the radio; listening to an audio book; talking with a passenger; having a conversation on a hand-held device; having a conversation on a hands-free device; speech-to-text; and performing math and verbal problems.  As drivers engaged in activities that required more attention, cognitive distraction consistently increased.  Notably, speech-to-text and more complicated cognitive activities, such as performing math and verbal problems with driving, produced the next-to-highest and highest levels of cognitive distraction.

The study reports that even with eyes and hand on the wheel, causes of cognitive distraction cause major impairments to safe driving.  These include suppressed brain activity to the areas needed for safe driving; increased reaction time; missed cues; and decreased visual attention.  The study clearly indicates that hands-free does not mean safer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released figures related to accidents occurring in the year 2012.  According to the yearly report, 421,000 individuals were injured in accidents related to distracted driving.

Regardless of the cause, if you or a loved one has been injured or a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle accident, the consequences can be devastating.  During this difficult time, you need experienced attorneys to help you make sense of the chaos surrounding you—legally, financially, and otherwise.  Barrett Law PLLC, has experience to provide you with this kind of help.  Our law firm ahs been representing individuals injured in car and truck accidents in Mississippi for decades.  If you have any questions about lawsuits related to car or truck accident injuries, please contact us at (800) 707-9577 to set up a no-cost consultation.

NHTSA Releases Annual Report on Motor Vehicle Accidents

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation.  NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970.  NHTSA is charged with ensuring and promoting traffic safety through various safety and consumer education programs, research programs, and investigatory functions.  Every year, NHTSA gathers statistics regarding traffic accidents and releases year-end reports.  NHTSA recently released its report summarizing traffic accident statistics for the year 2012.

In 2012, both motor vehicle crashes and fatalities as a result of such crashes increased.  This represented the first increase in six years.  33,561 individuals died as a result of motor vehicle accidents, which includes both occupants and non-occupants.  This is a 3.3% increase over the number of deaths that occurred in 2011, which was 32,479.  Men consistently comprise about 70% of all individuals killed in traffic crashes.

By far, the most individuals were killed as occupants in passenger vehicle accidents—a total of 21,667 deaths occurred as a result of such accidents.  These accidents include those involving passenger cars and light trucks.  697 deaths resulted from accidents involving occupants in heavy trucks.  Finally, 4,957 deaths resulted from motorcycle accidents.  5,692 individuals who were non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

The number of individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents also experienced the first statistically-significant increase in decades.  The last occurred in 1995.  In 2012, 2.36 million individuals were injured in traffic accidents, which is a 6.5% increase of the number injured in 2011.  As with fatalities, by far, the most individuals were injured as occupants in passenger vehicle accidents—a total of 2,091,000 individuals.  25,000 injuries resulted from accidents involving occupants in heavy trucks.  Finally, 93,000 injuries resulted from motorcycle accidents.  135,000 individuals who were non-occupants were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2012.

Sadly, alcohol-related fatalities increased in 2012 by 4.5% over 2011 to 10,322.  These fatalities represent 31% of all 2012 fatalities involving traffic accidents.  Most of these fatalities involved passenger cars, accounting for 4,104.  3,696 individuals were killed in alcohol-related accidents involving light trucks; 1,390 individuals were killed in alcohol-related accidents involving motorcycles; and 80 individuals were killed in alcohol-related accidents involving large trucks.

In 2012, there were a total of 30,800 fatal crashes.  There were a total of 5,615,000 crashes.  This is a 5.2% increase over 2011, in which there were 5,338,000 crashes.

Approximately 52% of the individuals killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2012 were not using proper safety restraints.  Slightly more individuals were killed in daytime accidents (51%) than in nighttime accidents (48%).

Rural road crashes accounted for 18,170 deaths; urban road crashes accounted for 15,296.  18,887 deaths resulted from roadway departure crashes; 8,766 deaths resulted from accidents at intersections. A full copy NHTSA’s report can be found at

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to retain an attorney experienced in this type of personal injury lawsuit.  You need an attorney who understands the various stages of a personal injury lawsuit, from issuing a demand letter to the insurance company, to requesting medical records, to engaging in investigating the underlying facts, to setting the matter for trial, if necessary. Barrett Law, PLLC has been striving to protect the rights of individuals injured as a result of motor vehicle accidents for decades.  We are here to protect you.  Please contact us today at (800) 707-9577.

United States Department of Labor Files Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Clearwater Paper Corporation

Friday, November 15th, 2013

On October 23, 2013, the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, through Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, filed a lawsuit against Clearwater Paper Corporation on behalf of a former employee of the company in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho.

According to the Complaint, Clearwater Paper Corporation operates a wood mill in Lewiston, Idaho, at which the former employee worked.  The former employee, Anthony Tenny, began working for Clearwater Paper Corporation in in 2004.  He was discharged on June 25, 2010.  During his employment with Clearwater Paper Corporation, Mr. Tenny repeatedly expressed concern to the company that its employees were being exposed to excessive amounts of red cedar dust.  Mr. Tenny also expressed concern to Clearwater Paper Corporation about the health affects of this exposure on the company’s employees.

Mr. Tenny’s concerns went unheeded, and in May 2010, he contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) about his concerns.  As a result of Mr. Tenny’s complaint to OSHA, it inspected the Clearwater Paper Corporation’s facilities in Lewiston.  Approximately one month later, Mr. Tenny was reprimanded and then terminated four days later.

One June 29, 2010, four days after his termination, Mr. Tenny filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.  OSHA investigated the complaint and determined that Clearwater Paper Corporation had violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.  It determined that Clearwater Paper Corporation retaliated against Mr. Tenny for reporting his safety and health concerns to OSHA.

The Complaint seeks in injunction against Clearwater Paper Corporation from engaging in further violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970; damages to Mr. Tenny for lost wages and compensatory and exemplary damages; reinstatement of Mr. Tenny; and the posting of appropriate notices informing its employees of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.  The total damages sought are in excess of $300,000.00.

OSHA is responsible for administering twenty-one federal whistleblower protection laws.  These include:  the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act; the Clean Air Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010; the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act; the Energy Reorganization Act; the Federal Railroad Safety Act; the Federal Water Pollution Control Act; the International Safe Container Act; the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act; the National Transit Systems Security Act; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act; the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; the Seaman’s Protection Act; portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act; portions of the Affordable Care Act; the Solid Waste Disposal Act; the Surface Transportation Assistance Act; the Toxic Substances Control Act; and the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century

If you are a federal employee and have been terminated or otherwise suffered adverse action because you raised concerns about the illegality or impropriety of your employer’s actions, Barrett Law, PLLC can help.  Please be aware that there are relatively short and absolute deadlines for filing complaints with OSHA regarding whistleblowing allegations.  As such, if you have suffered such an action, please contact us immediately to set up a consultation.  We have a history of helping to protect the rights of whistleblowers, and stand ready to help you.  To find out more about your legal rights, contact us today at (800) 707-9577.

CA Technologies Agrees to Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

On November 12, 2013, the United States Department of Justice, as well as several state Attorneys General offices, announced that they would be settling a whistleblower lawsuit against CA Technologies, Inc., brought against the latter by one of its former employees, Ann Marie Shaw.  The settlement involves the United States, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York (City of and State of), Nevada, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  The settlement totals $11 million.  The United States Department of Justice will receive $8 million, and the remaining $3 million settlement amount will be divided amongst the aforementioned states and the District of Columbia.  California will receive the sum of $983,807.00; New York will receive the sum of $708,795.00; Illinois will receive the sum of $426,641.00; Florida will receive the sum of $327,416.00; Virginia will receive the sum of $227,583.00; Massachusetts will receive the sum of $204,639.00; Nevada will receive the sum of $73,794.00; the District of Columbia will receive the sum of $35,346.00; and Hawaii will receive the sum of $25,734.00.

CA Technologies, Inc., is a Fortune 500 company located in Islandia, New York.  CA Technologies is an independent software company that has a significant global presence, with offices all around the world.  It produces primarily products related to business-to-business mainframe computing and distributed infrastructure applications.

Ms. Shaw filed what is known as a qui tam lawsuit against CA Technologies in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 2006.   Ms. Shaw worked for the company for several years—from 2003 through 2006.  She was a Technical Sales Specialist and specialized in software product license sales to the United States.  The Complaint alleged that CA Technologies was liable under the federal False Claims Act, as well as various state false claims acts, to the United States, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, for fraudulent billing practices.  According to the Complaint, beginning no later than July 2003, CA Technologies defrauded its government customers by processing renewals of software maintenance servicing plans improperly.  CA Technologies renewed the plans as of the date of the renewal order rather than as of the date of the expiration of the current software maintenance plan.  This billing practice created millions of dollars of overbilling, charged the Complaint.  The Complaint details numerous specific examples regarding this improper renewal process, with government clients ranging from the United States Department of Defense to the City of Santa Monica to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.

The Complaint also alleged that CA Technologies defrauded the United States Department of Defense by encouraging it to purchase software it had already paid for from third-party vendors.  Beginning in 1998, the United States purchased large blocks of software licenses from software manufacturers, including CA Technologies resulting in a substantial inventory of pre-paid software licenses.  When Department of Defense employees inquired to CA Technologies about software needs, rather than informing the Department of Defense employees that the software they were seeking was already purchased as part of the pre-paid inventory, CA Technologies employees directed the Department of Defense to third-party vendors to purchase the identical CA Technologies software.

If you are an employee and find yourself in a situation in which you have raised complaints about practices by your employer and are facing retaliation as a result of the same, 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.

United States Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Breadth of Whistleblower Protections of Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

On November 12, 2013, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the breadth of whistleblower protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  The arguments came in the matter of Lawson v. FMR, LLC.  The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling next spring.  The case arose out of two separate lawsuits filed against FMR and several related companies (the “FMR defendants”) by two of their former employees.  The employer-companies were private companies, but contracted and subcontracted work with publicly-traded companies.

The first case involved Jonathan Zang, who filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) in 2005.  It alleged that Mr. Zang had been terminated in response to concerns he voiced about registration statements for certain funds of Fidelity Management & Research Co.  Specifically, Mr. Zang indicated he believed that the registration statements in question violated various securities laws.  OSHA dismissed the complaint, finding that he had not engaged in protected activities. Mr. Zang requested review of the decision in front of an Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”).  The ALJ found that Mr. Zang was not covered under the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as he was an employee of a private, not public, company.  Mr. Zang then filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The other lawsuit was brought by Jackie Hosang Lawson against the FMR defendants, alleging that she had been forced to resign in 2007 for raising concern about the company’s cost accounting practices.  Ms. Lawson filed a complaint with OSHA alleging violations of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Approximately a year later, Ms. Lawson notified OSHA that she intended to file a lawsuit in the District Court for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which she did.

The FMR defendants sought dismissal of both lawsuits, arguing that the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act did not extend to either Mr. Zang or Ms. Lawson.  The FMR defendants argued that the protections did not extend to employees of private companies, even if those private companies are contractors or subcontractors to public companies.  The United States District Court for the District Court of Massachusetts, Honorable Douglas P. Woodlock, addressed the arguments in a combined opinion.  He found that the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act did, in fact, extend to Mr. Zang and Ms. Lawson.  Judge Woodlock limited the extension of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in such circumstances to reporting violations related to fraud against shareholders.

The FMR defendants appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  On February 3, 2012, the First Circuit reversed the decision of Judge Woodlock.  It found that under the circumstances in the cases at hand, the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act did not extend to Mr. Zang or Ms. Lawson.  The First Circuit was careful to note that the cases at hand involved public companies affiliated with the private companies wherein those public companies were not involved in directing the retaliatory actions against the private company employees.

On July 30, 2012, Mr. Zang and Ms. Lawson filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, requesting that it review the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  On May 20, 2013, the United States Supreme Court granted the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, indicated that it would hear and rule upon the request for review of the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

If you are in a retaliatory situation due to having raised concerns about practices by your employer, and you 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.

BP Seeks Limitations on Settlement Agreement

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

The saga of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to rage on, and the debate continues to grow over the interpretation of the settlement agreement designed to compensate business and individuals that suffered losses as a result of the oil spill.  The newest debate centers on whether the settlement agreement should remain in force.

In August 2013, attorneys for businesses that suffered damages as a result of the oil 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.

On September 10, 2013, BP filed documents with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, located in New Orleans, objecting to the request for expansion, contending that the BP economic damages settlement, also referred to as the BP Spill Accord, was not intended to extend to moratorium-related losses.  The 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 again objected to paying claims—this time in a much more dramatic manner.  It has filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  BP is arguing that, unless it is successful in disputing certain payments to businesses that BP contends suffered losses not directly attributable to the oil spill, the Fifth Circuit should rescind Judge Barbier’s approval of the settlement agreement.  Judge Barbier granted final approval of the settlement agreement on December 21, 2012.

According to BP’s attorneys, the interpretations of the claims administrator (Patrick Juneau) regarding the settlement terms has resulted in the approval of millions of dollars of payments to businesses for unsubstantiated losses.  BP is essentially contending that what it agreed to in the settlement agreement is not being adhered to or properly applied by Judge Barbier or Patrick Juneau.  BP is further contending that Juneau’s interpretation creates a conflict amongst members of the class, because some members are seeking recovery for actual damages and some members are seeking recovery for non-existent injuries.

Judge W. Eugene Davis, during oral arguments, questioned the delay in BP objecting to the payments.  BP’s attorney’s response was that BP did object.

In addition to BP’s attorneys, attorneys representing thousands of victims are likewise contending that approval of the settlement agreement should be rescinded.  According to Brent Coon, the settlement class is not an appropriate class in that it is composed of distinct groups that are dissimilar except that they lived, worked, or owned property somewhere in the region affected by the oil spill when it occurred.

Earlier this fall, BP appealed Judge Barbier’s interpretation of the settlement agreement, and a panel of appellate court judges ordered review of the interpretation and issued an order to Judge Barbier to suspend certain payments until the concerns about the settlement agreement could be worked out.   Payments to be suspended included those related to business economic losses.

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.

Overview of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Law and Commission

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Thousands of workers in Mississippi are injured or killed every year on the job.  After an injury or death, these individuals or their families are left to sort out the consequences of workplace injuries and figure out how to put the pieces of their lives back together.  Naturally, many individuals or their families have questions about suing the employer for the injuries sustained or for the loss of the life of a loved one.  In fact, many of these individuals and family members often seek the advice of our law firm about their legal options.  This article summarizes the rights of an individual injured as a result of a workplace accident in Mississippi.

Nearly all states have established some form of mandatory workers’ compensation insurance cover by employers for employees injured or killed as a result of a workplace accident.  The federal government also has a workers’ compensation program for federal employees injured or killed on the job.  Benefits are provided on a no-fault basis.  Employers pay workers’ compensation premiums, which premiums vary based upon a number of factors.  These factors include the type of business in which the employer is engaged; the history of other injuries and deaths of employees of the employer; training and safety programs utilized by the employer; and hiring practices.  Workers compensation premiums can range from a few thousand dollars a year to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more every quarter.

In exchange for the mandatory nature workers’ compensation insurance, employers receive the benefit of severe restrictions on the ability of employees to sue employers for workplace or work-related injuries or deaths.  In all states in which a mandatory workers’ compensation program exists, jurisdiction for lawsuits against employers for work-related injuries or deaths is limited to a specific agency handling only these types of matters.  In Mississippi, the agency is the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission was established in 1948 as a result of the passage of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Law.   The Commission is responsible for overseeing claims that are filed under the Workers’ Compensation Law.  Under the Workers’ Compensation Law, an employee is entitled to payment for medical benefits and payment for lost wages.  The amount of benefits to which an individual is entitled is based upon very detailed schedules of injuries.  Medical charges are also subject to very detailed schedules of reimbursement rates.   The family of an individual who has died as a result of a workplace accident or injury is entitled to benefits in the form of prospective wages of the deceased individual, as well as funeral expenses up to $5,000.00.

Benefit payments are made for a maximum of 450 weeks.  This duration is for permanent and totally disabling injuries or death; less severe injuries will be covered for a shorter duration, depending upon the nature of the injury.  For the year 2013, the maximum weekly benefit payment is $449.12; the maximum lifetime benefit is $202,104.00.

If the employer or insurer does not commence paying benefits as required under Mississippi law, or an employee believes he or she is not receiving all of the benefits to which he or she is entitled, an employee should file a claim with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission.  An employee has two years after the date of an injury to file a claim with the Commission for workers’ compensation.  The Commission has its own judges that operate outside of the traditional judicial system to evaluate and rule on workers’ compensation claims.

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.