Archive for April, 2017

Mississippi Whistleblower Attorney Says Whistleblower Victories Don’t Always Bring Change

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

There has been a battle going on in the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana for over ten years now, and despite a whistleblower’s victory in court, real change seems like a distant hope. A few years ago, Dan Collins sued the state of Louisiana after he blew the whistle on a Bayou dredging project and subsequently got denied contract work. In 2015, he won his case, but his $750,000.00 victory has proven hollow, and not just because he hasn’t seen any of the money yet. The state has appealed the verdict, and the oil and gas drilling activities in Bayou Postillion continue despite his efforts to stop them and despite the fact that those actions have resulted in multiple violations of environmental laws. It is unclear what an appeal is likely to accomplish, given the fact that the state’s environmental whistleblower statute did not require Collins to prove that any environmental laws got broken. All he had to do is establish a reasonable belief that one or more laws got broken and that he had suffered retribution for exposing the possible violations.

Bayou Postillion is not a scenic waterway, by any means. It’s more of a canal that runs perpendicular to the Intracoastal Waterway. In the 1960s, the Bayou began filling in with sediment. By the early 2000s, so much sediment had gone into the bayou that the mouth of the bayou got cut off from the rest of the Intracoastal Waterway. The effect on the bayou ecosystem was dramatic and devastating. As the sediment level rose, the water level fell. The water became stagnant and less capable of sustaining life. To address the problem, in 2003, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources started in on what it called a model environmental enhancement project that would dredge the bayou to improve water circulation and sediment flow. The dredging work began in 2004 and got completed during 2005.

Collins was hired to do title searches for land that was to be involved in the aforementioned dredging project. As he went about his work, Collins discovered plenty of evidence that the dredging was being done to facilitate lucrative, yet environmentally destructive, oil and gas drilling on bottom areas owned by families who have political connections in the local area. A few years before the project started, there are records of discussions about dredging the bayou to accommodate barges for energy production. During the project, Collins noticed that the dredging was deeper than would be needed to improve the water quality and deep enough to accommodate commercial vessels. After the dredging project had got completed, seven natural gas wells were drilled in the bayou, right where the dredging had occurred. Collins has been asking state and federal government officials to investigate the claims that he made in his lawsuit, but to his knowledge, the claims have not yet been explored.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Protecting the Rights of Mississippi Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers take great risks in exposing wrongdoing within their workplaces. If you got mistreated or fired after becoming a whistleblower, the Mississippi Whistleblower Attorney at Barrett Law PLLC might be able to help. Call us at 1 (800) 707-9577 to arrange an initial consultation.

Mississippi Personal Injury Attorneys Discuss ATV Accidents

Monday, April 24th, 2017

A Mississippi man died in a recent ATV wreck. The single-vehicle crash happened near Bruton Branch when an ATV went off the side of the road as the driver attempted to navigate a curve, and hit a tree. The front seat passenger in the side-by-side style ATV sustained fatal injuries. The driver and another passenger got minor injuries. The driver faces criminal charges in connection with the wreck. He got charged with vehicular assault and DUI, and it is possible that other charges will be filed later as more information about the accident comes to light through the investigation.

Victims of ATV accidents can get injured in many ways. Some newer models of ATVs have seatbelts, but many of the ATVs that are currently in use do not. Ejection from the ATV often happens in ATV accidents. Ejection often causes head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, especially when riders were not wearing helmets when the crash happened. ATV accident victims can also suffer neck injuries, facial injuries, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis, as well as other less common injuries. Because ATV accidents often result in such serious injuries, ATV accident fatalities happen often.

Young or inexperienced riders cause some ATV accidents. Other accidents get caused by people who may be older, more experienced riders who are operating their ATVs in an unsafe manner, such as people who ride too fast. Other accidents happen when ATV operators drink alcohol. Alcohol impairs a rider’s ability to ride safely. It slows riders’ reaction times, and it impairs their judgment. Other potential causes of ATV accidents include malfunction of the ATV or of parts that are used to repair or maintain it and obstacles on the trail or road.

When there is an ATV accident, multiple parties may be responsible for the injuries or death caused by the wreck. The ATV owner might be able to be held liable for some or all of the damages caused by the crash if they acted negligently by doing something like letting an inexperienced rider use the ATV or failing to maintain it in a safe condition and letting people ride it. The person who was driving the ATV at the time of the crash may also be wholly or partially responsible for any injuries and damages caused by the accident. Other parties who might be responsible in some way include the owner of the property where the wreck happened, the ATV manufacturer, and any companies who made parts that were used to repair and maintain the ATV.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Help for Mississippi ATV Crash Victims

A personal injury attorney can help ATV accident victims, and their families pursue claims for damages or losses in connection with an ATV accident. You might be able to file a claim based on property damage, medical bills and lost wages, pain, and suffering, and more. The Mississippi Personal Injury Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC have represented many plaintiffs and their families. To learn more, please call our office today, at 1 (800) 707-9577 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi BP Oil Spill Attorneys Talk About Attorneys’ Fees

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Litigation in large-scale litigation like that which followed the BP oil spill takes a lot of time and effort. Cases that big require the work of many attorneys, support staff, paralegals, and other professionals. The BP Oil Spill case is one of the largest, if not the largest, multi-district litigation (MDL) cases in history. When a case like the oil spill litigation comes to a close, the court decides how to pay the attorneys. In the case of the BP oil spill, two law firms in New Orleans and Lafayette will each get nearly eighty-eight million dollars under a proposed division of a total of six hundred and eighty million dollars’ worth of class-action attorney fees.

The litigation that followed the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster was lengthy and complicated. It involved a two-phase trial, and between the trial, the expert testimony, and the settlement negotiations, the case took several years. It dealt with diverse subject matter, and various types of claims, including individual economic damages claims, medical claims, and state government claims. It is estimated that the number of individual claims that went into the lawsuit exceeds one hundred and thirty thousand. It took a committee of six plaintiffs’ attorneys twelve days to review billing requests from all of the law firms that worked on the case and create a recommendation for the court as to what the fee award should be.

The attorneys’ fees are a part of the settlement, and BP, Transocean, and Halliburton are each paying for a portion of the fees. BP will pay the most, over five hundred and fifty million dollars. The other two companies will each pay approximately one hundred and twenty-four million dollars each. In addition to the two firms mentioned earlier, two other firms, one from Alabama and one from New York will each get over forty million dollars. Many, many attorneys and staff spent many hours on the oil spill litigation. It is estimated that all in all, nearly five hundred and twenty thousand hours’ worth of work. About two dozen New Orleans law firms will share nearly two hundred and fifty million dollars’ worth of the total award of fees.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Supporting Mississippi Residents Affected by the BP Oil Spill

The BP oil spill litigation was complex and far-reaching. Many parties participated in the litigation and received settlement of their claims. The attorneys who worked on the oil spill litigation spent a lot of time working to resolve the claims that individuals and businesses filed regarding the damages that they experienced as the result of the spill. Now that BP, Transocean, and Halliburton are paying for the damage that their actions caused, they are paying the attorneys’ fees as well. If you want to learn more about the BP oil spill litigation, call the Mississippi BP Oil Spill Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC at 1 (800) 707-9577, to set up a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorneys Discuss Tree Work Risks

Monday, April 17th, 2017

A young man died while he was working to remove trees near power lines in the state of Washington. The accident occurred when a tree that he was removing snapped suddenly. Another tree worker also died recently. Both employees were engaged in special projects aimed at emergency tree removal near power lines, such as dead or dying trees or trees that have been damaged by forest fires. These projects are different from the regular, scheduled maintenance type of tree work that occurs in areas where there are power lines.

All tree work is dangerous, whether it is logging forests, removing trees on private property, clearing dying or dead trees away from power lines, or any other type of project involving trees. In fact, logging consistently ranks near the top of the “deadliest occupations” list that the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles each year. Training and safe work practices are essential to keeping tree workers alive, and investigations into the recent tree work deaths are likely to reveal whether any of those things were lacking in either situation.

The young man who died in Washington had not been doing tree work for very long. He had come to America from Mexico, as many Mexicans do, in search of work that would help him create a good life for his family in Mexico. His friends and family say that he spoke little English, and it is likely that at least some of the investigation into his death will examine the issue of whether he had been trained to do what he was doing and whether he understood the training that he had gotten.

Preliminary information regarding the accident indicates that while the young man was new to the company that he worked for at the time of his death, he had some tree work experience and he was working with an experienced supervisor. He had also received training and orientation, as well as classes to prepare him for work as a “climber.” As the investigation progresses, information is likely to come to light regarding exactly what went wrong and how. There are many ways that tree work accidents can occur, and it is important that each fatality gets treated as the unique case that it is so that the deceased worker’s family, their co-workers, and their employer can get the answers that they need to move forward.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Representing Injured Mississippi Workers

Tree work injury and fatality cases can get complicated. There are often multiple parties involved in an accident, including the company that employed the injured or deceased worker, any company that contracted with that company to have the work performed, the utility company, entity, or the private owner who owns the land where the accident occurred, and more. This aspect of tree work cases alone can make filing a claim for damages complicated and frustrating for accident victims and their families. Fortunately, you do not have to pursue your claim alone. If you got hurt in a tree work accident or you lost a loved one in a tree work accident, get help from a Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorney. Call the Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC at 1 (800) 707-9577 to learn more.

Mississippi Trucking Accident Attorney Discusses Spilled Cargo

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Sometimes, tractor trailer accidents can make a big mess on the road. In some cases, when cargo spills out of a trailer, there is no real danger to the public or to the environment besides the potential for accidents to occur as people get curious and look at the mess instead of paying attention to driving. At other times, cargo that spills from a wrecked truck can be a significant threat to human and environmental safety.

A recent tractor trailer crash near the Mississippi-Louisiana state line left letters and packages strewn about the accident scene. The truck was carrying mail to California, but the mail that was in the trailer will not reach its destination as quickly as it would have if the wreck had not occurred. It was wet when the mail tumbled out onto the road, and the mail had to be collected off of the road, put into a truck, and brought to New Orleans, where it will get dried out before it continues its journey to California.

Fortunately, there were no reports of other accidents happening in the vicinity of the crashed mail truck. The envelopes and packages that ended up on the road did not cause any threat to human or environmental health and safety. There have been other trucking accidents in Mississippi and throughout America where the truck’s cargo created health and environmental hazards that had to be addressed quickly by Hazardous Materials Response Teams (HAZMAT). For example, one tractor trailer that overturned was loaded with naphtha. Law enforcement officers closed the road near the spill for twelve hours after the wreck and diverted traffic onto other roads while emergency response crews cleaned up the spill. The driver of the truck got hurt, and additional injuries resulted from accidents that happened in the midst of the heavy traffic throughout the surrounding area later that day.

Also, a tanker truck overturned during a collision with a pickup truck. The tanker truck was carrying a corrosive liquid, and some of it spilled onto the road. The road where the crash happened was closed for several hours. Area residents were advised to stay in their homes and not go outside so that they would not get exposed to chemical fumes. Many hazardous materials are transported by truck every day in the United States. Between 2004 and 2013, over three thousand of the truck crashes that happened on American roads involved hazardous materials. Ninety-one people died in those accidents, and much more were injured. In addition to their impact on human lives, the wrecks caused over four hundred and fifty million dollars’ worth of property damage.

Barrett Law PLLC:   Helping People Hurt By Mississippi Trucking Accidents

Accidents involving tractor trailers can cause death, injury, and property damage. Some tractor trailer accidents can even spill cargo onto the roadway, which could create even more danger if the cargo is a hazardous substance or creates the risk of additional accidents. To learn more about Mississippi trucking accidents, call the knowledgeable Mississippi Personal Injury Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC, at 1 (800) 707-9577 today.

Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorneys Talk About Rear-End Crashes

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

A man was extricated from his vehicle and airlifted from the scene of a two-vehicle rear-end wreck. The mid-afternoon accident happened as a pickup truck was waiting to make a turn. A pickup truck rear-ended the first pickup truck. The man who got trapped inside of his truck was the driver of the truck that collided with the back of the stopped pickup truck. The driver of the truck that was stopped and waiting to turn did not get hurt.

Rear end crashes are a common type of motor vehicle accident. These collisions often happen when a driver pulls out in front of another moving car. They also occur when people follow other cars too closely, when drivers get distracted, when traffic slows suddenly, and when weather and road conditions increase braking distance. Rear end accidents can happen to anyone, and they can cause painful injuries and extensive damage to your vehicle.

If you get into a rear-end collision, it is essential that you and the other driver remove your vehicles from the road if it is safe to do so. Rear end wrecks can quickly turn into pile up accidents if drivers are not paying attention to what they are doing and notice the crashed cars when it is too late to avoid hitting them. It is also important to call the police to report your accident right away so that they can send emergency personnel to help anyone who got hurt as well as a tow truck to remove the vehicles from the road if one or both is too damaged to be removed without the aid of a tow truck.

When there is a rear end accident, it is not always clear who is at fault. In Mississippi, accidents must get investigated to determine whose fault the accident was. It is important that you not discuss fault with anyone at the accident scene. Aside from providing the police with any documents that you need to give them like your license and vehicle registration, it is important to talk with an attorney before speaking with anyone about the accident. This also applies to insurance companies, who may try to contact you after the crash and trick you into saying something that could compromise your position or offer you a settlement that is well below the actual value of the amount that you could receive for your injuries and damages if you understand the value of your claim.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Help for Mississippi Rear End Accident Victims

Rear end accidents can cause severe injury or death and lots of property damage. If you got hurt or a loved one got killed in a rear-end wreck, contact a Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorney today. If you want to learn more about what an automobile accident lawyer could do to help you recover physically and financially after a devastating accident, call the Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC at 1 (800) 707-9577 to arrange a consultation.

Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorneys Talk about Ladder Accidents

Friday, April 7th, 2017

A recent accident at BGF Industries, Inc., a technical fiber manufacturing facility, left an employee with a serious injury. The accident happened when the worker fell off of a short ladder onto the roof of the building. The accident is now under investigation. The company is hoping to learn how the accident happened so that they can prevent similar accidents from happening again.

Ladders are a relatively common piece of equipment implicated in workplace accidents. There are three basic types of accident scenarios that often occur with ladders. One such situation is when workers use the wrong ladder. Another typical ladder accident scenario happens when the ladder fails because it is in bad condition. The third common type of workplace ladder accidents happens when the ladder gets used incorrectly.

Some ladder accidents occur when people hold something in one or both of their hands as they are climbing up or down the ladder. It is essential that you keep at least one hand on a side rail as you climb up or down the ladder. Use a tool belt or some other method to keep your hands free whenever possible.

Did you know that approximately a third of all ladder accident victims were wearing shoes that were greasy, wet, or oily at the time that they got hurt? Check your footwear for wetness or slippery substances on the soles before climbing a ladder. It doesn’t take long to get a rag or a paper towel and dry or clean off your shoes before you climb a ladder, and you may save yourself a lot of pain if you take the time to do it.

In over half of all ladder accident cases that involved straight ladders, the ladders were not secured or braced at the bottom. More than half of the ladders involved in ladder accidents were not secured at the top. Secure your ladder properly before climbing to reduce the risk that you will fall and get hurt.

The majority of ladder accident victims say that they never got trained on how to inspect a ladder for defects before using it. They also said that they never got written instructions on how to use ladders safely. To use a ladder safely, keep at least one hand on a side rail at all times, keep your body centered, keep your body straight, and stay as close to the ladder as you can. As you work from the ladder, move slowly and deliberately. Be careful not to reach too far to the side or too far overhead when you are working on a ladder because overreaching is one of the leading causes of ladder accidents. Also, climb down from the ladder when you need to reposition it. Never move a ladder when there is someone on it.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Help for Mississippi Workplace Accident Victims

If you got hurt in a ladder accident at work, get help from a Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorney right away. Workplace accident attorneys have an in-depth understanding of worker’s compensation law, and they work to help people just like you obtain the financial recovery that they need. To learn more, call the Mississippi Workplace Accident Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC at 1 (800) 707-9577.

Mississippi Whistleblower Attorney Says Motive Not a Bar to Whistleblower Protection

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

When something is wrong, it’s wrong, right? Unfortunately, some people would argue that in whistleblower protection cases, the motives of employees who expose wrongdoing should be considered when deciding whether to cover them with the protections of the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. On the other hand, some people believe that wrongdoing is wrongdoing and those who expose it must be protected regardless of their motivations for doing so.

An amicus brief discussing this issue recently got filed by the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in a Whistleblower Protection Act case. The OSC took the position that a disclosure that would be protected under the Act should not lose protection because the whistleblower had an axe to grind when they disclosed it. In the case for which the amicus brief got filed, Ryan v. Dep’t of Defense, DC1221-16-0264-W-1, 2017 WL 134320 (Jan. 10, 2017), a police officer in the Pentagon Force Protection Agency disclosed that two of his co-workers were sleeping on the job. After he had made that disclosure, the Agency retaliated against him in multiple ways, including written and verbal counseling statements.

The Administrative Judge decided that the disclosure made by the officer is not a protected disclosure because the judge felt that the officer’s motive was not to show that there was wrongdoing that was going unchecked but was more akin to interpersonal squabbling. In making that decision, the Administrative Judge relied upon a case as precedent that was decided before the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA). The Act clearly states that the intention of the whistleblower is irrelevant to whether or not a disclosure should be protected. This provision makes sense when you consider that the intent of the WPEA is to encourage the reporting of government fraud, abuse, and waste.

The disciplinary actions that got taken against the officer also violate the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The Act specifies that agency officials may not threaten an employee or take personnel actions based on disclosures that the disclosing employee reasonably believes to be evidence of some wrongdoing as wrongdoing is defined by statute. The officer reported that his co-workers were sleeping on the job because he believed that it was evidence of wrongdoing, and that belief is not unreasonable.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Comprehensive Defense for Mississippi Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers like the police officer whose case is discussed above often get a raw deal after they try to correct the wrongs that they witness in their workplaces. If you have reported wrongdoing in your workplace, you are likely protected under one or more whistleblower protection laws. This means that any retaliation that you experience, any undue disciplinary actions, intimidation, reassignment, harassment, or other unfair treatment is a violation of the whistleblower protection laws and you may be able to file a claim for damages.  To learn more about how you might be able to pursue a claim for damages under the whistleblower protection laws, call the Mississippi Whistleblower Attorney at Barrett Law PLLC today at 1 (800) 707-9577 for an initial consultation.

Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorneys Discuss Accidents Involving Big Animals

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

An enormous Louisiana black bear was the lone fatality in a recent automobile accident. The bear is the largest that ever got recorded in Mississippi, and it tipped the scales at just under four hundred and seventy pounds. A woman was driving an SUV when she hit the bear. Her Chevrolet Suburban was severely damaged, but none of the five people who were riding in the vehicle at the time of the crash were seriously injured. Some of the people who were in the SUV when the wreck happened complained of pain afterward.

Bears are rare in Mississippi, and while some bears are trapped, weighed, examined, and fitted with radio collars before getting released. There are also bears in the state that do not have radio collars, so an exact count of how many bears are presently in the state does not exist. While bears are rare, there is always a chance, albeit not a large one, that a driver will encounter some other large, wild or domestic animal on the road. Depending on where you drive, you might see a deer, elk, cow, or horse on the road when you are driving. Knowing a few things about animal accidents can help you anticipate situations in which you might encounter an animal while driving.

About one and a half million car accidents get caused by animals every year. Many of those accidents occur at night because it is harder for drivers to see animals at night than it is during the day. Another because that’s when many animals are out and about.  There are also seasonal variations in wildlife movement that affect the likelihood of a vehicle-wildlife collision. For example, deer are very active during hunting season.

Drivers should be aware that in wooded areas and other places where the vegetation that grows next to the road is tall, animals can appear on the road suddenly.  This gives motorists little time and space to maneuver to avoid hitting them. Also, be aware that many animals travel in groups. If you see one deer by the road, scan the area carefully to see whether there are others nearby.

The people who were in the SUV that hit the bear are fortunate that they did not get badly injured or killed in the crash. Accidents involving large animals are often fatal. The size and weight of large animals create forceful impacts when they come into contact with vehicles. An animal that gets tossed into the air after getting hit by a car can crash through the windshield or even crush the vehicle’s roof. If you cannot entirely avoid a collision with an animal, try to hit it at an angle, so it will get deflected away from the car instead of getting tossed into the air.

Barrett Law PLLC:  Serving People Injured in Mississippi Car Crashes

If you collided with an animal, you might be hurt, and your car is probably badly damaged. Automobile accident claims for accidents involving animals can be complicated, and the insurance company may require that a police report gets submitted before a claim can be paid. If you were involved in any car crash in Mississippi, a Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorney could help you file a claim for your damages or your loss. Call the Mississippi Automobile Accident Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC, at 1 (800) 707-9577, to learn more.

Mississippi Whistleblower Attorneys Discuss Yet another Whistleblower Case

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

The Office of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) is becoming synonymous with whistleblower retaliation cases. The cases are not all coming from the same VA hospital, but from all over the country, indicating that the problems that are coming to light as the result of the whistleblowers’ efforts are present throughout the VA health care system. In one recent case, VA officials indefinitely suspended the deputy chief of staff at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center after she wrote three prescriptions for a private patient. She got reassigned to a position in the basement of the VA hospital, where she does data entry. The attorney for the suspended deputy chief of staff calls the suspension a publicity stunt that is intended to deflect attention away from the VA’s troubled relationship with UC Health.

The problems that exist between the Cincinnati VA and UC Health, a department of the University of Cincinnati, point to a national issue. Medical schools across America have been placing graduates in residencies at VA hospitals for over seventy years. Unfortunately, the relationships between many medical schools and the VA are in trouble because the VA does not conduct a lot of accountability when it contracts with medical schools and teaching hospitals. Hours are double-billed, VA patients get sent outside of the VA system for care that the VA could provide, and other inappropriate practices continue unchecked in the absence of much-needed oversight.

The woman at the center of this controversy, deputy chief of staff Dr. Barbara Temeck, has served the VA as a surgeon and an administrator for over thirty years. Her suspension, which does not involve her competence or professional conduct, is likely to be followed by termination. If Temeck does get fired, it is probable that she will appeal the termination. The suspension is not the only job-related concern for Temeck right now. The U.S. Attorney’s office is reviewing a federal investigative report about her, and it is possible that she could face criminal charges in connection with that report. The disciplinary measures that the VA has taken against Dr. Temeck rise to a level that is more severe than the disciplinary measures that the VA takes in situations where there is extreme prescription misuse. As is common in whistleblower cases, the VA has its own set of allegations against Temeck, and only time will tell what path the situation will end up taking.

The Mississippi Whistleblower Protection Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC know that whistleblower cases can take a lot of twists and turns. Barbara Temeck is near the beginning of her journey, and she has retained an attorney who can hep her every step of the way. Regardless of where you are in the whistleblower process, working with a lawyer is the best way to make sure that your rights get protected. If you experienced any kind of retaliation after you revealed wrongdoing in your workplace, a Mississippi Whistleblower Attorney might be able to help you recover any damages that were caused by the retaliation. To learn more, call the Mississippi Whistleblower Attorneys at Barrett Law PLLC, at 1 (800) 707-9577 to arrange an initial consultation.