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An old case, Abood, holds that unions can require nonunion members to pay their fair share of union dues because they benefit from the union negotiating for them. Abood said this applies to public sector jobs like state jobs.  Abood v. Detroit Bd. Of Ed., 431 U.S. 209, 232 (1977). Specifically, Abood says a state may allow public sector unions to charge nonunion members fees “insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.” 431 U.S. at 232.

However, the Supreme Court recently suggested the opposite. In Harris v Quinn 573 U.S. ___ (2014) the court held that the First Amendment prohibits a State from forcing non-union members to pay for union speech on matters of public concern. Specifically, the Supreme Court wrote as follows:

“This case presents the question whether the First Amendment permits a State to compel personal care providers to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union that they do not wish to join or support. We hold that it does not, and we therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

In James Hausman versus Holland America the jury awarded 21.5 million in favor of plaintiff James Hausman. The case took nine days in federal court in Seattle. The plaintiff’s lawyer was Rick Friedman, author of books entitled Rules of the Road and Polarizing the Case, among others. Part 1 of my interview with Rick is below.

Part 2 is below.

Zofran (ondansetron) is an antinausea drug. It is intended for significant nausea issues caused by things like chemotherapy. However, Glaxo SmithKline also marketed it for use with pregnant women. The problem was that Glaxo SmithKline had failed to do any testing of the drug with pregnant women.  In 2006, prior to its becoming available in a generic form, Zofran was among the top selling drugs in the United States. The FDA estimated that number nearly a quarter of Zofran prescriptions were given to pregnant women.

As early as 2006, in a study published in Hong Kong, concerns were raised about the use with pregnant women. The Hong Kong study concluded that Zofran cross the placenta to the fetus. More studies were done. In 2011 a British study concluded that women who took Zofran were over twice as likely to have babies with congenital defects, including cleft palates. In August 2013 a Danish study found that children were to four times more likely to have babies born with congenital heart defects. It is clear that additional studies are needed.

Glaxo Smith Kline engaged in illegal conduct in its off label marketing of Zofran. Giving Zofran to pregnant women is considered off label use.  In July 2012 Glaxo Smith Kline entered into a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice to resolve claims that it illegally marketed Zofran, among other drugs. It agreed to pay a fine of $1 billion, which included a criminal fine and a forfeiture. It also agreed to pay another 2 billion to resolve claims by the government under the False Claims Act. The settlement resolves criminal issues, alleged by the federal government, that Glaxo Smith Kline had paid kickbacks to healthcare providers to get them to prescribe drugs.

We had the honor of having George Patrick, a workers compensation lawyer from Indiana, on the radio on Saturday, March 14, 2015, Pi day.  This is especially interesting to me because I have heard so many people talk about the differences between the Illinois Worker’s Compensation system in the Indiana Workers Compensation System.  Some people believe that Illinois should save money by following in the footsteps of Indiana.

This interview followed the recent ProPublic/NPR report about how states are demolishing their workers compensation systems.  Judges have called the modern workers compensation systems “inhumane” according to ProPublica/NPR.

In the same week, OSHA (Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) came out with a study that says that Workers Compensation systems are failing injured workers throughout the states.  OSHA says that injured workers’ incomes are, on average, nearly $31,000 lower over a decade than if they had not been injured.

I always wondered about the deterrent effect of medical malpractice laws. In other words, if you pass laws which limit responsibility of tortfeasors do you embolden them to commit torts? Does the fact that they have limited responsibility make people less careful?

This is often discussed in the medical malpractice area. Pro-tort reform entities seek to cap damages.  Groups who advocate for victims rights, like the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the American Association for Justice, cite studies from people like Tom Baker, author of the Medical Malpractice Myth,which indicate that the great majority of people who were injured by medical providers’ negligence do not file suit. They discuss the huge numbers of medical errors compared with the paucity of actual suits.  (Tom Baker was a guest on my radio show, Let’s Talk Law.  Also, I should probably mention I am a member of American Association for Justice and on the Board of Managers for the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association).

Zenon Zabinski and Benard S. Black have written a paper about this issue. The papers entitled “The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform.”  The paper analyzes cases from states that enacted damage caps for medical malpractice claims. Those states are Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, and Texas. The study notes that in Illinois and Georgia invalidated the caps. However, Zabinski and Black studied information that predated the invalidation of the caps so the information should not effective the study.

I spoke at the Illinois Trial Lawyers seminar in September 2014. I gave an update on tort law.  Below is a breakdown of the cases that I discussed.  There were a few already on this blog that I did not include.  Enjoy.  Feel free to contact me at Ackerman Law Office if you have questions or want to hire me.  217-789-1977.

Sharbono v Hilborn

 In Sharborno v Hilborn a woman went in for a mammogram in November 2004.  The defendant Dr. concluded that the lesion was benign. He did not order a biopsy. Two years later she went to her family doctor complaining of cramping her left breast and pain in her shoulder and requested a second mammogram. In August plaintiff had another mammogram and an ultrasound of her breast. The ultrasound indicated the lesion was probably malignant. It was in fact malignant. Plaintiff filed suit against Dr. and the hospital. The hospital settled out. There was extensive testimony by doctors about the lesion and its interpretation. Many doctors thought the 2004 ultrasound should have been classified as at least BI RADS 3 probably benign, rather than BI RADS 2 benign.

I promised when I was on the radio to post links to both the act which contains no new Illinois pension reform and a post to an article by Eric Madiar regarding the constitutional amendment which prohibits diminishment or impairment to Illinois State Employee pension rights.

The Illinois legislature amended the Constitution in 1970. It provides:

“Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

For those of you interested in the Affordable Care Act/Obama care, we had Robert Wagner on the show Saturday, November 23, 2013. I know many people distain the Affordable Care Act, and will even had a few people who make calls it were apparent they did not like it, but it is apparently going to be law now, so I thought it appropriate to have an expert on the subject on the year. I tried to make the interview with him as unbiased as possible, given the controversial nature of the act. While I am not sure you can never do that completely, I did the best could. Robert Wagner is the former general counsel to the Illinois Department of Insurance and he was a director of it. He currently works for Hinshaw and Culbertson, where he advises businesses, insurance companies, and medical providers on, among other things, the Affordable Care Act. In short, he really knows his stuff. I had seen a Mr. Wagner speak at a seminar with probably hundred lawyers and hundred doctors. I was impressed with his speech that I asked him to be on the air. Below is the consumer report resources page that he asked me to post on the blog. I hope it helps some of you.


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