Monday, June 28, 2010

Representing Injured Children: Try A New Communication Method (Well, New For Us Anyway But Not Them!!)

Representing children who've been injured in a collision or some other calamity can be a challenge. If they're at that "awkward age" (pre-or early teen, for example), many kids are reluctant to talk much or go into detail about their injuries, and for good reason. You as their attorney represent a stranger, an intruder into their already disrupted lives. Many of these children are stoic about what they're going through, even with their parents.

Yet, at the same time, we need to build a rapport with them as someone they can trust and open up to, even if on a limited basis. They need to have a comfort level about a process where they eventually may need to give a deposition or testify at a hearing.

Consider this: texting is now the preferred method of communication amongst teens (anyone who has children this age will consider this revelation about as enlightening as the fact that the sun rises and sets every day...). An astonishing 75% of 12-17 year olds own cell phones (source:

Recently I had the pleasure of representing a pre-teen child seriously injured in a bad collision. With full parental permission, occasionally I would get a text from the child. The topics were not really "injury related," but as we texted more about everyday stuff (hobbies, favorite websites) this child opened up more and it helped me understand a little better what the child was going through. And I think it helped establish trust along the way and eased some fears when it came time for me to explain things the child needed to know.

Mom really appreciated me taking the time to "talk" to her child in this manner. It is not a silver bullet and it has its limitations, but it illustrates that if you're going to effectively speak to any clients, even children, you need to speak their language. so try it n c., K? u might be suprised, LOL.

Ohio Wills And Wealth Blog

If you're interested in a good blog that discusses the ins and outs of Ohio wills, trust, wealth protection, and estate planning you should check out Matt Gibson's Wills and Wealth blog.

It is chock full of good practical information, and I even found a section devoted to the late, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. A boyhood idol of mine, his quotes on life are priceless, and when you read them, you can easily see why he was such a great coach and human being. Any legal blog that can incorporate Coach Wooden's philosophies gets a thumbs up in my book!

Keep up the good work, Matt!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ohio Law Values Property Rights Over Human Rights (And Here's Proof)

This is how out of touch our Ohio Legislature has become. Let's say you as a concerned citizen go to a public meeting and question the safety of Ohio food products. For example, you question whether a huge corporate egg farm is re-packaging old eggs, or claim that an agribusiness is spraying harmful chemicals on apples or broccoli. Under Ohio law, you can be sued for product "disparagement." Ohio is one of 13 states which passed "Veggie libel" laws back in the mid-1990's. According to, "these statutes allow farmers and agribusiness companies to sue individuals or groups who make allegedly false or disparaging comments about certain agricultural products." Agribusiness pushed for these laws after a famous "Oprah" episode where the safety of Texas beef was questioned, and Oprah was sued for it (the case against her was eventually dismissed but that lawsuit got the train of idiocy known as Veggie Libel laws moving in various state legislatures).

If you knowingly disparage the safety of a vegetable or a chicken, for example, you are liable for "compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of the action." And if you intentionally disparage those same vegetables or chickens, the agribusiness is entltled to TRIPLE the amount of compensatory damages against you!!!

The purpose of the law is simple: to stifle consumer groups, or a concerned mother, from questioning food or product safety. So much for your First Amendment Right Of Free Speech (hey all you "constitutionalists" out there, where do you sit on this issue???).

Now let's turn the tables here and see how Ohio law treats individuals harmed by these products. Let's assume that you ate a re-packaged egg laced with bacteria or got e-coli from a bad chicken or pig or a bag of lettuce, spent 6 months in the hospital, and almost died. Under Ohio law, the manufacturer's liability is limited to a sliding scale of $250,000 to $350,000. And by the way, you have to pay your own attorney--the manufacturer does not have to pay your attorneys fees even if it is proven to be negligent. No "tripling" of your compensatory damages (your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering) either. These caps were passed in 2005 at the behest of insurance companies, manufacturers, and The Chamber of Commerce. Our Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of these caps in 2009.

This is currently the state of the law in Ohio. Disparaged fruits and vegetables have more legal protection than damaged human beings. How (wacked) (Orwellian) is that? I couldn't make up this nonsense if I tried. Nobody would believe it. Truth is stranger than fiction. As I've said before, welcome to Ohio Inc.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Friday Big Picture- The BP Oil Disaster: Liability Caps Don't Look So Good Now...

Big Oil and other huge corporations have by and large gotten their wish over the last few years when it comes to our legal system. Their billions in lobbying efforts have paid off, most notably in the form of liability "caps" or limits on corporations' liability when they negligently harm the environment. In Ohio these caps extend to victims of medical mistakes and even folks injured by drunk drivers, --you name it. The list of legal protections and limits has become endless.

By now, everyone who's not comatose now knows that, under federal law, BP's legal liability is limited to $75 million for environmental disasters. Here's the illogic expressed by one oil (friendly)(marinated) Senator who has vowed to fight any legislation increasing the cap to $10 billion:

Objecting for the Republicans, Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) said that putting oil companies on the line for unlimited liability would push all but the largest companies out of the offshore drilling business — the same argument he made last week in rejecting the $10 billion cap. In fact, Inhofe said, removing the liability cap could push even the giants of the industry — BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and ConocoPhillips — out of contention for contracts, leaving only the big nationalized firms (like those in China and Venezuela) to do the drilling.

“If you take the 10 billion [dollar cap] off and make it unlimited,” Inhofe said Tuesday on the Senate floor, “that could very well shut out even the five [oil giants], and leave nothing but national oil companies in a position to be doing [offshore drilling].”

"Unlimited liability." There it is--the main argument for artificial limits placed on corporate malfeasance. Of course, it's a slap in the face to the same notions of "responsibility" and "accountability" these same politicians are famous for talking about. Apparently, you the INDIVIDUAL must exercise personal responsibility in your life (and that's a good thing). But when it comes to corporate accountability for cutting corners and risking workers' lives, an entire ecosystem, and thousands who rely on clean waters for commercial fishing and tourism, we can't have "unlimited liabiity," for corporations, can we?

Therein lies the problems with "caps," whether it's a cap on BP's liability or a cap on your inability to walk or feed yourself due to a preventable medical mistake or a seat belt failure. Caps water down and crush the well accepted societal axiom that "if you break it, you buy it."

All these legal limits sound good on paper until the you know what hits the fan. And now, in the face of an uncontrolled disaster, they don't look so appealing after all.

Hey BP: since you can't "cap" this well, you shouldn't have a "cap" on your liability either. A message that seems to be lost on those who favor these artificial limits on certain forms of arrogance, stupidity, and recklessness.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Facebook Update: Insurance Companies And Employers Are Trying To Gain Access To Your FB Info...(Hello Big Brother)

As Facebook continues to gain in popularity, it is creating interesting legal permutations. Recently a colleague reported that after he filed an Ohio personal lawsuit for his client (who was injured in a collision), the attorney for the at fault driver's insurance company requested the following information:

"Any and all entries and replies made by (Plaintiff) on his Facebook account including any photos, postings, wall entries including the information page or any video attached to Facebook, since the accident that is the subject of the complaint".

Whether insurance companies are legally entitled to this information remains to be seen. In a related matter, five nurses are subject to being fired for discussing certain patients' care on Facebook, even though no names or other patient identifying information was utilized.

This is a classic example of technology and social trends being ahead of the issue of how to deal with either legally, and in the marketplace/employment setting. One thing's for certain: you can expect employers and the courts to be all over the place on this issue, so you might want to think about what you're putting out there.
Food for thought anyway....