September 2007


The City of New York has opened two new clinics to service people who lived in the vicinity of ground zero or worked at the site and have medical problems arising from exposures at the site, according to the NY Times.  The clinics are part of the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, which has treated 1,600 patients so far.  They expect to treat 20,000 people over the next five years.

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Credit reporting agencies like Experian are required by federal law to verify the information they use to rate an individual’s credit.  A case in California has said Experian was negligent in not correcting information on an individual’s credit report.  The consumer complained about an erroneous entry on his Experian report for four years.  During that time the agency did nothing to fix the error.  Suit was filed and the court found Experian was negligent in not fixing the mistake.  The LA Times reports that the appelate court which heard the case found Experian’s conduct so bad that they ruled liability was not an issue and the case was remanded solely for the purpose of damages.  Huge victory for consumers.   

Story on CNN about a “blackhole” in the FDA approval process which allows drugs not approved by the FDA to be sold by pharmacies to consumers without any FDA oversight.  The FDA’s process causes confusion among doctors and pharmacies as to whether a drug has been approved, allowing sometimes dangerous drugs to get into the hands of consumers.  Another good article on the FDA’s approval process problems at OMBWatch.

Doctors treating ground zero related illnesses in workers from the 9-11 site testified to Congress regarding the outlook for the workers, according to a story in the Washington Post.  One doctor testified that “respiratory illness, psychological distress, and financial devastation have become a new way of life for many” of the workers.  An OSHA employee testified that workers arriving at the site in the first 48 hours after the attack received an “incredible assault” on their systems, from all of the toxins in the air. 

A study presented at the hearing shows 70% of the workers had new or worsened respiratory symptoms after exposure to debris at the site.  The study found mental health conditions, including PTSD and depression, in 36% of the workers studied, lower respiratory problems in 40% of the workers studied, and upper respiratory conditions in 59% of the workers studied.

It is unknown how long these types of problems will last in the affected workers and whether new problems, such as cancers related to the exposures, will emerge.  Congress has not yet set up a program for long term health care and health screening for these workers.  It would be the right thing to do.

According to a story from the Baton Rouge Advocate, Honeywell International will pay a total of $12 million for a violation of the Clean Air Act, that resulted in the death of a worker at the Honeywell plant.  The amount includes an $8 million fine, $2 million in restitution to the victim’s family, and $2 million in resitution to local law enforcement agencies.  In 2003, a Honeywell worker opened a container labeled benign refrigerant, which actually contained toxic spent antimony pentachloride.  Honeywell pleaded guilty to negligently releasing toxic air pollutants and negligently placing someone in imment danger of death.  

Article at Insurance News Net about Florida’s expiring “no-fault” insurance law.   No-fault insurance is a system where the parties to an accident rely on their own insurance to cover their damages in an accident, rather than looking to the person who caused the accident to pay.  Tort-reformers who argued for enactment of no-fault insurance laws in Florida said the civil justice system added huge expenses to the process.  They argued that if the no-fault system was put in place, consumers would reap the benefits of lower premiums, etc. 

The article says Florida’s no-fault system, the one tort reformers lobbied for, is riddled with fraud and waste, so much so that it is beyond repair.  Florida consumers pay too much for auto insurance under the no fault system.  The article says Florida will reduce costs by returning to the mainstream, handling automobile wrecks through a tort based system.

This is another example of a tort reform myth being debunked.  Tort reformers claimed no-fault was a cure for everything.  That consumers would pay less for insurance, that economic growth would ensue, that Florida would be saved from out of control attorneys and judges. 

The system did not work.  Consumers paid more for insurance under the no fault system.  Florida is set to return to using the civil justice system to solve the problems our system of government delegated to the civil justice system many years ago.  Good to see.    

Good article in the Detroit Free Press about Michigan’s tort reform experiment and the non-results of the reforms.  Tort reformers always say tort reforms grow business and create wealth – that the tort system is a drain on wealth and inhibits growth.  Never mind the everyday people whose lives are ruined by the negligence of others.  Never mind that the state picks up the tab for the negligent acts of others when businesses are given a free ride and insurance companies are not required to pay for the very things they accept premiums for. 

Michigan has enacted some of the most draconian tort reform laws in the country.  The article addresses the state of the state in the wake of the reforms, which have been in place for years.  Michigan has not seen the huge rate of job growth that the reformers promised.  The job growth rate in Michigan has been stagnant.    

In addition, Michigan enacted a law to specifically protect the drug industry from liability suits.  As thanks for that protection one of the biggest names in the drug industry, Pfizer, recently moved 2,700 jobs from their Michigan facilities to other states.  Rather than create new drug industry jobs, Michigan just lost 2,700 drug industry jobs. 

Michigan has not seen the results the tort reformers promised.  The rights of everyday citizens to seek redress have been taken away and curtailed in Michigan and rather than huge windfalls to everyday people, in the form of new job growth and new jobs, the windfalls have been to big corporations who don’t have to pay for the harm done to everyday people.

This example speaks volumes about the type of promises made by the tort reformers and the real results that follow these types of laws.    

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