Workers Compensation


Article in Biloxi Sun Herald about Texas Mutual, a workers comp insurance company at the forefront of the tort reform movement in Texas.  One of the rallying cries of tort reformers is that most injured people falsify their claims: they aren’t injured, they aren’t injured as severly as they claim, they were injured by someone else.  The “blame game” list goes on and on.  In fact, Texas Mutual has an entry on their website titled “Fighting Fraud“.  The inference being that there are many, many fraudulent claims.

A judge has found that Texas Mutual knowingly and intentionally manipulated a medical record to gain an unfar advantage in a lawsuit.  The plaintiff’s attorney in the case, Mike Doyle, stated “Texas Mutual not only falsified the original medical record, but, after being caught, secretly solicited from a doctor yet another altered document which an official of Dallas County Hospital District later confirmed under oath was not a genuine record of the Hospital District.”  The court punished Texas Mutual by ordering the company to pay $30,000 in sanctions.

A quote from the Texas Mutual website: “We pursue injured workers who fake an injury, misrepresent information, or collect benefits to which they aren’t entitled.”  Litigators will be able to make some hay out of the information Texas Mutual misrepresented for years to come.  On their website Texas Mutual has an archive of fraud investigation files.  I wonder if this case will make the archive.  Looks like the reformers need some reform.

   

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Conagra has removed diactyl, a chemical used for butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, from its Act II and Orville Redenbacher brands of microwave popcorn.  Scientests linked the chemical to a severe lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, in 2001.  The chemical caused three deaths and caused hundreds of cases of severe lung disease in popcorn plant workers who were exposed to the chemical in a dust form. 

While disease related to the chemical has been limited to popcorn plant workers, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Online, doctors found health problems similar to those in the plant workers in a man who ate 2 bags of microwave popcorn everyday. 

The Supreme Court of Texas recently found that a premesis owner is immune from a negligence by a contract worker on its premesis, because of workers compensation.  In TX a company that purchases worker’s compensation insurance is immune from tort suits by employees for negilgent acts.  This immunity arose as a trade off between workers and employees.  The worker got non-fault based benefits when injured and the employer got immunity from tort.

In Texas, the immunity does not extend to anyone other than the direct employer.  But the Texas Supreme Court, in another act of Judicial Tort Reform, has changed the law.  According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, a bipartisan group of legislators has asked for a rehearing on the case.  The group, two democratic lawmakers and two republican lawmakers, claims the Supreme Court has violated the separation of powers clause of the state constitution, by legislating from the bench.  The lawmakers say that the legislature has had the opportunity to debate whether premesis owners should receive the immunity and has repeatedly declined to extend that immunity. 

The attack on the average guy in Texas continues.

In 2003, as part of tort reform measures, Florida passed a horizontal immunity statute.  The statute require a worker on a jobsite working for one subcontractor, to prove gross negligence in actions against other subcontractors who negligently injure such workers on a jobsite.  The gross negligence standard means to knowingly undertake a dangerous act likely to result in injury. 

An article on Jacksonville.com talks about a recent verdict in a case using this new law.  The plaintiff lost, as the jury was unwilling to say gross negligence applied to the facts.  Another instance of working people suffering the consequences of tort reform and the businesses who paid for tort reform shirking their responsibility for their actions.