Author Archives: Matthew Funk

Post-traumatic Stress ‘in 1300BC’

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder can be traced back to 1300BC – much earlier than previously thought – say researchers.

The team at Anglia Ruskin University analysed translations from ancient Iraq or Mesopotamia.

Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

Referring to the warrior Epizelus during the battle of Marathon in 490BC he wrote: “He suddenly lost sight of both eyes, though nothing had touched him.”

His report co-authored with Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid, Queen Mary College London, argues there are references in the Assyrian Dynasty in Mesopotamia between 1300BC and 609BC.

Ghosts

In that era men spent a year being toughened up by building roads, bridges and other projects, before spending a year at war and then returning to their families for a year before starting the cycle again.

[Read the rest of the article here…]

 

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Did a Local Manufacturer Violate Federal Law with a Sudden Layoff?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Employees at the Store Kraft plant in Beatrice, Neb., were stunned to find out on Monday morning that Monday would be their last day on the job. Such short notice may be against federal law and entitle the laid-off workers to back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

Under the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), employers of more than 100 employees are required, in most instances, to give workers 60 days of notice in the event of a plant closing or a mass layoff.

Press coverage of the plant closing appears to show that Store Kraft is roughly at 100 employees. If Store Kraft had more than 100 employees, then it is very possible that their former employees may have a case under the WARN Act. The closing of the Store Kraft factory is devastating for its workers and hurtful to Beatrice and the surrounding community, but former workers may have a claim against Store Kraft for the abrupt manner in which the employer shut down the plant.

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Lawsuit challenges a Hollywood pillar: Unpaid internships

Eric Glatt

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.latimes.com

Melvin Mar’s entrée to Hollywood was far from glamorous. As an unpaid intern for "Platoon" producer Arnold Kopelson, Mar was responsible for fetching his boss’ lunch of matzo ball soup every day.

Mar calculated to the minute how long it would take to walk from the production company’s Century City offices to the Stage Deli nearby, buy the soup and decant it into a bowl on Kopelson’s desk, still piping hot, at precisely 1 p.m.

Mar parlayed his internship into jobs at DreamWorks and Scott Rudin Productions. Now Mar is a producer for "Bad Teacher" filmmaker Jake Kasdan — and he says he owes a lot to the lessons he learned as a humble Hollywood gofer 15 years ago.

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"The soup — it was about getting it right, the details," said Mar, 35. "It prepared me for everything else."

Uncompensated minions are as central to the movie business as private jets, splashy premieres and $200 lunches. But the Hollywood tradition is under assault.

A class action by former interns on the 2010 film "Black Swan" could radically change the industry’s reliance on unpaid neophytes. The suit seeks back pay, damages and an order barring use of unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures and other units of Fox Entertainment Group.

A legal victory for the plaintiffs "would bring to a halt the many unpaid internships that offer real value to participants, giving them experiences and opportunities they would not otherwise receive,"…

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Congratulations To Our 2014 SuperLawyers

We are proud to congratulate each of Victor Pasternack,Barbara Doblin TilkerJordan ZieglerCatherine StantonEdgar Romano and Robert Saminskyfor being named to the New York Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2014. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers.

This is the 9th consecutive year Ziegler has been selected, the 8th consecutive selection for Tilker and Stanton, the 6th for Pasternack and Saminsky and the 5th for Romano.

We are honored that so many of our attorneys have a multi-year recurring presence on this prestigious list. 

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.

The first Super Lawyers list was published in 1991.

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The Right to a Safe Workplace

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Under federal law, every employee has the right to a safe workplace. If you believe your workplace is dangerous and changes in safety policy are ignored, you can request an inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Workers’ compensation, which is regulated on a state-by-state level, covers medical bills, lost wages, disability and vocational rehabilitation services for employees injured on the job. If you have any questions regarding these benefits, please contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

 If you believe you work in an unsafe work area, here are some tips to be aware of to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, and you protect yourself from significant injury:

  1.  Know the hazards in your workplace.
  2. While in a seated position, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Use good form when lifting.
  3. Injuries occur when workers get tired. Take breaks when you’re tired.
  4. Do not skip safety procedures just because it makes the job easier or quicker. Using dangerous machinery is the one of the leading causes of work injuries.
  5. Be aware of where emergency shutoff switches are located.
  6. Report unsafe work areas.
  7. Wear proper safety equipment.

If you are injured due to an unsafe workplace, and you are unsure of the benefits that you are entitled to, contact an experienced attorney in your area.

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College Athletes Unionized? They Must Be Employees First

Northwestern University Quarterback Kain Colter

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter announced plans to form the first labor union for college athletes. The College Athletes Players Association, in concert with the Steel Workers (who have agreed to pay the legal bills for the effort) will try to unionize college athletes. The big question: whether college athletes can be considered employees.  If certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the union will be called the College Athletes Players Association. In order for the association to be recognized as a union, the players have to prove they are employees and that the NCAA or each school is its employer. Most experts indicate this is an uphill legal fight.

Worker’s compensation lawyers see everything through the prism of worker’s compensation law. Most State statutory schemes presume that a worker is an employee, except where the employee may be considered a volunteer or an independent contractor. Where the top five power conferences ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, Big Twelve generate nearly $10 billion annually, it is hard to claim players are “volunteers” in this system.

Some college athletes who have been seriously injured have filed worker’s compensation claims. Those claims have all been dismissed on the notion that the injured player was not a “employee” and thus not entitled to benefits. (see our prior blog posts on this issue

Athletes who successfully use their college careers as a platform for a later career in professional sports are not the norm. In many situations, college players are injured, precluding any further athletic career for pay. There is no compensation awarded for this lost potential career. Furthermore, if an athlete is injured while on campus, once they leave school or graduate, the school generally does not covered future medical costs for that injury.  

Worker’s compensation lawyers will be monitoring the case with interest.

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Lawsuit kicks off class action claims against GM

General Motors Co’s new chief executive Mary Barra addresses the media during a roundtable meeting with journalists in Detroit, Michigan January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/Pool

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.reuters.com

NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Motors was hit on Friday with what appeared to be the first lawsuit related to the recall of 1.6 million cars, as customers claimed their vehicles lost value because of ignition problems blamed for a series of fatal crashes.

The proposed class action, filed in federal court in Texas, said GM knew about the problem since 2004, but failed to fix it, creating "unreasonably dangerous" conditions for drivers of the affected models.

"GM’s mishandling of the ignition switch defect….has adversely affected the company’s reputation as a manufacturer of safe, reliable vehicles with high resale value," the lawsuit said.

The recall has led to government criminal and civil investigations, an internal probe by GM, and preparations for hearings by Congress. All ask why GM took so long to address a problem it has said first came to its attention in 2001.

A GM spokesman, Greg Martin, said the company has apologized for how it handled the recall and that taking care of customers was its first priority. He did not comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages from GM that include compensation for loss of the use of their vehicles and repairs and diminished resale value. They are not claiming they were injured in accidents stemming from ignition problems.

The lawsuit is reminiscent of claims faced by Toyota Motor Corp, which recalled more than 10 million vehicles starting in 2009. Toyota last year received approval for a settlement…

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How Corporate Money Poisons “Independent” Medical Evaluations

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

 

            Workers’ compensation claimants and their attorneys routinely confront the so-called “usual suspect” medical examiners —  those doctors whose practices chiefly involve examining multiple claimants per day, several days per week or month, always for an insurance carrier or governmental agency administering workers’ compensation, and who can reliably be counted on to find no diagnosis related to injury, little or no permanent impairment related to accepted conditions, and no requirement for further treatment nor any limitations applicable to work activity. In a litigation setting, it can often be shown that these doctors have little or no active medical practice and derive the bulk of their income from these forensic examinations, calling into question their lack of objectivity and probable bias. Most of the physicians who engage in this work are not necessarily leading figures in their practice areas, and are not well-regarded academicians in their field – – their principal credential is that they have simply been in the practice a long time.  In a litigated case the testimony of such physicians can often be overcome by the testimony of an attending physician who has treated the claimant for a long period of time or another examining physician with an equally or more plausible opinion that supports the injured or diseased worker.

            Consider, then, the threat to justice for injured workers when a long-established cohort of extremely well-credentialed defense medical experts, operating under the cover of one of the world’s most prestigious medical schools, has been engaged by the coal industry to defend against claims by miners crippled by black lung disease, and finds in the vast majority of cases no industrially-related disease.  These cases arise in the context of the federal black lung system, where cases mostly involve dueling medical opinions and judges rely heavily on the credentials of physicians to determine outcomes.  In a blockbuster report entitled Breathless and Burdened, the Center for Public Integrity has unveiled seeming massive corruption of medical opinion from corporate influence at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, where Peabody Energy and other coal companies direct workers with black lung claims to be evaluated. 

             For over 40 years, a small unit of radiologists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and hospital has generated fees from coal company evaluations that have enriched the institution and supported its work.  These physicians read x-rays as a part of their regular duties, but coal companies will pay a premium of up to ten times what a regular x-ray reading would cost.  And because of the longevity of these practitioners, with their credentials burnished by the iconic reputation of Johns Hopkins, their opinions in the processes of claim adjudication have become nearly unassailable.  Judges rely heavily on these opinions and regularly find that they swamp the evidence brought by miners from doctors not similarly credentialed.

              The Center’s report found that one particular physician – a 78 year-old radiologist named Paul Wheeler – in reviewing x-rays in 1500 cases since 2000 never found one instance of severe disease, whereas other doctors looking at the same x-rays found it in 390 cases, and that subsequent biopsies and autopsies of diseased workers frequently clearly proved Wheeler wrong.  Furthermore, the criteria this examiner used in determining the presence of black lung was contrary to that of government research agencies, textbooks, peer-reviewed scientific literature, and the opinions of many credentialed physicians outside Johns Hopkins, including the American College of Radiology’s task force on black lung disease.

             The Center’s review of thousands of cases evaluated at Johns Hopkins established that since 2000, miners lost more than 800 cases where at least one doctor found black lung on x-ray but Dr. Wheeler read it as negative.  It calculated that Wheeler found black lung in about 2% of the cases evaluated, and that in 80% of the films he read as positive, he saw only early stage of the disease, whereas other physicians found severe form of the disease in more than 750 films.  Despite all of this, Wheeler continues to lead the cohort of radiologists who toil in the Pneumoconiosis Section of Johns Hopkins amidst piles of files and paperwork bearing the letterhead of prominent corporate defense law firms and coal companies, churning out evaluations of miners, under the imprimatur of a prestigious institution, that are clearly resulting in the denial of many legitimate claims.   

Photo credit: Marcos Telias / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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