Friday, February 13, 2015


Critics of lawyers and proponents of tort reform have constantly decried frivolous lawsuits.  They cite as an example of a frivolous lawsuit the lady in California who had her legs and lower part of her body scalded by superheated coffee sold by McDonald’s.  Those who rant about this situation as a frivolous lawsuit fail always to disclose the fact the water was heated to about 3-4 times what is necessary to brew coffee because McDonald’s discovered that by super-heating they could save a few pennies on buying coffee grounds.

The hypocrisy in tort reform about frivolous lawsuits is that they ignore frivolous defenses.  The people of Texas were sold a bill of goods when they were told that by limiting recovery on medical malpractice claims they would lower their doctor bills.  It hasn’t happened. 

Neither have people been informed of the many impediments placed on securing a jury trial against a medical practitioner or provider.  Some have reached the point of being just plain silly.

The medical malpractice laws passed by the Legislature have included a provision that before you are able to sue a doctor, hospital or other provider of medical services, you must obtain an affidavit from a practitioner in the same field certifying that the medical misconduct complained of fails to meet the standard of care for medical services.  Some medical providers are now trying to use this dodge in what I consider an absolutely frivolous defense. 

A recent case filed in Jefferson County sued a hospital because a pastor’s wife who was visiting the hospital to call on sick parishioners slipped and fell on food dropped on the floor near a space rented from the hospital to provide food service.  The rented space and the business operating there had absolutely nothing to do with medical care.  Two witnesses who had observed the substance on the floor had called and urged housekeeping to clean it up before someone had an accident.  

Unfortunately, the lady who was visiting the hospital did slip and fall and had over $30,000 worth of medical bills.  She is now left with the bills and a bad back.  The hospital, in response to the lawsuit, claimed the lady’s case should be dismissed on the grounds she hadn’t provided an affidavit saying that maintaining a clean floor in the hospital space rented for profit did not meet the standard of care.  Unfortunately, no affidavit was filed on behalf of the lady because the lady couldn’t find a doctor who also had experience with janitorial services in a hospital. 

The silliness goes even further.  

Recently, a doctor who also raised cattle was negligent in allowing his livestock to roam free and not be adequately restrained or penned up.  A motorist collided with the doctor’s cow and now the doctor wants to have the case dismissed because the doctor claims that while attending his medical duties he didn’t have time to keep his cow in the pen.  Texas rules of procedure provide that frivolous pleadings can be sanctioned, and the court can award attorney’s fees or impose other penalties for those offering frivolous matters to the court.  

You can bet the doctor who has imposed this silly defense will not be sanctioned.  In addition, I wouldn’t take bets on whether or not the current Supreme Court of Texas will allow such a stupid defense to stand.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Since the United States Supreme Court has ruled corporations are people and money is speech, it appears more than ever American politics is up for grabs based on money.  Several months ago I wrote an article recommending that a great investment money-wise was to give a large contribution in the range of $100,000 to $200,000 to Rick Perry.  

In hindsight, with the current scandals of multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts and other giveaways by the Perry administration of millions to supporters, it seems my financial advice was right on point.  More and more evidence is being uncovered that there was a direct connection between awards from various slush funds of taxpayer money and contributions from the beneficiaries of those awards to Perry’s various campaigns.  

The Koch brothers now have revealed they intend to spend about $900 million on the coming presidential election.  They classify their commitment of nearly a billion dollars as an investment.  Last time I checked, business folks expect a profitable return from any investment they make.  The larger the investment, the larger return they expect.

Ordinary folks, whether Republican or Democrat, should pause thoughtfully to consider whether or not the trend of more and more money that is kept more and more secret is in the interest of democracy.  More specifically, middle class working folks should consider whether or not it is in their interest.  If money talks, do you really believe if you are an “average Joe” working for an hourly wage that you can be heard as well as a $900 million contribution?

More and more hypocrisy and money are drowning out basic American values--particularly many values which are trumpeted by conservatives.  A glaring example is the case of Denton, Texas, where a grassroots movement forced the city to adopt an anti-fracking ordinance.  Earth tremors, polluting water supplies–even to the extent of being able to light a fire on water from your water well–drove citizens to demand accountability of the oil companies.  

Because of massive lobbying, expenditures and oil company largess to our state leaders, it is very likely the Legislature will push through a measure disallowing cities to protect their citizens as did the city of Denton.  Most defenders of unlimited, secret spending and favoring national and state measures over local ones are supported by big-money efforts and lobbying.  To influence elections is bad enough, but even worse is the allowance of massive spending without revealing the sources.  

Even though the Koch brothers have announced their intention to spend $900 million, it will be spent in such a way--through 501c(3) corporations or volunteer groups with high-sounding names--the average citizen will never know from whence came the massive loads of money to influence the election of their leaders.  The will of the public in this regard is pretty much being ignored. 

The Federal Election Commission has recently called for comments on proposals to put limits on secrecy and the way huge money donors can spend their money.  Even though 75% of the comments favor restrictions, openness and disclosure, I will wager that few, if any, of these measures will be adopted-- continuing the Supreme Court mandate that we offer our political leadership for sale.