Archive for June, 2010
Worker’s Compensation Bad Faith Case Filed Against AIG Claims, Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, and Separate Claim Against Hitech for Wrongful Retaliation
On June 29, 2010, Doyle Raizner filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dennis Long against the worker’s compensation carrier, State Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, and the thirty party administrator, AIG Claims, for their wrongful denial of his medical and income benefits after a clear on-the-job injury. With no legitimate basis, these insurance companies took the position that Mr. Long’s injuries were not caused by falling off a ladder, even though an eyewitness issued a written statement confirming the incident. State Insurance Company of Pennsylvania and AIG Claims admitted they were absolutely wrong for their denials many months after the wrongful conduct and only after Mr. Long hired an attorney. Unfortunately this delay period caused significant harm to Mr. Long for which he is still fighting to recover.
To add real further insult and independent damages to this injury, Mr. Long’s employer, Hitech Fire Detection, retaliated against him for filing his worker’s compensation claim and terminated him and his benefits. This wrongful termination is direct violation of Texas Law and Doyle Raizner represents Mr. Long against Hitech in pursuing this wrongful retaliation claim as well.
Doyle Raizner is proud to represent Dennis Long against these insurance companies and employer in pursuing justice for this violative conduct.
In September 2008, Galveston and much of the Texas coast was hit by Hurricane Ike. According to estimates, more than 3 million people were without power in the greater Houston area, as nearly the entire city was without electricity. Closer to Louisiana, in Orange, Texas, the flood waters rose so quickly that people were forced to evacuate to upper floors, attics and rooftops for safety.
In spite of the recovery that followed, a deadline is fast approaching that many of those affected by Hurricane Ike should be aware of. In Texas, the law provides for a two-year statute of limitations for bad faith insurance claims. For victims of Hurricane Ike, the new battle is not with the rain, wind and water, but with the insurance industry. As sometimes happens, insurance companies occasionally delay their claims investigations, hoping to withhold payment for as long as possible. In some instances this takes years. In Texas, if payments have not been made during the two-year period, there is no guarantee after that point that payment will be made.
If you or someone you know is involved in an insurance claim and the insurance company is dragging its feet, you need to see a lawyer to make a bad faith claim. This needs to be done before September to ensure that your claim has a fair chance at being extended past the two-year window. Should you not make this claim, your insurance company is under no legal obligation to work with you. Should you make a bad faith claim, however, you are allowed to present evidence that the insurance company is acting in bad faith in failing to process your insurance claim in a timely manner.
If you believe you are in such a situation, be sure to visit an attorney familiar with insurance law. The lawyer will review your situation and advise you of the best course of action.
Since late April, when the Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion killing 11 and sinking the oil rig, BP has employed various strategies to stop oil from leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. None of those efforts have stopped the oil, which is now thought to be leaking at the rate of about 15,000 barrels per day. The most recent estimates are much higher than the 1,000 barrels per day originally suggested.
While the numbers are not certain, it is estimated that 20 to 30 million gallons have already leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The wildlife, shipping industry, beaches and ecosystem of the southwest coasts of the United States are at risk of severe and permanent damage. To put that amount of oil into context, approximately 11 million gallons of oil were spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
BP’s first attempt to stop the leak was to cap the well with a four-story dome. Engineers attempted to install the dome 5,000 feet below the surface, but were unable to achieve their goal due to the depths of the water. Next, BP tried a “junk shot,” which involved shooting garbage and debris into the well to clog it and stop the leak. The junk shot, along with a second cap, were also unsuccessful.
The most recent attempt to cap the leaking well is called a top kill maneuver. This involves pumping a very thick drilling fluid into the well to plug it. Unfortunately, this method has not worked, either. The next step will be to attempt to cap the well once again, now that a riser pipe has been cut and severed from the well.
Of the statements made by oil company executives and politicians in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon offshore disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps one stands out above others: Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s declaration that the catastrophic oil spill may be due to “an act of God.”
When executives from the three companies most deeply mired in the problem of the Gulf testified before Congress in May, they pointed fingers at each other. Officials from BP, Halliburton and Transocean all tried to lay blame for the worst oil spill in U.S. history on one another.
BP leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from Transocean Ltd. for exploratory drilling about 50 miles southeast of Venice, LA. BP executives say Transocean’s rig and its blowout protector failed, causing an explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed an unstoppable gusher of oil one mile deep underwater.
Transocean points back to BP, saying the blame belongs with the operator of the rig.
Transocean executives also point at Halliburton, Inc., a BP subcontractor, which is alleged to have had the responsibility of encasing the well pipe in cement before plugging it.
Unsurprisingly, Halliburton executives say they were acting on BP’s orders and therefore the blame belongs with the company formerly known as British Petroleum.
It’s expected that all three companies will hedge against taking full responsibility — and legal liability — for the deaths, injuries and environmental damage caused by the unprecedented offshore oil rig disaster.
The reality of who will bear liability for the widespread damage to people, the environment, wildlife and Gulf industries will be determined in courts. In court the question of gross negligence as the cause of the April 20 explosion will be determined.
One thing we know for sure at this point is that there were no hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons or earthquakes anywhere near the Deepwater Horizon that day. As much as apologists for BP and the other involved
Today, New Orleans federal judge Martin Feldman blocked enforcement of a sixth month moratorium placed on deep water drilling, meaning drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet. Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion that resulted to one of the worst oil spill in US history, President Barack Obama banned any deepwater drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico for a period of six (6) months. The White House has said it will appeal the decision.
The objective was to give government time to review the rules and lapses of such wells. Mr. Obama said during a nationwide address that he wants to hear a national panel’s recommendations to improve worker safety and environmental protections before the moratorium is lifted. He also wants to understand the circumstances that led to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
However, securities firm Raymond James & Associates issued a bold forecast that the moratorium could last into 2011. If this scenario happens, around 50,000 rig and associated jobs will be in great peril. Entire communities that depend on deepwater drilling could likewise be devastated. Aside from that, many of the oil rigs affected by the moratorium could go elsewhere to drill oil endangering 800 to 1,400 jobs per rig. There were 33 permitted deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico region prior to the moratorium.
Governor Jindal says that Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the “economic pain the forced stoppage is causing to Louisiana workers.” Louisiana is one of the gulf states seriously affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Now, it is facing imminent unemployment of an estimated 330,000 people in said state alone if the moratorium continues.
In addition, oil industry executives during the recent World National Oil Companies Congress in London showed harsh disapproval of the Obama imposed six-month moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico because according to them, “the world did not have enough other sources of oil to eliminate
Yesterday, The Daily Express published an article on the suit against KBR by British servicemen, including RAF Sgt. Andy Tosh and his fellow gunners from 26 Squadron. These soldiers were exposed to hexavalent chromium at KBR’s Qarmat Ali facility in Southern Iraq. You can read the article at this link: Daily Express article
On Friday, June 18, 2010, Administrative Judge Al Bennett conducted a hearing concerning a possible consolidation of commercial Hurricane Ike cases into a special docket. All residential Ike cases have been consolidated into a special docket before Judge Mike Miller, and a similar proposal is under consideration for commercial cases.
The hearing was well attended, with lead Plaintiffs’ lawyers in attendance along with counsel for dozens of insurance companies. The Plaintiffs group was united in the desire to put in place an organized, sensible pre-trial docket for commercial Ike cases. Both I and my co-liaison counsel advised Judge Bennett and Judge Kyle Carter, who heads the Special Docket Committee, about the benefits we have seen from consolidated dockets in Houston and Galveston.
The insurance industry position was expressed by Chris Martin, who represents a number of the major insurance carriers. The insurance industry opposed the creation of a special docket for commercial cases.
The opposition to a special docket for commercial Ike cases is unfortunate. Consolidation of the residential cases in Houston, and of all cases in Galveston, has lead to an organized, well-run docket that has resolved hundreds if not thousands of Hurricane Ike cases. Our clients have all benefited from the good work the courts and lawyers have done throughout the Texas Gulf Coast to promptly resolve these cases. The opposition by the insurance industry is disappointing and an unfortunate example of the ongoing effort to create obstacles and roadblocks to impede Texas insureds from protecting the values of their homes and businesses. We are hopeful the Harris County Courts will grant the request to create a pre-trial consolidation of all commercial Hurricane Ike cases into a special docket, for the benefit of Texas policy holders
Doyle Raizner files suit against Sedgwick and Brigestone on behalf of adjuster wrongfully terminated for refusal to commit illegal claims handling practices
Kimberley Soukup is a licensed workers’ compensation adjuster who takes her responsibilities to injured workers under Texas law seriously. Unfortunately, her determination to adhere to the laws intended to assure fair administration of workers’ compensation claims got her in hot water with her employer, third-party administrator Sedgwick Claims Management.
After ten years in the industry, Ms. Soukup was forced out of her position with Sedgwick after she repeatedly resisted pressure from Sedgwick and large, self-insured client Bridgestone to engage in illegal claims adjusting practices for the purpose of making sure Bridgestone paid as little as possible in benefits owed to injured workers. Among other things, Ms. Soukup was asked to participate in sending workers’ compensation claimants’ medical records to an unlicensed physician for the purpose of trumping up bases for denial of necessary benefits, to set inadequate claim reserve amounts in order to block payments due for claims, and to give deposition testimony concealing key information from discovery in a workers’ compensation matter.
Doyle Raizner LLP filed suit on Ms. Soukup’s behalf in Harris County District Court, seeking damages for Ms. Soukup’s wrongful termination under the Texas Supreme Court’s Sabine Pilot doctrine, which provides an exception to Texas’s at-will employment doctrine for employees terminated for refusal to commit an illegal act. The case is set to go before Judge Al Bennett.
In early June, two men were killed in a Southern Dallas-Fort Worth suburb when the medical transport helicopter they were taking on a routine maintenance test flight crashed.
The Keller Citizen reports that though investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the crash of the Bell 222U helicopter, speculation swirls around the aircraft’s so-called “Jesus nut.” That’s the name given to the large main rotor attaching nut – the nut that holds the rotor to the helicopter’s mast. It’s said that if it comes loose, those inside the helicopter face imminent injury or death in a crash.
In this crash, the main rotor was found intact and separate from the burned remains of the helicopter body, suggesting the rotor detached during the short flight. Mechanics had been working on the rotor prior to the flight.
Everything Must Go Right
The tragic crash illustrates a fundamental problem with helicopters: everything has to go right for one to fly. There are many moving parts. With an airplane, many variables have to go wrong before a crash.
Pilots of helicopters must possess a certain level of vigilance and skill in order to fly them safely, whereas airplanes, and especially those with computer-controlled navigation systems, essentially fly themselves (think of the flight last year when commercial airline pilots inadvertently yet safely overflew the Minneapolis, Minn. airport by 150 miles).
Helicopters are also more flexible and mobile. A helicopter can land in almost any open space big enough to accommodate its blades and are typically flown at lower altitudes. Helicopter pilots often fly near obstacles that may not be immediately visible to the naked eye, and engage in a wide variety of missions that include search and rescue and emergency medical transport.
Another Texas helicopter crash underscores the problem: a Seguin man suffered serious burns when the helicopter in which he flew as a passenger crashed into electrical power lines.