Jury Disregards Medical Malpractice Panel Findings

For the first time in NH, a Hillsborough County jury ignored the unanimous decision of a medical malpractice panel, and sided with the family of William Landry Jr., a 36 year old factory worker who died from heart disease in 2005.

Previously, Landry had visited his cardiologist three times after fainting spells and was told there was nothing wrong with him from a cardiac stand point. An autopsy revealed lesions on Landry’s heart and the Medical Examiner estimated that he had developed heart disease in 2004. The lawsuit charged that the cardiologist didn’t perform the right tests.

Medical malpractice panels are made up of a retired judge, physician and a lawyer. They hear the case in secret and the decision is non-binding. If the decision is unanimous, the jury can be told about the decision if the plaintiff decides to go forward with a trial. The process is designed to encourage the parties to settle; however, the lawyer for the cardiologist didn’t offer to settle once the panel gave it’s decision.

Ultimately, the jury disregarded the findings of the review panel and awarded the family $1.5 million.

Read the entire story by Mark Hayward, for the Union Leader.

If you have sustained medical injuries due to the error of medical professionals, a consultation with an attorney experienced with Medical Malpractice matters can make all the difference. The Lawyer Referral Service has specific standards for attorneys who receive these referrals from LRS. Call 603-229-0002 or fill out the online referral request form.

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NH Lawyers Setting Things Right for Wronged Clients

In New Hampshire, what happens when a lawyer acts unethically and harms clients financially?  The rest of the legal profession rallies to provide a measure of relief to the victims and help restore faith in the legal system through the Public Protection Fund.

“There is no other profession that I am aware of anywhere… that has anything like this,” says Kevin Collimore of CullenCollimore, who recently stepped down as chair of the NHBA’s Public Protection Fund Committee. “When one steals from somebody, all of the others get together and compensate them.” The Public Protection Fund, established in 1998 by Supreme Court Rule 55, is supported by a mandatory court fee. The PPF is administered by a nine-member Bar Association committee, under the oversight of the Supreme Court.

The PPF recently experienced its biggest influx of claims against one attorney in its history, following the suspension in December 2010 of former Exeter bankruptcy attorney Brian McCaffrey, an attorney in NH since 1978.

By many accounts, McCaffrey was seen as an upstanding and friendly local guy. But after a complaint was filed, the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline Office launched an investigation that revealed that in scores of cases, fees for bankruptcy filings had been collected, but little or no legal work had been done, according to the ADO. It alleges that funds placed in client trust funds were mishandled. McCaffrey was suspended on an emergency basis.

The ADO turned over files for approximately 300 clients to attorney Philip Pettis, of the Boynton and Waldron firm in Portsmouth, who was appointed by the court to review the files and notify clients about McCaffrey’s suspension.

“I was just in a position to answer their questions and help them either transition to a new attorney or help them understand how to handle their case on their own,” Pettis said. “In many cases, I had to assure the client that I, the ADO, and other lawyers would do everything we could to help them address any pending issues with their cases or transition to a new attorney.” (See related story about how attorneys rallied to help many of McCaffrey’s former clients.)

Pettis also informed the affected clients about the Public Protection Fund and the opportunity to recoup the money they had paid to McCaffrey. The clients couldn’t claim against McCaffrey’s professional liability insurance, because he stopped paying on the policy around the time of his suspension. While some chose not to file claims with the PPF or didn’t meet the statutory deadline, 94 clients filed claims that averaged about $1,500 each. Many of the claimants were particularly vulnerable, relying on Social Security income, some suffering with disabilities or in the midst of a divorce. Members of the PPF committee, which included Kevin Collimore, Thomas Irwin, Keith Diaz, and Thomas Quarles, who recently moved from vice chair to chair, investigated and/or voted on each claim. Also, the late Roland Morneau, a longtime member of the committee, assisted in reviewing many claims before his retirement from the committee last year. The committee also includes public members Jay Haines and Sandra Keans, a longtime member of the NH House of Representatives, who voted on the claims. Because of the extraordinary workload, the committee sometimes operated remotely using a secure online spreadsheet, via technology supported by the NHBA, to track the progress of the many claims.

Some of the claims were rejected, because there was no proof of wrongdoing, but the majority of them were approved. In all, 81 claims totaling $120,000 were paid to former clients of McCaffrey. Most of the claims were investigated, approved and paid within six months.

This was only possible because of a new claims process for PPF claims of less than $2,500 that the New Hampshire Supreme Court approved not long before McCaffrey’s suspension.

Read the entire story by Kristen Senz of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

There are several option available if a client believes his/her attorney has done wrong.  Sometimes the issue can be a simple misunderstanding and a lack of communication between the client and the attorney.   Sometimes attorneys do make mistakes, in which case filing a claim against his or her malpractice insurance may protect the client (IF they have insurance!).  In the rare instance that an attorney defrauds a client, the Public Protection Fund is a safety net.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles Legal Malpractice.  All LRS attorneys are required to carry malpractice insurance.   A consultation with an attorney may be all you need to determine which option makes the most sense for your particular circumstances.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

NH’s New Voter ID Law

Photo by Theresa Thompson

From the NH Secretary of State’s Office:

During the 2012 legislative session the legislature passed House Bill 1354, also known as the “Voter ID” Law. The new law will phase-in a photo identification requirement over a period of time.

This explanatory document is required under the “Voter ID” law as part of the process of educating the public about the law’s requirements and application and outlines the law’s requirements for 2012.

What type of photo ID will I need in order to vote?
For any election before Sept. 1, 2013, you will be asked to provide one of the following: Driver’s license issued by any state (even if expired); ID card issued by NH DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles); U.S. Armed Services ID card; U.S. Passport (even if expired); Valid photo ID card issued by either the federal government or a state, county or municipal government; Valid student ID card Other photo ID deemed legitimate by the supervisors of the checklist, the moderator, or the clerk; or Verification of identity by a supervisor of the checklist, the moderator or the clerk.

What if I do not have an approved photo ID?
Before November 1, 2012, any voter who does not present an approved photo ID will be informed of the new law and permitted to vote.  Between November 1, 2012 and September 1, 2013, any voter who does not present an approved photo ID will be permitted to vote after executing a “challenged voter affidavit.”

A voter who does not have an approved photo ID may obtain a free photo ID for voting purposes only by presenting a voucher from their town/city clerk or the Secretary of State to any NH DMV office that issues identification.

Is there any post-election action required by me after I vote without an approved photo ID?
After November 1, 2012, if you filled out a “challenged voter affidavit” in order to vote on Election Day, you will receive a verification letter from the Secretary of State, requesting confirmation that you voted in the election. If you do not respond in writing to the Secretary of State within 90 days of the date it was mailed, the Attorney General will conduct an investigation to determine whether fraudulent voting occurred.

Where can I get more information?  Your city or town clerk or the Secretary of State

Female Inmates Sue for Equal Treatment

Four female inmates, incarcerated at the NH State Prison for Women in Goffstown, are suing the state over what they say is unequal treatment compared with male inmates incarcerated at the NH State Prison.

In an article written by staff writer Joseph Cote of the Nashua Telegraph:

The four inmates filed a suit in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday alleging the state Department of Corrections hasn’t abided by a 1987 federal court order that it provide female inmates with services including vocational education, work, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and housing programs comparable to those offered to men.

It’s not the first time the state’s treatment of women in prisons has come under fire. The suit comes a year after a federal civil rights committee lambasted the state over its treatment of female inmates.

The women are being represented by New Hampshire Legal Assistance and Devine, Millimet & Branch.

Read the entire story.

Discrimination affects people in all segments of our population.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer attorneys who specifically handle discrimination and civil rights issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Barbed wire image by Fiona Dalwood - Creative Commons

 

 

 

Surviving an Active Shooter Event

Would you know what to do if a gunman barged into your place of employment and started shooting?

This nearly 6 minute graphic video, made by the city of Houston, tells people how to survive if a gunman enters their office and starts shooting.

Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the city hopes that the video can help people prepare people for the worst.

Run, Hide, Fight:  Surviving an Active Shooter Event depicts a fictional shooting incident in a crowded office building.

The video advises people to “always try to escape or evacuate…even when others insist on staying.”  And if you can’t run, the video advises people to hide.   “Turn off the lights and if possible, lock doors, silence the ringer and vibration mode on your cell phone,” the clip further states.

As a last resort, victims are told to fight back.  “Act with aggression, improvise weapons, disarm him and commit to taking the shooter down no matter what.”

Do You Have Permission to “Pin” That?

Pinterest, a social photo sharing website, launched in 2010, allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections.  This site, especially popular with women, has grown to 11.1 million users as of last month.

According to Georgia lawyer Kirsten Kowalski, Pinterest’s terms of use agreement states that users are responsible for member content they make available, and either accordingly own the content or have consent from the items’ owners.

“I immediately thought of the ridiculously gorgeous images I had recently pinned from an outside website and, while I gave the other photographer credit right in my pin … I most certainly could not think of any way that I either owned those photos or had license, consent or release from the photographers who owned them,” Kowalski wrote.

Also, Business Insider reports, Pinterest’s terms of service holds users responsible for legal fees should litigation arise. Kowalski notes that Pinterest reserves the right to prosecute users for copyright violations.

Read the entire story from the ABA Journal News.

If you have been accused of  violating copyright laws, or someone is using your intellectual property without permission, consulting with an attorney who specifically handles intellectual property matters can make all the difference!  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent attorneys who regularly practice in this area of law.  Call 603-229-0002 for a referral or submit the online referral request form.

LawLine: Free Legal Advice – 800-868-1212

Do you have a BRIEF LEGAL QUESTION? LawLine, the NH Bar Association’s free legal hotline is held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 6 – 8 pm.

Volunteer New Hampshire attorneys will take calls from the public and will give brief legal information and advice. This is a FREE public service. Call 1-800-868-1212.

Do you have more than a brief legal question and suspect you may need an attorney to represent you?  The NH Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to a competent local  attorney who handles your type of legal matter.  Call (603) 229-0002 today or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service request form at:  https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.