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Xarelto Bellwether Score is 3-1 for the Defendants: MDL to Map out Strategy

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Both federal, and state cases combine to total 20,000 Xarelto Lawsuits. While the MDL conducts status analysis this month, pundits wonder about the potential for settling.

New Orleans, LA – With three federal bellwether cases having gone to the defendant and a fourth in state court favoring the plaintiff, the judge heading up the 18,500 consolidated cases in federal court has signaled he is looking for guidance from the various parties involved, with oral arguments on the docket for the end of the month following a status report. The Xarelto Lawsuit MDL is under the guidance and management of US District Judge Eldon Fallon in US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.

Xarelto Bellwether Score is 3-1 for the Defendants: MDL to Map out StrategyThe stakes are high. According to Forbes.com (12/08/17) there are in excess of 18,500 cases consolidated in federal court, with a further 1,500 cases pending in Philadelphia. Combined, that’s 20,000 lawsuits alleging Xarelto bleeding complications and other adverse events.

The three bellwether Xarelto side effects cases tried in federal court in Louisiana went to the defendant. However, the most recent case that went to trial in Philadelphia saw a jury award of nearly $28 million for the plaintiffs.

Now, according to court documents Judge Fallon is keen on gathering information in order to best decide next steps and direction on how the consolidated litigation should proceed, given the apparent conflicting outcomes associated with the bellwether trials.

Xarelto (rivaroxaban) is the new-age blood thinner introduced with great fanfare as an easier, less-cumbersome anticoagulant pathway for thinning blood without the constant monitoring of diet and blood levels that is the bastion of warfarin (marketed as Coumadin, and the gold standard for over 50 years). Unlike warfarin, however Xarelto – and Pradaxa before it – were approved for market by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without a reversing agent in place. The anti-coagulation properties of warfarin, in contrast, can usually be reversed fairly quickly with an infusion of Vitamin K.

Xarelto does not respond to Vitamin K in the same fashion. Plaintiffs assert they were not aware that rivaroxaban lacked an antidote, and some have asserted that defendants were negligent in marketing Xarelto as requiring less monitoring than warfarin, given the lack of a reversing agent.

Forbes.com, meanwhile recently speculated on how the Xarelto file might proceed from here, given the $28 million jury award for two Indiana plaintiffs in Philadelphia. Forbes looked at how Boehringer Ingelheim, the manufacturer of Pradaxa, handled the combined 4,000 cases in federal and state court over its blood thinner. The German pharmaceutical, as it turned out, settled the 4,000 cases in 2014 through a settlement fund totaling $650 million.

Bayer AG is the manufacturer of Xarelto, while pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is licensed to market Xarelto in the US through their subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Janssen). According to Forbes revenue for J&J from Xarelto stood at nearly $2.3 billion for the last full year for which complete information is available, representing about 7 per cent of J&J’s overall revenues for its pharmaceutical division for 2016.

Forbes opined that were Bayer and J&J/Janssen to follow a similar path travelled by Boehringer to settle 4,000 Pradaxa lawsuits, the cost for the former to settle a combined 20,000 Xarelto cases utilizing the same formula could nudge $3.25 billion.

Forbes then compared that forecast against another peak over the horizon – used as a calculator only – that assumes a 10 percent loss rate for Xarelto bleedout lawsuits, and basing future awards using the Philadelphia decision for the plaintiffs ($1.8 million compensatory, $26 million punitive). That cost, assuming a 10 percent rate of loss amidst 20,000 cases, could go as high as $3.6 billion.

Forbes stressed that such figures are submitted for illustrative purposes only, “and we believe that these draconian results are fairly unlikely,” the report said.

For the time being Judge Fallon – in a document issued on December 18 of last year – called for briefs to be submitted by January 15, with the deadline for responses identified as January 25. A status conference is set for January 30, after which oral arguments would be considered.

The Xarelto side effects MDL is IN RE: Xarelto (Rivaroxaban) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2592 in the US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.

The Xarelto lawsuit in Philadelphia is Hartman v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. et al., Case No. 160503416, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

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Texas Driver with TBI from Auto Crash Recovers $26 Million Settlement

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A 30-year old house painter who suffered a traumatic brain injury and aortic injury when his car was struck at a Texas intersection by another vehicle that negligently ran a red light has recovered a $26 million settlement.

Bessy Rodriguez filed suit on behalf of herself, her incapacitated husband Jose Lara Sanchez and their two children in connection with the 2010 crash in Mt. Pleasant, TX. The defendants are Jonathan Cunningham, driver of a pickup truck, and his employer Troy Construction, LLC, which owned the truck. It is Case No. 38,742 in 276th Judicial District Court of Titus County, TX.

The plaintiff’s attorney is Brent Goudarzi of Goudarzi & Young, LLP in Gilmer, TX. The case involved 34 depositions taken all over the US as well as more than 20 highly contested court hearings prior to the insurance company Berkshire-Hathaway offered is $26 million insurance policy limit, about five weeks before a jury trial.

Extensive injuries

Mr. Lara was transported by ambulance to a local emergency room, with a Glasgow Coma Score of 3 and from there, airlifted to a second hospital for more comprehensive evaluation and care.  A CT scan revealed a fracture of the right temporal bone and right-sided epidural hematoma, with underlying subarachnoid hemorrhage.

He underwent an emergent right triple craniotomy, and two days later, underwent endovascular repair of a traumatic transection of the descending thoracic aorta.  For the next three weeks, Lara was weaned off sedation and managed for rib fractures, scapula fracture, left acetabular fracture, bilateral pulmonary contusions and pneumonia.

He was discharged to a skilled nursing facility, where he got aggressive physical, occupational and speech therapies for five months before being discharged home to his family.  Lara continued to receive physical and speech therapies through outpatient rehabilitation. Altogether, he incurred $1.3 million in medical expenses.

While the plaintiffs alleged the need for lifetime medical care and the inability to return to any level of employment, the defendants alleged that a short course of appropriate outpatient therapy at an accredited rehabilitation facility would provide Lara with independence, including the potential to return to driving and return to working. This allegation was supported by surveillance video conducted over the course of multiple days, which showed Mr. Lara walking unassisted and unsupervised outside of his home, engaging in family outings, communicating with neighbors and even assisting with automotive maintenance.

The defendants also claimed contributory negligence on the part of Lara for the alleged failure to use a seatbelt, which caused his ejection and the right temporal bone fracture, hematoma and hemorrhage and most, if not all, of his residual physical symptoms, which were primarily left-sided (and controlled by the right side of the brain). Had Lara not been ejected, defendants alleged, he would have sustained no brain injury.

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Family of Construction Worker Killed in Fall from Balcony Recovers $7.5 Million

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The family an Illinois electrician obtained a $7.5 million settlement after he was killed while installing lighting on a balcony at an apartment complex, and fell after another worker left a guardrail unsecured.

Scott Liszkiewicz, age 50, was installing light fixtures on a second-floor balcony of a maintenance building of the Prairie View Apartments in Bellwood, Illinois, which were undergoing renovations on Nov. 18, 2014, when another construction worker removed the balcony’s rail in order to install siding.  The worker went to lunch instead of immediately reattaching the rail, which appeared to be secured.

Liszkiewicz suffered head and spinal cord injuries in the two-story fall and died three weeks later.

“It was obvious from the beginning that Scott’s wife Angie was determined to do what she could do to ease his excruciating pain of his catastrophic injuries all the while knowing it was only matter of time until he would pass in the hospital and not in his home.  My heart went out to her and their son Nicholas. We were determined to make sure the two of them would be taken care of to the best of our abilities,” said Philip Corboy, Jr., a Partner at Corboy & Demetrio in Chicago, which represents the estate.

The lawsuit named as defendants, CRG Residential, LLC, a Carmel, Indiana subcontractor; and CRG’s subcontractor RC Schwartz, which was hired to remove and replace siding.  In addition, Urban Innovations owned the project site and retained CRG Residential as its general contractor.

“This senseless tragedy, exemplified by a triad of construction site blunders, took away the life of a loving husband, father and breadwinner.  Miscommunications and sloppy work practices between the two defendants produced this fatality, which was clearly avoidable,” said Corboy & Demetrio Partner Edward G. Willer, who along with William T. Gibbs, also represented the estate.

The case is Angela Liszkiewicz, Administrator of Estate of Scott Liszkiewicz v. CRG Residential, LLC, Chris R.C. Schwartz doing business as RC Construction, Case No. 15C4088, in U.S. Northern District Court. Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. approved the settlement on Dec. 12, 2017.

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3 Ways to Protect Your Personal Injury Award or Settlement from Your Divorce

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What happens to your money from a personal injury award or settlement, when you divorce? The short answer is, “It depends.” It depends on whether you live in a community-property or equitable distribution state. It depends on how the money was allocated in the award or settlement. It depends on the date of the accident, the date of your separation or the date of your divorce. How the money is divided up depends on how the court in your state will approach the analysis based upon the specific details of your case.

The various scenarios go something like this:

1. Husband and Wife have been married for eight years and have three young children. Wife suffered a significant delay in diagnosis of her breast cancer, when her mammography studies were misread. By the time she was finally was diagnosed, the cancer had spread throughout her body, and she was forced to take a leave of absence from her job to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. During this time, Wife was unable to care for herself or her family, and Husband was trying to hold down his job and care for his family. Husband and Wife contacted an attorney regarding a medical malpractice case, and suit was filed against the doctor, who misread the mammography study. The claim included damages to the Wife, as well as a loss of consortium claim for the Husband. During the pendency of the litigation, Husband and Wife decided to divorce. Question: What happens to any proceeds acquired from the lawsuit?

2. Husband is in a car accident and suffers a broken leg and arm. He files a motor vehicle accident claim against the other driver, who was responsible for the accident, in order to recover money for his personal and property damages. Shortly following the accident, Husband and Wife, who had been contemplating separation for a number of months, decide to divorce. Question: What happens to any proceeds acquired from the lawsuit?

3. Husband and Wife have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a Hospital, where their minor child suffered brain damage, when during a routine operative procedure, the child’s airway was lost. Mom, Dad and minor child are awarded multiple millions of dollars, which are deposited into two bank accounts: (1) For the benefit of minor child; and (2) Joint bank account for Mom and Dad. Question: Are all or part of the proceeds from the lawsuit subject to equitable distribution, when Husband and Wife divorce?

How a personal injury award or settlement is treated in the context of divorce is highly fact-dependent. Each of the above scenarios varies slightly from the other, and may result in differing arguments as to why (or why not) the money should (or should not) be treated as a marital asset. Some of the criteria for consideration may include an analysis of the damages themselves, for example, whether the damages were for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of companionship, or damages to property. There are a number of different approaches to distinguishing personal injury settlements or awards as marital versus non-marital assets. These approaches are also considered in the context of whether the divorcing couple resides in either a community property state (such as California) or equitable distribution state(such as Florida or New York.) For example, some courts have taken a very straight-line approach, treating any personal injury award or settlement as “personal,” belonging solely to the individual injured spouse as non-marital, not subject to division in divorce. Some courts, on the other hand, have taken a more analytical approach by separating each and every element of a particular damage, and assessing whether it should fall into a non-marital or marital asset category. This meticulous approach gives significant weight to fairness of the division of property. Finally, some courts take a more simplistic approach to the problem, deeming any personal injury award or settlement as a marital asset if acquired during the marriage, regardless of the nature of the damages.

Where does this leave you?

3 Ways You Can Protect Your Personal Injury Award or Settlement from Your Divorce

1. Specifically allocate the damages claimed to distinguish what is “personal” versus “marital;”

2. Advise your personal injury attorney early-on regarding the likelihood of divorce and the need to engage or consult with a family lawyer regarding the rules in your state; and

3. Maintain an individual, separate bank account to deposit any proceeds and do not comingle those assets until issues of equitable distribution are resolved.

New York nursing home cited for saving woman who didn’t want to be saved

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Nurses at a Syracuse long-term care facility saved a resident’s life using cardiopulmonary resuscitation, even though the woman had a valid do-not-resuscitate order and was wearing a special bracelet to identify DNR patients.

The woman’s records stated she did not want to be resuscitated or intubated, wanted limited medical interventions and wished to be sent to the hospital only if necessary, according to a state Health Department inspection.

But nurses at the former James Square Health and Rehabilitation Centre took all of those steps after they found her unresponsive and without a pulse on Aug 13., Syracuse.com reported.

By the time a nurse noticed the DNR in the woman’s chart, she had already been taken to the hospital by ambulance.

The nurse who called for help after finding the woman unresponsive said hadn’t been trained on identifying DNR residents, according to Syracuse.com.

The facility was sold in December and renamed Bishop Rehabilitation & Nursing Center. New Administrator Margaret Mary Wagner said she was not familiar with the incident but told Syracuse.com, “This is a human business and people are going to make mistakes.”

“When something like that happens you have to do a root cause analysis [and] then change the process,” she added.

The inspection report describes the patient as an amputee with chronic pain, anxiety and cognitive impairment. It also describes how the five nurses who responded to the emergency failed to check the patient’s paperwork before starting or participating in CPR.

The home’s DNR-designated residents wear white and black bracelets and have red dots on their headboards as easy-to-spot reminders.

The home agreed to better educate nurses on determining whether advance directives exist.

After a hospital evaluation, the woman returned to the home unharmed, according to state documents.

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Janssen and J&J Facing Over 15,000 Xarelto Lawsuits

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2016 has been a tough year healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The company lost several multimillion dollar baby powder cancer trials, lost a $70 million Risperdal trial, and was recently ordered by a Texas jury to pay six plaintiffs over $1 billion in the third Pinnacle hip implant trial. However, 2016 could pale in comparison to what 2017 has in store for the company.

A multidistrict litigation in Louisiana houses over 14,400 Xarelto lawsuits filed against J&J and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Another 1,000 lawsuits are currently pending in a mass tort program in Pennsylvania. The first bellwether trials in these litigations are scheduled to begin in 2017, and could help determine the fate of over 15,000 currently pending Xarelto lawsuits.

Plaintiffs in the Xarelto litigation accused Janssen and J&J of failing to warn patients of the dangers associated with Xarelto, most notably the drug’s increased bleeding risk. Xarelto works to decrease the risk of blood clots by preventing the blood’s ability to clot. However, this also means in the event of an accident or internal bleeding episode, the patient experiences life-threatening uncontrollable bleeding.

Xarelto is not the only anticoagulant that has faced thousands of lawsuits over excessive bleeding risks. One of Xarelto’s competitors, the blood thinner Pradaxa, faced similar allegations and its manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, settled around 4,000 lawsuits for $650 million in 2011. Since the settlement, the Pradaxa manufacturer developed an antidote to reverse the drug’s effects.

Janssen and J&J likely won’t come out of the Xarelto litigation as lucky as Boehringer Ingelheim did in Pradaxa negotiations. With nearly four times as many lawsuits, any settlement would be costly, but so could going to trial. J&J and Janssen have four Xarelto trials scheduled to begin in March 2017, and depending on their outcome, the companies could potentially face even larger payouts to plaintiffs than in 2016.

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Jury Awards $247 Million in DePuy Pinnacle Hip Mass Tort Trial

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A federal jury in Dallas, TX, awarded six plaintiffs who were harmed by the DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. Pinnacle hip a total of $247.49 million in damages.

It was the latest bellwether trial, or test case, in In Re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2244. There are 9,226 cases before US District Judge James Edgar Kinkeade in the Northern District of Texas.

The plaintiffs, all from New York, are Ramon Alicea, Uriel Barzel, Karen Kirschner, Hazel Miura, Michael A. Stevens and Eugene Stevens Jr. The jury awarded each plaintiff between $9.3 million and $20.63 million in past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering. It then added $28 million in punitive damages for each plaintiff against defendants DePuy and parent company Johnson & Johnson.

Metal-On-Metal Design

The plaintiffs were each implanted with a Pinnacle Ultamet metal-on-metal design hip prosthesis. Each proved that the hip failed prematurely and shed metal that caused pain, inflammation, and damage to soft tissue and bone tissue and required surgical replacement.

The jury found DePuy and Johnson liable for design defect, negligent design, inadequate warning, manufacturing defect, negligent manufacture, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment to both plaintiffs and surgeons and deceptive business practices.

It also held Johnson & Johnson liable for negligent undertaking as to each plaintiff, aiding and abetting tortious conduct by DePuy and giving substantial assistance or encouragement to DePuy for negligent manufacture.

DePuy stopped selling the Pinnacle hip replacement in 2013. It had been approved through the FDA’s short-cut 510(k) approval process. The 510(k) process allows manufacturers to get FDA approval to sell a medical product if it is “substantially equivalent” to a product that the FDA has already approved.

Due to increasing safety concerns, the FDA announced that it would require all metal on metal hip replacements to undergo extensive testing and studies to prove that it was safe for patients. DePuy cited the FDA’s decision as one of the reasons it is stopping sales.

The plaintiff’s counsel is Mark W. Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm in Houston. The Nov. 16 verdict was the third in favor of the plaintiffs:

  • In March 2016 a federal jury awarded five Texas plaintiffs a $502 million verdict that was reduced to $150 million.
  • In December 2016 a jury awarded six California plaintiffs a $1 billion verdict that was reduced to $542 million.
  • In 2014 a jury returned a defense verdict.

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Resident deaths due to ‘widespread system failures,’ Hollywood Hills tells Congress

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The House committee tasked with investigating the deaths of 14 nursing home residents following Hurricane Irma should “resist the urge to vilify or demonize” staff of the facility, an attorney representing the provider said in a recent letter.

Florida has made “no serious effort” to study nursing home death rates before, during and after the storm, attorney Geoffrey D. Smith noted, and a final death toll likely won’t be available until January 2019.

Responding to a request for information from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, FL, Smith told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Friday that the facility wasn’t the only one in the state left without power or a functioning air conditioning system in the days after Irma.

Some of these facilities lacked power longer than Hollywood Hills did but did not evacuate, Smith noted, making it possible that other residents may have died or been sent to the hospital due to hurricane-related conditions.

“Please note that this information is not offered to point fingers at any other facility attempting to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but instead is offered to show that there were widespread system failures that occurred,” Smith said.

The letter also outlined state-level issues, such as a lack of communication or policy making power restoration at long-term care facilities a priority, as a factor in the chaos that followed the storm. Smith also slammed suggestions from Florida health officials and politicians that the facility should have evacuated to the hospital across the street as “simply wrong,” since nursing homes are not authorized to evacuate all of their residents to the hospital in the event of a power outage.

“While it is very easy to vilify and demonize a ‘facility’ for failures during a natural disaster, it is incumbent on elected officials and policy makers to look carefully at all the factors, identify the system failures, as well as any individual failures, and to develop appropriate public policy,” Smith wrote.

A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services official testified as part of the committee’s investigation last month, calling Hollywood Hills’ handling of Hurricane Irma and its aftermath “a complete management failure.”

SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

Trial Readiness and Motorcycles Make Litigator’s Practice Flourish

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When attorney Tom Metier calls an insurance company asking for the policy limits for a client, they listen. And it’s not just because he won $52 million at a 2016 trial, the largest personal injury verdict ever awarded in Colorado.

Defendants know that Metier will have his case ready to go to trial at the initial mediation. They also know that he’ll win at the trial, and will also pursue a second trial if necessary to collect bad faith damages.

It is this readiness to go to trial that is the foundation of The Metier Law Firm, where he practices with seven other attorneys. After 36 years as a lawyer, he still tries up to eight cases per year. “If you stay focused on being a trial lawyer, the business will take care of itself,” he says.

His trial prowess, combined with a strategic decision 10 years ago to add a motorcycle injury niche practice to his firm with Law Tigers, has grown his firm into seven offices in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Law Tigers brings his firm 150 new motorcycle cases per year. They fit perfectly with his practice representing catastrophically-injured people with brain and spinal cord injuries, burns, wrongful death and psychological injuries and PTSD suffered in plane crashes, trucking accidents, oil field and industrial workplace injuries, medical negligence and insurance bad faith.

Metier believes a trial attorney must practice his or her craft on a constant and continuing basis. “I will ask attorneys, ‘when is the last time you did an opening statement, direct examination, or cross examination?’ If they have to look at a calendar instead of their watch, they need to up their game,” Metier says.

Metier has taught trial skills at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College since 1995 and trains lawyers in numerous seminars and speaking engagements across the country. In 2017 he was named to the Top One Percent List of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. Metier is a Board-Certified Trial Advocate, a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers, a Regent of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, and a Trustee of the National College of Advocacy for the American Association for Justice. He’s been listed as a Colorado Super Lawyer each year since 2006 and is named to The Best Lawyers in America.

Traumatic brain injuries

Metier initially earned his national trial reputation by representing clients with traumatic brain injuries. “Thirty years ago, I had my first brain injury case and realized they are very big cases. I learned the medicine and the psychology of how the brain works and began taking these cases to trial.”

That’s when Tracy, a 21-year old college student, came to his firm. Though her car was slightly damaged in a crash, her face had slammed into the steering wheel. She couldn’t remember her homework assignments, she got lost frequently and was overwhelmed by the ordinary noise of a grocery store. She cried constantly and had seizures. She had a traumatic brain injury and he agreed to represent her.

“As trial lawyers we are confronted by great mysteries. How is it that a person with these accomplishments won’t be able to navigate life? The injury doesn’t show up on an MRI, imaging or x-ray. How do we put a juror into the skin of my client to viscerally understand what she can and cannot do? This is all about trial skills.”

Faced with a plaintiff with a serious TBI but no outward injury, jurors will say, “you can’t give money for that.” This is where Metier’s genuine sincerity and storytelling skills come in.

“The juror is saying they don’t know how to evaluate those losses. They don’t know how to believe those losses. They don’t know whom to trust,” Metier says. “A trial lawyer must understand that most humans only think about 18 months ahead. The future beyond 18 months is foggy and unfocused. We need to take the jury on a trip into the future to understand what the plaintiff and her family are going to experience over their lifetime, and how our client’s life will change. It’s not an event in the past, it’s about what her life will look like over time.”

“A trial lawyer needs to understand what does aging do, what does therapy do, what does medication do. It’s not just numbers and future surgeries and treatment, but what it means in a person’s lifetime — 15 years from now they’ll have another surgery. What does that mean to their self-concept and their ability to live?”

$52 million verdict

In November 2016, a Denver District Court jury returned a $52 million verdict for Metier’s client, a mother of four small children whose car was hit by a negligent driver. Mendy Brockman and her husband were driving south on Interstate 25 near Denver when a motorist crossed into their lane and hit them. In the collision, her car rolled over, broke her neck and left her a tetraplegic — paralyzed from the cervical spine down with some residual arm function. “She is capable of wheeling her wheelchair, but can’t transfer in or out of her chair,” Metier said.

Metier and his team sued the negligent driver, windshield glass maker AGC Glass, seatbelt maker Takata and Honda. He settled with Honda and AGC Glass and went to trial against Takata and the driver. “The verdict was a product of the jury coming to understand what her life and challenges were going to be.”

Except for one juror, the jury was composed of young Millennials between age 21 and 30, unmarried and without children. “We had to teach a jury with no children what it’s like for a mother of four not to be able to even brush her daughter’s hair. It is a combination of bringing our client’s experience of the past and the future into the courtroom in real time present tense, so the jury experiences them as their own,” Metier explained.

He is now pursuing bad faith claims against Travelers to collect on the judgment.

“Some people ask me why I am I so dedicated to representing those that are seriously injured. If you are a trial lawyer you could do criminal defense work or corporate work or chase the big money. But helping people who are seriously injured for me is more meaningful.”

Motorcycles and law practice

During his free time Metier is an athlete who loves to ride motorcycles. Metier owns a pearl yellow 2007 Harley Davidson Road King Custom. This is a 96-cubic inch machine with big fenders and saddlebags that is designed to ride cross-country to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills.

He is currently having a bike custom built – using a 2016 Harley Super Glide. He’ll add a turbocharger to the 103-cubic-inch engine, which he may bore out. It will have a unique paint job and will be a little longer than earlier Harleys. “I want it to be a bike so that anybody who sees it says, ‘that’s an adventure.’”

It was a near-death crash on a motorcycle that first got him into law practice. At age 22 he was riding his Triumph Trident 750 in Illinois when a Toyota pulled in front of him. He hit it at 55 miles per hour, flying into the passenger window. He wore a helmet, but still suffered a concussion and knee injury. He woke up helpless and alone in a hospital — but was relieved to find that the motorcycle community was already helping him get his bike fixed.

“So I decided to go to law school in order to represent injured motorcyclists,” he says. After law school at the University of Iowa, Metier moved to Colorado and entered private practice, focusing on getting as much trial experience as possible across a wide variety of cases. Metier now provides trial and co-counsel services to clients and law firms across the country. Metier Law Firm has offices in Denver, Colorado; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Omaha, Nebraska, as well as other locations.

150 new cases with Law Tigers

One way that Metier has built his firm is to become one of the first members of Law Tigers, a professional association of motorcycle injury lawyers founded in 2001.

Law Tigers generates 150 new motorcycle cases per year for his firm, and that number is increasing.  “The power of niche marketing, until you’ve experienced it, is unbelievable,” he says. “An attorney can have their own practice and identity, and also be a Law Tiger attorney. Being a Law Tigers member doesn’t limit who you are, it adds to who you are. Not only was it a great business decision, it’s a personal privilege.”

One of the problems for personal injury lawyers is they’re marketing to people who are already hurt. “But imagine you could have a community that looks to you before they are injured. With Law Tigers, you become an important part of the riding community first. As a result, for most riders there aren’t any alternative law firms in the riding community,” he says.

“There is a wonderful marketing program that Law Tigers provides to us,” he says. “We incorporate that into our practice in an ongoing team approach.”

The Law Tigers strategy is to dominate the niche of motorcycle injury cases in a particular state. This is accomplished through the green-eyed tiger brand, which is ubiquitous on TV, on the internet and in outdoor advertising. The brand is coupled with a grass-roots marketing program that makes an attorney a partner in the community of riders, reaching them where they shop, in motorcycle clubs they belong to and at events they attend.

“We have an ongoing relationship with motorcycle community, and as a result of that our phone rings with people who are motorcycle riders with new claims,” he says. “Not only are you able to prosecute a lot of very good PI cases, but the depth of appreciation and feeling of belonging with a niche market is extremely powerful. It’s Nirvana for somebody who loves to help people.”

For attorneys who have an ongoing successful practice, Law Tigers will more than justify itself. Adding a niche practice doubles up your success. For attorneys who are looking for a great way to build a practice, Law Tigers is golden.”

Giving back

Metier is also known in his community for giving back. He is a major sponsor of Realities for Children, a local charity that supports children who have been abused or neglected, and have been put into foster care. The program helps children with scholarships, school supplies, donated bicycles, monthly youth activities, and funds for emergencies.

“A lot of people have been abused as kids, and the motorcycle community is not immune. In the motorcycle community, there is a high devotion to kids who were abused and neglected,” Metier says.

Every Memorial Day, Metier’s firm is a major sponsor of the 2013 Guinness World Record largest-ever motorcycle poker run benefiting Realities for Children. Riding the Law Tigers scenic ride, motorcyclists pay an entry fee and got playing cards by visiting various locations. If they collect a winning hand, they win a prize. “Our firm annually generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities each year, by facilitating opportunities for others to give,” Metier says.

“Attorney rescue” cases

Metier also grows his practice with what he calls “attorney rescue cases.” This is when an attorney has taken a serious injury case, “and they realize they don’t have enough horses in the corral to take the case to trial.” As a strategy, insurance companies will try to swamp a plaintiff attorney in pre-trial motions so that they can’t focus on properly preparing for trial. Lawyers with substantial injury cases face stumbling into trial not fully prepared and exhausted. That is where Metier and his team come in.

“When we co-counsel a case, we meet very early, hopefully shortly after the case is taken. We’ll develop the damages and liability as it will be presented at trial. We test with focus groups. Every day a personal injury lawyer is not attending to trial preparation, they are being put on their heels. We bring our team in and overwhelm the defense with actions that they must respond to. Meanwhile, we’re putting the trial together, so when we get to mediation, we know what the value of the case is, we have witnesses, and everything is put together. If we can’t achieve our bottom line in mediation, we go to trial,” Metier says.

“Strength when you need it” is the motto Metier offers to attorneys who are co-counsel. “We want to help our brothers and sisters in the bar, and if we are able to help, we will.”

“Most lawyers settle cases. That’s never been my model,” Metier says. “I encourage every lawyer to be willing to take cases to trial.” Certainly, there are cases that should be settled, such as when the value of the injury exceeds the insurance coverage.

“However, for me, I couldn’t sleep at night if I thought I was settling cases that need to be tried. Insurance companies often won’t pay what they should for a brain injury, and so they won’t offer their policy limits. They won’t pay what they should without being forced to trial. We offer them the opportunity to settle for what makes sense for the client, and to the attorney. But if they won’t, we’ll go to trial and get a verdict. And if there is a second trial to get the insurance company to pay it, so be it.”

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Employee injury rates up in state-run skilled nursing facilities

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Nursing facilities ranked as the most injury- and illness-prone state-run workplace in 2016, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average rate of workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 nursing facility workers in all groupings in 2016 was 8.8. That’s more than three times as much as the overall rate for private employers across all industries.

State-operated nursing and residential care facilities had a 13.7 average rate of workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 workers in 2016, compared to 12 per 100 in 2015. Hospitals and correctional institutions had the second- and third-highest injury employee-reported rates, according to the DOL.

Privately-owned skilled facilities and those operated by local governments fared better, with injury rates of 6.5 and 6.1, respectively. Those rates are lower than the 6.8 incidents per 100 workers in private facilities and 7.2 in local government-run facilities reported in 2015.

In total, skilled nursing facilities in all three categories reported more than 259,800 non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016. Of those, 111,700 resulted in workers either spending days away from work, transferring jobs or experiencing restrictions in the types of work they could do.

The overall workplace injury and illness rate for private employers across all industries was just 2.9 per 100 workers, for a total of 2.9 million incidents, the DOL said.

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