Interesting Legal Cases
Helicopter companies are taking everyone for a ride.
I represent a client who was seriously injured and had to be transferred from a local Chester County hospital to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. The decision was made to transfer the client by helicopter.
The bill for the 21 mile flight was $29,800.
Health insurance will not pay the bill.
An ambulance ride for the same distance would have been $1,000.
I have two major questions as to why a person should go bankrupt for a 15 minute helicopter ride. First, was the helicopter necessary? If a life-threatening condition exists and time is of the essence, then helicopter transportation would be justified in order to save a life. In this case, my client had sustained a serious leg injury and it was necessary to transport him to trauma hospital quickly. However, the helicopter ride was actually two times longer than transportation by an ambulance.
A Quicker Ride by Land to the Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia
At 9:00 at night, an ambulance ride from the Chester County Hospital to Philadelphia would have taken 35 minutes. From the time the helicopter company was called until the time my client was delivered at Jefferson was over an hour and ten minutes. Even though the helicopter ride took about 12 minutes, there was a great deal of time spent in flying the helicopter to the first hospital. The helicopter arrived almost 45 minutes after it was dispatched.
Even if a situation dictates that a helicopter should be used, why does it cost so much? The base price of a helicopter for any transportation is $24,000. The additional $5,800 was for “rotor miles.” Why does it cost $5,800 in fuel and maintenance to go 21 miles? You can fly first class on a jet plane from New York to Los Angeles for half the price. You and your family can take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon for less than one-tenth of the price. It seems to me the price of $30,000 for a short helicopter ride is set because the helicopter company can justify charging whatever they want in order to save a life.
Two years ago, I had another client who had a longer helicopter ride from an accident scene to a trauma center. The cost of the ride was $16,000, and I thought that that was prohibitive. I think that a $29,800 bill for a 21 mile ride is highway robbery.
There was a recent case in Montgomery County where the plaintiff had been attacked by a vicious bulldog owned by his neighbors causing permanent facial scarring. Three years into this dog bite legal case during pre-trial deposition testimony, the plaintiff suddenly died of a heart attack. This personal injury case was amended from a simple negligence action to add a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff’s estate alleged that the decedent’s heart attack was caused by the cumulative anxiety, fright and fear of death he experienced during the vicious dog attack and by being forced to re-live this domestic animal attack during his deposition despite the fact that the heart attack occurring several years after the dog attack.
Dog Bite Cases in Oxford, West Chester, Parksburg & Coatesville, PA
I have handled many dog bite cases in Oxford, West Chester, Parkesburg and Coatesville in Pennsylvania which have resulted in serious injury and permanent scarring. I am thankful I never experienced representing a client who suffered a heart attack or died during the course of the proceedings. The issue in such a case would boil down to whether the jury believed that the heart attack was a direct result of the dog bite attack or, in other words, was the “proximate cause” of the personal injury which had occurred three years earlier.
The jury agreed with the plaintiffs and awarded a sum that they felt was fair for the wrongful death of someone aged 57.
Personal Injury from Dog Bites
Over 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and approximately 20% of them needed medical attention. Tens of thousands of these people require reconstructive surgery as a result of their dog bite personal injury, and many of those bitten by dogs are children. As personal injury lawyers we can’t reverse what happens, but we can try to assure that the injured folks we represent receive just compensation which includes the substantial medical costs often involved. Additionally, we can be proactive in the legal communities to positively influence and input legislation that keeps the system fair to all.
The other day, I read a story about someone in Congress screaming that we ought to pass a law placing caps on medical malpractice lawsuits. This argument has gone on in Washington for the past 25 years. “Caps” would limit awards for pain and suffering to $250,000. From a legal liability perspective on personal injury settlements – this capped amount on pain and suffering awards often seems inappropriately small considering the amount of negligence involved.
The headline made me think of a client I represented years ago. The client was recovering in the hospital from pneumonia. During the evening hours, she felt excruciating pain in her left calf, followed by numbness. The house doctor came in and made a diagnosis of “possible arterial occlusion,” but no medical tests were done that night. When the tests were finally performed the next day, the clot was too well solidified to be broken up, and the client underwent an above-the-knee amputation.
The client was not working and, therefore, there was no wage loss. The medical bills did not have to be paid back so we could not include them in our settlement demand.
A Pennsylvania Personal Injury Settlement
The case was settled for $600,000. The client died from an unrelated disease a year after the amputation. If not, the settlement for pain and suffering would have been higher.
If personal injury “caps” had been passed, either in Washington or Harrisburg, the settlement would have been limited to $250,000. As a Pennsylvania law firm negotiating and going to trial on behalf of victims of gross personal injury negligence, we strongly feel that the pain and suffering award caps are not something to support in legislation.
I recently read a book titled, “Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge.” It was written by Frederic Block, who is a judge in the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York. The book is about Judge Block’s life as a lawyer and a United States Federal judge.
The Brooklyn, NY born Frederic L. Block graduated from Cornell Law School in 1959.
The first half of this wonderful book discusses his 30 years as a lawyer practicing in a small town in Long Island. Judge Block initially opened up a law office with no partners and no cases. How he made a living practicing law is a compelling story.
Federal Judge Career
What is even more interesting is his career as a Federal judge. Judge Block is probably the first Federal judge to write a book about the Federal court system while still being a judge. He sat on cases involving the mob, terrorists, as well as every legal issue one could imagine. In 2004 he tried a money laundering and racketeering case, resulting in an almost ten year sentence for Peter Gotti of Gambino family notoriety. Block also sat on cases involving Kitty Genovese and the Crown Heights riots.
The book should be read by every high school or college student who aspires for a career in the law. It is written in a way that brings the understanding of intricate legal cases into language both enjoyable and understood by the non-legal lay person. Judge Block’s overview of his career shows the justice as well as the injustice in the legal system, and is one man’s account in dealing with it.