Monthly Archives: January 2013

Football Comes at a Great Cost

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head-injuriesOn New Year’s Day, Stephanie, Max, and I went to a family gathering. Before I could take my coat off, my nephew came up to me and said, “Uncle Tim, you gotta see this hit, you’re not going to be believe it!”

He pulled me into the great room to watch the continuous replay of Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end for South Carolina, smashing into Michigan running back, Vincent Smith, on the big screen.

The riveting hit was shown over and over again and announcers sensationalized the fact that the vicious impact actually separated Smith from the football and his helmet.

The Twitter action was fast and furious. Virtually every comment glorified the play. One tweet even called it “the greatest play ever.”

ESPN had a website poll that queried, “Was Jadeveon Clowney’s hit the best ever?”

The response from across the country was overwhelming.

As I sat on the sofa in a room filled with relatives and watched the endless replays, I could only feel one thing: overwhelming sadness for the two players involved.

Head Injuries are No Joke

As a personal injury lawyer representing the injured victim throughout the United States for 32 years, I know all too well the devastating effects of head injuries.

Undeniable scientific evidence shows that head injuries are permanent and progressive in nature. Violent blows to the head cause small abnormal tangles of protein in the brain, extensive cell death, and may cause the the brain to actually shrink.

This was first discovered in studies of boxers who developed dementia and symptoms resembling Parkinson’s. Athletes who are affected with the disease are often described by neuropathologists as having violent personality swings, depression, increased irritability, short term memory loss, and trouble with attention.

You may remember this scene from one of the Rocky movies: a reporter asked Rocky if he thought he sustained any brain damage through his boxing career. Rocky responded, “I don’t see any.”

Well, guess what, sports fans? We are beginning to see damage being done, and it is an ugly picture.

The sports world was abuzz when Junior Seau, the former All-Pro NFL linebacker committed suicide in May of last year. Searching for answers, Seau’s family sent his brain to researchers and the answer was simple: 20 NFL seasons had taken a
devastating toll.

Personality Changes, Memory Loss, Suicide?

Now, according to the New York Times, Seau’s family is in the middle of suing the NFL, helmet-maker Riddell and various other organizations. Seau’s family is seeking restitution for failure to warn football players of the lurking danger of devastating head injuries and possible long-term effects, such as those that caused Seau to lose cognitive ability and take his own life.

Brain damage identical to Junior’s has been found in the autopsies of two other ex-NFL players who committed suicide: Andre Waters of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears.

Around the time of Seau’s suicide last year, approximately 2,000 former NFL football players brought a class action lawsuit against the NFL. The claim, like that brought by Seau’s family, was based upon the allegation that the NFL had purposefully concealed the risk of brain injury from players.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hidden Consequences of Helmet Hits

Although there are several lawsuits and news stories exposing the horrific consequences of sports-related head trauma, no one is carrying the torch higher in the air than Jean Rickerson of Sequim, Washington.

Jean’s 16-year-old son was a star varsity football quarterback in 2008. In November of that year, Drew was the victim of a helmet-to-helmet collision. Within minutes, he began to stumble, lost his eyesight and hearing, and was unable to talk.

As Jean began to educate herself, she quickly realized she was in the deep end of the pool. It wasn’t until she sought help from Dr. Stan Herring, the Medical Director of the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners and now co-chairman of an NFL concussion sub-committee, that she begin to realize the enormity of the problem.

In an effort to educate and promote change, she launched sportsconcussions.org – a highly informative website made to spread awareness about the serious consequences of sports-related head injuries.

While Jean’s tireless efforts and her revolutionary website are a living testimony of a mother’s love for her son, the website fails to address any real solution to the problem.

Head injuries in football are inevitable and permanent.   There is no helmet, no matter how well fitted, that will protect players.

We, as a society, cannot rely on high school, college, and NFL organizations to rock the boat on the multi-billion dollar business of football.

We must educate parents and coaches on how to number one, detect head injuries and secondly, how to treat them.

What Goes Into a Pharmaceutical Malpractice Case? Getting Legal #98

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It takes unwavering commitment and a lot of resources to bring a case for a pharmaceutical malpractice claim.  I am dedicated to getting dangerous drugs off the market and helping victims find justice.  Let me explain:

Getting Dangerous Drugs Off the Market – Getting Legal 97

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What is Mediation?

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what is mediation? Cleveland attorney explainsGoing to trial is no fun.

In fact, many clients have told me they were hesitant to bring a claim because they feared walking to a courtroom.  On the other side of the coin, some of my clients boldly proclaim the desire to “have their day in court.”

Trials are expensive and time-consuming, but if you are seeking justice, what else can you do?

Mediation can be a good alternative.

Mediation Process

The mediation process is simple. When two parties are unable to reach a resolution, they may engage in mediation. The first step is to select a mutually agreed upon mediator. Often times, the mediator is a former judge, who is impartial and understands the law.

Mediation is, in effect, a mini-trial. Both parties present evidence and testimony to support their position. The mediator initially attempts to seek common ground between the two parties.  Then he or she will focus in on the key issues to determine where a compromise can be
made.

Both parties, during the process, are typically in different rooms. The mediator will physically go back and forth in an effort to whittle away the differences. By the end of the day, even if a joint resolution is not achieved, much has been accomplished, and the parties are one step closer to reaching an agreement.

Mediation Results

I am a huge advocate of mediation.  In all my years as a Cleveland personal injury attorney , I have learned that if you develop your case properly and articulate your arguments, you have a real chance of getting exactly what you want in mediation.

I recently advocated cases in mediation that resolved for $75,000, $80,000, $216,000, $750,000, $2.1 million, $3.5 million, and $5.25 million!  My clients didn’t have to go to trial and still were able to get the compensation they deserved.

Mediation vs. Litigation

One distinct advantage of mediation over trial is that once you reach a resolution it is final, whereas with the trial process, a jury’s verdict may likely be argued in the court of appeals for several years.

Another advantage of mediation is that it is confidential.

In the beginning of any mediation, the mediator sets forth guidelines that anything discussed is in strict confidence. This means that the general public cannot gain access to the facts of the case. A trial, however, becomes part of the public record. And, we know that once matters become part of the media they have a tendency to take on a life of their own.

I often use mediation in my work as a Cleveland medical malpractice attorney, but mediation isn’t just limited personal injury matters. In fact, mediation is common for many types of domestic disputes, such has custody and divorce matters.

I hope you never face the prospect of a trial, but if you do, mediation can be better alternative for many cases.

Why I Fight for Personal Injury Victims – Getting Legal #96

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Today I’m talking about how my own family’s tragedy inspired me to become a Cleveland personal injury lawyer and fight for victims and families who have been devastated by catastrophic injury and wrongful death.

Have I ever told you how my grandmother changed the direction of my life?  Here’s the story!

I was recently featured in Cleveland Magazine, so grab a copy to read more details!

EMH Elyria Hospital Medicare Fraud!

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EMH Elyria Hospital unnecessary procedures angioplastiesElyria Hospital, Doctors to Settle Medicare Heart Stent Allegations.” read the headline of the Cleveland Plain Dealer this past Saturday. Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been a patient at EMH Medical Center near Cleveland.

And, you say to yourself, “Wait a minute … that’s where I had my heart stent procedure done.”

As you feverishly read the story, you learn that the EMH Elyria hospital and the affiliated physician practice, North Ohio Heart Center, agreed to pay the federal government $4.4 million dollars to settle allegations that the hospital, over a 6 year period, billed Medicare for implanting heart stents in patients who didn’t need them.  Patients, just like you, who trusted the hospital with their health and their life.

In this flush of shock and anger you ask yourself, “Are my stents unnecessary…did I endure this high risk and expensive procedure just so the hospital and doctors could make a profit?”

You keep reading, even though the news story is sending your already delicate heart racing.  You can hardly believe this happened in Elyria, Medicare fraud was something you never would have suspected of a local hospital.

The New York Times reported that Kenny Loughner, former manager of the hospital’s cauterization lab, filed his whistle-blower complaint in October 2006. He described in detail how doctor’s urged nurses to falsify complaints of chest pain to justify unnecessary angioplasties.

Steven M.Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said that aside from the cost billed to Medicare, performing medically unnecessary cardiac procedures puts patients’ lives at risk.

Dr. John Schaeffer commented on the Medicare fraud allegations settlement, but the chairman of North Ohio Heart Center just added insult to injury.  He marginalized the scathing facts commenting, “We choose to settle rather than go to court. We felt confident we were making the correct choices for our patients. We still do.”

Let me tell you something – there is no way on God’s green earth that a major hospital conglomerate paid $4.4 million to the Justice Department unless they realized that a part of their anatomy is in the wringer.

Medicare fraud is a serious and rampant problem in our nation’s health care system.  As a Cleveland medical malpratice attorney, I am aware of doctors that are currently serving prison sentences for Medicare fraud. I can think of doctors who were jailed and their crimes didn’t put patients at risk like the Elyria Medical Center staff did, and the amount of fraud was a fraction of the Elyria settlement. What will EMH Medical Center, North Ohio Heart Center, and specifically, Dr. John Schaeffer, learn from the spanking by the United States Justice Department?

Not a gosh-darn thing.

And, if that doesn’t give you chest pains, nothing will.

How to Measure Success

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Misny medical malpractice attorney cleveland magazine coverDoes this photo show success?

The idea for the photo came in response to my recent success as a Cleveland medical malpractice attorney in resolving two groups of mass pharmaceutical tort claims: one for $50 million and another for $42.5 million.

It was taken by the very talented Jeff Downie. The photo shows me holding a stack of $100 dollar bills in one hand, while a cascade of money floats down upon me.

Over the last month, I was interviewed on four separate occasions by Jennifer Keirn for her feature story about me in the January issue of Cleveland Magazine.

The article is currently online at clevelandmagazine.com, titled, “Welcome to Misnyland.”

In addition to the in depth face-to-face interview of me, Jennifer painstakingly talked with over two dozen members of my family, friends, business associates, and acquaintances.

I have to admit I was holding my breath.

Although I’ve been the subject of many newspaper and magazine articles over the years, you never really know what to expect. Reading Jennifer’s story for the first time, I was very impressed with her overall knowledge of my life and her precise attention to detail.

The reaction I got from those who read the story was a revelation. One person, who knows me very well, emailed me and said, “I knew you were a success, but I didn’t realize you were that big of a success.”

Well, those are kind words, but this statement prompted me to think about the real meaning of the word success. I don’t think that money is the definition of success, but what is?

Everyone has their own personal idea of what success is. My mother and father considered themselves successful because they raised a good family. My 3-year-old son considers his 11-day-streak without a potty-training accident to be a success.

Others might point to a particular achievement, whether it is playing in the National Football League, holding a prestigious political office, or simply getting a good grade on an exam.

I have my own definition. A successful man or woman is the person who is at peace with their god, their fellow man, and themselves.

Think about that.

It really, truly has nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth, status, or the accolades that our society deems significant. It has everything to do with one’s essence and his or her moral fiber.

Over the years, as a former police prosecutor, attorney for the Cleveland Police Patrolman Association, and as a personal injury attorney for the injured victim and their families for 32 years, I have encountered virtually every type of person you can imagine.

Believe it or not, only a fraction of those were, in my eyes, “a success.” Real success is rare.

I have recently been lucky enough to get to know two people that I think completely embody my definition of success – Richard Osborne, the President of Villa Angela St. Joseph High School and Sister Corita Ambro, CSJ, from St. Augustine Parish, both in Cleveland, Ohio.

Success gives back

Richard Osborne St Joes High School Cleveland presidentRichard Osborne, a 1969 graduate from then St. Joe’s High School, returned to his alma mater to pursue his passion and take over as president of the Cleveland high school, after a very long, successful career in publishing.

He was quoted saying, “I’ve had a lot of wonderful jobs over the years, but this one at VASJ is special…I have no intention of ever taking another job.”

When Richard became President, Villa Angela in Cleveland was backsliding. Enrollment had been steadily decreasing and rumors were rampant that this proud, private Catholic institution may close its doors.

Under this guidance, enrollment at VASJ has increased 25% in each of the last two years, and 100% of last year’s graduating class went on to college.

Although these facts are truly impressive, what is most amazing is the man himself. In every conversation I have with Richard, it is abundantly clear each student, faculty member, and member of the support staff is precious to him in their own way. And the icing on the cake – he constantly reminds me how lucky he is to be somewhere that he loves so dearly.

Richard Osbourne is a success.

Success is selfless and humble.

Sister Corita is Cleveland’s version of Mother Teresa. Boy, I know that must sound like a big overstatement, but it’s not.Sister Corita how to measure success in Cleveland

She is selfless. She is humble. And, as the Director of the Hunger Center and an advocate for the deaf and poor for 35 years, she has dedicated her entire existence to helping people who are overwhelmed by problems we can’t even begin to comprehend.

St. Augustine Church’s Ministries to the Disabled includes a long list of programs and services, such as a Hunger Center, the Summer Garden which grows food for the poor, the Beatitude Ministry which serves children with disabilities, the Rainbow Camp to provide activities for disabled children, as well as helping the homeless and fundraising.

Sister Corita’s dedication to St. Augustine, these wonderful programs, and the people she serves is astonishing and humbling.

Sr. Corita is a success story.

Instant success or life’s work?

Becoming a success cannot be achieved overnight. Life often times moves at its own pace and in its own direction, but if we never lose sight of the ultimate goal of being peaceful with our god, our fellow man, and ourselves, we have a real chance of being a success.