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If you've been injured on the job, you know how it feels to be second-guessed. You're wondering if you'll be treated fairly or not. My mission is to make sure you know your rights and responsibilities and that you obtain all the benefits the law allows. Call me at 1-888-694-0174 or 334-702-0000.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Another Year and Nothing Changes

Another Year and Nothing Changes
By Tracy W. Cary


Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, "The more things change, the more they remain the same.”  But in Alabama, at least as it pertains to some needed changes in the workers’ compensation law, the more things remain the same, the more things never change.  Another year and nothing changes.   Once again, the Alabama Legislature neglected an opportunity during the 2019 legislative session to do something more to protect injured workers.  Instead, they kicked the can down the road.

First, let’s retrace our steps to figure out how we got to where we still are.  Alabama adopted its first workers’ compensation law in 1919.  Happy 100th birthday.

I hate to say it Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, but you sure look your age.  Did you know that the last major revision of Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act came in 1992?  Twenty-seven years ago?  It’s true.

Since then, we’ve been stuck on the hamster wheel of going nowhere.

Why do we need changes?  Our law that supposedly protects injured workers is so bad that a judge struck down the law as unconstitutional.

See the story here:

Just as an example of how bad the law is, did you know that if you have a permanent injury in Alabama, say you are 99% disabled from an on the job injury, the most you can get paid is $220 per week?  That’s the equivalent of $5.50 per hour.  And generally the longest period of time you can get paid those benefits is only 300 weeks.  Less than six years for a lifetime permanent injury. And it’s been that way since 1987 or so.  

Sure there have been a few attempts to change the law.  I have to point out that while the law is already bad, some folks want it to be worse.  As an example, Senator Arthur Orr from Decatur (who is also a high ranking executive for Cook’s Pest Control) has introduced a number of bills to change the workers’ compensation law.  One of his attempted revisions would have limited workers’ compensation for permanent total disability to the employee’s 65th birthday or 500 weeks, instead of indefinitely, as is now the case. It also would end an employer’s obligation to continue paying for an injury if an employee does not seek medical treatment for his injury for four years and limit liability for future benefits.  A few years later, Sen. Orr tried to close off future medical benefits after just one year of not seeing the doctor.   It’s a good thing those attempts failed and the law stayed the same.

Then, the Alabama State Bar tried to get involved to change the law.  The Bar’s president appointed a task force of lawyers on both sides - those who represent injured workers and those who represent employers, corporations and insurance companies.  The task force worked hard, reached compromises, and hammered out some proposed changes.  Then ... wait for it ....... nothing happened.  The efforts went nowhere and the workers’ compensation law stayed the same.  

In this year’s legislative session, there was never a single bill offered in either the House or the Senate that would make changes to the workers’ compensation law.  

What about next year?  There’s always next year, right?  Well, next year, 2020, is an election year.  And do you know what happens in an election year?  Just about nothing that’s considered controversial.

So what does that mean?  It means that we are going to have to hold our collective breath until 2021 to see if the Alabama Legislature fixes some of the glaring problems with the law. Or maybe, another courageous judge will have the fortitude to strike the law down once again.

Grab your popcorn.   Watch the paint dry.   It’ll be more exciting than hoping the Alabama legislature ever changes the workers’ compensation law to make things better for injured workers in this State.

Same old song and dance.

Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.

Another year and nothing changes.

Better luck next year.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

$332 million from lottery, 13,500 jobs from casinos: What gambling could mean in Alabama

Sen. Del Marsh is set to introduce a bill this week that could pave the way for a lottery and table gaming in Alabama.
As's Charles Dean put it, that's a "boom!" that will be heard around Alabama.
In an effort to sell the package, Marsh is citing at study by Auburn University in Montgomery that was commissioned by his office. Marsh, who serves as Senate Pro Tem, said he wanted to commission a study as opposed to using one sponsored by gambling interests in an effort to try and determine accurate numbers.
You'll be seeing a lot more on this proposal in the coming days but let's look at just the numbers from the AUM study. You can read the complete study for yourself here.
  • 44 – Number of states that currently have lotteries, including all states – except Mississippi – that border Alabama.
  • $425 million – Revenues generated by the Louisiana lottery. Louisiana's population is 4.65 million; Alabama's is 4.85 million. Louisiana revenue is the smallest amount generated by lotteries in states close to Alabama.
  • 56 – The percent of Louisiana's lottery revenue that goes towards prizes. Six percent goes to administration; 38 percent is available to the state. That percentage of revenue available from nearby states ranges from 21 percent (Arkansas) to 39 percent (Tennessee). National average is 33 percent.
  • 7 – Number of states that have exclusive gaming compacts with Indian tribes. Highest revenue among those states is in Connecticut, which has two casinos that bring in some $464 million in revenue a year.
  • $332 million – Potential annual revenue from state-run lottery system.
  • $492 million – Estimated gaming revenue from possible casinos in Birmingham, Greenetrack, Victoryland and Mobile. That translates to $64 million if taxed at 13 percent; $74 million if taxed at 15 percent.
  • 13,500 – Estimated jobs created if four casinos/hotels were opened in the state.
What do you think? Should Alabama have a lottery? What about table games?

Law Firms Still Victimized in Fake-Check Web Scams; Trial Looms for Nigerian Accused in $32M Swindle

Despite widespread publicity about law firms targeted in Internet and email scams that have siphoned five- and six-figure sums out of their bank accounts, some are still falling victim to the schemes.
The problem is, legitimate clients do business in much the same way as the scammers, often contacting counsel via the Internet or by email, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) notes.
A significant distinction, however, is that a cashier’s check sent by a fake client as a retainer or provided by an opposing party in a settlement paid to a scammer will be counterfeit. It can seemingly clear in a law firm’s trust account only to result in a huge deficiency when the fraud comes to light, after the law firm has paid the “client” his or her share of the settlement and/or refunded unearned fees. An earlier post provides more details of the process.
In the first case of its kind, a Nigerian man accused of swindling firms of some $32 million is facing trial later this year in federal district court in Pennsylvania.
But despite the indictment of Emmanuel Ekhator and others in a scheme that authorities sayvictimized 80 attorneys in four states, law firms are still being swindled, a prosecutor tells the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
“We have this wide-ranging scam that continues even though we have made these arrests,” says Christy H. Fawcett, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Harrisburg. “We continue to have victims, both here and in Canada.”

Man admits role in law firm scam; says he funneled $2.5M via 38 accounts last year

A Florida man has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in federal court in Tampa, concerning his role in a scheme that scammed law firms.
Muhammad Naji, 33, admitted in a court document filed last week that he funneled $2.5 million through 38 bank accounts last year, often sending money abroad almost as soon as it was wired to the accounts, reports the Tampa Tribune.
The scheme involved a claimed representation in which a “client” would contact a law firm by email, seeking help in resolving a legal dispute. If the firm accepted the claimed representation, a fake cashier’s check would soon appear. Once the law firm deposited the check and wired funds, less legal fees, to the opponent, both the “client” and the money disappeared. (As a number of law firms have discovered, just because a cashier’s check is initially honored by their bank doesn’t mean it is legitimate.)
For example, an unidentified Columbus, Georgia, law firm fell for the scheme in which Naji was involved, after being contacted by an individual who said he was President Joe Leinenger of Triple J Tool. “Leinenger” said Lee’s Tool and Die in Columbus owed his company nearly $200,000, and then later told the law firm that the other company had agreed to start paying, recounts an FBI affidavit attached to a January criminal complaint in the case.
A $98,750 cashier’s check soon arrived from the claimed president of the opposing company, in a letter mailed from Canada, the Tribune reports. The law firm deposited the check in its trust account and, after deducting $2,500 for its fees, wired $96,250 to a bank account that turned out to belong to a girlfriend of Naji.
After the money was gone, the lawyer involved tried to contact “Leinenger” by phone, but the phone number provided in the emails wasn’t legitimate either.
Naji is scheduled to enter his plea next month. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years.

After losing libel lawsuit over parody Twitter account, lawyer sues opposing counsel and newspaper

Earlier this year, attorney Todd Levitt lost a Michigan libel lawsuit over a parody Twitter account by a Central Michigan University student that mocked his “badass” approach to legal marketing.
Although it used his name, photo and law firm logo, the parody Twitter account was not actionable, an Isabella County judge ruled (PDF) in February, because a reasonable reader would not have confused it with Levitt’s actual Twitter account.
Now Levitt, who has been teaching at CMU as an adjunct, is suing again, and his opposing counsel in the earlier case, who has also been teaching at CMU, is one of the defendants, reports the Morning Sun. The newspaper, too, is among the defendants in the case.
At issue in the new suit filed Thursday in Isabella County is the public portrayal of Levitt during his earlier defamation case. He contends, among other allegations, that false accusations of unethical conduct on his part concerning a Top College Lawyer website prize were fed to the Sun, whose articles inaccurately described the content of court documents in the initial defamation case. The false portrayal hurt his reputation among his client base, Levitt said.
Scribd provides a copy of the complaint, which asserts claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, intentional interference with business expectancy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks $1 million in damages.
Central Michigan Life article provides additional details.
Attorney Gordon Bloem, who represented Zachary Felton in the original suit concerning the parody Twitter account, told the Morning Sun he had done nothing wrong.
“I am being sued because I aggressively, ethically, and successfully represented my client, Zachary Felton, in the frivolous lawsuit brought by Mr. Levitt against him,” said Bloem. “I am also being sued because I followed through on my duty to report Mr. Levitt’s unethical behavior to the attorney grievance commission.”

Suspicious lawyer finds malware on external hard drive supplied by police lawyer in discovery

An Arkansas lawyer is seeking sanctions after his computer expert found malware on an external hard drive supplied in response to a discovery request.
Lawyer Matthew Campbell of North Little Rock says he became suspicious when he received the hard drive by Federal Express in June 2014 from a lawyer for the Fort Smith Police Department, theNorthwest Arkansas Democrat Gazettereports. Previous evidence in the police whistleblower case had been provided by email or a cloud-based Internet storage service, or had been shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.
“I thought, ‘I’m not plugging that into my computer,’ ” Campbell told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “Something didn’t add up in the way they approached it, so I sent it to my software guy first.”
The technology expert found four Trojans on the hard drive. “These Trojans were designed to steal passwords, install malicious software and give someone else command and control of the infected computer,” Campbell says in a brief supporting his motion for sanctions (PDF).
The security expert said in an affidavit that the Trojans were in a subfolder rather than the root directory, indicating they were “more likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell’s computer while also stealing passwords to his account.”
Campbell says he doesn’t know who placed the malware on the hard drive, according to the Democrat Gazette. He represents three current and former police officers who contended they were subjected to multiple investigations after revealing improprieties in the department.
The motion for sanctions says malware is not the only discovery problem. Campbell alleges entire email accounts were deleted, emails that could have been recovered were purged from the system, and emails that were previously provided in response to freedom of information requests had improper deletions.
The sanctions brief adds that the police department’s information technology specialist attended a convention 10 days after the court granted Campbell’s motion to compel evidence. The expert took classes on secure data deletion, whistleblower investigation and monitoring employee activity, Campbell wrote. He did not take classes offered on e-discovery and preservation of evidence, Campbell said.
Campbell is asking that a default judgment be entered in favor of his clients and that other appropriate sanctions be imposed.
Second to the last paragraph corrected at 7:20 p.m. to state that the IT specialist attended the convention 10 days after (rather than before) the court granted the motion to compel.