Jesse Gibson Named President-Elect of Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association

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I was recently named President-Elect of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.  I am scheduled to serve as the organization's President in 2018-2019.  During my time as President in 2018, SJR8, the legislatively referred question from the most recent legislative session, commonly called tort "reform" will be on the ballot.  SJR8 seeks to place an arbitrary value on human life, regardless of circumstance or the egregious actions of the wrongdoer, of $500,000.00.  It also seeks to wrestle rule-making authority from the courts and place it in the hands of the legislature, where all judicial rules will be subject to massive influxes of lobbying dollars from special interests seeking to stack the deck and rig the game in their favor to ultimately pad their bottom lines.  This effort is but the first in a series of many that will ultimately seize freedoms from the people and place them in the hands of special interests.  Your freedoms will be on your ballot in 2018.  I hope you protect them by voting NO.  

I look forward to serving as President-Elect and ultimately as President of ATLA.  I look forward to traveling the state and having conversations about the power grab under way by special interests via SJR8.  I am committed to fighting for and protecting Arkansans.  I anticipate coming to your town soon!  In the meantime, I urge you to educate yourself about SJR8 and vote NO in November, 2018!

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Jesse Gibson Elected to Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates

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This summer, I was honored to be elected to the Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates.  In my short time in that capacity, I have enjoyed serving and offering my perspectives to fellow Bar members.  I am committed to doing all I can to serve the attorneys of this state as they fight every day to advocate for truth, justice, and equity.  Whether it be to fight against greedy special interests or personal wrongdoers, attorneys are the last best line of defense to the hard working citizens of Arkansas.  I look forward to my term and welcome any input or thoughts about how to better serve the Bar.  

Arkansas Attorney General Does Not Join Objections to Rollbacks of Nursing Home Patient Protections

This is a discouraging but unsurprising development in Arkansas.  The Trump administration is attempting to roll back regulations that prevented nursing homes from forcing the families of the elderly and infirm to sign arbitration agreements that limited their rights to bring legal action in the face of abuse or neglect.  Execution of these agreements not only normally waives the rights of families to seek redress in courts, but they often allow the nursing home to select the arbitrator, which is often one predisposed and biased towards the nursing homes' position.  Imagine a pitcher who gets to pre-select an umpire to call balls and strikes to his liking.  The potential for abuse is evident.

Attorneys General from sixteen states have objected to this giveaway to monied special interests, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.  Unfortunately, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has refused to join in these objections.  The message to patients and families in Arkansas is clear:  Not only are you on your own if your loved one goes into the nursing home.  The deck will be stacked against you should your loved one be abused or neglected.

 

 

 

Damage Caps in Arkansas Would Have No Impact on Physician Supply

Myth: If Arkansas does not pass damage caps, Arkansas risks losing doctors to states that have caps on non-economic damages.

Truth: Caps on damages have no impact on physician supply.

    How do we make decisions? Do we use fear or facts?  When fear and the emotions related to fear take over our decision making process, facts don’t matter.  People who understand human decision making have studied this phenomenon over and over.  And the startling truth is that fear trumps facts.  Sadly, this truth of human behavior is used by many powerful forces in our world today to manipulate public perceptions to achieve their own goals and desires.

     And when it comes to the subject of caps on damages, fear is the number one weapon being used by the medical industry and the insurance companies who profit from it.  How do they do it?  

     First of all, these powerful forces know that the need and desire for healthcare is one of the most important issues to each and every person.  When we are sick or injured, we want the best of care, we want it now, and we do not want to go bankrupt in the process of providing that care to our loved ones.  Medical care is necessary to our very survival.  And there is nothing more fearful than to think that the unexpected moment you or a loved one needs care, it will not be there.  It can create a sense of panic to think that the hospital emergency room might be closed, or that there may not be a doctor available.  

     So, these powerful forces start telling everyone that lawyers and lawsuits are the reason for all of the problems with health care; and in particular, they say that the cost of litigation is closing hospitals and causing doctors to leave the state for states that do have caps on damages.  So, if you don’t want your doctor to leave town, you need to agree to cap damages.  It really is that simple.

     The problem is that there is no truth in these claims.  None.  These powerful forces are lying to the public and betraying our trust.  And why are they doing it?  Because they profit when they are not held accountable for their actions that hurt people.

     So, let’s look at the facts.

  1. Three new studies by esteemed academics in the field of medical malpractice research confirm for the first time that “caps” lead to more medical errors, higher health costs and no increase in patient care physicians.

    The authors examined physician supply in nine states that enacted capsand compared the data to other states, like Arkansas, that does not have caps. Their research found “no evidence that cap adoption predicts an increase in total patient care physicians, in specialties that face high med mal risk (except plastic surgeons), or in rural physicians.” Specifically:

  • “[W]e find no evidence that the adoption of damage caps increased physician supply in nine new-cap states, relative to twenty states.”
  • “Consistent with this analysis, we also find no association between med mal claim rates and physician supply in state and county fixed effects regressions over 1995-2011.”
  • “Physician supply does not seem elastic to med mal risk. Thus, the states that want to attract more physicians should look elsewhere.”

2.    “Does tort reform affect physician supply? Evidence from Texas,” University of Illinois Professor of Law and Medicine David A. Hyman et al., 2015.

    The methodology of this study, which controls for every conceivable factor, is so accurate that a national “tort reform” proponent admitted changing his mind about the issue after examining his work.

  • A “core argument” behind the “tort reform” campaign was that “Texas was hemorrhaging physicians and limiting lawsuits would stop the bleeding. Consistent with this theme, the core pro-tort-reform lobbying organization was named ‘Texas Association for Patient Access’ (‘TAPA’).
  • “[T]he assertion by tort reform proponents that Texas experiences an ‘amazing turnaround’ after suffering an ‘exodus of doctors from 2001 through 2003’ is doubly false. There was neither an exodus before reform nor a dramatic increase after reform.”
  • “[T]ort reform did not solve Texas’ physician supply issues.”
  • Rural Areas. “[T]here is no evidence that tort reform materially affected the supply of DPC physicians, primary care physicians, high-risk specialists, or physicians practicing in rural areas.”

“Physician supply appears to be primarily driven by factors other than liability risk, including population trends, location of the physician’s residency, job opportunities within the physician’s specialty, lifestyle choices, and demand for medical services, including the extent to which the population is insured.”

3.    “The Empirical Effects of Tort Reform,” Cornell University Law School Professor Theodore Eisenberg, 2012.

    “If increasing premiums drive exit decisions, then programs alleviating premiums should have effects. But Smits et al. (2009) surveyed all obstetrical care providers in Oregon in 2002 and 2006. Cost of malpractice premiums was the most frequently cited reason for stopping maternity care. An Oregon subsidy program for rural physicians pays 80 percent of the professional liability premium for an ob/gyn and 60 percent of the premium for a family or general practitioner. Receiving a malpractice subsidy was not associated with continuing maternity services by rural physicians. Subsidized physicians were as likely as nonsubsidized physicians to report plans to stop providing maternity care services. And physician concerns in Oregon should be interpreted in light of the NCSC finding, described above, that this was a period of substantial decline of Oregon medical malpractice lawsuit filings.”

    4.    Dartmouth Medical School Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy David Goodman, M.D., M.S., 2009.

    Goodman is co-investigator of the highly respected Dartmouth Atlas, which analyzes and ranks health care spending and has been the basis of a lot of discussion about why certain areas of the county are so costly. In an email to the Center for Justice & Democracy, he said: “We haven’t explicitly analyzed this, but I agree with the impression that physician supply in general bears no relationship to state tort reform, or lack thereof.”

    5.    “Young Doctors and Wish Lists: No Weekend Calls, No Beepers,” New York Times, 2004.

    “Today’s medical residents, half of them women, are choosing specialties with what experts call a ‘controllable lifestyle.’… What young doctors say they want is that ‘when they finish their shift, they don’t carry a beeper; they’re done,’ said Dr. Gregory W. Rutecki, chairman of medical education at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, a community hospital affiliated with the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University… “Lifestyle considerations accounted for 55 percent of a doctor’s choice of specialty in 2002.”

    “…income, which accounted for only 9 percent of the weight prospective residents gave in selecting a specialty.”

Remember the great movie, “A Few Good Men” when the prosecuting attorney ended his closing argument with resounding confidence….  “These are the facts; and they are not in dispute”  The powerful forces that are behind the current tort reform movement in Arkansas hope you will disregard these facts, or choose to ignore them.  These proponents include people who have engaged in bribing a judge to reduce a verdict entered against him by a jury of the community.  These powerful forces hope to rely upon fear andignorance.  But, as we pull back the curtain, a new set of emotions should take over as we see that the people of Arkansas are being lied to; are being betrayed; and ultimately, if the Amendment passes, thrown under the bus when they or a loved one are injured and the courthouses of this State are no longer available to them for justice.  Stand with us.

    

HB 1753 - Bill to Abolish "Made Whole" Returns - More Insurance Giveaways that Harm YOU

The Arkansas General Assembly is back at it again this week, attempting to pass legislation that fattens insurance bottom lines while sticking it to their own constituents.  You might remember two years ago during the 2015 legislative session, when then-Rep. Micah Neal (R - Springdale) attempted to introduce HB 1907, which would gut what is known as the "made whole" doctrine.  Due to a groundswell of opposition, Rep. Neal tabled the bill and it died a justifiable death.  Right now, Rep. Neal has bigger legal fish to fry.

Never ones to be outdone, Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) and Senator Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) have revived this bill, which is being championed and pushed by big insurance companies.  You know, good government groups like Allstate, State Farm, Shelter, and Farmers.  All those friends of the people.  These insurance companies must be struggling financially, because this bill would allow them to reach into their customers' pockets.  Here's how "made whole" works:

Oftentimes, when a person is injured by the negligence of a third party and no fault of their own, the injured party's insurance company pays benefits for the health care the injured party receives.  Makes sense, right?  You paid your premiums for health insurance in case something bad happens, and something bad happened.  That's what it's there for, right?  But we all know that insurance companies don't really like paying claims, do they?  So they often seek "subrogation," where they step into the shoes of their insured and seek to have those benefits reimbursed by the negligent third party's insurance carrier. 

The made whole doctrine provides that unless and until the injured party is "made whole," the insurance has no right of subrogation.  Unless the person who is injured has been fully paid for all of the injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc, then and only then does the health insurance carrier have any right to be reimbursed or to "subrogate."  Makes sense again, right?  Been the law in Arkansas for years and years and years . . . until the 90th Arkansas General Assembly got together.

This bill would do away with the made whole doctrine and provide that the first entity that had to be paid out of any settlement or jury verdict is . . .who?  The injured party?  Nope.  Your insurance carrier.  Oh, but the health insurance carrier has to repay all the premiums they collected from you, right?  That would only be fair, right?  Nope.  They get to collect your premium payments and stick them in their pocket AND take money out of any settlement or verdict to repay them for the benefits they paid.  They get paid on both sides of the equation.  It's a classic double dip.

Why is this bad?  Several reasons.

1.  It requires ordinary folks who purchase insurance with their hard earned money to act as their insurance company's collection agency.  They get your premiums on the front end, and then you are pressed into service to get that same insurance company's money on the back end.  Didn't you pay them in the first place to cover you if something happens?  Guess what?  You now work for them and your insurance company gets a windfall.

2.  It's free to the insurance companies.  You and your lawyer pay through the nose.  The bill provides that no cost of collection or attorney's fees are payable to either the insured or their attorney.  Again, the insurance carrier hits the jackpot and you foot the bill.  

3.  Cases can never settle if this passes.  If you know you have to repay your insurance company every single dime before you ever see a dollar of any settlement or verdict, no one will ever have the impetus to settle a case.  The result will be even MORE litigation, MORE expense, and MORE uncertainty.  It will hardly ever make sense to settle a case, because it will almost universally go to your insurance carrier.  There will also be MORE dollars pumped into the insurance company's bottom lines.

4.   This applies to all kinds of insurance.  Not just health insurance.  Homeowners, MedPay or PIP, car insurance.  Everything.  All coverage.  You will now have a second job as a collection agency for every single insurance company you have coverage with if, God forbid, they actually have to pay something when you make a claim.

This is slot machine legislation.  Insurance companies take your premiums hand over fist every month and when they have to pay back, they enslave you and your lawyer to go get it back for them.  This is bad policy.  This is bad law.  Contact your legislator and urge them to vote against HB 1753.  The In-Session House number is (501) 682-6111.  The In-Session Senate number is (501) 682-2902.  Here are the sponsors' contact information.  Contact them DIRECTLY:

Rep. Charlie Collins.  (479) 283-9303.  clcollins6@cox.net

Sen. Jason Rapert.  (501) 336-0918.  jason.rapert@senate.ar.gov

SB 176 Would Restrict Nursing Home Employees from Obtaining Petition Signatures from Residents

Senator Bryan King (R)- Green Forest filed SB 176 today.  The bill would prohibit employees of nursing home facilities or long term care facilities from obtaining petition signatures at the facility where they are employed.  Here is a copy of the bill.

You may remember the situation that was discussed on this blog where nursing home administrators and employees combed the nursing homes where they worked to get their patients to sign in support of Issue 4, a giveaway to nursing homes and lobbyists.  Marci Manley of KARK did great reporting on that horrible situation and the potential for serious abuse.  Please watch her story here.

This bill would protect vulnerable seniors from being presented with petitions that they may not be able to understand or comprehend.  Although it was only recently filed, watch this blog for updates on this piece of legislation and others as the 2017 General Assembly moves forward.

Issue 4 Ruled Invalid and Removed from Ballot. General Session Looms Large.

Arkansas Judiciary 

Arkansas Judiciary 

On October 13, 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ross v. Martin that Issue 4, also known by its (not very) popular title "An Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits," was thrown off the November ballot.  The Court ruled unanimously, 7-0, that the ballot title was insufficient, in that it provides absolutely no guidance or definition as to what constitutes "non-economic damages."  

This decision was in accord with the companion case of Wilson v. Martin, which was sponsored by the Arkansas Bar Association, and challenged the ballot title on the same grounds the Committee to Protect AR Families utilized in Ross.  Remarkably, in the accompanying petition challenge trial, one of Issue 4's sponsors, Chase Dugger, despite being asked multiple times, could not cogently or intelligently define what non-economic damage were.  He further testified under oath in the petition challenge trial that "Joe Blow Arkansan doesn't understand what non-economic damages are."  The Supreme Court agreed, and invalidated Issue 4, directing the Secretary of State to not count any votes cast for or against the measure.  

It seemed clear during the signature challenge trial that Health Care Access for Arkansans, the group sponsoring Issue 4, knew truth and honesty would be fatal to their proposed constitutional amendment.  They instructed their canvassers to mislead potential petition signers by not mentioning that the amendment would cap such things as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the value of their loved ones' lives.  This is because they certainly knew Arkansans would not give up their rights when armed with knowledge.  So they chose to be deceptive, and told signers that it only applied to capping lawyer's fees who file frivolous lawsuits.  In fact, their own training materials and talking points clearly showed their deceptive procedures.

In the immediate aftermath of this decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court, some lawmakers have publicly stated that they will go into the 2017 legislative session and attempt to do what Health Care for Arkansans, headed up by the aforementioned Chase Dugger and Dan Greenberg spent nearly a million dollars and failed in doing.  Senator Bart Hester has proclaimed that tort reform measures like this will be a high priority to refer to the people for a vote in 2018.  The legislature has the discretion to refer three such proposed amendments to our state constitution each session.  People like Senator Hester will always side with corporate nursing homes, big insurance, and business insiders instead of you and your loved ones.

So what does this mean?  It means that your 7th Amendment rights are intact, but that are UNDER ATTACK.  Arm yourself with knowledge about what these provisions will do and how they will harm you and your family.  Arm yourself with information and stay tuned to my blog for information.  And most of all, be prepared to contact your legislator to make sure he or she knows that you do not support placing an arbitrary, one size fits all cap on the value of the most precious thing we hold dear:  Human life.  

Gibson Law Firm Offers Contingency Fee Arrangements for Commercial and Business Litigation

Historically, contingency fee agreements have been the working man's keys to their local courthouse.  For most working folks, paying an hourly rate of $100 or $200 an hour is simply not realistic.  Therefore, contingency fee cases allow the law firm to assume all risks of winning and losing via the prepayment of all case costs and no hourly charges for work performed.  In return, the firm is entitled to for a percentage of recovery (if any occurs) and repayment of costs without interest or surcharge.  This arrangement allows normal, everyday folks to pursue cases against large corporations, insurance companies, or other entities that could (and often would) spend them into oblivion and deny or delay justice.

This normal fee arrangement has traditionally applied to personal injury cases.  But times, they are a-changin'.  Many commercial business disputes or debt collection cases are being handled these days on just these same terms.  Why?  It's a good deal for clients and the attorneys.  Most contract cases have the potential for the winner to be repaid attorney's fees by statute.  Therefore, even if a percentage of recovery is paid to attorneys, as well as costs, it may actually be reimbursed by motion to the court by the winning party.  It can be a win-win.

At Gibson Law Firm, we have an extensive background in commercial and business litigation.  For several years prior to the firm's general focus on personal injury and medical negligence cases, the firm handled almost exclusively business and commercial litigation.  If you are a small business or business owner, and are in a commercial dispute and need representation, but are wary of onerous hourly fee obligations, please call Gibson Law Firm at (501) 371-9051 and discuss representation on a contingency fee arrangement.  We offer varying percentages of recovery arrangements based on responsibility of costs.  Please call or email to JGibson@jessegibsonlaw.com to see if these work for your business and commercial needs.

Medical Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. Trailing Only Cancer and Heart Disease

If you were put on the spot, and asked what the top three leading causes of death were in the U.S., what would you say?  Cancer, right?  Check.  Every single person on this planet has been touched or affected by cancer.  I can name multiple family members and even close friends who have succumbed to this horrible, awful disease.  Heart disease?  Check.  Much like cancer, heart disease has affected untold people.  Our eating habits, lack of exercise, and culture undoubtedly play a huge role, but regardless of the cause, we all are way too familiar with heart disease.

But number three?  Hmm.  Toxin exposure?  Drunk drivers?  Nope and nope.  Medical errors.  A recent study performed at Johns Hopkins found that there are upwards of 251,454 deaths in the United States EACH YEAR as a result of medical errors.  That is a group of people greater than the population of Little Rock killed by medical errors.  EACH YEAR.  And the researchers feel that this number is on the very low end of statistical data, given that a large number of errors go unreported.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in 2008 there were 195,000 deaths by medical error among Medicare patients alone.  These include the elderly and disabled, those that we value and want to protect the most.  The Johns Hopkins researches urge modification and reform in the way deaths are recorded and reported by requiring all death certificates to have a space to mark that the death was a result of a medical error.  It is the researchers' belief that such a change would lead to a staggering number of medical error deaths that they hope would eventually lead to widespread reform in medical care.  

An article from CNN is linked below.  Please read it and all information to educate yourself about the dangers of medical errors.  You and your loved ones could be affected or killed.  As you read, ask yourself "How many deaths due to medical errors is an acceptable amount?"  And then ask "How many deaths of MY family members is an acceptable amount?" These situations are more widespread than many would like to admit, even to themselves.  

 

Please, Please, Please Do Not Disclaim Medpay, Underinsured, and Uninsured Coverage

Often, when I meet with clients, it is days or weeks after the worst days (or one of them) of their life.  Either they or a loved one has been in a horrible accident, and they need lots of medical care.  Or they are injured due to someone else's negligence, but quickly learn that the person that hit them only has the statutory minimum insurance coverage of $25,000 per person, and they are faced with bills 5 times that amount.  Or even worse yet, they are hit by someone with no insurance coverage at all.  

Sometimes when faced with these situations, and I ask "What kind of insurance coverage do you have?" I am met with blank stares because they don't know.  This is entirely common.  Most folks buy insurance because they are legally required to, and never give it a second thought.  This is an easily solvable problem.  The real tragedy occurs when I locate their declarations page and discover they have disclaimed med pay (PIP) coverage, Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage, or Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.  This decision saved them a few bucks every six months when they purchased their policy, which sounded like a great deal.  Little did they know that they might need that coverage in case the worst happened.  When someone injures you, and you need additional insurance coverage to help pay for medical care or lost wages, those few bucks seem wholly insignificant.

I try to educate my clients one at a time of the value of purchasing the most med pay, UIM, and UM coverage they can afford.  As you might guess, I am insured out the wazoo, and my med pay, UIM, and UM coverage is about $40 every 6 months.  So don't skimp.  Don't try to save what is the equivalent of a pizza dinner for your family.  Spend the money and get as much med pay, UIM, and UM coverage as you can afford.  You only need it when you need it, and old Benjamin Franklin is right in this regard.  An ounce of prevention is worth (MUCH MORE) than a pound of cure.  #arlx

 

Defrocked Circuit Judge Mike Maggio Receives Maximum 10 Year Sentence

It was reported today by the Arkansas Times that former circuit judge Mike Maggio received the maximum 10 year sentence from federal judge Brian Miller.  The case involved accepting a bribe to reduce a nursing home verdict in Faulkner County from $5.2 million to $1.0 million.  In imposing the maximum sentence that was in line with the sentencing report, Judge Miller remarked that a dirty judge was more dangerous than a dope dealer, because a dirty judge made the entire public lose faith in the entire judicial system.  

Judge Maggio had sought to withdraw his guilty plea in recent days.  After that went nowhere, he begged for leniency and mercy due to a myriad of unconvincing reasons.  It is unknown where he will serve his time.  He can apparently receive some sentence reductions if he begins complying with his plea agreement and cooperates with federal investigators about the actions of his co-conspirators.  

As an editorial aside, I expect Mr. Maggio to begin cooperating post haste.  If he was concerned about serving serious jail time, that possibility just got very, very real.  I imagine there are some very concerned parties in Conway and Forth Smith tonight.  Gilbert Baker and Michael Morton cannot have much faith that Mr. Maggio will willingly serve out his time when he could minimize it by implicating them with everything he has.  This case has long bothered me, as it only serves to confirm what many believe, right or wrong, happens all the time.  The damage to the justice system in the public's eye is immeasurable.  Updates as they happen.  

For Merit Selection in Arkansas Judicial Races

With the "non-partisan" judicial elections now in our rearview mirror, I believe it's safe to say that it's time for change in how we go about electing judges in Arkansas.  The two recent Supreme Court races saw over $1.6 MILLION in "dark money" flooding our airwaves, telling the citizens that they must elect Judge Dan Kemp and Judge Shawn Womack.  (This number will surely rise as late arriving financial information is crunched)  Congratulations to both of these men, and I hope they stand by their campaign messages, and emember that they are there for the citizens who elected them and not for shady corporate entities who slaughtered their opponents campaigns and reputations to get them there.  Please understand that reasonable people are skeptical of this.  When that much money is spent trashing a candidate for our state's highest court, what other message could be received other than to behave and rule as we want . . . or else.

But it's time to realize that with Citizens United, the toothpaste is out of the tube.  The cows are out of the barn.  Insert whatever cliche you want.  Dark money will flow in from out of state (but lets not kid ourselves, a lot of it actually begins IN state, gets "laundered" by going to dark money outfits out of state, and then comes back) like sludge in every future judicial election.  The attacks were so successful, that the groups behind them should feel nothing but emboldened about their ability to buy influence and judicial races here in Arkansas.

It's time to move to a process, with strict oversight and a fair methodology, to appoint the best and brightest to the bench in Arkansas.  Even Governor Asa Hutchinson agrees.  He called for a move to merit judicial selection in his own campaign post-mortem.  Now, the devil is certainly in the details.  If we truly want to eliminate millions of fraudulent campaign ads and the sale of our courts to big business, true independence, bi-partisan oversight, and input from both the plaintiff's and defense bar is key.  But it's time to stop kidding ourselves that we can have any kind of fair election when the independent judicial election watchdog group, Justice at Stake, found the most recent judicial elections in Arkansas to contain the most vile ads and infested with record levels of outside, "dark" money.  It's time to do something different.  If corporate interests are dead set at influencing the game with their millions, with the intent of limiting your constitutionally protected 7th Amendment rights, it's time to change the game.  

Stay tuned as I put forth my proposed merit selection plan in a few days.

Frequently Asked Client Questions - Part 1

Closing in on 20 years of practicing law, with the past 15 dedicated almost solely to a personal injury practice, I have been asked some pretty strange things.  Everything from "Can I sue Waffle House for having dirt in their coffee?" to "My neighbor put a tracer in my brain so aliens can track me.  Can I sue him to get him to stop?"  But although there are some outliers, the vast majority of folks are good, hard working people who have been wronged, need help, and only desire justice and fairness.  Here are a few things that these folks tend to ask:

1.  What is my case worth?

We could talk about this issue for hours or days.  Every case is different.  And it matters what county the case is filed in, who the defendant wrongdoer is, the extent of injuries, and a vast array of factors.  But the garden variety personal injury case will be driven by medical bills and evidence, lost wages, missed work, and non-economic factors such as pain and suffering or scarring.  Further, while not every case justifies it, if punitive damages are on the table, that could greatly affect case value.  The key is to get all information to a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney.  At the end of the day, the true value is what that attorney can convince a jury of 12 people of.  To do that, you need an experienced advocate.

2.  Is my case recovery taxable?

Great question. And the answer is . . . maybe.  While speaking generally, personal injury recoveries are not taxable, certain types of recovery are indeed taxable.  It depends on the type of case and the type of recovery obtained.  It will depend on whether the recovery is for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, or another form of damages.  Again, you need a skilled and experienced trial attorney to walk you through he ins and outs of this issue.  You don't want to "win," in court and then ultimately "lose" to the IRS.

At Gibson Law Firm, we strive to give our clients top notch representation and skilled advocacy.  We will always be there to fight for our clients and to answer any questions, no matter how frequently they are asked. 

"Dark Money" Special Interest Groups Seek to Buy Arkansas Supreme Court

The Citizens United decision opened the proverbial floodgates for "dark money" to flood elections across our country.  These dark money groups do not play by the same rules as campaigns.  They do not have to disclose their donors or sources of money.  Campaigns have to adhere to strict rules regarding fundraising and disclosures of donors.  

The latest dark money group to invade Arkansas is the Judicial Crisis Network, a shadowy out of state group believed to be funded by the nursing home industry and anti-consumer groups affiliated with the chambers of commerce.  These entities seek to do nothing but add to corporations' bottom lines, often at the expense of you and your loved ones.  This group has recently dumped half a million dollars onto Arkansas airwaves in an attempt to take down Courtney Goodson and Clark Mason.  Why?  To promote good government or "good judgin'?"  No.  Because they want to move in, buy our court and restrict your 7th Amendment right to trial by jury. 

Make no mistake, the movement is afoot to buy our court out from under us.  These groups behind the Judicial Crisis Network do not care about fairness.  They care about money.  And they want to ensure they keep raking it in hand over fist.  And who have they vilified?  Trial lawyers?  The people who help you hold a drunk driver responsible or who helps a family in need in a domestic case.  The Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association has strongly condemned these groups.  Early voting starts today.  As you go to the polls, tell these dark money groups that our courts are not for sale in Arkansas.  You could be the next person who is in need of the justice they were designed to provide.  

Gibson Law Firm Participates in ATLA's Inaugural "Lunch and Learn"

Gibson Law Firm, PLLC was happy to participate in the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association's inaugural "Lunch and Learn."  The speaker was Dr. Lanita Davis, the chair of the marketing department at UALR.  She had great information about the changing media and marketing landscape and where the legal profession fits in it.  We had great discussion and exchange of ideas about the best way to market our law firms and how to get the word out about what we do in the community.  

This was a great program, and we are looking forward to next month's program, which is "Technology in the Office" presented by Alan Levar.  Please check back!

Farewell to Justice Jim Hannah

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of Justice Jim Hannah.  Justice Hannah was widely revered in the legal community for his kind temperament and great fondness and respect for the judiciary and legal system.  He was an honorable man who I had the privilege of appearing before a few times.  The Arkansas bar has lost a man who cared deeply about justice and fairness in the eyes of the law.  He will be greatly missed.  I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family.

Jesse Gibson Speaking at Upcoming CLE in Fayetteville, Arkansas on November 13, 2015!

See this guy speak about case selection at the ATLA Trial Strategies in the Ozarks CLE at the Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas on November 13, 2015.

 

 

Just a friendly heads up about a very cool CLE event that is happening up in Northwest Arkansas in a few weeks on November 13th.  This is a hell of a CLE event at a reasonable price and for you Northwest Arkansas folks, it’s right in your backyard at the Chancellor Hotel right off the square in Fayetteville.  

 

Also, and perhaps most important, this gives young lawyers the nuts and bolts, meat and taters guideline about how to intake and screen a case and how to work it up.  For young lawyers and those starting out in solo practice, this CLE will affect your bottom line and help you to learn how to turn your law degree into an income stream.  I know it can be daunting as a young lawyer when a guy comes in with a broken arm or a sore neck, and you are unsure of what to do or how to proceed.  Here is a list of things you WILL learn how to do at this CLE:

 

1.    How to objectively look at a case and decide whether or not it’s a case you can and/or should take.

2.    How to take a treating doctor’s deposition and present his or her testimony.

3.    How to effectively mediate a case.  

4.    How to persuasively voir, dire, open, and close standing before a jury.  

 

When you are trying to develop your personal injury practice, these issues often come up and it can be uncomfortable to ask for assistance.  You can get all of your questions answered at this CLE!  In addition, you will hear from a federal judge, the Honorable Tim Brooks, and hear his observations from the bench.  Here is a registration link.  I think this will be a very good CLE at a great price.  Please register today, or better yet, sign up for your season ticket!    

Judicial Bribe Case May Reach Beyond the Usual Suspects

Readers of my blog know that I have intently followed the case originating in Faulkner County Circuit Court involving the sordid tale of defrocked Judge Mike Maggio, Michael Morton, and Gilbert Baker.  The story, admitted to by Maggio in his plea agreement, is that he illegally reduced a $5.2 million nursing home verdict obtained by Tom Buchanan on behalf of the Estate of Martha Bull to $1 million in return for exorbitant cash contributions to his then burgeoning campaign for the Court of Appeals.  Once this corrupt scheme came to light, Maggio's campaign was kaput, he lost his law license, and he is looking at deserved jail time. 

Though unnamed, there were several co-conspirators mentioned in Maggio's plea agreement.  These were largely believed to be Michael Morton, the Fort Smith based nursing home mogul, and Gilbert Baker, the former politico and lobbyist with a shady history where money and politics intersect.  It has been nearly 10 months since Maggio's guilty plea, and since then, those in the legal community have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Since the investigation is being led by the FBI, it has long been believed that Maggio was cooperating with authorities and providing information and perhaps testimony against other parties involved in this truly shameful debacle.

Additional fuel was thrown onto that fire this week when Maggio's sentencing, which had already been pushed back until November 20, 2015, was again pushed back until February 26, 2016.  Is this perhaps evidence that the investigation may be spreading out to other lawmakers or additional co-conspirators?  What about other judges?  What about confidants of both Morton and/or Baker?  Best to wait and see, but it may very well be that the scope of the investigation has spread and will continue its slow sprawl, perhaps very high in state government.  I would venture to say many pols here in Arkansas are sweating and keeping a very, very low profile right now.  

Stay tuned.   

Carroll County Wrongful Death Lawsuit May Be Headed to Supreme Court

Gibson Law Firm recently defeated a motion for summary judgment, filed by the Arkansas Municipal League on behalf of the City of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in a wrongful death lawsuit pending in Carroll County Circuit Court.  The case involves the Estate of Laura Wooldridge, who died as a result of medical negligence committed by multiple parties, including employees of the City of Eureka Springs and Air Evac EMS, Inc.  The City of Eureka Springs has a liability insurance policy, which under established Arkansas law would foreclose any claim of governmental immunity it may have.  However, the mayor and city council members alleged and swore under oath in the city's motion that they had no knowledge of the existence of the policy and that former fire chief Rhys Williams obtained the policy without their knowledge or authorization.  As such, they claimed that the policy should be voided and the city dismissed based on immunity.  To make a long story short, the city attempted to back out of its own coverage in an attempt to be dismissed from a lawsuit.  Who would be harmed by such an act?  The innocent victim, who would have no recourse against the city.

Luckily, the city's assertion was quickly proven to be false.  The policy had been in place for almost 20 years and had been renewed through at least three insurance companies.  In addition, four fire chiefs and multiple mayors had renewed the policy and paid for it.  Who had signed the checks renewing the policy for the past several years?  Mayor Morris Pate, who had previously sworn, under oath and penalty of perjury, that he knew nothing about its existence.  Discovery in this matter should be interesting, to say the least.

Based upon the foregoing, the court properly denied the motion for summary judgment.  This tragic and horrible case has been reported on by the Lovely County Citizen, the local newspaper in Eureka Springs.  Please read page 5 of the attached link.

The City all but threatens to tie the case up in appeals for years instead of allowing a Carroll County jury to hear the case and render a verdict.  It does not even appear to deny its share of liability.  This appears to be more what has become an all too common refrain of "deny, delay, defend" instead of a admission of a wrong that resulted in the ultimate loss.  Laura should be here today, sending her children off to their first day of school.  Instead, her children have no mother to wave goodbye to, and a hole has been placed in her family's heart forever.  

Gibson Law Firm is committed to pursuing wrongdoers and will ultimately obtain justice in this case.  Regardless of how long it takes, or whether the defendants attempt to delay through years of appeals, Gibson Law Firm will remain steadfast in seeking justice for all of those harmed by such a careless act.   

What to do when your doctor has a change of heart about your medical negligence case.

So often, a subsequent treating physician will urge a patient to sue a prior treating physician for medical negligence, only to have a change of heart later on.  What causes this change of heart?  Who is urging him or her to have that change of heart?  What can you do?  Can you do anything?  How do you protect yourself or your loved ones?   Why won't anyone tell the truth?  

Read the article recently written by Jesse Gibson of Gibson Law Firm, PLLC.  It is a sad, but frequent occurrence.  Please arm yourself with knowledge if something horrible happens to you or your loved ones.  There are ways to deal with this unfortunate situation.  Click the link to read the article.