Articles Posted in Class Action

refineries_haifa_israel_night-1024x682While headlines often tout substantial monetary awards for injured workers, the intricacies of such compensation might remain shrouded in mystery. Behind every high-stakes verdict lies a meticulous process of presenting compelling evidence to substantiate the array of damages claimed. In a recent case involving workers at a Firestone Polymers plant, the multifaceted nature of damages is unveiled, shedding light on the need for robust legal representation to navigate the diverse categories of compensation.

Workers at Firestone Polymers plant near CITGO Petroleum Company’s refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, were exposed to higher than permitted sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide levels. Eight individuals who worked at Firestone filed a lawsuit against CITGO. At trial, the court held the employees’ exposure to the higher than permitted levels of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide caused their injuries, including headaches, coughs, eye and sinus irritation, and sore throats. The trial court awarded damages based on the workers’ injuries over three years. Although CITGO agreed it was liable, it appealed the damages awarded to the injured workers.

On appeal, CITGO argued the trial court’s award of damages for fear of future injury was duplicative of the mental anguish damages. CITGO also argued there was insufficient evidence to support the fear of future injury and medical expense damages awarded to the workers. 

nuclear_waste_radioactive_trash-1024x529Exposure to naturally occurring radioactive materials generally increases due to human activity. Proving harm from these activities may be difficult, however. The following Jefferson Parish case demonstrates the need for substantiating your injury claim with evidence. It further shows the weight a court may place on expert witnesses.   

In this case, over 1,100 individuals, referred to as the “Dottie Adams” plaintiffs, filed a petition together stating they were either directly or indirectly harmed by exposure to radioactive material caused by Exxon Mobil Corporation, Mobil Exploration, and Producing North America, Inc. (“Exxon”), and Shell Oil Company, Shell Offshore, Inc., SWEPI LP, ConocoPhillips Company, and Alpha Technical Services, Inc. (“Shell”). The Dottie Adams plaintiffs all lived, or currently live, in Harvey or worked near the contaminated Grefer Tract, a 33-acre industrial tract in Harvey.  

After years of litigation, Exxon filed motions for summary judgment alleging that several of the Dottie Adams plaintiffs could not substantiate their claim that they or their property were exposed to radioactive material above naturally occurring background levels. In their motions, Exxon included an affidavit from its expert health physicist, who stated, in part, that it was more likely than not the plaintiffs’ properties were not impacted by the naturally occurring radioactive material from the operations occurring in the Grefer Tract. 

refinery_petroleum_oil_industry-2-1024x683When another or a company’s actions harm a person, he is entitled to financial relief under Louisiana law. The law also requires proof of damages to prove entitlement to monetary compensation. Damages are proven by submitting facts to a trial court. Sometimes the parties agree upon the facts, and sometimes they are disputed. 

Another way of providing facts to the Court is through Judicial Notice. This legal concept allows a court to take notice of facts generally known within a community or otherwise cannot be reasonably questioned. What may be known in the community can still be a disputed issue at trial. The following case, which involved the Berniard Law Firm’s clients, raised the question concerning judicial notice of facts when it can and cannot be used in Louisiana trials.

An industrial accident occurred at Chalmette Refining’s St. Bernard facility on September 6, 2012, due to an emergency shutdown. The sudden shutdown caused a release of nineteen tons of regenerated catalyst over a large portion of St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish homes and property.

gefahrguttransport-1024x768When a chemical leaks from a local business and spreads to a residential area, it is easy to assume that the company has exposed itself to liability for every person exposed to the leak. But what does someone have to prove to be compensated for their exposure? A case out of Avondale explores this question after twenty people were claimed to have been exposed to hydrochloric acid (HCl).

In 2001, a storage tank belonging to McGowan Working Partners, Inc., an oil and gas company, began to leak, causing a vapor solution of HCI and water to blow from the defendant’s property in Avondale to the northwest into the intersection of Jamie Blvd. and Highway 90. Before the leak, a McGowan employee replaced a clear plastic hose on the storage tank and used a nylon fitting to connect the hose to the tank’s valve. Unfortunately, the employee was unaware that HCI causes nylon to deteriorate. Several days later, 600 gallons of an HCl solution were unloaded into the storage tank, and about 470 gallons escaped onto the ground of the McGowan property. The HCI vapor began to spread off the property at 3:10 am, and the valve from the storage tank was shut off at 4:35 am. People exposed to HCI can experience eye and nose irritation which could develop into throat irritation and breathing difficulty. The HCI emissions were shown to stop affecting people at 5:30 am.

Twenty people who lived and worked in the surrounding area sued McGowan in a mass tort suit for exposure to the HCI vapor. A mass tort is when multiple people come together to file a lawsuit against a person or entity responsible for causing all their injuries. The trial court ultimately sided in favor of all twenty plaintiffs and awarded them damages ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. 

court_hammer_auction_law-1-1024x768Most consumers in the U.S. are aware of increasingly high medical costs. For most people, those high costs are not directly paid; instead, they appear on a bill along with what one’s insurance company will pay as part of an agreement with the medical provider. Many insured consumers will look for “in-plan” medical providers to ensure that most costs are covered. Those “in-plan” providers are part of a preferred provider organization (PPO), which is a subscription-based medical arrangement that allows a substantial discount on rates to be charged. 

PPOs are organized by separate companies that generate revenue by charging an access fee. This type of PPO arrangement sets the backdrop for Best Comp, a recent case by the Louisiana Court of Appeals where plaintiffs sought class certification and defendants, the PPO, challenged it. The central evidence that plaintiffs presented for class certification was a data disc containing a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet showing the recommended discounts for each provider.  

The plaintiffs were Opelousas-based healthcare entities representing healthcare providers who treated employees under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The providers subscribed to PPO agreements with defendant Bestcomp, Inc., and alleged that Bestcomp discounted their billing without the notice required by statute La.R.S. 40:2203.1

petro-chemical-plant-1313597-1-1024x683SHEILA GUIDRY, ET AL., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated VERSUS DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, ET AL., Eastern District Court of Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-12233 Class Members Please Take Notice of the Following Important Announcement:


SHEILA GUIDRY, ET AL., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated VERSUS DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, ET AL., Eastern District Court of Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-12233, SECTION: F; JUDGE: MARTIN L.C. FELDMAN, MAG: #4, KAREN WELLS ROBY

petro-chemical-plant-1313597-1-1024x683SHEILA GUIDRY, ET AL., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated VERSUS DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, ET AL., Eastern District Court of Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-12233 Class Members Please Take Notice of the Following Important Announcement:


SHEILA GUIDRY, ET AL., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated VERSUS DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY, ET AL., Eastern District Court of Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-12233, SECTION: F; JUDGE: MARTIN L.C. FELDMAN, MAG: #4, KAREN WELLS ROBY

ortho-1024x683When a healthcare provider is dealing with workers’ compensation cases, the outcome can be a bureaucratic nightmare. When insurance companies also get involved, legal disputes are bound to arise. Courts have to navigate these cases, even when they seemingly end in a mutual settlement agreement by all parties.

In this instance, a case was brought by an orthopedic surgery office (“Plaintiff”) against Bestcomp, Inc. (“Bestcomp”). The Plaintiff filed workers’ compensation medical bills and claimed that Bestcomp had improperly discounted these without providing notice. Other plaintiffs joined in on the lawsuit, and the lawsuit expanded to cover multiple defendant entities and insurance companies, as well. The Plaintiffs entered a Class Settlement Agreement and General Release with most of the defendants. The current appellees (“Appellees”) are two of those defendants, Stratacare, Inc. (“Stratacare”) and Rehab Review, Inc. (“Rehab”), and the appellants are the insurance companies connected with them (“Appellants”).

All parties agree that releasing roughly 45,000 claims in a settlement agreement was a mistake, so a motion to amend the agreement to remedy the error was filed. The Appellants, however, believe that Rehab was released in the next section of the document. They opposed the motion and filed exceptions such as res judicata (meaning an issue that has already been judged upon), lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and no right of action. The trial court denied these exceptions and allowed the agreement to be amended. The court reasoned that the settling parties did not intend to release Rehab, and this clause was “an undisputed mistake” inconsistent with the rest of the record and thus likely a clerical error.

american-flag-1629938-1024x522The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm have made strides in a multidistrict litigation lawsuit against 3M Company concerning the 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs supplied to the United States military personnel from 2003-2015. After a whistleblower lawsuit alleging a defect in the earplugs, 3M agreed to pay over 9 million dollars to end litigation surrounding the case. However, 3M did not admit to any defect in the product. Considering the vastness of this case spanning to courts in Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana and many others, the case has been centralized to be litigated in the United States District Court of Florida Pensacola Division as of April 9, 2019.

The Berniard Law Firm and the Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm are already involved in the multidistrict litigation process representing hundreds of veterans and their interests, and the firms expect to file hundreds of these lawsuits in the coming months. Moreover, Jeffery P. Berniard is seeking a leadership position in this multidistrict litigation case and will be appointed as a member of a committee to work on behalf of all of the Plaintiffs who file cases into the consolidated litigation. The leadership position would entail being part of a team that is responsible for coordinating discovery and other pre-trial work in this MDL. As of April 19, 2019, the Court began the process of appointing the plaintiff leadership structure. Considering Mr. Berniard’s participation in past mass litigation cases and the high volume of clients signed onto this case it is expected that Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm will be active in this litigation.

A recent Order by the Court task with dealing with the Pretrial concerns of these consolidated cases allows for “Direct Filing” into the MDL. Usually, the procedural rules of Federal Court do not allow Plaintiffs to file lawsuits in Districts where they have no jurisdiction or venue. However, in order to promote efficiency the transferee district, Judge M. Casey Rodgers, is allowing Plaintiffs to direct file their 3M Tinnitus and hearing loss lawsuits into her district. This was a great decision by the Court and The Berniard Law Firm and the Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm will file hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of their clients into this district in the coming months. The “Direct Filing” Order does point out that filing into the transferee district has no effect on the Defendant’s ability to allege a statute of limitations defense. This means that if your case is filed late you could lose all rights that you have to go after 3M or any party who could be held responsible for your hearing loss or tinnitus. You should act immediately in order to ensure you protect your rights.

memorial-day-1446659-1024x683A report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers shows that Tinnitus and hearing loss are the number one and two health conditions among military veterans. In 2017, almost two million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for tinnitus and over a million were receiving compensation for hearing loss. Recently a whistleblower lawsuit was settled that could shed some light on why so many of our Veterans are having hearing related issues even though they were supplied earplugs. While 3M did not admit any guilt in settling the lawsuit, many new lawsuits are being filed on behalf of the individual Veterans who have hearing loss or Tinnitus in order to seek compensation for 3M allegedly knowingly supplying faulty earplugs to the United States Government for use by members of the Armed Services.

The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm have already taken steps to protect veterans that are suffering from hearing loss and/or tinnitus at the hands of the 3M Company. As a whistleblower lawsuit alleges in 2016, 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs supplied to soldiers from 2003-2015 contained a dangerous design defect. The lawsuit alleges that when the earplug was used as it was intended to be used, the plug can become loose in the ear — thus leading to a failure in providing vital hearing protection. Moreover, this lawsuit alleges that 3M employees were aware of these dangerous defects as early as 2000, three years before 3M became the sole provider of earplugs to the United States military.

The lawsuits that have been filed by numerous law firms alleging that 3M knowingly sold faulty earplugs to the U.S. Department of Defense have all been consolidated in one centralized court by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The Northern District of Florida has been selected as the transferee district, with Judge M. Casey Rodgers presiding over the centralized cases. This means that any case filed by an individual that alleges 3M caused them harm due to use of the dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs will be transferred to Judge Rodgers court where she will rule on issues related to the cases.  The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to consolidate all of the cases in Judge Rodger’s Court in order to eliminate duplicate discovery, to eliminate inconsistent pretrial rulings as well as to generally conserve the resources of all the parties involved include the judiciary. The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm are actively participating in these coordinated proceedings in Judge Rodger’s court and will continue to work on behalf of all the Plaintiffs with cases filed into the transferee district.

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