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Woman Allegedly Files Fraudulent Workers’ Compensation Claims

A woman living in McHenry, Ill., faces multiple charges after being arrested for filing fraudulent workers’ compensation claims against three separate employers.

Tracy Williams, 43, is charged with workers’ compensation fraud, insurance fraud, aggravated fraud, and perjury, according to a statement released by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Williams is alleged to have filed fraudulent workers’ compensation claims and faking workplace injuries at Mastertek Auto Repair in Algonquin, Johnson’s Control Inc. in Geneva, and Thornton’s Gas Station and Store in East Dundee.

Williams’ bail was set at $90,000.

“The workers’ compensation system is supposed to cover costs of employees who are injured on the job,” Madigan said. “The evidence in this case shows the defendant was intent on defrauding the system for her own benefit.”

In one injury report, Williams claimed to sustain an injury to her left shoulder when a customer at her workplace punched her.

“Workers’ compensation fraud is a serious crime,” Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron said in the statement. “The Department of Insurance Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit is dedicated to rooting out the theft of benefits. We are pleased to work with the attorney general to pursue those who defraud the system, hurting taxpayers and beneficiaries alike.”

Robert Briskman is a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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Experimental Autism Therapy Costs Doctor His License in Illinois, Missouri

A doctor who has promoted a treatment for autistic children using a drug that suppresses testosterone has lost his license to practice medicine in Illinois and Missouri.

Dr. Mark Geier’s therapy involves injecting children with the drug Lupron, a hormone inhibitor that is sometimes employed to “chemically castrate” sex offenders. Experts said the therapy was not based on sound science.

Geier’s medical licenses in both Missouri and Illinois were revoked by authorities in those states, who cited similar action taken by the Maryland State Board of Physicians in August.

Geier and his son had opened a number of clinics to promote his Lupron-based therapy, which cost up to $6,000 per month. They hypothesized that high levels of testosterone are the cause of many symptoms of autism in children.

Lupron is used in the treatment of precocious puberty, a disease in which the onset of puberty occurs at an unusually early age.

The Maryland board characterized Geier’s Lupron therapy as “experimental” and said that it “constituted a substantial likelihood of a risk of serious harm to the public health, safety and welfare.” In July, they fined Geier $10,000 for practicing medicine without a license.

Geier’s attorneys claim that he is being unfairly targeted in retaliation for speaking out against the use of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, in vaccines, and associating its use with a rise in autism rates.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Aurora Teen Charged in Fatal Accident

A 15-year-old boy from Aurora has been charged as an adult with reckless homicide for his role in a crash that killed Devin Meadows, a sophomore at Metea Valley High School.

According to prosecutors, Logan Krogman took his parents’ Chevrolet Malibu from their home on Amli Court, picked up three friends, and went for a “joyride.”

“At 15 years old, Logan Krogman had no business being behind the wheel of a car,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin commented in a statement. “This is a senseless tragedy that did not have to happen.”

Authorities say Krogman struck a curb and lost control of the vehicle, which flipped and crashed into a house’s attached garage on Hamman Way. 15-year-old Devin Meadows, who police say was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the back seat.

The occupants of the house were not injured. Homeowner Joshila Chandra was awakened by the sound of the surviving boys frantically calling for help. Meadows lay lifeless in the street some 50 feet from where the car had come to rest.

Meadows was pronounced dead at the scene. The three other boys sustained minor injuries.

“Driving a car is not a right. It is a privilege that is earned once a person is 16 years old and has had the proper training,” Berlin said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Devin Meadows.”

Robert Briskman is a Chicago personal injury lawyer and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Study Shows Race-Based Disparity in Illinois Workers’ Compensation Awards

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health have released a study that shows workers’ compensation settlements awarded to white, non-Hispanic construction workers in Illinois are, on average, higher than those award Hispanic and black construction workers with similar injuries.

The difference between average compensation levels for the two groups was approximately $6,000.

The researchers cross-referenced medical records from the Illinois Department of Public Health and data from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. They evaluated 1,039 cases occurring between 2000 and 2005.

In order to accurately compare settlements with respect to a single variable—race—researchers had to control for other variables that are known to influence the amount awarded in workers’ compensation claims. These include wage rates, the severity and type of injuries, length of disability, percentage of partial permanent disability, and whether the claimant was represented by an attorney. After adjusting data to account for these factors, researchers found a significantly higher average settlement amount for white workers.

The study was purely statistical, and an examination of possible causes of the disparity was outside its scope. Still, the lead author offered two possible explanations.

“It’s really not clear why this is happening. One explanation is that there is some systemic bias or prejudices occurring within the system,” said Lee Friedman, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC. “Or, it could be that the level of information and knowledge about how the system works — and what can actually be litigated, disputed, or requested for compensation — might vary by ethnic group.”

Friedman also speculated that the average white worker may tend to take more time off for a given injury than the average black or Hispanic worker with a similar injury, which would result in greater compensation for lost wages.

Friedman also commented on the 2011 overhaul to the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

“With the new law… there was a lot of house cleaning that occurred within the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission,” he said. “They’ve hired a whole new staff. It might have a very important effect on the potential disparities that are occurring between workers based on ethnicity.”

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, based in Silver Spring, Md., in cooperation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, funded the study through a grant to the UIC School of Public Health.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Illinois Supreme Court to Hear Workers Comp Case

The Supreme Court of Illinois is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Skokie Castings, Inc. v. Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund.

The case arises from a Skokie Castings employee who sustained a permanently disabling injury while at work. The employer was self-insured up to a certain amount, beyond which its excess insurance carrier would take over. However, the excess carrier went bankrupt shortly after Skokie Castings’ coverage kicked in.

The Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund is intended to protect insurance claimants when an insurer goes bankrupt. Companies operating in the state are required to contribute to the fund. The state Insurance Code limits the Fund’s payments on any single claim to $300,000, but that limitation does not apply to workers’ compensation claims.

The Fund decided the Skokie Castings employee’s claim was not a workers’ compensation claim; it discontinued payments once it reached the $300,000 ceiling.

Skokie Castings took the Fund to court, claiming they had improperly stopped paying. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the claim was a workers’ compensation claim despite being filed by the self-insured employer.

The Appellate Court affirmed the ruling. It found that the Insurance Code described the Fund as being intended to protect not only claimants, but also policyholders. The Court held that absent any language in the Code that specifically excluded claims by self-insured employers, it was reasonable to infer that the legislature’s intention was for the Fund to cover those claims.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Illinois are scheduled for November 20.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Popular Chicago Skateboarder Succumbs to Injuries in Hit-and-Run Accident

An icon in the Chicago skateboarding community died a week after being critically injured in a hit-and-run accident while skating in Bucktown.

Reginald Destin, 42, was with friends at the time of the accident on an early Friday morning in October. He was skateboarding in a bicycle lane on North Milwaukee Avenue with his friend Christopher Pitzen. From across the street, Pitzen saw a vehicle accelerating toward Destin and heard the impact that sent Destin cartwheeling into the air.

Police say the driver, Luis P. Pena, 30, fled the scene, but was apprehended shortly thereafter at North and Oakley Avenues. His blood alcohol level was measured at 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

Destin was rushed to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital where doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. One week later, he was dead.

Pitzen organized an online effort to raise funds for Destin’s family to help with medical and funeral expenses. So far, supporters have contributed over $35,000.

Destin’s influence in the Chicago skating community is illustrated by the fact that skateboarding celebrity Tony Hawk posted to his Twitter account a link to the fundraising webpage along with a plea for donations.

Pena has been charged with aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury. He is being held without bail. A spokeswoman at the State Attorney’s office in Cook County said that the charges might be upgraded as a result of Destin’s death.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago personal injury lawyer and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Medical Malpractice vs. Product Liability in Meningitis Lawsuits

A fungal meningitis outbreak which has caused 19 fatalities and afflicted 400 people in 19 states has been linked to contaminated steroid injections. Victims and their families have begun filing lawsuits against the clinics and doctors who administered the contaminated steroid shots. The success or failure of the lawsuits could depend on whether judges decide that the cases are sound in medical malpractice or strict product liability.

New England Compounding Center (NECC), the drug compounding pharmacy that produced and sold the tainted shots, already faces numerous lawsuits. But the company is fairly small, and those infected with meningitis are now suing larger targets.

In New Jersey, two doctors and orthopedic clinics that provided the steroid injections have been sued. Legal experts predict more cases will follow in that state and others.

If courts define the injections as products, doctors and clinics could be sued for product liability. But if the administration of the injections is deemed to be a service, plaintiffs would likely have to prove negligence under medical malpractice laws—a much more difficult task.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers may look to clients’ medical bills to determine whether they have a case under strict product liability laws. If a bill lists the steroid and its administration as separate line items, an argument can be made that the drug was a product sold. This argument would be less sound if patients were billed only for the injection.

In some states, doctors cannot be sued under strict liability standards. In others, caps are imposed on damages for such claims. NECC’s tainted injections have infected patients in 19 states. Because laws vary across those states, the outcomes of lawsuits against doctors and clinics are likely to vary as well. Some plaintiffs may even file claims both for malpractice and for product liability in the hopes that at least one holds up.

Distributors of NECC’s products may also find themselves named in lawsuits.

Another possible target is the State of Massachusetts, which regulates drug compounders like NECC within the state, but legal experts say the legal standards necessary to sue the state are difficult to meet.

The federal government will likely not face any lawsuits. The agency is under scrutiny because it had cited NECC for regulatory violations as recently as 2006, but the FDA’s authority to regulate drug compounders is quite limited.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Chicago Man Alleges Medical Malpractice in Liver Transplant

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is the subject of a medical malpractice suit recently filed by a Cook County man who claims that the liver he received by transplant in May of 2011 had malignant cancer tissue.

Johnny Sirbu claims that as a result of the transplant, he now has cancer. He is seeking at least $250,000 in damages.

Also named as a defendant in the court filing is Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which provided the donated liver.

According to the lawsuit, Sirbu has suffered worsening complications in the 18 months since the transplant, including a diagnosis of liver cancer.

Sirbu claims that neither the organ provider nor his doctors adequately tested the liver for disease before clearing it for use in his transplant. According to the lawsuit, tests conducted in the months following the transplant returned questionable results, but doctors attributed those results to Sirbu’s history of alcohol abuse.

They also failed to recommend a second transplant with a replacement liver during a narrow window following the operation, the court filing states.

The lawsuit claims Sirbu is disabled and is suffering from “great physical pain” and “mental anguish” as a result of his condition. It further states that the liver cancer may claim Sirbu’s life.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

CDC Reports Second Illinois Resident Infected in Meningitis Outbreak

A second Illinois resident has been infected with fungal meningitis in the nationwide outbreak that has infected over 400 people in 19 states, killing 30, according to the CDC.

On November 2, the CDC’s case count was updated to confirm a second case of infection in Illinois.

The outbreak is the result of contaminated steroid injections produced by Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center..

The Illinois Department of Health and Human Services said that patients at three APAC Centers for Pain Management in the Chicago area were given the tainted injections for back pain. The centers are located in Chicago (at the Thorek Hospital professional building); Lincoln Park, and Westchester.

Fungal meningitis is rare. This complicates matters because few doctors are accustomed to dealing with it. It also tends to have a long incubation period. This means symptoms of the disease may take some time to become apparent following infection. Patients who received the tainted injections should immediately undergo testing for meningitis if they haven’t already done so.

However, because of the long incubation period, even those who previously tested negative need to remain vigilant in watching for symptoms. According to the CDC, symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, slurred speech, sensitivity to light, and numbness. Not all patients who develop meningitis will experience each of these symptoms.

Regulators suspect that the contamination problems at NECC’s Mass. facility may not be limited to spinal steroid shots. They warn that certain drugs used in open-heart surgery and eye surgeries may also have been contaminated. Regulators will have to trace thousands of drug vials originating from the facility to determine whether more patients are at risk.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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