U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling–Same Sex Marriage Legal

June 26, 2015 will be remembered as a landmark day in our Country’s history.  There will be no more discrimination against same sex couples in the United States.  States like Florida can no longer refuse to recognize same sex marriages from other states and, for all intents and purposes, this ugly chapter of discrimination is now over.  In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states cannot discriminate against same sex couples.  In essence, the Court has created an entirely new civil right, allowing same sex couples to enjoy the very same legal rights as traditionally married couples.

 

Leto | Bassuk has been a supporter of gay marital rights and has challenged the Florida Courts in the past to allow same sex couples equal rights.  We have written several blogs about same sex rights, which you can read here and here.  However, because of the existence of discriminatory laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and state laws in Florida which expressly prohibited gay marriage and gay adoption, these challenges were met with heavy resistance.  However, those days are now over and same sex couples will no longer have to fight for basic rights such as hospital visitation, parental rights, estate rights, and tax benefits.  More importantly, this Country has taken a huge step forward, joining 20 other countries that have refused to allow discrimination to dictate their laws.

 

 

Florida Medical Malpractice Consent Rule Preempted By Federal Law, Says Judge

Medical malpractice law in Florida reached a significant turning point last week when a federal judge struck down a key part of a state law that required a patient to allow a defending physician’s attorney to informally discuss the case with the patient’s other health care providers – even in the absence of patient or their legal representative.

According to U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the case, the state law violates the patient consent provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The law would have required a patient seeking to pursue a medical malpractice claim to submit a broad medical authorization allowing the defendant doctor and their lawyers to access the patient’s medical records and discuss the patient’s medical history without the presence of the patient or their attorney.

But Judge Hinkle found that those limitations are so broad that they don’t ensure the privacy of the patient’s medical condition, especially with no one being there to enforce the limitation. This conflicted with two HIPPA provisions that deal with patient consent and patient privacy rights, with the law found to be mandating patients to accept this arrangement rather than freely agreeing to it.

However, his ruling did preserve another important part of the law, which required an expert medical witness testifying against a physician to be engaged in the same specialty as the defendant doctor. Previously the expert witness could be in the same or similar specialty as the defendant, with the courts having broad authority to decide the criteria.

You can read The Leto Law Firm’s previous discussions about this law and how it came to be enacted in our blogs from August 13, 2013, entitled “Florida Attorneys Challenging Medical Malpractice Law” and our blog from January 21, 2013 entitled “Florida Supreme Court protects doctor-patient confidentiality”.

It remains to be seen whether this law will be appealed or whether Florida lawmakers will find a way to work around it. Regardless, Justin Leto and his team remain on top of all the latest legal developments to ensure you’ll receive only the most effective assistance. If you’re looking for only the most professional Miami Personal Injury Lawyer or medical malpractice expert, call 305-577-8448.

Obamacare’s Impact on Medical Malpractice

Although Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act, will be phased-in gradually after January 2014, there’s already much preparation being made for how it will alter the healthcare landscape – especially with regards to medical malpractice law.

Doctors, insurance providers, and legal experts all over the country have already made some predictions about what to expect in this regard, albeit with differing conclusions.

Many believe that medical malpractice claims will increase due to the influx of newly insured people. As tens of millions Americans seek medical care they couldn’t previously afford, the rate of medical mistakes – and subsequent malpractice claims – will likely increase proportionately. Even if it didn’t, the sheer number of patients may raise the occurrence of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Others feel that the number of malpractice claims will remain unchanged, because there won’t be an increase in patients after all. Whereas many uninsured people now utilize hospital emergency rooms for primary care, they will now shift to private practitioners. This shift may not have any impact at all on claims, but may impact who the claims will impact.

A third possibility is that medical malpractice claims will actually decrease because Obamacare not only provides health insurance to the uninsured, but eliminates the co-pays and deductibles for essential healthcare benefits. As a result, people will be receiving more preventative care, will be less likely to develop long-term problems, and will make it easier for health care providers to address medical conditions before they become serious.

Of course, since the act is still being implemented – and there’s no telling if or how it will change along the way – we can’t be sure which outcome will result. Whatever the circumstances, one thing is for sure: the Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyers of the Leto Law Firm will be here to help. Justin Leto has consistently been recognized as one of South Florida’s most effective attorneys, so you can rest assured that his professional and experienced team will be prepared to handle your case effectively.

Ohio transplant case shows the limits placed on medical malpractice recovery

 

 

University of Toledo Medical Center, a hospital situated in Toledo, Ohio, is denying a family’s allegations of medical negligence after a hospital nurse accidentally threw out a viable kidney donated to a Toledo woman by her younger brother in August 2012. The botched kidney transplant was originally scheduled for August 10, 2012, before the temperature-controlled slush containing the kidney was mistakenly tossed out. The hospital found another kidney for Sarah Fudacz and paid for her transportation to Colorado to receive surgery November 13, 2012. However, Sarah Fudacz, and her family-consisting of eight members- are suing the hospital for additional damages of about $25,000 each, citing medical negligence and loss of consortium.

 

A complaint by the siblings and their family alleged the facility was negligent , causing physical and emotional suffering for the patients and emotional distress for the parents. “Sarah seeks damages she has suffered and will continue to suffer due to the loss of Paul Jr.’s [her brother], perfect kidney. Paul Jr. seeks damages he has suffered and will continue to suffer for having to undergo a painful and risky surgery, and for having to live the rest of his life with one kidney, all in vain,” the suit reads. The hospital, in documents filed Tuesday, sought dismissal of the case, specifically requesting to dismiss the counts involving the relatives’ alleged losses. It argued that Ohio law “doesn’t provide for parents and siblings of an affected adult to recover damages for such losses.” There is no word on how much the family has been compensated thus far.

 

One of the main issues raised by this sad case is the issue of who is permitted to recover for a loss when someone is the victim of medical malpractice. In Florida, the laws are tailored to limit the recovery of family members affected by a loved one’s medical malpractice injuries. This is especially true when medical malpractice leads to wrongful death. Whereas in a car accident, if the victim is an unmarried adult at the time of death, the victim’s lineal descendants can pursue a claim. This means that the parents of an unmarried adult with no children can pursue the claim for that victim’s wrongful death. However, when someone is the victim of medical malpractice and dies as a result, the only people that can recover for that wrongful death are (a) the person’s spouse or (b) the person’s children under the age of 25 years old. If the victim of medical malpractice is over 25 years of age, is unmarried and has no children under the age of 25, no one can seek to pursue a claim for that victim’s wrongful death.

 

While the case in Ohio does not involve death, it still speaks to the limitations that many states place on medical malpractice claims. This is an effort by most state legislatures to limit the medical malpractice claims filed against hospitals and doctors. The excuse for these unfair and likely unconstitutional laws is that there is a healthcare crisis and the only way to stop it is to end medical malpractice claims. Unfortunately, many of the people that attempt to bring claims for the losses of their loved ones and find out the laws prevent their claims voted for the very laws that now restrict their access to the courts.

 

The Leto Law Firm, founded by Justin Leto, specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice, commercial litigation, traumatic brain injury cases, appeals and auto accidents. Visit our website at LetoLaw.com to learn about the our vast list of practice areas, access legal resources, and see the results of prior court cases undertaken by the firm. For more information on Personal Injury Miami, send an email to info@letolaw.com.

Gay Married Couples Can Now File Joint Taxes According to IRS regardless of discriminatory state laws

The Treasury Department has announced Thursday that, starting September 16th, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will recognize same-sex marriages, allowing them to file joint federal tax returns. This includes couples that have moved to states that do not permit same-sex marriages, though, depending on state laws, they may have to file their state tax returns as if they were not married.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the new rules, implemented following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, demolishing the portion of DOMA that prohibited federal laws from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples, will provide “clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide.” The high court ruling came in a case filed by Edith Windsor, who was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes after the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer. The Supreme Court held DOMA to be unconstitutional, a direct rebuke of the law instituted under President Bill Clinton.

These new Treasury-Internal Revenue Service guidelines will apply to all federal taxes, including income, gift and estate taxes, and affect personal and dependent exemptions and deductions, employee benefits, IRA contributions and tax credits. For some couples, the biggest financial benefit will be the tax exclusion for employer-paid health insurance, which many same-sex spouses previously bought on an after-tax basis. That could be worth more than $1,000 per couple. Not all couples will benefit, however, as some may pay higher income taxes as a result of the “marriage penalty.”

The Leto Law Firm has fought on the side of same-sex couples in many cases. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, The Leto Law Firm attempted to invalidate the discriminatory Florida law which does not allow same sex couples to file claims for loss of support and services of their partners. Unfortunately, the rigid and discriminatory laws of Florida prevented that claim from proceeding.

However, more recently, The Leto Law Firm filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a gay man and his husband. That case involves a man that suffered serious and disabling neurological injuries following a botched hip replacement. The injured man is legally married to a man under the laws of Massachusetts. Under Florida law, spouses are entitled to claims for losses of the support and services of an injured spouse. However, Florida presently discriminates against gay married couples, even if they are legally married in another state. We intend to fight to protect this couple so they can enjoy the same rights as any other married couple.

Visit LetoLaw.com for the latest in legal news, posted regularly in our Blog section. Contact us with any questions on our services via email at info@letolaw.com, or by calling 305-577-8448.

Jonathan M. Hixon of The Leto Law Firm Associate Admitted to Practice in Southern and Middle District of Florida

The Leto Law Firm is proud to congratulate associate, Jonathan M. Hixon, who has recently been admitted to practice in the Southern District of Florida and Middle District of Florida federal courts. Mr. Hixon’s admission to these two federal courts allow for him to expand his practice to more complex federal matter in addition to his State Court work. Since being admitted to the Southern and Middle District, Mr. Hixon has worked on federal cases involving Civil RICO, federal maritime, judicial review of federal agency determinations, federal credit union foreclosure, insurance coverage disputes, and diversity actions.

Jonathan M. Hixon has been with our firm since August 2012, and specializes in commercial litigation, personal injury, wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, product liability, medical malpractice, maritime litigation, insurance coverage disputes, and appellate advocacy. Mr. Hixon first started with The Leto Law Firm as a law clerk during his final year of law school. He received his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law, where he achieved “Honors” in the Litigation Skills Program and taught classes on law and government to students at Miami Senior High School as the Hunton & Williams Fellow for the Miami Street Law Program. Mr. Hixon also boasts experience clerking for notable criminal defense and appellate firm Hirschhorn & Bieber, P.A. and the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. Born in Boston, Massachussetts, Mr. Hixon moved to Washington, D.C. to attend The George Washington University and received his bachelor’s degree in 2008.

Visit our website at LetoLaw.com to learn about the our vast list of practice areas, access legal resources, and see the results of prior court cases undertaken by the firm. Get in contact with Miami Personal Injury Lawyer Justin Leto by calling 305-577-8448, or send an email to info@letolaw.com.

Justin Leto Named to Florida’s Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine for Fifth Consecutive Year

We are proud to announce that The Leto Law Firm’s managing partner, Justin C. Leto, has been named to Florida Trend Magazine’s Legal Elite for 2013. This is the fifth consecutive year that Justin has been named to this prestigious list of Florida’s top attorneys. Each year, Florida Trend sends a survey to lawyers throughout the State and lawyers are asked to name top practitioners throughout the State of Florida. The list is comprised of 175 attorneys under the age of 40 who are considered top of their field.

The Leto Law Firm was founded by Justin C. Leto, who remains the president and managing partner. Justin Leto, a cum laude graduate of the University Of Miami School Of Law, is a Personal Injury Lawyer in Miami who handles many areas of practice, including wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, medical malpractice, commercial litigation and appellate advocacy. The firm also handles products liability cases on behalf of individuals and families, and represents business owners in major business disputes that require a trial lawyer.

Mr. Leto has an active legal career, as a member of the Florida Justice Association, American Bar Association, Florida Bar Association, the National Trial Lawyers Association and the Miami-Dade County Bar Association, where he served on the Board of Directors for the Young Lawyers Section. Additionally, Justin Leto has received numerous awards and recognitions by Superlawyers Magazine, South Florida Legal Guide, and Florida Legal Elite. Mr. Leto is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an invite-only group that comprises lawyers who achieved results for their clients in excess of $1 million.

Visit our website at LetoLaw.com to learn about the our vast list of practice areas, view the website’s blog for updates and relevant news, access legal resources, and see the results of prior cases handled by the firm. Get in contact with us by calling 305-577-8448, or send an email to info@letolaw.com.

Florida Attorneys Challenging Medical Malpractice Law

In late 2012, the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling in Hasan v. Garvin.  You can read our blog on that decision here (http://letolaw.wpengine.com/blog/miami-medical-malpractice-lawyer-florida-supreme-court-doctor-patient-confidentialit/).  In its decision, the Florida Supreme Court took steps to protect patients from intrusive efforts by defense lawyers and insurance companies to investigate private medical information of a patient that decides to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

 

In response, the Florida Legislature passed a new law during the recent legislative session which, in essence, reverses the Florida Supreme Court and provides defendants access to private and confidential health information of victims of medical malpractice.  Even further, defense lawyers and insurance companies can now speak directly to the victim’s doctors, a practice that is seemingly in violation of federal privacy laws.

 

These laws went into effect on July 1, 2013 but lawyers for medical malpractice victims are seeking injunctions from the state and federal courts, arguing that these laws directly violate HIPAA and other healthcare privacy laws.  Separate from the fact that the law is in direct violation of HIPAA, these laws will serve to discourage people from pursuing a medical malpractice claim for fear of having their privacy violated.

 

These laws, as well many other complex and complicated laws that are specific only to medical malpractice claims require considerable legal knowledge and experience. At the Leto Law Firm, our Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyers have many years of experience handling the most complex medical malpractice cases. To set up a consultation regarding a medical malpractice claim,  please call us at (305) 577-8448 or email info@letolaw.com.

Drug Errors and Missed Diagnoses Making Up Most Primary Care Malpractice Claims

 
 

Most people believe that the leading cases of medical malpractice are brought from injuries caused in a hospital environment or from the treatment of a doctor. While medical malpractice committed by hospital based doctors, surgeons and hospitals is a serious area of concern in the legal and medical communities, a considerable percentage of claims every year are from missed diagnoses and prescription drug errors that lead to serious and oftentimes catastrophic injuries. These cases are usually the result of negligence of a primary care or family doctor in their own private practices. Today, primary care physicians are being named as defendants in malpractice suits at an accelerating rate, and the trend is prominent not just in the U.S, but also in the U.K. and Australia.

 

Published data in BMJ Open, an online forum dedicated to publishing medical research, indicates that the majority of malpractice claims brought against doctors are from missed diagnoses- particularly of cancer, heart attack, and meningitis- as well as drug errors. In the United States, studies indicate that malpractice claims brought against primary care doctors accounted for between 7.6% and 16%, the majority of which were on account of missed diagnoses. In the UK, the suits are increasing at the fastest rate, while in Australia, the claims against general practitioners accounts for the both the highest number and highest rate of increase. The most common result of these medical errors was the patient’s death and most of the deaths reported from these missed diagnosis were preventable if the proper care was instituted. Similarly, the second most-common sources of malpractice claims were drug errors, the proportion of which ranged 5.6% to 20% across all studies.

 

Despite the number of malpractice cases brought against primary care physicians, a substantial proportion of claims were unsuccessful, with only a third of U.S. claims ending up in a pay-out to the victim, either through verdict or settlement. At the Leto Law Firm, we specialize in Medical Malpractice-among other areas- and have extensive experience handling such cases for victims and their families. To contact one of our expert Miami medical malpractice lawyers, call 305-577-8448, or visit LetoLaw.com.

The media’s perversion of our justice system–all in the name of ratings

 

posted by Justin C. Leto

 

At what point does the media’s coverage of our courtrooms become so fanatical and outrageous that is endangers our entire system of justice?  The answer is now, today, as we speak.

 

The recent trials of Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias and George Zimmerman have turned our news outlets into something that even the daytime soap opera writers would scoff at.  Instead of covering the trials and providing us, the viewers, with sound legal analysis and perspective, the media and its so-called legal experts have lowered itself and themselves and become an outlet to create juror bias and witness intimidation.  Never has this been more apparent than the George Zimmerman trial and its aftermath.

 

Realize, I am not offering any comment or opinion on the outcome of the trial.  That is for each person to analyze personally and that is not the reason for this blog.  Instead, my commentary and concern is the way in which the media has invaded the personal lives of unwilling trial particpants in order to turn a profit.

 

Case in point, number one, is the treatment of Rachel Jeantel.  As a lawyer, I just assumed that everyone watching this trial, including the media and its lawyer talking heads, would understand that Rachel Jenteal was not in that courtroom because she wanted to be there.  Instead, she was forced to be there as the State of Florida’s star witness against George Zimmerman.  As a matter of bad luck, Ms. Jeantel happened to be talking to her friend, Trayvon, when he was shot and killed.  And as a result of being the last person to talk to her friend before he died, she was thrust into the spotlight without any way to protect herself from the vultures that were coming to peck away at her character and attempt to destroy her life.

 

This girl is a teenager.  She is, for all intents and purposes, a kid.  Yet, the media has taken every opportunity to label her as stupid, unpolished, uneducated, and homophobic.  For example, a recent headline of Drudge Report reads “JEANTEL WARNED ZIMMERMAN COULD BE GAY RAPIST–TRAYVON: NOT THAT KIND OF WAY ”  The article goes on to insinuate that this teenage girl is some type of homophobe that believes that strange men are out to rape children.  First of all, that is not what she said.  And second of all, why is Matt Drudge so insistent on tearing this girl to shreds?  What do he, and others that have railed on her, have to gain from trying to destroy this girl’s life?  Is it for ratings?  Is it because Matt Drudge and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are so aligned with the plight of Geroge Zimmerman that they feel the need to take this otherwise private citizen and excoriate her in the national headlines?  Whatever the reason, I see no justification for it.  In fact, my fear, as a lawyer, is that actions like this by the media will act to infiltrate the very core of our justice system and encourage important witnesses to stay quiet.  Why would anyone that has important information in a legal case come forward if they know there is a chance they could be torn down in such an evil and hate-filled way?  Even Piers Morgan, who I expected to be a bit more sensitive to Rachel Jenteal, asked her in front of a live studio audience how she felt about being called uneducated and stupid.  Rachel looked like she was holding back tears when that was asked and I found it despicable.  For the treatment of Rachel Jenteal, shame on the media.

 

Next, there is Don West’s daughter, another teenager that is being unnecesarily assaulted in the media.  Why?  Because she posted a picture of her and her Dad (George Zimmerman’s lawyer) having ice cream after a day of trial  (for those of you unfamiliar, Don West is George Zimmerman’s lawyer that looks a bit like Walter White from Breaking Bad; compare here and here).  And because she was proud of her Dad, she wrote that her Dad was “killing it” in trial under her caption.  Sure, that is not the best choice of words during a murder trial, but she is not part of the trial.  That was her personal facebook or instagram account and the media has no right to invade the privacy of a lawyer’s family (especially their children) just because that lawyer has the courage to defend someone in an incredibly public trial.  This is another kid that the media saw fit to excoriate all in the name of upping their ratings.  Just as the treatment of Rachel Jeantel may discourage other important witnesses from coming forward in the future, the treatment of Don West’s daughter may make a lawyer in a future high profile case to think twice before representing a client due to fear of how the media will attack that lawyer’s family.  For the treatment of Don West’s CHILD, shame on the media.

 

And lastly, there are the media talking heads that are lawyers by day and television personalities by night.  At one point, I made appearances on Fox News and HLN and CNN.  However, my publicist starting telling me that the networks wanted me to take a position that was contrary to my belief system.  There were times when I was told I could only appear on TV if I would advocate for a position that I did not truly believe in.  I never bowed to that pressure from the producers and, as a result, I stopped making television appearances.  Now, I watch these folks on TV and it just infuriates me.  They do not even try and hide their bias for one side of the case.  It is as if the TV camera in their face has hyponotized them and made them lose touch with the realities that exist in our great system of justice.  And I am talking about the guests, not the hosts.  When you listen to the hosts, the level of disgust just goes up higher.  Between Vinnie Politan, Jane Velez Mitchell, Sonny Hostings and Nancy Grace, you have the very worst kind of legal soap opera.  Each of them is so much more interested in outdoing the other in high dramatics that they have completely forgotten about the fairness of a trial, innocent until proven guilty, and the rights of the accused.  And their behavior has gotten so out of hand that I worry they are infecting our future jurors.  People who watch these folks and listen to their mantras may actually believe that what they are saying has validity when, in truth, there is virtually nothing valid that comes out of their mouths.  They do a great disservice to our system of justice by making unbridled attempts to influence our juries and intimidate our witnesses.  Throughout the entire Casey Anthony trial (where the jury was not sequestered) it was as if these hosts were just praying that some jurors would violate their oath and listen to HLN so Vinnie, Jane, Sonny and Nancy could act as a side-show prosecution and influence a guilty verdict.

 

Overall, this blog (which has digressed into a rant) is from a lawyer that truly respects this profession.  I do not practice in the criminal arena but I think the actions of the media reach far outside just the criminal justice system.  They affect the way every day people view a trial and a courtroom and a judge and a lawyer.  Their actions will have a profound effect on our system of justice and, at this point, the only way to stop it is to stop watching.  I admit, I tune in.  But I must stop because the only way to prevent the continuing perversion of our justice system is to just turn these talking heads off.