Tennessee Legal Blog

Mass torts used to protect medical privacy

Medical privacy is an essential protection in Tennessee and across the country. Confidentiality of personal information and medical history is strictly protected by federal law, and breaching that trust can bring negative consequences. When companies promoting health issues accept personal information from patients and fail to protect that information, it is not just one person who may suffer. In some cases, thousands of people may be affected, resulting in mass torts and claims for compensation for any violations.

One woman in another state has filed such a lawsuit, naming MDLive as the defendant. The electronic health database digitally connects patients with health care providers who answer medical questions, provide diagnoses and offer therapy online or through an app. The site requires patients to input health history, family history and other information one would only share with a trusted physician so that on-call doctors can offer advice.

Wage and hour disputes bring correctional officers to court

Sometimes employees need to step in and take on more work if workloads increase or staffing decreases. In some Tennessee industries, employees are scheduled for mandatory overtime and compensated beyond their usual hourly rate. Other businesses may ask for volunteers to work extra shifts for more pay. However, if employees are forced into hours beyond a full work week and receive no extra pay, they may be within their rights to file wage and hour disputes.

Recently in another state, a correctional facility faced staff shortages that compelled detention center supervisors to mandate 30 to 60 minutes of overtime per shift. Five of the correctional officers forced into this overtime say the county did not compensate them for the extra hours. They took their complaint to state courts, but the state transferred the lawsuit to federal court because federal wage laws were allegedly violated.

Supreme Court considers churches -- ERISA exemptions

Since 1974, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act has protected the retirement funds of people in Tennessee and across the country. By setting minimum standards for the administration of retirement plans in the private sector, ERISA has held fiduciaries accountable for the way they manage the benefits of employees. Church-affiliated pension plans have been exempt from ERISA, but that may soon change.

The question currently before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether entities that are affiliated with a church but are not run by a church are exempt from ERISA rules. Specifically, three hospitals are seeking a reversal of lower court rulings stating the hospitals are not exempt under the religious affiliation exception. Their hospitals are not run by the church, and their pension plans are not the same as the plans of the churches to which they are related. Employees feel that the exemption has allowed the hospitals to seriously underfund their pension plans.

People don't act to improve employment because they don't know

The classic Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." While there is wisdom in expressing shortcomings, there is also harm in ignorance. A smart person may be marked by his or her ability to admit when he or she does not know something but is that always wise?

Philosophers like Aristotle make a living by raising life's biggest questions and attempting to answer them. Aristotle admitted that he knew little, but he still committed his life to the love of wisdom. When we gain knowledge and wisdom, how should we apply it to everyday life?

Mass torts against Apple after security concerns

For many in Tennessee, filing a lawsuit against an international company is something they could never afford. Huge corporations have complex legal teams who often use intimidation and delaying tactics to draw out the litigation so that it will be too expensive for the average person. This is why mass torts are an effective way for consumers who have been injured or defrauded to seek justice.

One example of a company currently facing mass torts is Apple. The multinational company is a household word for those who own Macs, iPads, iPhones, and other devices for their homes and businesses, or they subscribe to iTunes or iCloud. To go to court against a giant like Apple would be intimidating even when one's personal security is at risk.

Disney learns a lesson about wage and hour disputes

Whether in Tennessee or any part of the world, wishing upon a star doesn't pay the bills. Federal law sets specific standards for minimum wages, overtime pay and wage deductions, and occasionally a company will try to save money by skimming from its workers. In a recent case, workers brought their wage and hour disputes to court, accusing the Walt Disney Co. of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Apparently, at two separate Disney resort holdings, employees were charged a costume expense that was deducted from their pay. This caused their wages to drop below minimum wage. In addition, the workers were often required to perform duties prior to clocking in for their shifts. The violations occurred between 2013 and 2017 and covered over 16,000 employees.

What is ERISA and how does it work for me?

ERISA is a group of laws made to protect people who have insurance through their employers. If an employee works for a Tennessee company that is not a government entity, and that business sponsors health insurance or other benefits, those benefits are likely governed by ERISA. ERISA does not tell an employer that he or she is required to provide benefits, but if the benefits are provided, they must meet the minimum standards set by ERISA.

ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. It was established in 1974 to protect workers by requiring employer-sponsored benefits to provide clear outlines of the limitations of the benefits and the process for obtaining those benefits. For example, a health care plan must clearly explain that referrals are needed before a worker can see a medical specialist.

Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of mass torts

The past year was not a good one for Johnson & Johnson. The massive corporation -- known for generations as one of the leading innovators of consumer products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices -- is no stranger to lawsuits. In fact, for most drug makers, mass torts are routine, as many in Tennessee know. However, 2016 saw Johnson & Johnson on the losing side of numerous lawsuits, and the company faces a backlog of claims in 2017.

Of the seven largest verdicts against manufacturers of defective products in the past year, Johnson & Johnson lost six, totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Lawsuits included claims of injury or death related to hip implants, talcum powder and the anti-psychotic drug Riserdal. The company stands by its products and intends to appeal the verdicts.

Wages and hour disputes between truckers and employers

The voice of a crowd is hard to ignore. This is why class action lawsuits can be an effective way for people who are wronged to claim compensation and evoke changes. Often a single person going against a large corporation can get lost in paperwork and discouraged by the long and costly legal process. When employees with wage and hour disputes in Tennessee band together, those corporations may be more inclined to negotiate.

One example in another state involves truck drivers who have filed a class action lawsuit against Graebel Van Lines. Truckers for the company are seeking back pay because they claim the company misclassified them as independent contractors. Because of this classification, the truckers were deemed ineligible for overtime pay, rest breaks and meal compensation. Truckers for Atlas Van Lines and Stevens Transport have filed similar lawsuits in the past.

I'm filing for bankruptcy; is my pension at risk?

Millions of Americans are struggling financially. Between costs like outrageous medical expenses and student loans that plague people decades after graduation, it can be all but impossible for people to get out from under debt. This can be especially true after an event like job loss or divorce.

If you are in this situation, you could very well be considering debt relief options like bankruptcy. However, you might be hesitant because you don't want to lose all your assets, like your retirement plans and pensions. But you should know that these accounts are typically considered exempt from bankruptcy liquidation. 

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