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Law Firm Warns Of Looming Katrina Lawsuit Deadline
Legal Business | 2008/02/28 14:05
That's significant not only in it being leap year, but it's also exactly six months until the deadline for anyone with a Katrina insurance dispute to file a lawsuit against insurance companies. Now one law firm is launching a campaign telling people who haven't decided whether to take their claim to court, not to wait until it's too late.

The Merlin Law Group has already fought for hundreds of people unhappy with how their insurance companies handled their Katrina claims. Attorney Chip Merlin says he worries about the thousands who have yet to join the battle.

"There's a whole bunch of people who've filed claims and they've been paid," said Merlin. "Sometimes they've been paid a little bit, sometimes they've been paid a lot. But they're still owed some more. Insurance companies bank on people just giving up."

Beginning February 29th, the Merlin Law Group will start running print and television ads letting people know the clock it ticking down.

"The deadline effectively stops people's ability to collect from the insurance company," Merlin said. "You have to have a lawsuit filed by that time. It doesn't mean the lawsuit is over with. It just means you have to have it filed."

Merlin says he's not concerned about where people who lost their homes and businesses go to find legal representation, just that they go and quickly.

"I don't think it's right for insurance companies to cheat people and not pay the full amount that's owed," said Merlin. "I've devoted my adult life to this and I believe that, regardless if they go to my law firm or any other law firm anywhere, it would be really wrong in our society if we allowed insurance companies to cheat people. They shouldn't just let the claim go away because they don't think it's worth the hassle."

Attorney Chip Merlin says many attorneys don't charge to review the merits of a claim, and will work on contingency. He says as the deadline for Katrina suits loomed in Louisiana last year, people were lined up outside the courthouse.



Four law firms dominate school district services
Legal Business | 2008/02/25 11:21
On Long Island, where public education is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, four law firms control more than 60 percent of the estimated cost for legal services.

In 106 of the 124 school districts, $56.9 million was spent for legal fees from 2000 through 2004 -- $16.4 million alone during the 2003-2004 school year. Experts say legal costs have grown since then, with lawyers handling a wide range of issues from personnel and union issues to special education lawsuits.

The four law firms -- Guercio & Guercio in Farmingdale; Ingerman Smith in Hauppauge; Ehrlich, Frazer & Feldman, and Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman, both of Garden City -- earned the majority of that total amount during that period, the most recent data available to Newsday.

Some experts say that consolidation of legal services is expected because educational law is highly specialized and few lawyers are experts at it.

In an unprecedented series of moves that have unfolded in rapid-fire fashion in the past week, three of these firms -- Guercio & Guercio being the exception -- that have attorneys whose arrangements with school dalso heard oral arguments in Warner-Lambert v. Kent, 06-1498, where the Court considered whether federal law preempts a Michigan law that allows personal injury lawsuits against prescription drug manufacturers only when the drug at issue was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration based on the fraudulent submission or withholding of information.



Supreme Court to hear car search, tribal land cases
Legal Business | 2008/02/25 11:21
The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear three cases, including Arizona v. Gant (07-542) where the Court will consider whether "the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement officers to demonstrate a threat to their safety or a need to preserve evidence related to the crime of arrest in order to justify a warrantless vehicular search incident to arrest conducted after the vehicle's recent occupants have been arrested and secured?" Arizona is appealing an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that Rodney Joseph Gant's constitutional rights were violated when police searched his car after he was handcuffed and seated in a polialso heard oral arguments in Warner-Lambert v. Kent, 06-1498, where the Court considered whether federal law preempts a Michigan law that allows personal injury lawsuits against prescription drug manufacturers only when the drug at issue was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration based on the fraudulent submission or withholding of information.



Top U.S. court backs S.F. health care
Legal Business | 2008/02/23 13:45
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed San Francisco on Thursday to continue requiring employers to pay part of the cost of providing health care to uninsured residents while a group of restaurant owners tries to overturn the program.

Justice Anthony Kennedy denied a request by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association to suspend the employer contributions while the case awaits an April 17 hearing before an appellate panel.

The city expanded its health care program six weeks ago after winning a ruling from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That court allowed city officials to require large and medium-size companies to provide insurance to their employees, at spending levels set by the city, or pay a fee to support care for the uninsured at 22 hospitals and clinics.

The expansion lets San Francisco phase in coverage for about 26,000 residents who were not previously eligible for subsidized care. The city says the program will ultimately cover all 73,000 adult residents who are not poor enough for Medi-Cal or old enough for Medicare. About 12,500 people have enrolled so far, program Director Tangerine Brigham said Thursday.



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