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4 Great Tech Gifts for a Mesothelioma Patient

mesothelioma patientGiving the gift of technology to a mesothelioma patient now during the holidays can be a gift that will keep on giving to them for the months to come.

A Digital Photo Frame

Loading up a digital photo frame with pictures of friends, family, special occasions, or places you have visited together is a great gift idea. Your loved one could bring the frame along to treatment visits or for when they need to be hospitalized. These happy reminders of who their supporters are and what they are fighting for can’t help but to improve their spirits! Here’s an article from Consumer Reports that compares popular brands of digital photo frame.

Hand Warmers and Foot Warmers

Sometimes mesothelioma patients just can’t keep their hands and feet warm. A handy solution – hand warmers and foot warmers that you can take anywhere. These are an especially great gift for someone who is undergoing chemotherapy which can make fingers and toes especially susceptible to feeling cold. A company called warmer.com offers many options. One is Grabbers, disposable, portable hand and foot warmers. Break open one of these self-contained packets and they reportedly generate heat for as long as 8 hours.

A Kindle or a Nook

An e-reader, according to the Wikipedia definition, is a handheld electronic device designed for the purpose of reading books and magazines in digital format. Any computer or smart phone that can display text on a screen can act as an e-book reader but specialized e-book readers optimize portability, ease of use, readability, and battery life. A single e-book reader is capable of holding the digital equivalent of hundreds of printed texts with no added bulk. The entry level Kindle by Amazon or Nook from Barnes and Noble are safe bets. Many classic books are free for e-readers. Libraries also offer free access to e-books but as with real library books, they are on temporary loan.

Digital Movie Subscription

What a wonderful thing for a mesothelioma patient who can’t go out or shouldn’t be around crowds! They can watch unlimited movies on a computer or TV screen. TV shows, too. One of the biggest providers of digital movies is Netflix with over 30 million subscribers in the U.S. Other options include an Amazon Prime membership with the bonus of free shipping on Amazon shopping, or Hulu Plus which has a vast assortment of TV shows and exclusive rights to the Criterion Collection of classic and foreign films. You can buy a Netflix subscription gift card or Hulu Plus subscription gift card at stores like Target and WalMart.

Kazan Law Foundation a Top Donor for Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund

Kazan LawThrough our 40 years of practicing law as mesothelioma lawyers at Kazan Law, all of us have seen heartbreak up close. It stays with us. It compels us to give back. That’s why we created our firm’s foundation. Over the last 20 years we have given over $20 million in grants to a range of community, educational and civic organizations, including $6 million for mesothelioma research. This is one way we give back to the mesothelioma community whose rights we fight for as mesothelioma lawyers.

At this special time of year, when the store windows are full of glitter and glamorous expensive gifts, we at Kazan Law are acutely aware that for many people it is a challenge just to meet their basic needs for food and shelter. Seeing the abundance around them and joy during the holiday season makes their lack even more poignant. So at this time of year, we are proud to be listed as a major donor to the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. As we did last year, the Kazan Law foundation has donated $20,000 to this wonderful cause. We are proud of the work we do as mesothelioma lawyers and grateful that our success makes it possible for us to help those in need.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund provides temporary assistance to help people living in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Since 1986, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has raised more than $98 million to help thousands of Bay Area families. The Fund offers grants to help families in crisis so they can pay for housing and emergency needs. Through a network of more than 120 community service agencies, the Fund works to identify families in need and provide short-term, critical assistance grants.

Grants from the Fund can help families in any number of ways, such as paying the rent so they can stay in their home, covering a security deposit so they can transition out of a homeless shelter, or buying a wheelchair or other essential medical equipment that they couldn’t otherwise afford. In addition, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund supports food banks and distributes nearly $1 million each year to assist individuals and families who might otherwise go hungry. You can read some of their stories here.

How to Claim Mesothelioma Medical Expenses as Tax Deductions

mesothelioma medical expensesIf you claim your mesothelioma medical expenses as a deduction on your taxes, you need to keep records of your claimed expenses in case you are audited. In an audit, you must prove to the IRS that the expenses you claimed on your tax return are valid. Otherwise you may be required to pay additional taxes plus a penalty.

Also be sure to let your mesothelioma lawyer know your medical expense totals for the year so he/she can include them as part of your claim for compensation in settlement negotiations and at trial.

Here’s how to document your mesothelioma medical expenses:

1 Label the sections of an accordion file or separate file folders with the categories of mesothelioma medical expenses that you want to claim. For example, you probably need a section for doctor bills, lab bills, co-pays, prescriptions and insurance paperwork. Any costs you incur traveling for your mesothelioma medical treatment or to seek legal advice because of your mesothelioma should also be filed in separate section. Costs for medical equipment you buy or rent because of your mesothelioma should also have a section.

2 Add your own notes to every printed record of a medical expense when you receive it. Each document should identify the medical professionals who provided treatment for you and in your own words, what they did. The medical terms on the bill may not make sense to you later on. The record should also include the name and address of the provider, the date of the expense, type of expense and cost. The IRS recommends keeping track of expenses when they occur. Include items like receipts, bills, sales slips, canceled checks, credit card statements and records of electronic transfers.

3 Enter the details of each medical bill into a spreadsheet on your computer. You can also set up a paper-and-pencil spreadsheet to track medical expenses. The spreadsheet should include a column for each of the details you have noted on the written record. Organize the columns in a way that makes sense to you. You might, for example, put the date in the first column, then the name of the person associated with the expense, the type of expense and so forth. Spreadsheet applications or specialized tracking software have several advantages over a handwritten record. For example, they will allow you to reorganize the order of the columns and sort the information by a specific factor.

4 Place the printed record of the expense in the appropriate section of your files. Keep the records in order by date within each file section by consistently placing each new record at the front or the back of the file. Occasionally flip through every section to make sure the order is correct and that you put each piece of paper in the right section.

Forced Arbitration Robs Rights of 88-Year Old Beaten Man

forced arbitrationAs mesothelioma lawyers, we are on the front lines of public justice as advocates for victims of asbestos exposure. Through our firm’s foundation, one of the groups we help support is Public Justice.

Public Justice Director Paul Bland, Jr. recently alerted us to an instance that shows how unfair our nation’s forced arbitration laws are to consumers. When an 88-year-old Missouri man rented a refrigerator, an employee of the renting company robbed him and severely beat him, leaving him to be found three days later.  But he can’t go to court, because all his legal rights are bound by forced arbitration.  Who would ever expect that signing a consumer agreement about a refrigerator would mean that you’ve lost your rights if someone invades your home and savagely beats you?

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a way to resolve disputes outside the courts. The parties to a dispute agree to be bound by the arbitration decision. A third party reviews the evidence and imposes a decision that is legally binding on both sides and enforceable in the courts.

Arbitration can be either voluntary or forced. Forced arbitration can only come from a statute or from a contract that is voluntarily entered into, where the parties agree to hold all existing or future disputes to arbitration, without knowing, specifically, whether any disputes will ever occur.

Why You Should Opt Out of Forced Arbitration

According to The Consumerist, an online offshoot of Consumer Reports, the unfortunate incident described above can be attributed to more and more companies adding forced arbitration clauses to their terms of service.

As a lawyer, I must urge you to read the fine print. Check whether the contract or agreements allows you to opt out of this.

Here are the three reasons why you should opt out of forced arbitration whenever possible.

  1. Forced arbitration takes away your right to file a complaint in a court of law against a company that’s wronged you.
  2. Companies want you to arbitrate because the system has been shown to be heavily unbalanced in favor of businesses — who have the legal knowledge, experience, and funding to put up a proper defense — while harmed consumers often enter into the complicated process without legal representation.
  3. Most arbitration clauses also take away the right of groups of harmed consumers to pool their similar complaints together, forcing each customer into going through a binding arbitration that puts limits on damages; meaning companies can harm large groups of customers but get away with only paying out to those people who are willing to arbitrate.

By opting-out
1. You can still agree to arbitrate, if you would prefer that option.

  1. You can still agree to settle out of court.

For these reasons, it is our recommendation that consumers opt-out of forced arbitration clauses, whenever possible.

Getting Started with an Asbestos Lawsuit

asbestos lawsuitInitiating an asbestos lawsuit can seem frightening and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Your lawyer should take care of everything for you and spare you from the legal rigmarole as much as possible. But filing an asbestos lawsuit will seem less intimidating if you have a basic understanding of what is going on and know what to expect.

Providing Basic Information For Your Asbestos Lawyer

If you plan to file an asbestos lawsuit because you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, I am sorry. But it is urgent to start your asbestos lawsuit as soon as possible. You can expect to be asked to provide copies of your diagnosis from your doctor along with any proof you may have of being exposed to asbestos. It could be Social Security statements verifying where you were employed, military service papers or even packaging from insulation products in your home. Your asbestos lawyer will be able to help find official records for you.

Pre-Trial Steps in an Asbestos Lawsuit

Your asbestos lawsuit begins with the filing of an official complaint in the proper court; either in the county where you live or where a business you are suing is located. When you file a lawsuit of any kind, you are referred to as the plaintiff; the one who is bringing a complaint to court. The person or entity against whom the case is filed is often referred to as the defendant; the one who has to try to defend against the accusations stated in the complaint.

Many asbestos lawsuits are filed against several entities – manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, etc.- so in these cases there are multiple defendants.

The complaint states the plaintiff’s version of the facts, the legal concept under which the case is brought (negligence, for example), and asks for specific sums of money as damages or other relief. The plaintiff also files with the court clerk a request that a summons be issued to the defendants. This notifies the defendants that a lawsuit has been filed against them.

In many jurisdictions, the summons will be served by a deputy sheriff or special process server. In other jurisdictions, it may be served by mail. After being notified, the defendants have a certain period of time to file an answer admitting or denying the allegations made in the complaint.

More about how we file an asbestos lawsuit complaint here.

Appellate Court Orders Quick Trial Date for Dying Asbestos Plaintiff

asbestos plaintiffWe are pleased to report that Division Three of the First District of the California Court of Appeal has issued a unanimous opinion ordering the trial court to grant preferential trial status to asbestos plaintiff Gerald Boyd.

Asbestos Plaintiff Exposed Over Four Decades

Mr. Boyd, 71 years old, is rapidly dying of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in the 1940s through the 1980s from the U.S. Steel facility in Pittsburg, CA. Exposure from 1947 to at least 1963 was take home exposure through Mr. Boyd’s father, who worked at U.S. Steel. Exposure from 1967 to at least 1984 was from Mr. Boyd’s exposure as a result of his own work at U.S. Steel.

Mr. Boyd (and his wife Judith) moved for a statutory preference in their trial date, presenting a detailed declaration from his treating oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco that his ability to participate in a trial is diminishing and that there is doubt he will live beyond another six months. This required trial preference under governing California law.

Three giant defendants (U.S. Steel, MW Custom Papers (MeadWestvaco), and Owens-Illinois, worth a combined $16+ billion and anxious to avoid paying Mr. Boyd for the pain they had caused him) opposed preference, presenting no evidence but questioning the treating doctor’s medical opinions.

Kazan Law asked the First District for help, petitioning for an emergency order compelling the trial court to give us a trial date. That court quickly saw the Boyds’ entitlement to relief and, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Stuart R. Pollak, granted urgent relief, holding that the Boyds’ “entitlement to relief is obvious” and ordering the trial court to grant preference and set trial to begin no later than February 28, 2015.

We are hopeful that this early trial date will allow Mr. Boyd to see his case to completion so that he can see justice while he yet lives, and can be assured that his family’s financial future is secured.

Battle Against Forced Mesothelioma Genetic Testing Waged by Kazan Law

mesothelioma genetic testingIn a global first for mesothelioma litigation, Kazan Law has taken the lead to legally stop forced mesothelioma genetic testing. At issue is a recently discovered genetic mutation called BAP1 that reportedly signals higher risk for developing mesothelioma.

Kazan Law Files First Declaration Opposing Forced Testing for BAP1 Gene

Kazan Law Associate Andrea Huston filed a declaration here in Alameda County to oppose the forced mesothelioma genetic testing of a client, who is a mesothelioma patient, by the corporation alleged to have exposed her to asbestos causing her mesothelioma.

“I have represented asbestos plaintiffs for 15 years. Until about June 2014, I had never had a case in which any defendant raised any issue regarding BAP1 gene…Nor to my knowledge had anyone in my office had such a case before June 2014,”Andrea states in her declaration.

She mentions another one of our current cases in which the company accused of causing a client’s mesothelioma has requested a “blood sample” from our client so they can test it for the BAP1 gene.

There are several other cases in other parts of the U.S. where forced mesothelioma genetic testing is also currently a controversial issue.

Kazan Law Fight Against Forced Mesothelioma Genetic Testing Featured in Global Law Journal

Forced mesothelioma genetic testing is so new that our cases caught the attention of a prominent defendant-sponsored online blog site, GlobalTort.

The article highlights the declaration we filed and also how the issue of forced mesothelioma genetic testing marks a new phase for mesothelioma litigation.

“Thus, 2014 becomes the year mesothelioma litigation undeniably entered the age of precision scientific analysis aimed at a particular person’s genomics, and related molecular characteristics,” the article states.

BAP1 Gene Discovered in 2011

In 2011, researchers from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center reported that mutations in the BAP1 gene might predispose people with this mutation to develop mesothelioma when they are exposed to asbestos. The researchers are still studying whether BAP1 could help identify individuals at high risk of mesothelioma, and just how to use these findings in treating mesothelioma patients.

“More experiments are urgently needed to see whether BAP1 expression could be used in diagnostic, prognostic, or therapeutic settings,” the researchers noted in an abstract of the findings published in the Journal of Cancer Research and presented at the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting.

In an analysis of 10,566 U.S. mesothelioma patients from 1973 to 2010 listed in the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program, the researchers reported that only 23 of them carried the BAP1 gene.

Corporate Misuse of Science

It sure didn’t take long for corporate lawyers to try to take the new discovery about BAP1 and turn it into something that to use against innocent people who are dying because of corporate greed and neglect. Knowingly exposing people to lethal asbestos is wrong regardless of anyone’s genetic make-up. Starting with the historic Johns-Manville case in the 1970s, our firm has had a history of successfully pioneering asbestos litigation so we are ready to fight this new 21st century battle for our clients and asbestos victims everywhere.

Shocking Reversal in Major Italian Asbestos Litigation Case

Asbestos Litigation Swiss Billionaire Escapes Responsibility For Now For Over 3,000 Deaths

In a shocking reversal for international asbestos litigation, Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was absolved for now of 3,000 deaths of Italian workers exposed to asbestos in factories formerly part of his company, Eternit. Italy’s Supreme Court overturned a ruling which had sentenced the Swiss industrialist to 18 years in prison.

The Italian court ruled that the statute of limitations for asbestos litigation based on environmental contamination had expired in the case against Schmidheiny. A statute of limitations is a set period of time during which a lawsuit may be filed.

An appeals court in 2013 had upheld Schmidheiny’s conviction and increased to 18 years from 16 the prison term handed down by a lower court in 2012. We reported to you on the upheld conviction here in the Kazan Law blog at that time.

Italy’s premier Matteo Renzi reaction echoed the outrage across Italy on Thursday, according to the Associated Press (AP), after the asbestos litigation high court ruling.

Renzi is quoted by the Associated Press (AP) as saying that the case shows that Italy’s justice system needs to be reformed to speed up trials.

Eternit – Over a Hundred Years of Asbestos Contamination

Founded in 1903, Eternit produced asbestos-containing cement until 1997. Headed by the Schmidheiny family since 1933, Eternit also had factories in the Netherlands, France and Brazil as well as Italy. They also owned a distribution subsidiary in the U.S. that dissolved years ago. But they did not get away with murder here. In fact, Kazan Law won a verdict of $11, 500,000 in 2001 against Eternit right here in Alameda County for a construction project estimator and his wife.

Amid a growing scandal about asbestos, Eternit’s four Italian factories closed in 1986 and the company was sold to an Austrian bank in 2003.

In 2009, following five years of investigation, billionaire former CEO Stephan Schmidheiny and major shareholder Louis de Cartier Marchienne were accused of criminal neglect . Both men were found guilty in February 2013 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.  You can read about this important asbestos litigation in a free ebook  co-edited by my sister Laurie-Kazan Allen and her husband David Allen, who monitor asbestos developments in Europe.

Marchienne died at age 91 on May 21, 2013 during the appeal of his sentence. Charges against him were dropped in June. But Schmidheiny’s sentence was increased to 18 years. He then successfully appealed the case to Italy’s highest court.

Possibility of Future Asbestos Litigation For Eternit Case

According to a Swiss news media website, a Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung has blamed Italy’s federal prosecutor for its “strategy to deal with asbestos damages through criminal proceedings against individuals” – essentially by pinning all the blame on Schmidheiny.

The newspaper maintains that this may not be the end of the Eternit asbestos litigation, noting that “because the acquittal was mainly for formal reasons, it’s unclear whether … the whole palette of allegations is ‘settled’”.

“The Turin public prosecutor’s office is known to be conducting further criminal investigations,” noted the statement from Schmidheiny’s team. “The defense expects the Italian state to now protect [him] from further unjustified criminal proceedings and to cease all current proceedings.”

We can only hope that this expectation proves unwarranted, and that the Italian prosecutor will move ahead with a murder case, for which there is no statute of limitations.

Mesothelioma Lawyers Help Fund Public Justice Attorney

Mesothelioma Lawyers

Jennifer Bennett
Photo credit: Public Justice

Because of what we have learned in our practice as mesothelioma lawyers, we give back in the area of safeguarding public justice. It is one of our guiding principles at Kazan Law. We fund mesothelioma research to help find new treatments for this terrible disease.  But we also help fund nonprofit groups who are trying to help keep the scales of justice balanced.

One of the organizations that we support is aptly named Public Justice.  Based in Washington D.C. and Oakland, it is widely considered to be America’s leading public interest law firm. According to its mission statement, it:

  • protects people and the environment
  • holds the powerful accountable
  • challenges government, corporate, and individual wrongdoing
  • increases access to justice
  • combats threats to our justice system
  • inspires lawyers and others to serve the public interest

Kazan Law helps fund Public Justice by co-underwriting together with another firm a full-time position for one of their attorneys.

Jennifer Bennett is the Kazan Budd attorney for Public Justice.  She works in the organization’s Oakland, California office.

Jennifer graduated in 2010 from Yale, one of the top law schools in the country. While there, she was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal, managing editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review and received honors from the Dean. She could have become a big corporate lawyer. But instead Jennifer chose the path of public justice and to defend the defenseless. While still at Yale, she was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, which represents immigrants and low-wage workers in labor, immigration and civil rights cases.

Currently she is working on a public safety case involving Chrysler, the maker of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles. She is providing legal support for the Center for Auto Safety and drivers in several states in a class action suit alleging not only that certain Chrysler models are defective, but that the company has known about – and concealed – the defect for years.

“The public has a right to know whether (or not) there’s evidence that the cars they are driving might kill them,” Jennifer states in a recent post she wrote for the Public Justice blog.  With public safety at risk and lives possibly endangered because alleged corporate neglect, this sounds like our kind of fight. All of us mesothelioma lawyers and our support staff at Kazan Law are proud to sponsor this public-minded attorney in her important work.

As mesothelioma lawyers who seek justice for innocent people exposed to asbestos, we have seen many, many times the tragic results when corporations are unimpeded in their drive to place profits over people and basic decency. We as a people cannot trust these business entities with public safety any more than you can expect the proverbial fox to guard the chickens.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Explained

Asbestos bankruptcy trusts are a complex but important aspect of asbestos litigation. This is video of the presentation I was asked to give on how asbestos bankruptcy trusts work at the 2014 International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Cape Town, South Africa last month. Here are some highlights.

How Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Started

The asbestos bankruptcy industry – and I call it that- started in 1982 with the first asbestos bankruptcies. There are now about 50 asbestos bankruptcy trusts. They came about because of asbestos litigation –and corporate decisions to evade full responsibility for the death and disease they caused– we sued enough companies often enough and beat them badly enough that many of them decided they had enough and needed to find a legal way to pay up and move on.

I have been involved with almost all of these bankruptcies and resulting trusts since the beginning, often as a chair or co-chair of what is known as the victims’ creditors or advisory committees.  That means I am one of the watchdogs who help make sure that the victims’ interests are being served.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that our firm is involved with more trusts and handle more trust funds than any other American law firm.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Payouts

The US bankruptcy trusts to date have already paid out over $21 billion dollars.

We’ve put together a list of their assets which is a daunting task because it requires us to dig through a lot of records filed with the courts.

This year’s figures aren’t public but as of the end of last year, the asbestos bankruptcy trusts together have close to $32 billion dollars in assets. This is money that is set aside to be paid out over the next 30 to 40 years to asbestos victims.  The funds earn about 5 percent annually on their investments so they will ultimately pay out well above their current asset total.

The bulk of the funds go to mesothelioma cases. The amount paid on each case is based on the number of present cases and how many cases are projected for the future divided into the amount in each trust. Under this formula, a typical shipyard worker or construction worker with mesothelioma would receive about $260,000.

Are You Eligible To Receive Funds From an Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust?

To be eligible to receive funds from a bankruptcy trust, you do not need to prove that the company’s products contained asbestos. The companies involved have admitted that their products contained asbestos and were handled by workers at sites around the country and aboard many ships. We’ve got lists of them. There are 115,000 identified sites in the U.S. plus 19,000 ships. You just need to prove that you worked at one of them and that you are now ill.

All the trusts provide information on how to file a claim on their websites. We’ve made the procedures the same for each trust.

For a claim to be approved you must show:

  • Exposure to a product of the company for which that trust is responsible, when and where you worked and your trade or job, and what asbestos disease you have.
  • Claimant’s occupation when claimant worked with the product
  • Time period claimant worked with the product
  • Asbestos-related disease
  • Who claimant’s dependents are
  • Claimant’s medical expenses and/or economic loss (optional]

If you have any questions about asbestos bankruptcy trusts after you watch the video, please email me and I will answer them for you.

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