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Law Offices Of
Carmen P. Belefonte

20 West Third Street
Media, PA 19063
Phone: 610.627.9777
Fax: 610.627.9787
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Summer 2004

Carmen P. Belefonte, Esq., receives award

Carmen P. Belefonte, Esq., received the Guy G. Defuria Award on May 5, 2004, for professionalism and trial advocacy. Mr. Belefonte, a member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, was presented this award by the American Inns of Court Foundation-Charter No. 28. This award recognizes Mr. Belefonte as a person whose professional life and abilities as a trial lawyer are in the very best tradition of the legal profession. Mr. Belefonte is recognized as a leading trial lawyer in the fields of both civil and criminal litigation, and is a past president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and Delaware County Bar Association.

Medical-injury caps

Lawmakers who want to cap medical malpractice compensation say too many patients are suing over trivialities. Each of the sufferers in the following cases would receive only $250,000 if medical malpractice reformers have their way. While most proposals would allow for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical bills and lost wages, they would limit compensation for permanent, life-altering injuries.

Shortly after oral surgery at a hospital, a 17-yearold patient died when nurses negligently removed a breathing tube too soon, failed to monitor her distress, and mishandled her revival. A jury awarded damages. A mother suffered a hypertensive stroke, cognitive problems, and right-side paralysis after being prematurely discharged from a hospital, despite doctors' knowledge of her high blood pressure and headache symptoms. The parties settled. Although a five-year-old child was admitted to a hospital for an ear infection, radiologists failed to diagnose and report a sinuscavity blood clot before he suffered permanent vision loss from swelling and optic nerve damage. A court awarded damages. Only juries can assess fair compensation for patients' medical payments, lifelong suffering, loss of earning power, consortium with loved ones, and particularly their deaths.

Housing discrimination. .and the elderly

As our nation grays, greater numbers of aging people may find themselves denied equal opportunity in obtaining housing. Housing discrimination against the elderly usually involves two factors. First is a perceived inability of an elderly person to live independently and to care for him- or herself and a property. The second consists of past, actual, or perceived disabilities that might make someone incapable of independent living. If real-estate agents, rental agents, condominium associations, landlords, or even family members unlawfully deny the elderly equal opportunity to obtain housing in single-family homes, condominium communities, or rental communities, those harmed have recourse.

Elderly people who have suffered discrimination are increasingly turning to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to obtain their fair rights to housing. When a Texas couple was refused admission to a subsidized apartment complex on the basis of the husband's blindness and partial paralysis, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's FHA division determined that discrimination had occurred and took the apartment's owners to federal court. The court ruled that the FHA had the authority to bar discrimination against seniors with disabilities.

In a Florida case, an administrative law judge ruled on another FHA complaint. Here, the court agreed that a condominium association was required to make reasonable disability accommodations for a longtime resident who experienced a stroke that made him unable to walk. Courts have also ruled that older residents are entitled to maintain service- or emotional-support animals as long as tenants reasonably comply with general tenancy obligations.

FRAUDULENT health insurance

Wrongdoers selling phony insurance plans are popping up everywhere. Their less-expensive coverage may look very appealing to Americans who lose coverage at work, experience rapidly escalating premiums, or cannot get coverage elsewhere. Not only do scammers often lack licenses to sell insurance, they also don't have sufficient reserves to cover payments. Their game is to pay smaller initial claims to solicit greater premiums from future policyholders. A study found that more than 100,000 scaminsurance- plan buyers have been stuck with $85 million in unpaid medical bills since 2001.

Experts offer the following warning signs to look for in potentially counterfeit health-coverage solicitations: Unbelievably low rates. No health prescreening requirement. Automatic preexisting-condition coverage. Promoted and endorsed by individuals allegedly representing labor unions or professional associations. Sales pitches that replace "insurance" with "benefits." To check a plan's legitimacy, call our state's insurance commissioner's office for licensing, know the agent who will pay claims, and contact an attorney for counsel.

Workplace injuries.and equipment design

Thousands and thousands of American workers are injured on the job every day. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported during 2002. Many workplace injuries could be prevented if manufacturers designed machinery and other equipment with high safety standards in mind, and businesses required all machinery to be operated as instructed.

When workers are injured by defectively designed equipment, our civil justice system offers recourse. Family members of a woman who suffered fatal injuries when a grinding wheel she was working on exploded brought suit. Their attorney alleged that the equipment's manufacturer failed to warn of design dangers and was further negligent in failing to include a protective guard on the equipment that would have prevented serious injury. The parties settled out of court.

Juries Protect Everyone's Rights...
But proponents of new legislation want to hamper their effectiveness

When juries evaluate evidence and render verdicts, corporate America listens. It's because of our jury system that defectively designed cribs no longer strangle infants, once-harmful medical devices have been redesigned, auto fuel systems have been strengthened, and cancer-causing asbestos no longer poisons homes, schools, and workplaces.

But corporate executives and other proponents of new legislation want to hamper the effectiveness of juries through new legislation. H.R. 5 (S. 607) was designed to drastically limit the rights of patients seriously injured by medical malpractice, elderly victims of abuse in nursing homes, and others harmed by defective medical products and prescription drugs. With the U.S. House's passage of the bill earlier this year, those who would stifle the ability of juries to deliver justice may win the battle. The bill is currently undergoing further debate in the Senate.

Dangerous Medications

When introduced in 1999, two new kinds of pain medication, Vioxx® (Merck & Company) and Celebrex® (Pfizer, INc.), were promoted as "superaspirins" that would not upset or harm patients' stomachs as older nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) did.

Both products were heavily marketed to physicians and to the public through hard-hitting marketing and advertising programs. Promotion worked, and Celebrex earned $3.1 billion and Vioxx reached $2.6 billion in worldwide sales.

Although the products were marketed as safer than traditional NSAIDs because they protected patients' stomachs, the medical community began reporting that Vioxx and Celebrex had serious side effects. In June 2002, a research team noted that patients taking the products had increases in hypertension and heart attacks. Lancet, the British medical journal, tied Vioxx to kidney failure. Other studies linked both Celebrex and Vioxx with aseptic meningitis, cardiac problems, and other health issues.

Those concerned about these products should consult their physicians and contact legal counsel.

Auto Accidents and DUI

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2000, there were 17,380 alcohol-related deaths among the 41,945 total traffic fatalities. In 2001, there were 17,448 alcohol-related deaths among the 42,116 total traffic fatalities. The ratio stayed at 41 percent, but 68 more people died in 2001. As the nation's most frequently committed violent crime, DUI takes its toll on the young. Among all children ages 0-14 killed in fatal DUI accidents in 2000, nearly half -- 223 -- were passengers in a vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking.

Anyone involved in an accident in which another driver was DUI should seek legal counsel. In one case, a woman already suffering from an brain injury was struck from behind by a driver who allegedly refused to take a sobriety test, had balance problems, and smelled of alcohol. The jury that heard the case gave the victim an award plus punitive damages.

The Representation You Deserve

The law offices of Carmen P. Belefonte represent victims and consumers in civil and criminal litigation. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for our clients who have been seriously injured and to protect the rights of consumers and people accused of serious crimes. We specialize in civil litigation, representing victims of catastrophic injuries, defective products, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, automobile accidents, and consumer fraud. We also represent clients in serious criminal cases, including DUI, white-collar crime, and other serious offenses. Mr. Belefonte and his staff are experienced and are well-trained to evaluate and prepare your case. Contact us today!

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