New Lawsuit Might Help Fight Opioid Abuse

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is taking an important and necessary step in the ongoing effort to address the opioid drug crisis in the state. Hawley sued three pharmaceutical companies in state court Wednesday in St. Louis, alleging the firms contributed to the overuse of pain-killing medicines such as OxyContin and Percocet.

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Beware of Employee Waiver Tactic

As organized labor leaders negotiate new contracts, they should be wary of an emboldened employer tactic seeking waivers of employee participation in class actions against the employer. Here’s a prime example of how elections have consequences, which many members likely never considered how policy changes in Washington can affect their and their families’ lives. With the election of Donald Trump, the National Relations Board has done a 180 degree turn in construing labor policy now upsetting precedent which protected workers. Secondly, the composition of the US Supreme Court makes the odds favorable for no longer banning this employer practice. But collective bargaining agreements need not agree to take away the rights of the unit members to participate in these class action lawsuits. A prevalent use of this litigation is over wage and hour disputes, as one example.

The United States Department of Justice announced last week it will switch over its support in the upcoming Supreme Court case, NLRB v. Murphy Oil, from the National Labor Relations Board to Murphy Oil. The issue, set for the 2017 October Court’s term, is whether arbitration agreements with individual employees that ban employees from pursuing employment claims on a class or collective basis (class action waivers) violate the NLRA. Under President Obama, the DOJ wrote an amicus brief (friend of the court brief) in support of the NLRB, which had ruled that such arbitration agreements did indeed violate the NLRA. But, as the DOJ states in its re-filed brief, “after the change in administration, the office reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.” The DOJ now argues that “nothing in the NLRA’s legislative history indicates that Congress intended to bar enforcement of arbitration agreements like those at issue here.” (Thanks to Vivian Dong)

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From the USSCT’s blog.

 

Letter to the Kansas City Star Editor

This letter to the editor from John B. Boyd appears in the Kansas City Star.

Right to work

When Missouri’s legislature passed a bill with the false slogan “right to work,” it was not representing the interests of working Missourians. It attacks everyone with one purpose: destroy your chances to achieve success. It limits your civil rights and destroys the freedoms of association that have resulted in improved safety and training, reasonable working conditions and fair pay without regard to sex or ethnicity.

Concerned citizens, community leaders and businesses are standing up to this punitive law. Signatures are being gathered on an initiative petition, which would allow registered voters to decide the future of our state. Will we be allowed to reject a law that attacks the civil rights of all?

You, your family and your friends can participate in the process to secure a citizens vote throughout Kansas City and Missouri. Call a union office, your church or your state representative’s or senator’s office for directions.

Should the wealthiest control your ability to provide improved opportunities for your family? When was the last time a millionaire looked out for your best interests?

John Boyd

Lee’s Summit

Jury gives widow $551,000 in credit card collection case

By: Lawrence Viele Davidson Special to Missouri Lawyers Weekly May 18, 2017

Debt collector CACH LLC started to pursue collections from Lynn Dingwall shortly after her husband died in 2011, and sued her in 2014. She countersued, and ignored CACH’s offering of $30,000 to settle the case, opting to go to court instead. On Feb. 24, a Jackson County jury awarded her $551,000 after finding the collections agency was “malicious” in its pursuit of the balance on her By the time a widow’s lawsuit against a debt-collection firm for its demand she pay her dead husband’s $10,000 credit card balance was headed for trial, the collector was trying to pay her.

The jury awarded $500,000 in punitive damages, $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1,000 in statutory damages under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.

Attorneys Brianne Thomas, Mark Parrish and Josh Sanders with Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish who represented Dingwall argued CACH only wanted to threaten her into paying the credit card bill and never intended to provide proof in court that she owed the money. The card was in her husband’s name and Dingwall was not legally responsible for the debt.

“We were not disappointed,” with the jury award, said lead attorney Mark Parrish of Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish.

Dingwall’s husband Mitch died after suffering a heart attack in 2011, between the November and December credit card statements. The company changed the card to her name in the December statement, Parrish said.

CACH sued Dingwall for the debt in April 2014. She filed counterclaims under the FDCPA and for malicious prosecution. The court granted her partial summary judgment for violations of the FDCPA. The recent trial was to determine damages under FDCPA liability and damages for malicious prosecution.

Parrish said evidence showed a pattern and practice of pursuing payments from debtors in an illegal manner from 2009 to 2014. The pattern and practice evidence were key elements for the punitive damages finding.

CACH is among thousands of collection firms across the U.S. that buy delinquent debt and pursue payment, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. CACH can report accounts in arrears to credit reporting agencies while it presses for payment. It did so in Dingwall’s case even after the court entered summary judgment against it on the credit card debt in a December 2014 order.

For its part, CACH said in court papers opposing the summary judgment motion it did not threaten Dingwall to extract payment with no intent of taking further action as she claimed.

“Here, CACH, LLC did not threaten an action, it took one” the company said in a filing. “While the court ultimately decided against CACH, LLC on its petition, that does not change the fact that CACH, LLC intended to do exactly what it did do,” the company said.

“Rather, the evidence demonstrates that CACH had both the intention and ability to establish its assignee status and actually prove the claims filed,” the company’s filing said. Though searches did not turn up paperwork, such as the card member agreement with the original debtor, in this case MBNA, CACH required that MBNA go through the “time-consuming process” of verifying each account.

Parrish casts doubt on whether CACH did enough to determine they were pursuing the right person as the law requires. The card was clearly Mitch Dingwall’s, not his wife’s, he said. “They could have easily figured it out if they had followed the process they claimed to use to verify the accounts they purchase.”

Nicole M. Strickler, of Messer Strickler in Chicago represented CACH. She did not return a phone call for comment.

$551,000 verdict
Malicious Prosecution and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations
Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 1416-CV09906/Feb. 24, 2017

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Source

When government withdraws from protecting the environment, private citizens in private lawsuits need to fill the gap

Across the board, the courts are being called on to stop the worst of the Administration’s attacks. There’s a long, strong history of citizens turning to the courts to enforce environmental laws and regulations when the federal government refuses to do so.

The effectiveness of these “citizen suits” cannot be overestimated. Public Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Project has brought them again and again as a way to hold polluters accountable for turning a blind eye to pollution and environmental destruction.  All too often, polluters can create huge costs by dumping toxins and wastes into our water and air, and “externalize” those costs by making other people (like people who breathe or drink water) bear the costs.  If a lawsuit makes the polluter have to clean up their operations – to dump wastes responsibly, to treat wastes before dumping them into a river – then they have to “internalize” those costs.

Private lawsuits, by people actually hurt by pollution, can be a critical tool in the fight against climate change.

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Cancer Diagnosis: Firefighter Families Fight for Justice

The attorneys at BKTP Law have handled several firefighter cancer cases which have come to successful conclusion over the past two decades. The firm’s lawyers are very experienced in this field of law and have been called upon to present information nationally to fire fighter associations. The firm works to address legislation which protects first responders and their families.

The union representing most full-time career firefighters in North America, the International Association of Fire Fighters, has been full-throated in its contention that cancer exceeds heart attacks, traffic accidents and traumatic injuries as the top cause of job-related fatalities.

“Cancer is a looming personal catastrophe for all our members, and we are just beginning to understand the magnitude of the problem,” union president Harold Schaitberger said last year in support of legislation that would establish a federal registry of firefighter cancer deaths.

“The uptick in the number of cases has really exploded over the last several years,” said J.R. Boyd, a labor and workers’ compensation attorney based in Independence.

According to the Missouri Department of Labor, just eight claims for compensation were filed by firefighters with a nature of injury listed as cancer. Of those eight claims, one was voluntarily dismissed by the employee, and the remaining seven are pending with the division.

But Boyd thinks more cases have been filed.

During his first 15 years representing employees in benefit cases, he never came across a firefighter cancer case. Now he and the other attorneys at the firm have dozens of cases filed or in the process of being filed.

He recently tried the first of those on behalf of a Gladstone fire captain who died at 54 after a six-year cancer battle.

Click here to read the full Kansas City Star story.

Independence law firm expands presence in KC area

After hiring two litigators with decades of experience, Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish LLC expanded its firm by opening its third and fourth offices.

With the hiring of Dennis Horner and Jeffrey Carey, the Independence-based law firm now has 11 attorneys in Sedalia, Lee’s Summit and Olathe.

Horner has been practicing law since 1974, specializing in workers’ compensation law, personal injury and wrongful death cases. He was listed as one of “America’s Best Lawyers” in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He’ll work out of Olathe, giving Boyd Kenter its first office in Kansas.

Carey has nearly 20 years experience as a lawyer, with specialties in personal injury and wrongful death claims. He received the Legal Champion’s Award from Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly for his work on a federal corruption case and in support of the initiative petition process. He’ll help open the firm’s new Lee’s Summit office.

Boyd Kenter also added Raymond Salva Jr., who earned his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2013. His areas of practice include civil litigation, personal injury and product liability.

“We’re excited to bring Dennis, Jeff and Ray’s complementary expertise to our attorney team,” Boyd Kenter Managing Partner Brianne Thomas said in a release. “Each will deliver the expertise and dedication to civil justice and will serve as passionate advocates for our clients.”

Boyd Kenter was founded in 1983.

 

Click here to see the original Kansas City Business Journal article.

How Do You Make America Great?

This article by John B. Boyd appears in the UFCW District Union Local Two Newsletter.

To answer that question, ask yourself this first. When was the last time billionaires looked out for you, your family, or your friends? If you believe that your vote for the president or a state governor doesn’t matter, then the billionaires win. Instead, think of their actions, not promises, to see who is looking out for you. Start by looking at Right to Work legislation.

Those who tout this legislation as benefitting workers engage in “alternate facts.” In other words, they lie. Lipstick on a pig doesn’t make the pig something else. Everyone already has a right to work in America. So, just the phrase alone is that lipstick. There are many unbiased studies which demonstrate that RTW states have lower average household incomes; lower health and all other forms of insurance coverage; higher death rates of children and greater poverty rates of its citizens. Why would a worker or a well-meaning legislator support RTW laws? Because they are misled into believing it will help them or their economy.

In Missouri, a RTW anti-labor bill in the Senate has been passed. Yet, the Missouri Department of Economic Development has shown Missouri’s economy has continued to grow. Missouri State Senator Gina Walsh said recently, “In other states, Right-to-Work has hurt their economy, driven down wages, and stifled job growth. Here in Missouri, we’ve rejected Right-to-Work (in the past), invested in our workforce, and seen record job growth. Supporters (of RTW) have put forward no credible reason for passing this law other than to drive down wages and appease special interests.”

Who is behind Right to Work laws?

Historically, these laws originated to suppress workers, Blacks and Jews. Known as “Jim Crow” laws, these were used to force separate and unequal, but superior, conditions for white workers over those of color, of those who religious beliefs were different. In 1941, a newspaper editorial called for banning closed shops, and a white supremacist quickly seized upon that theme and received massive attention. An anti-Jew and self-proclaimed Christian, he railed against labor unions because he was paid to do so by big business.

Over the course of his career, he fought against giving women the right to vote, against protecting our children in the workplace, and sought to repeal the 8 hour work day. He was financed over the years by anti President Franklin Roosevelt financiers, the billionaires. His message of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism and anti-unionism was received with open arms in the South.

Today’s crop of billionaires and multi-millionaires – Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, David Humphreys, just to name a few, are financiers supportive of the efforts to silence the strength of collective bargaining through anti-union legislation. An organization known as ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — influences state politicians to vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. 98% of its funding comes from the Koch Brothers and their foundations. ALEC and the United States Chamber of Commerce are in favor of turning back the clock on workers’ rights to collectively bargain, and that is why they seek to a return of the anti-unionism days that the bigot Vance Muse made popular seventy years ago.

As you contemplate this article, your job security, and your family’s well-being, ask the questions of those who seek to undermine labor laws. If you substitute just a few words for those attributed to the racist Muse, do you see yourself or your friends and family in these cross-hairs? The support for President Trump and Missouri Governor Greitens, by those who would build a wall and who seek to make it impossible for you to leave your children with a better chance so that corporations can make a better profit, will succeed unless labor rallies and stands together.

Here’s a test to which you know the right answer. Yet, those greedy men with money and their corporations would have you believe they are looking out for yourinterests. Really?

Who died for your right to a 40 hour work week?
A) Corporate Executives
B) Conservative radio talk show
hosts
C) Wall Street Bankers
D) Union members

Can you list how have our lives improved because of unions? Here are a few, and all are at risk with RTW and the rest of anti-labor legislation.

  • 40 hour work week.
  • Children are no longer required to work in sweat shops.
  • You can improve security for all through collective bargaining rather than individually trying to negotiate by yourself with your employer.
  • Better working conditions
  • Higher wages
  • Affordable healthcare
  • Pensions
  • Safer workplace through stronger workers compensation and occupational safety and health laws.

So how do we make and keep America and our states great?

We must do a 180 degree turn from where Governor Greitens, Governor Brownback, and President Trump–and their supporters–are taking us. Our elected officials must:

1. Strengthen unions
2. Raise the minimum wage
3. Stop corporate welfare
4. Bring manufacturing jobs back home
5. Tax companies that hide profits overseas
6. End, not pass, so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ laws
7. Get big money out of state and national politics

Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish LLC Adds Attorneys and Expands Its Offices to Include Kansas

Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish LLC is pleased to announce the addition of Dennis L. Horner and Jeffrey J. Carey, both serving as Of Counsel, as well as Attorney Raymond Salva, Jr. to the firm. The additions of Horner and Carey expand the firm’s geographic footprint to now include Lee’s Summit, Mo. and Olathe, Kan.

Horner is a seasoned litigator, practicing law in Kansas since 1974 and specializes in workers’ compensation law, personal injury and wrongful death. He has been listed as one of America’s Best Lawyers in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

For nearly 20 years, Carey has focused on personal injury and wrongful death claims. In 2014, he received the Legal Champion’s Award from Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly for his work on a federal corruption case and in support of the initiative petition process.

Salva, Jr. received his Juris Doctor from University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 2013 and his areas of practice include civil litigation, personal injury and product liability.

“We are excited to bring Dennis, Jeff and Ray’s complementary experience to our attorney team,” said Brianne Thomas, Managing Partner of Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish. “Each will deliver the expertise and dedication to civil justice and will serve as passionate advocates for our clients.”

Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish has grown to 11 attorneys in four offices including Independence, Mo., Sedalia, Mo., Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Olathe, Kan.