More Information Emerges in MMA Train Crash

More information continues to emerge about the horrific Canadian train crash that took dozens of lives not long ago. The damage is hard to underestimate. According to a report from CBS News, several dozen are already confirmed dead and many more are still missing. As we reported earlier, many of the likely legal cases stemming from the tragedy may be based in Chicago. The parent company of the railway involved in the case,Rail World Inc., is based in our city.

The accident struck on Saturday, July 8th in a Quebec town, Lac-Megantic. A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) train carrying many cars of oil become dislodged and rolled out of control toward the town. The train eventually derailed in the town center before exploding in a massive fireball. All of the victims were completely unaware that they were in any danger before the explosion. A search is still underway. However, considering it has been more than 8 days since the tragedy, the hopes for those still lost are dwindling.

CEO Points to Employee
In the immediate aftermath of the accident there was mass confusion regarding the underlying causes. The CEO of the railway and head of Rail Way Inc. initially pointed the finger at a firefighter who turned off an engine on the train during a fire that struck the train before it ran away on the track.

However, it wasn’t long before the tune was changed. Now the CEO admits that the main issue was likely the negligence of an engineer working for the company. The CEO admitted when talking about the engineer, “I think he did something wrong.” The issue was whether the engineer applied all of the hand brakes that he claimed to apply.

Similarly, the Premier of Quebec explained, “We have realized there are serious gaps from the railway company from not having been there and not communicating with the public.”

History of Problems
While this immense tragedy is undoubtedly the worst disaster to strike an MMA train, it is certainly not the first problem that the company has experienced. In fact, records indicate that the company’s safety record may be far below other carriers in the United States. Data from the Federal Railroad Administration notes that MMA had 36.1 accidents per 1 million traveled miles. To put that into perspective, the national average that same year was 14.6 per 1 million miles. That means that MMAs record was about 250% worse than the average railway.

Unsurprisingly, the company president downplayed the statistics, claiming that they only refer to very minor accidents. As it now stands, it is hard to gauge the actual severity of those past accidents from the available federal data.

However, no matter what, all train accident attorneys appreciate that even a string of minor incidents may be a sign of cut corners and a lack of committed focus to prioritizing safety. That is always unacceptable. But it is particularly egregious when the negligence, like in this case, results in unimaginable death and destruction.

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Consumer Voice’s “Comments” to Proposed Medicare/Medicaid Rule Changes

Our attorneys, along with many resident advocacy organizations, frequently explain that systematic changes that improve the lives of all nursing home residents often center on a government agency: The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). That is because a large swath of nursing home care is actually paid for by these programs. Medicare covers certain rehabilitative stays while Medicaid provides the bulk of payments for traditional long-term nursing home needs.

Providers of this care, in order to qualify for continued enrollment in CMS programs, must meet their demands. Sure, the nursing homes can try to get money only from residents who pay out of their own pocket or have long-term care insurance–but those individuals are few and far between. For that reason, most facilities can only operate with CMS support.

Therefore, all efforts to CMS rules, regulations, and policies which may touch on nursing home care is important to monitor. Luckily we have organizations like the Consumer Voice to do just that. In fact, recently the Consumer Voice submitted comments to CMS with regard to proposed changes related to CMS survey, certification, and enforcement procedures.

A full letter to the office spelling out those comments can be found here.

Consumer Voice Comments
The specific details of the proposed changes are somewhat nuanced. However, all those who care about nursing home residents receiving proper care can
glean a few important principles from the arguments set forth in the letter.

For example, it is pointed out that “delivery of quality care is the responsibility of the government and should not be transferred to a private non-regulatory entity that is accountable to its clients–healthcare providers– and not to the public.” This is the same principle that underlies the discrepancy between care quality at non-profit and for-profit facilities. While money pressures will always plays some role in these services, the goal should be to minimize the distortion pressures.

In this particular case, the issue is the merit of “accreditation organizations” which seemingly work to ensure proper standards for “accreditation” of nursing home. The problem is that the accreditation organizations are private entities that receive funds directly from the nursing homes themselves. Therefore, in every sense the nursing homes are the clients of the organization. It is illogical for the organization to rely on the very facilities it may need to judge harshly for its financial sustainability

With these letter, the Consumer Voice urged CMS to continued denying this “deemed status” option to long-term care facilities like nursing homes. The conflict of interest is obvious and the best interests of residents are not met by changing the rules.

The remainder of the letter spells out more clearly the Consumer Voice’s arguments against “deemed status.” In addition, there is discussion of oversight of national accreditation organizations in general. Those interested in the more technical issues should read the entire comments.

For our part, our legal teams is acutely aware of the consequences for improper oversight of long-term care facilities that leads to substandard services and ultimately, injured residents. We applaud the work of organizations like Consumer Voice which ensure the rights of actual residents are heard every step of the way.

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Will Lawsuits Be Filed in Chicago Following Quebec Train Accident?

One of the worst train accidents in recent memory struck this weekend in a sleepy Quebec town. According to various reports, the tragedy struck in the early morning on Saturday. Around 1am a train owned by Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) became dislodged while sitting in a yard on top of a hill above the town of Lac-Megantic.

Once lose, the locomotive with 72 cars careened right to toward the town. Tragically, each of the cars were filled with crude oil. When the train eventually derailed in the center of town, the oil caused an immense fireball.

The damage was severe. The most recent reports suggest that at least twenty people have been confirmed dead with another thirty still missing. Sadly, the more time that passes without identification of the lost residents, the less likely a happy outcome. Local authorities already conceded that most of those missing are presumed dead.

What Caused the Quebec Train Accident?
How was this disaster allowed to happen?

Obviously there are protocols to follow to properly secure trains and ensure that they do not dislodge and head down a track out of control. Something clearly went wrong in this case. Authorities are still investigating the situation, but a good deal of information has already been uncovered which reveal the mistakes which led to the tragedy.

The chairman of the MMA conceded at a press conference that the train engineer left the locomotive on Friday evening–he was staying in a hotel a few miles away. While sitting vacant, near midnight, a small fire broke out on the train. Local firefighters were called to put out the fire. As part of that process, the locomotive was shut off. This caused the air brakes to become disabled. Reports suggest that at least two MMA employees knew that the locomotive was shut off.

In addition, yesterday the MMA chairman finally admitted that the handbrakes on the train were not properly set. This is a critical safety step which is the obligation of the train engineer. The chairman explained, “He [the engineer] said he applied 11 hand brakes. We think that’s not true. Initially we believed him, but now we don’t.”

In fact, local authorities are conducting a criminal investigation to ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to understanding what happened, holding responsible parties accountable, and pushing for changes so this never happens again.

Civil lawsuits are expected as well, with affected families seeking to protect their legal rights. Observers point out that the suits may be filed in Chicago. That is because MMA is affiliated with a rail management and investment firm known as Rail World Inc. Rail World inc. is based out of Chicago.

More developments will be forthcoming in the coming days as more is uncovered about the case. It is important for all families affected by this tragedy is to ensure they protect their rights by contacting an experienced train accident attorney as soon as possible.

Escondido Nursing Home to Close

A recent article in UT San Diego broke the news that Palomar Health will be closing its Escondido nursing home in October 2013. As a result, more than 80 residents will be displaced, and 130 staff members will face layoffs. What led to the decision? According to an official at the health system, Medi-Cal funding cuts and “coming off a difficult fiscal year” are two major factors that are forcing the facility to close its doors in just a few months.

News of this nursing home closure raises concerns about nursing facility overcrowding and affordability in the southern California area. If you have questions about nursing homes in our area or are concerned that your loved one is suffering nursing home neglect or abuse, an experienced injury attorney can discuss your claim with you today.

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Palomar Continuing Care Center—Facility Details

Palomar Health is a large health system that provides a variety of care for patients of all ages in its facilities, which have multiple locations in southern California. The Palomar Continuing Care Center, the nursing home that is set to close, is located on Avenida Del Diablo in Escondido. It’s a 96-bed skilled nursing facility that’s affiliated with Palomar Medical Center.

In addition to providing long-term care for adult patients in need of sustained services, it also offers supportive rehabilitation services. These services are designed to “improve function and ability to the highest level possible.” In anticipation of closing its doors this autumn, the facility made the decision to stop taking new patients on July 1st.

Funding Problems

According to Steve Gold, the chief officer for post acute care at Palomar, the primary issue is “the state’s elimination of special reimbursements for nursing homes run by hospital systems.” In fact, Palomar likely faces a $3 to $4 million penalty of sorts—it will have to give back some of its funds, since that cash was subject to a “clawback” provision in the California budget.

In addition to the “clawback” provision that will strip the nursing facility of some of its money, Palomar Health is also dealing with the financial burden of creating a $956 million 11-story hospital that will be located in west Escondido. As if the situation couldn’t get worse, the health care system is facing Medicare reimbursement cuts.

Finding Another Nursing Home?

Do you have a loved one who currently resides at Palomar Continuing Care Center? Where can you go if you want to make sure your elderly relative remains in a skilled nursing facility in the San Diego area? For many families, this will be a very difficult decision. And for many patients who currently live at the Escondido facility, finding alternate placement will not be easy. In fact, nearly 30 of the facility’s current patients “require feeding tubes or expensive medications or have suffered a traumatic injury.” In many of these difficult cases, private facilities are not willing to take on such patients.

Although Palomar Continuing Care Center will close in October, Palomar Health does plan to keep another nursing facility in operation. According to UT San Diego, “Villa Pomerado, a 129-bed facility attached to Poway’s Pomerado Hospital, will remain open despite a similar funding gap.”

Why keep Villa Pomerado open but close the skilled nursing facility in Escondido? According to Gold, Villa Pomerado is a newer facility. And in addition to skilled nursing, it also provides more short-term rehabilitation business, which “is critical to getting patients out of even-more-expensive hospital beds.”

Aside from Villa Pomerado, the only other health system in San Diego County that operates its own nursing home is Sharp HealthCare. This past spring, Sharp and Palomar partnered to support a California bill that “would have restored funding for the facilities,” but Gov. Jerry Brown indicated that he plans to veto that bill if it passes.

In the meantime, the California Department of Public Health said that “finding a new home for nursing home residents is Palomar’s responsibility.” October is still several months away, but if you have questions about your legal rights when it comes to nursing facilities in the San Diego area, contact a licensed nursing home lawyer today.

Photo Credit: timefornurses via Compfight cc

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What Nursing Homes Won’t Tell You

Federal Resources to Learn About Long-Term Care Options

There is such variety in the quality of nursing homes that it is absolutely essential to take care when making a selection for a loved one. Weighing the facility’s track record, location to family members, available amenities, perspective of current residents, and other factors is critical. It is not a stretch to say that the life of your relative is on the line, and it is well worth it to take all the available time to make the appropriate choice.

But as far too many Illinois families know, there often is not much available time. Many seniors suffer a fall, stroke, heart attack, or other accident that forces them to move into a facility where they can receive around the clock assistance right away. Adult children, other relatives, and friends often have to help make a nursing home decision almost immediately.

Prepare Ahead of Time
While it is impossible to know exactly what the future holds, it is never a bad idea to conduct some basic research ahead of time to understand the long-term care process for your or a loved one. Investigation does not mean that the need for nursing home care is automatic. Instead, it is just a pragmatic step to prepare for an uncertain future.

Deciding on reasonable facilities is just one of many questions to consider. For one thing, there any many different types of long-term care settings, each offering different levels of care. Understanding the distinctions is helpful.

On top of that, finances must be accounted for. Where will the money come from to pay for the care? Long-term care costs can be quite significant, and many seniors do not have the resources to pay for it on their own–at least not for long. In addition, Medicare, which provides healthcare for many seniors, actually does not cover most long-term skilled nursing home stays (only short rehab needs). Instead, that burden falls to Medicaid. Qualification for Medicaid is far different than Medicare, as it is based on financial need and not age. Qualifying for Medicaid often requires one to “spend down” their assets. This can result in a family home or other assets being lost. Steps can be taken to protect some of those assets, but it is usually only possible when an estate planning attorney is consulted who can use specialized legal tools (like a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust) to guard against future uncertainty.

One helpful resources to browse with regard to all of these issues actually comes directly from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a website: www.longtermcare.gov. The site has a wide range of information about types of long-term care, making reasonable choices, and understanding the related finances..

The attorneys at our firm have worked with countless families whose loved ones suffered serious injury (or even death) as a result of poor nursing home care. Considering the stakes and the prevalence of mistreatment, we urge all local residents to familiarize themselves with these long-term care issues as early as possible to give your loved one the best chance possible of receiving appropriate care free of error.

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Dozens of Criminals Charges Filed Against Group of Alzheimers Care Workers

Nursing home culture is critically important to resident care. News stories and blog posts discussing specific instances of elder neglect always follow a predictable pattern: a resident was hurt, a specific caregiver is cited for problematic actions which caused the injury, and some discipline or punishment was doled out to that caregiver. The downside to this repeated narrative is that it may create the impression that all instances of mistreatment is nursing homes are caused by specific workers who make mistakes.

That masks larger problems about general lack of attention to resident safety by entire nursing home teams. The culture at a facility among employees sets the stage or future care. If cut corners or focus on profit maximization becomes the norm, then it is just a matter of time before a senior resident is harmed as a result. When the harm occurs, one specific employee may have made a mistake, but the problem is far larger than a single errant person.

This is why the same low quality nursing homes often have multiple neglect lawsuits and allegations of mistreatment—it is a cultural problem. In fact, in an “exception that proves the rule’ situation, there are times when mass mistreatment is uncovered implicating many different employees at a single facility.

Dozens of Caregivers Cited
For example, Mcknight’s Long-Term Care News published a story last week on a rash of criminal charges filed against over twenty different individuals at a single long-term care home. All told at least seventy specific criminal charges were filed implicating many in the home, including the owner. The mass mistreatment and subsequent criminal charges were filed after an extensive three-month investigation.

There was not one specific action which led to the charges, but an apparent culture of poor care which skirted state law and exploited residents. The facility in question caters specifically to residents with Alzheimer’s. As we have frequently noted, seniors with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia are the most likely group to be hurt by poor care.

In this case the allegations range from administering medication improperly to employing convicted felons (which is unlawful in the state). More specific details uncovered in the investigation shock the conscience. For example, residents were allegedly restrained with bed sheets. At other times, multiple diapers were placed on residents so that caregivers could go longer without changing the resident. The disregard for basic dignity and dehumanization of these vulnerable community members is shocking.

Don’t Stay Silent
Understandably there has been significant community outrage following these mass criminal charges. Those working on elder care issues know, however, that these stories are not flukes–similar mistreatment occurs daily throughout the country. It is only stopped when someone stands up and demands accountability. Talking to the local ombudsman, state regulatory bodies, neglect attorneys, and others is the best way to put an end to the abuse and neglect.

For help throughout Illinois, please feel free to contact our legal team today. We have decades of experience on this very issue, working to protect seniors and hold negligent facilities accountable for the harm they cause.

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Illinois Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit Tied to Poor Communication

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Illinois Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit Connected to Poor Communication

Communication. Therapists giving advice to married couples, coaches trying to improve their basketball team, and countless others have pointed to “communication” as a key problem–or, a lack of communication. The ability to transmit information to one another in efficient and reliable ways is obviously a critical skill, affecting every area of life–including nursing home care.

In fact, a good number of nursing home neglect lawsuits point to communication breakdowns as a key cause of the preventable harm in question. Many different individuals–doctors, nurses, aides, administrators, other residents, family members, therapists, and more–may be involved in the care of each senior at these facilities. It is important for all of them to share information about necessary care in order to prevent tasks slipping through the cracks and seniors being harmed.

New NH Lawsuit
That sort of communication breakdown is pointed to as one mistake that led to the death of a nursing home resident according a new wrongful death lawsuit. According to details shared in the Madison Record, the suit was recently filed in the Madison County Circuit Court against the involved facility and other individual professionals/medical organizations connected to the nursing home.

The article explains that in mid-2011 the senior in question had colon surgery. As is common after these sort of medical procedures, the senior needed close care during her recovery. As a result she temporarily moved into a nursing home to help with that immediate care before transitioning back to living in her regular home. She was transferred to the defendant-nursing home for that rehabilitation support.

Yet, as happens far too often throughout Illinois, the woman’s family claims that critical caregiving errors were made while she was at the nursing home.

Most notably, the complaint initiating the lawsuit claims that there was a breakdown in communication related to blood test results. The test results were faxed to the nursing home. Those tests showed that the senior had low sodium levels. Yet, the facility apparently never received the fax, and those sodium issue was subsequently not handled at all.

As a result of the medical condition being left untreated the senior had swelling in her arms and legs which spread to her face. This resulted in a short hospital stay. Upon being dismissed back to the nursing home she immediately showed signs of other problems–slurred speech and shortness of breath. Eight days later she was dead–from respiratory distress and heart failure.

Eventually the senior’s family filed nursing home neglect and Illinois wrongful death lawsuit. The matter is in the early stages of the process, as the complaint was only filed late last month.

If you or a family members has ever suffered harm as a result of communication problems at a nursing home, be sure to get in touch with an injury attorney to learn about your legal rights. Our legal team has decades of experience on these specific issues are proud to work with families through the state of Illinois.

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California Court of Appeals Reverses Damages in Nursing Home Fall

Last month, the California Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a Superior Court of Los Angeles County case that involved a nursing home fall. The case involved a 79-year-old resident, Samuel Nevarrez, who suffered from falls at San Marino Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre, a facility in Pasadena. The patient passed away, and his wife became a party to the litigation. At trial, a jury awarded Nevarrez $4 million in damages in addition to attorneys’ fees. However, the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, effectively denying Nevarrez the $4 million jury award.

The Court of Appeals made its decision based on evidence at trial that it decided was prejudicial to the nursing facility. The decision in this case could impact the compensation amount of jury verdicts for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of abuse or neglect in a nursing facility, you may be eligible for compensation.

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Photo Credit: newyorklawyer via Compfight cc

Details of the Victim’s Multiple Falls

This case began when Nevarrez was admitted to San Marino Skilled Nursing and Wellness Centre for rehabilitation in March 2009. According to the facts of the case, he “was alert, but had difficulty standing and walking and was at a high risk of falling.” During March and April 2009, Nevarrez “fell nine times while at the nursing home.” In most of the cases, his falls happened while he was trying to get out of bed or go to the bathroom.

After Nevarrez’s first fall, the facility said he had poor safety awareness and judgment, and that he had been attempting to function beyond his ability. The facility recommended that his bed be moved to the lowest position and that Nevarrez be placed in the “toileting program,” which would require someone to assist the victim whenever he needed to use the bathroom. When Nevarrez fell again, the facility said he was “forgetful” and “impulsive.” The next series of falls led the facility to provide a bedside commode and to add a lap belt and alarm to Nevarrez’s bed. He was supposed to be monitored “visually around the clock,” but his room wasn’t visible from the nurse’s station.

A significant fall later occurred while Nevarrez was using the toilet. One nurse had been in the victim’s room, and another stood in the doorway. Nevarrez “lost his balance, hit his head on the wall, and fell.” As a result of the fall, he had to undergo brain surgery for a subdural hematoma, and he later had a stroke. He was readmitted to San Marino after his surgery, where he fell two more times.

What Did the Court Say?

Nevarrez filed a complaint that alleged elder abuse and negligence, along with a violation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. The jury found six violations of the Patient’s Bill of Rights “based on inadequate staffing” and eight violations “based on failure to provide Nevarrez with material information.” The jury also found that San Marino was negligent, and that Nevarrez’s injuries were the result of reckless neglect. He was awarded approximately $1.4 million for past and future medical expenses, and $3 million in general damages. The jury also awarded $952,142 in attorneys’ fees.

At that trial, the court allowed evidence of a “class A” citation and a statement of deficiencies issued by the California Department of Public Health against the San Marino facility. This is the most serious type of accusation that the Department can make for a non-fatal incident. The nursing facility appealed.

The Court of Appeals found the admitted evidence to be prejudicial, and that the district court shouldn’t have admitted that evidence. In addition to that finding, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the jury had awarded more compensation to Nevarrez than the statutory maximums allow. As a result, it reversed much of the original jury awards and sent the case back to the trial court.

If you’re concerned that a loved one has suffered neglect at a nursing facility, you don’t want to end up in a situation similar to the Nevarrez case. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer knows how to handle nursing home abuse and neglect claims in California and can discuss your case with you today.

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Illinois Nursing Home Residents Lose $100,000 from Administrator Theft

When considering misconduct and abuse of power at nursing homes, most residents and their families worry about physical abuse and neglect. Far too many have been forced to deal with a senior loved one’s untimely death or serious injury which could have been prevented if caregivers had simply done their job up to reasonable standards.

Yet lurking on top of the persistent threat of neglect is also the risk that those paid to provide care will intentionally abuse their position for financial gain. Trust is at the center of the resident-nursing home relationship. That is why stories like one coming out of Champaign are maddening–a reminder that all those involved in nursing home care administration, if they choose, can cause serious damage to those who count of them.

Systematic Senior Financial Exploitation
As reported by McKnights, a former administrator for the large nursing home chain HCR ManorCare was arrested in Champaign, Illinois recently on a dozen criminal counts, including theft, forgery, and financial exploitation of the elderly. The charges stem from alleged conduct which resulting in over $100,000 being taken from nursing home residents

All told, according to reports, over a four and a half year period the woman in question was in charge of bookkeeping for the a 102-bed long-term care facility in the area. During that time she used her role to steal the funds from 18 different residents, more than a hundred thousand dollars.

The central Illinois detective who worked on the case explained the alleged-criminal’s common modus operandi, noting, “She was making false entries into the books and physically writing checks to herself. She was the authorized signer on the account, and in some cases, she was forging the signatures of other employees who were authorized signers.”

It remains unclear if those who were the victims of the theft will receive any of their funds back. In many cases of a similar nature, the money is long gone by the time that the misdeeds are uncovered–leading the senior to struggle to recover financially. That is why it is important to take reasonable steps to prevent such crimes before they actually occur.

Proper Hiring Decisions
As this sad case demonstrates, because of the setting, virtually anyone working in long-term care facilities can use their position to cause immense harm–physical, emotional, mental, or financial–on the residents who count on their proper care.

For this reason it is absolutely critical that nursing homes make employment choices very carefully. It is not enough to simply hire anyone and place them in these settings without clearly understanding their risk of using the situation to their own advantage. In most cases when an employee in these positions abuses their position or acts negligently the facility itself may bear some responsibility.

The attorneys at our firm have worked on cases of this nature for decades. We understand the immense anger and sadness that comes with trust placed with a facility is broken with serious results. Contact our office to learn more about your legal rights if this has happened to you.

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Supreme Court “DOMA” Ruling May Soon Affect Rights of Couples in Illinois

Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse cases are just one type of injury lawsuit that fall of the rubric of “tort” law. All tort law cases are guided by different procedural rules applicable at both the state and federal levels. Those rules dictate general principles like “who” can sue and “what” they can recover. All of those rules are separate from specific arguments about whether someone was or was not injured due to negligence.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling in a high-profile case that may eventually affect the applicability of those tort rules for some Illinois couples.

DOMA Case
The case, officially known as U.S. v Windsor, was a legal challenge to the constitutionality of part of the federal known as DOMA — The Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA was a 1996 law that, among other things, prevented the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same sex couples, regardless of whether they were sanctioned by an individual state. In other words, because of DOMA, even couples in states that allow it, like Iowa, were never able to receive any federal benefits.

Now, as a result of the court’s 5-4 opinion, that disparate treatment is no longer. All legally married couples–regardless of sexual orientation–will be treated equally under federal law.

Legal Rights with Marriage
Some of those rights associated with marriage have direct bearing on the civil justice system and recovery in injury lawsuits. For example, all state and federal wrongful death statutes only allow certain individuals to file such suits. A spouse is usually the first person on the list–”friends” are never able to seek such recovery. Similarly, only spouses can usually seek “loss of consortium” damages. In addition, spouses are protected from testifying adversely against one another at trial.

Therefore, as a result of this DOMA decision, married same sex couples will be afforded these same protections on a federal level.

Illinois Consequences
But will this apply to same sex couples in Illinois? The short answer: No. At least not right now.

That is because same sex couples in Illinois are not allowed to marry. Instead, Illinois only provides for civil unions for these couples. It seems clear that the DOMA decision is only confined to those couples who are lawfully married in one of the twelve states that currently allowed such unions.

Yet, many suggest that Illinois may be the next state to treat gay and straight couples equally under the law. The Illinois Senate passed a marriage equality bill in February and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has been vocal in his support. That only leaves the Illinois House to pass such a bill to make it law. A vote was almost taken on the matter in May, but it was apparently a few votes short. Many suspect that another vote will be pursued this Fall or perhaps next Spring. If Illinois does pass a marriage equality bill, then this DOMA decision will allow those newly married couples to parity under federal law for injury lawsuit purposes.

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