Baratta, Russell, & Baratta (“BRB”) would like to thank our clients, friends, and family for the many referrals made to us over the past 23 years. We are continually and eternally grateful for your trust. A referral from a client, colleague, friend or neighbor is the lifeblood of our business. Here are some of the highlights of 2020.
PERSONAL INJURY RESULTS OF NOTE
Courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey conducted limited trials in 2020 due to the need to protect the community from the scourge of Covid-19. But, even with limited access to jury trials, the BRB personal injury team was able to secure some outstanding results for deserving clients:
Medical Malpractice Cases
- A confidential 7 figure settlement for the family of a 38-year-old single man who died. Our client had suffered a subdural hematoma in an assault and was discharged from the hospital to his home after 36 hours because the neurosurgery team thought the swelling of his brain was stabilized. It was not. The brain continued to swell and he died 2 days after discharge.
- A confidential 6 figure settlement for injury to an infant’s nasal column, caused by over-use of nasal prongs in providing oxygen assistance, requiring plastic surgery.
- A confidential multi-million-dollar settlement for a 56-year-old man injured by a tractor trailer company whose driver was so fatigued he could not react properly to road conditions.
- A 72-year-old pedestrian killed instantly by a tow truck company that had not properly screened its driver. ($750,000 settlement)
- A confidential multi-million-dollar settlement for a drywall installer who suffered a brain injury in a motor vehicle wreck.
- A woman who suffered a subdural hematoma when, while riding her bike, she was knocked down by a dog which had escaped its owner’s yard. ($425,000 settlement)
- A confidential 6 figure settlement for an infant caused a subdural hematoma in a minor fender bender.
Motor Vehicle Accidents and Insurance
A $500,000 recovery for a family (all insurance available) injured by a driver crossing the median of the road and causing a head-on impact.
A $400,000 recovery for a motorcyclist who suffered a lower leg injury.
BRB secured a major victory at trial in March securing a verdict by a Montgomery County Court. In Montesano v. Erie Insurance Company, the Court ruled that our client was “an insured” for purposes of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.
These results were accomplished by the Personal Injury team led by Anthony J Baratta, which includes Andrew Baratta, Andrew DiPiero, Kim Kutler, Heather Feenan, Diana Wojtylak, Gabrielle Sobel and Victoria Freedman – Holland.
In the year of the Pandemic, Baratta & Russell’s Trusts & Estate Department combined mission with expertise, created new methods of service and took care of our friends, clients and even strangers in a time of uncertainty and need. In most years, people can delay or diminish the importance of estate planning – Not this year. The importance of estate planning was front and center in everyone’s mind – creating a plan for disability, death, or personal or family disruption was critically important.
What stories during the year best illustrate our work and the importance of good planning?
-Was it the single mother health care worker who called and wanted her estate plan finished to make sure her child was protected before she took the risk to return to work?
-Was it the head of a local hospital who met with us remotely in his office to review his own estate plan and explained to us that the music blaring in the background – Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – was to signal the discharge of a patient off of a COVID ventilator?
-Was it the client who called to advise us that a 92-year-old long-time client, already in Hospice, had contracted COVID to ask if her affairs were in order and then advised us that both her and her husband (a physician) had determined to stay by her bedside regardless of the risk to themselves? Both were at her bedside at her death and both contracted COVID as a result of their decision.
This year we were able to provide our clients with peace of mind about at least one aspect of their life – their estate planning. We had a high demand for estate planning services, which we handled timely and expertly. The challenge was how to do it safely. Our firm adopted an entirely new set of tools to talk to clients about their plans and get them executed. The tools included: Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, telephone meetings, and remote Notaries. We went to clients and visited homes and nursing homes – whatever it took to get clients’ estate planning done and completed effectively and safely.
Unfortunately, we said goodbye to many friends this year who were our estate planning clients. Individuals and families choose our firm for a reason – to create a plan, and when it comes time to execute this plan, to walk along with a grieving spouse and family and to guide them during a time when all seems pointless or clouded. Our job is to lift-up a loved one or family and to make sure that our friends’ affairs were transitioned effectively with care and compassion.
For our clients who had loved ones in or entering nursing homes, it was a particularly difficult year. We met with many clients in nursing homes and, when possible, met with them remotely. It was gut-wrenching in a number of situations. One client that we met with was near-death; we went over her plan and assured her that everything was in good order. She died not too long after our meeting. We worked closely with clients who were unable to see loved ones in the last weeks of their lives. Their anguish was evident and to the extent possible, we provided them whatever little solace that we could – that their affairs were in order.
Our Estate team is led by Kenneth C Russell and includes Jack Sweeney, Maria Loecker, Maureen Russell and Ellen McCann.
INJURY INSURANCE BAD FAITH
Automobile and worker’s compensation insurance carriers are constantly scheming to avoid paying for the medical care needed by people injured in accidents. Insurers target doctors who treat injury patients with false accusations of “fraud” which are designed to undermine the doctor’s credibility and, in turn, the true value of their patients’ injury claims. It is a multi-billion-dollar racket for companies like State Farm, GEICO, Allstate, and Liberty Mutual.
Over the past 20 years BRB has established a national practice exposing these allegations for the scam that they are. In the process, we have recovered and saved for doctors across the country tens of millions of dollars owed to them for the treatment of injured patients and ensured the continued availability of quality healthcare to people confronted with the devastating impact of an automobile or work injury.
In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed in February of 2020, we sued State Farm in the Southern District of Florida federal court on behalf of a doctor whose practice State Farm was threatening with an accusation of “predetermined treatment” and a demand of potentially millions of dollars in damages. Rather than give in to State Farm’s demands, we sought a Declaratory Judgment that State Farm’s entire premise was without basis in science or fact; a declaration which would not only protect our client but also effectively shield injury doctors across the country from accusations of “fraud” based on alleged “patterns” in their past records.
State Farm attempted and failed multiple times to have our case dismissed. Ultimately, State Farm surrendered by submitting a formal declaration to the Court that it would not make such an accusation against our client. We are now pursuing the same declaration in defense of claims brought by State Farm against doctors in Maryland and Delaware.
In 2020 BRB was retained by orthopedic surgeons, radiologists, family physicians, physiatrists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and MRI centers in new matters against insurers in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Rhode Island, Texas, Kentucky, and California. At their core, each of these cases involves an insurer inventing or threatening an accusation of “Fraud” based on alleged “Patterns” in a doctor’s past treatment of injured patients and demanding the payment of millions of dollars from the doctor.
Our Injury Insurance Bad Faith team is led by Andrew P. Baratta, who is most often brought in as pro hac vice counsel through a medical provider’s local attorney.
OUR PRO-BONO & CHARITABLE WORK
The entire BRB family feels very lucky to have the ability to help others.
In 2020 we continued to focus our energy in helping Laurel House, Philadelphia VIP, The Brain Injury Association of PA, and St. Joseph’s Manor Nursing Home.
In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic the Estate team instituted a program for any friend, client or stranger, to receive a key estate planning document – an Advance Directive for Healthcare. As we wrote: “…we are not doctors, first responders, grocers, makers of N95 masks, researchers or pharmaceutical firms – we are lawyers.” Every person who responded received an updated ADHC.
We believe it is part of our greater purpose to help others in our communities. We are looking forward to continuing these efforts in 2021.