SCM’s Kids Foundation First Annual Poker Tournament & Silent Auction was a Great Success!

Slide2(1)Thanks to all of our guests and sponsor donations that made this event possible.  We were able to raise over $6,000 for our SCM Kid’s Foundation and have a great time while doing it!  These donations will benefit children in our communities by providing bicycle helmets and bicycle safety education.  We also will be funding initiatives against texting while driving and bullying in our schools.  Please “LIKE” us on Facebook to get updates on SCM Kid’s. Here we will add events and the steps we are taking to keep the children in our communities safe. https://www.facebook.com/SmithCoonrod?ref=hl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2014 Smith Coonrod Mohl

Mohlman & Stipetich Make Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer List 2013

The Missouri and Kansas personal injury law firm Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC, is proud to announce the inclusion of lawyers Mike Mohlman and Michael Stipetich in this year’s 2013 Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers list. Super Lawyers is a service that rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Mr. Mohlman has been named to the Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer list, and has been selected as one the top 100 lawyers in Missouri and Kansas and one of the top 50 lawyers in Kansas City.  No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in any state are selected as Super Lawyers. Selection to the Super Lawyer list is made by using a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and reviews by other lawyers. Mr. Mohlman has been listed as a Super Lawyer since 2009.

Mr. Stipetich has been named a Missouri and Kansas Rising Star as a top “up-and-coming” attorney. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in any state are chosen as Rising Stars, and selection to this list is made by the research team at Super Lawyers. This is the second time Mr. Stipetich has been named a Rising Star.

Mr. Mohlman primarily represents people that have suffered injuries caused by car, truck and motorcycle wrecks, a wrongful death, dangerous property, and electrical shock. Mr. Stipetich also handles personal injury cases, but his primary practice is devoted to representing workers in employment matters, including wrongful termination, discrimination/retaliation, worker’s compensation, and wage and hour litigation.

Area hospitals are being sued for not submitting bills to health insurers

A situation that is confronting an increasing number of our clients who have been injured in car wrecks and other accidents involves hospitals refusing to accept health insurance.  The reason hospitals do this is to potentially get a bigger pay day by placing a lien against any settlement the victim ultimately receives.  This article discusses some of the recent developments related to this bad behavior that is driven by corporate greed.

By STEVE EVERLY

The Kansas City Star

Jonathon Layden was once confident that if he were ever injured, he could count on his health insurance to help pay his medical bills.

“They’re going to come after you any way they can,” said Layden, who is suing Research for not submitting the bill to his health insurer. “It’s all about the money.”

When hospitals turn down your health insurance, they are then able to avoid the discounted charges they have agreed to with health insurers. In Layden’s case, the hospital went directly to him for the full bill, but the usual practice around the country is to go after whatever money a person injured in an vehicle accident might get from an auto insurance settlement.

Here’s how the practice usually works:

• The hospital first refuses to submit your bill to your health insurer.

• It calculates your bill without the health insurer discounts and instead files a lien against whatever settlement you might receive from an auto insurer.

• The hospital gets paid from the settlement.

In Layden’s case, the hospital allegedly didn’t even file a lien and instead demanded payment directly from Layden before a car insurance settlement was in hand.

A spokeswoman for Research would not comment, citing the ongoing litigation. HCA, the owner of Research and one of the nation’s largest hospital chains, also declined to comment. The hospital in its initial legal brief in the court case denied the allegations. Practice is growing

No figures are available to show how often bills aren’t submitted to health insurance. But the practice is thought to be growing because hospitals are looking for new sources of revenue as health care reforms seek to curb costs. That hospitals are tapping auto insurance settlements is not new. In state laws dating back to the Great Depression, they got the right to place liens on injury judgments and settlements. Hospitals were struggling financially because of a growing number of patients unable to pay. The liens were seen as contributing to the public good by helping the hospitals stay open and treat patients.But critics say in recent years that the liens have morphed into a tool to help maximize hospital revenues by getting more out of patients with health insurance.Kenneth Berger, a South Carolina lawyer, said that in the last two years, it has become an epidemic in his state.

“This is something that really does add insult to injury,” he said.

In this region, Research Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Kansas City area and SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, Mo., are facing lawsuits against the practice. The three cases seek class action status to represent other patients who may have been affected.

Kerry O’Connor, a spokeswoman for St. Luke’s Health System, said in an email response that filing liens on injury settlements is expressly authorized by a Missouri statute and that other hospitals in the state are doing it as well. O’Connor said, however, that the hospital is not “asserting” new liens pending resolution of the court case.  She added that St. Luke’s is assuming the risk of not being paid anything if there isn’t an auto insurance settlement. And it still contends it didn’t have to file health insurance for the person now suing the hospital.

Ralph Phalen, one of the attorneys representing patients in the suit against St. Luke’s, disagrees: “It’s our belief the contract (with the health insurer) requires them to accept.”  In some other states, the practice has suffered legal setbacks dating to the late 1990s. But an Illinois court ruled it was legal.

The most public rebuke to the practice occurred in Indiana. Hospitals there were either not filing insurance to collect the gross charge or filing it and then using liens against auto insurance settlements to recover the part of the bill lost to the discounts. Earlier this year, the legislature approved a bill stopping it with large bipartisan majorities, and a conservative governor signed it. The new law went into effect July 1.

Alan Smith, director of the Midwest office of R Street Institute, a think tank based in Washington, called the Indiana move praiseworthy. The state won a skirmish in the battle to make medical bills more reasonable and to help vulnerable patients, he said.

“I can’t believe they (the hospitals) thought they could get away with this.”

Insurers concerned

The practice puts patients in the middle of disputes over medical bills that they thought would be paid with health insurance.  Auto insurance settlements can indeed help pay the hospital bill in many instances, but the inflated cost without the health insurer discount can take an outsize chunk from a pot of money that is also used to cover other expenses, such as lost wages, attorney fees and replacement vehicles.  Auto insurance policies have limits on how much they will pay in a settlement. In some cases in other states, hospitals have submitted bills worth more than the settlement.  Auto insurers have a budding concern that because they don’t have the power that health insurers have to impose discounts, more of the medical costs will be shifted to them. That could end up boosting auto insurance premiums.

“It’s a significant issue,” said David Corum, vice president of the Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit group supported by such insurers as Allstate and State Farm.  Specialized companies are helping hospitals sidestep the discounts.

In its sales pitch to hospitals, Medical Reimbursements of America, based in Brentwood, Tenn., says that while accidents represent just 2 percent of claims, they can generate higher reimbursement rates than any other category.  The company contends that its AcciClaim Auto system ensures that hospitals get more when treating those injured in auto accidents, often 100 percent of the gross charges.  The company recently formed an alliance with Firstsource Solutions of Louisville, Ky., which has employees stationed in emergency rooms and admissions offices at 300 hospitals across the country. Part of their job is to identify and interview auto accident victims.  It was Medical Reimbursements of America that sent a letter to Britanie McKeever telling her that SSM DePaul Health Center in the St. Louis area would file a lien on any settlement gained from the other driver to pay her $31,000 hospital bill.  Her attorney got the bill slashed, but she was shocked that her health insurance didn’t come into play.

“I thought I had full-coverage health insurance,” she said.

SSM DePaul said in a statement that it follows all state and federal guidelines and any requirements set forth by insurance agreements. When treating a person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it works with the patients to identify all sources of insurance payers.

Kansas City area cases

Layden didn’t discover that Research wouldn’t be using his health insurance until more than a month after his accident.  His initial bill actually showed the $10,896 bill dropping to $3,281 after an adjustment for the insurer’s discounts. He called the hospital asking if the bill had been sent to Blue Cross but didn’t receive an answer. Soon after, he received a $10,896 bill, the amount without the discounts.  The hospital eventually sent his account to a debt collection agency, which agreed to cut the bill in half. Faced with a falling credit rating, Layden got the loan from his parents.  The hospital ended up getting about $2,000 more by not submitting the claim to the health insurer. The physician who treated him in the emergency room submitted his bill to Blue Cross.

“It’s time for them (Research Medical) to take responsibility for their actions,” said Layden, who eventually received a $14,000 auto insurance settlement.  A spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield said hospitals it contracts with, including Research Medical, are required to submit a claim.  When the issue appeared in the Kansas City area isn’t clear, but it has been simmering for years.

“It seems to have started (in the Kansas City area) five or six years ago,” said Mitchell Burgess, a lawyer with the Kansas City firm Burgess & Lamb, who is representing patients who have filed lawsuits, including against St Luke’s.  St. Luke’s has gotten a Kansas case dismissed, but it received mixed rulings in others.

In 2009, Iretta Morgan was in a car accident and was taken to a St. Luke’s hospital. The hospital submitted an $11,452 bill to her health insurer, which paid a discounted amount. The hospital sent the check back to the insurance company and filed a lien against any settlement Morgan received.  In Jackson County Circuit Court, St. Luke’s argued that Missouri’s liens law gave it authority to use it on health insurance patients. It rejected arguments that it was unjustly enriching itself by seeking to recover the medical bill without the discounts.  The judge agreed, handing St. Luke’s a victory.

Morgan appealed her case to the Missouri Court of Appeals. It ruled the hospital didn’t have unfettered rights to use the liens to collect a higher bill. Instead, the case hinged solely on whether the hospital was required to submit the health insurance and accept the discounts that satisfied the debt.  The case was sent back to Jackson County Circuit Court to determine if the hospital’s contract with the health insurer did require a claim to be filed. It is still pending.  St. Luke’s said the appeals court merely held that the plaintiff is entitled to review the insurance contracts.

“Yes, St. Luke’s contends it was not required by contract, nor by law, to submit the claim to the insurer,” the hospital said in an email response to a question.

Aetna, the health insurer for Morgan, did not return a call seeking comment, but her attorneys say they have seen enough hospital contracts with insurers to be confident there is such a requirement.  Indiana Sen. Brent Steele, a Republican who sponsored the bill reining in the hospitals in his state, said the legal arguments may be beside the point. In Indiana, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and even trial lawyers and insurance companies united to stop the practice.  The medical treatment by the hospitals wasn’t questioned, but by sidestepping the health insurance they were making up their own rules. He said their attitude reminded him of a scene in the Mel Brooks movie “History of the World, Part I.”

A king was playing a game of skeet, but instead of clay discs, he ordered live peasants catapulted into the air to shoot. He turned to an adviser and said: “It’s good to be the king.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/08/03/4387796/area-hospitals-are-being-sued.html#storylink=cpy

Smith Coonrod Mohlman LLC Attorneys Included In This Year’s Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers List

Missouri and Kansas personal injury law firm Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC, is proud to announce the inclusion of lawyers Rachel Smith, Mike Mohlman and Michael Stipetich in this year’s Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers list. Super Lawyers is a service that rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Stipetich have been named Missouri and Kansas Rising Stars as top up-and-coming attorneys. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in any state are chosen as Rising Stars, and selection to this list is made by the research team at Super Lawyers. Ms. Smith has been named a Rising Star every year since 2009. This is the first year that Mr. Stipetich has been included.

Mr. Mohlman has been named to the Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer list as one of this year’s top attorneys in Missouri and Kansas. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in any state are selected as Super Lawyers. Selection to the Super Lawyer list is made by using a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and reviews by other lawyers. Mr. Mohlman has been listed as a Super Lawyer since 2009.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Mohlman primarily represent people that have been injured through no fault of their own. They focus their practice on serious injury cases caused by car, truck and motorcycle wrecks, wrongful death, premises liability and electrical shock. Mr. Stipetich also handles personal injury cases and other tort cases, but his primary practice is devoted to representing workers in employment matters, including wrongful termination, discrimination/retaliation, worker’s compensation, and wage and hour litigation.

Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC Signs Lease for New Office Space

Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC is moving to the Country Club Plaza on January 1, 2013. We have signed a lease for 5600 square feet of space on the 7th floor of the Plaza West Building at 4600 Madison, Kansas City, Missouri. We are all very excited about the new office which will provide us more space and better facilities as well as the latest in technology in order to better serve our personal injury and business clients in Kansas and Missouri. We will be providing more information as the move grows nearer. In the meantime, come see us at our current office at 7001 W 79th St., Overland Park, Kansas 66204.

Partner Rachel Smith selected as one of Missouri Weekly’s 2012 “Up and Coming Lawyers”

Smith Coonrod Mohlman is proud to announce that Rachel Smith was
selected as one of the Missouri Lawyers Weekly “Up and Coming
Lawyers”. These lawyers were selected because they go above and
beyond in the legal profession for 2012. Attorneys were selected
based on their contribution to the legal profession in their
community.
Rachel has been active in many philanthropic organizations
in Kansas City including spending eight years on the board of Big
Brothers Big Sisters, co-founding Smith Coonrod Mohlman Kids
Foundation, and supporting many, many others. She is a dedicated
personal injury attorney who handles a wide range of negligence cases,
including car, truck and motorcycle wrecks. She is devoted to her
clients, and to promoting community safety. She has obtained
significant recoveries for her clients, most recently a case involving
a child on an ATV, and a museum patron who had his fingers severed by
a defective and misused door.

Partner Rachel Smith is a Woman Who Means Business

Smith Coonrod Mohlman, LLC is pleased to announce that founding partner Rachel Smith has been named to the Kansas City Business Journal’s list of Women Who Mean Business for 2012.  Each year the Business Journal selects 25 women from all types of businesses in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  These women are selected by a panel of judges as being outstanding for their business accomplishments, growth plans for their companies, contributions to the community and efforts to improve the climate for women in business.  Rachel and this year’s other honorees now join 300 other women selected over the past 12 years to join this elite group of business women.

Rachel and Brett Coonrod founded the firm in 2005 with the goal of assisting clients who have suffered personal injury accidents through the fault of others and in handling small business matters with an emphasis on litigation.  They were joined by Rachel’s former classmate Mike Mohlman in 2011 who brought experience in complex personal injury cases from Independence to Overland Park.  The firm now has six attorneys and practices on both sides of the state line.  If you have personal injury or business related legal issues in Kansas City, KS or surronding areas, come see Rachel.  She means business.

Editorial: What does malpractice ruling have to do with Missouri Plan? Nothing

14 hours ago  •  By the Editorial Board

In November, Missouri voters will be asked to make changes to the way many of the state’s top judges are chosen. Known colloquially as the Missouri Plan, the rules, originally adopted by voters in the Show-Me State in 1940, have served the state well.

Under the Missouri Plan, commissions of lawyers and gubernatorial appointees nominate three finalists for open seats on the appeals and supreme courts, along with judges in urban judicial circuits. The governor picks one of the three. The process, while not perfect, minimizes political influence.

A group of deep-pocketed Republicans who would prefer to buy Supreme Court judges in expensive elections convinced the Legislature this year to ask voters to tweak the plan. The proposal on the November ballot is not nearly as bad as previous ones, but it would further politicize the selection of judges by giving more power to the governor.

Last week, some of those opponents of the Missouri Plan said that a decision by the Missouri Supreme Court striking down damage caps in medical malpractice lawsuits supported their case. The way folks like Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and lobbyist James Harris see it, the medical malpractice decision is proof positive that trial attorneys — who file malpractice lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved victims — have outsized influence in choosing judges. The 4-3 decision was the judges paying back their supporters, they say.

Expect similar allegations to be made in political advertisements this fall. Here’s what voters will need to know:

The allegation is laughable.

Missouri’s is not the only state supreme court to have overturned medical malpractice caps. Seven other state supreme courts have overturned similar medical malpractice caps in their states on almost identical legal grounds: Arbitrary caps limit a citizen’s right to a jury trial. Other states have specific constitutional prohibitions against such caps.

It’s easy to understand why. Our nation’s Founding Fathers thought it was important to preserve the right for all of us to be judged by a jury of our peers. That is often our final protection against the potential tyranny of the state, a state that often in our nation’s history has been influenced by corporate barons.

But with medical malpractice caps in place, here’s what can happen: Patients, or broken-hearted survivors, find a lawyer to sue doctors or hospitals that made preventable errors that led to serious harm or death. Lawyers take the cases on contigency — that is, they bear the considerable expenses of bringing the case in return for a percentage of damages, usually about a third.

If they lose, they get nothing. They can’t afford to take weak or frivolous cases. If there’s a cap on non-economic damages, it’s harder for injured parties to find a lawyer willing to bring a tough case.

Only a tiny percentage of cases make it to trial; most are settled out of court.

Fewer still end up with juries. Those jurors often shed sweat and tears over what’s right. They come to a number offering fair financial remuneration. They tell the judge.

In cap states, the judge thanks them for their service before they find out that they wasted their time. Lawmakers in the state capital already had decided what the number was. Much of their work was unnecessary.

Supreme courts in Illinois, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon, Alabama and Georgia have overturned medical malpractice caps.

Not a single one of those states chooses its judges using the Missouri Plan. New Hampshire’s hybrid system comes the closest, but in the rest of the states, supreme court judges run for election in either partisan (Illinois and Alabama) or nonpartisan (Georgia, Oregon and Washington) contests.

We don’t think too many people are going to accuse liberal trial attorneys of having outsized influence in the selection of judges in Alabama and Georgia.

In fact, in 2003, the second and most recent time Alabama overturned medical malpractice caps, its chief justice was Roy Moore of the Ten Commandments-in-the-courthouse fame. Mr. Moore, a darling of the right, is no weak-kneed liberal.

So to say that trial attorneys and the Missouri Plan somehow led to the medical malpractice decision ignores reality. It’s a further example of how the campaign against the nonpartisan court plan is nothing but trumped-up political tomfoolery.

In fact, overturning medical malpractice caps is an old-fashioned conservative decision, protecting Missouri’s constitution and the basic right to a jury trial.

Standing up for “job creators” doesn’t make one a conservative; it makes one an opportunist or a plutocrat, or both. Thank goodness our Founding Fathers, and four sitting Missouri Supreme Court justices, knew the difference.

What Does Tupac’s Hologram Mean For Other Celebrity Estates?

What Does Tupac’s Hologram Mean For Other Celebrity Estates?

INDIO, CA - APRIL 15:  A hologram of deceased ...The music world has been buzzing ever since the surprise appearance of Tupac Shukar — well, that is, a digitally-created 3-D image of Tupac — on stage to rap at the Coachella music festival in California.  Some have described this as creepy, like seeing a ghost.  Is this going to be a new trend for celebrity estates?  Should it be?

First, there is the issue of legality.  Was it legal for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to bring Tupac’s image on stage?  Because this was a use of Tupac’s image and likeness for commercial purposes, only the holder of the “right of publicity” for Tupac could authorize it.  That right is owned by Tupac’s estate, under the control of the executor — his mother, Afeni Shakur.

Reportedly, she not only authorized it, but was thrilled with the outcome.  Dr. Dre repaid the estate for this permission with a contribution to the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which is Tupac’s charity.

Dr. Dre has already said he’d love to bring out other dead celebrities to perform with him, like Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye.  Michael Jackson’s brothers are planning a reunion tour next year, and hope to have a holographic version of the King of Pop join the tour.  And we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Whitney Houston’s estate take advantage of what could be a new trend in celebrity estates, based on the reports of how much debt her estate has.  Celebrity estates could profit handsomely by allowing the use of holographic images, given how much excitement Tupac’s appearance generated.

Who’s next?  Elvis?  Marilyn Monroe?  Maybe Amy Winehouse?  They all rank highly on Trial & Heirs‘ list of top Twitter accounts of deceased celebrities.  So their estates are already putting words into their mouths through social media, mostly to promote commercial endeavors and raise money for the estates.  It’s certainly not a stretch to envision holographic performances next.

The Michael Jackson estate will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Unlike many other celebrity musicians who passed away, his estate is controlled not by his family, but by professionals.  The Ray Charles estate is another example.  Both have featured court fights between the family and those in charge.  With those estates, the executors — not the family members — have the right to agree to a holographic performance, whether the family members like it or not.

It’s no easy task to balance the desire to profit from a late musician’s image, and the concern of crossing the line into exploiting that image in ways that would leave the performer spinning in his grave.  Even family members can often disagree over this line.  For example, the Bob Marley estate has seen lots of fighting over this very issue, including a recent lawsuit by the estate, controlled by Marley’s mother, suing one of his half-brothers.  That case involves the right to sell Mama Marley fish products and use the Marley name in connection with a popular music festival.  The Jimi Hendrix estate faced similar court fights between half-siblings, one of which involved “Electric Hendrix Vodka.”

In the future, these types of disputes will take on heightened significance if a holographic image of a long-lost celebrity is involved.  Should the ability to profit outweigh the harm that comes with commercial exploitation of what is essentially a ghost?  As this New York Times Op-Ed piece eloquently put it:

[T]he reanimated dead are never the people they were before. Oh, they sing the same, and rap the same, and have the same distinctive tattoos and hand gestures.  But they don’t have the complexity, or the humanity, to really compel our interest. They’re ghosts — ghosts in a new machine, perhaps — but at best they are no more than the shadow of the shadows that they cast upon us, back when they were alive.

Pale imitation of the original or not, holographic performances will surely generate profits from devoted fans who miss their fallen idol.  There will always be legions of devoted followers who would gladly pay to see even a lesser version perform again.  As long as the executor in charge gives the green light, this is all perfectly legal.

But, is it right?  What would Tupac have thought about this?

This is something to think about for many of us.  Even when you’re not famous, and don’t have to worry about whether or not your estate will allow a hologram of you to perform, you have a name and reputation that will live on after you’re gone.  For business owners, there is the added concern of your reputation being properly managed through your business after you pass away.

Who do you want to control your legacy after you pass?  Do you want that person to treat your heirs honorably, as you would have liked?  Do you want your business to be managed in a way that would make you proud?

These are legitimate concerns that many people don’t stop and think about when doing their estate planning.  Creating a will or trust is more than simply deciding who gets what.  Choosing the right person to manage your estate, trust or business after you die is critical, both for your loved ones and often for your own reputation.  Putting the right person in charge can make all the difference between tainting your legacy, and having your wishes and goals followed the way you want.

By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national television special, Trial & Heirs:  Protect Your Family Fortune! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update.  You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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