News

Memphis VA Launching Investigation into ‘Serious Allegations’ Against Official

The Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s director said yesterday he would immediately launch an investigation into “serious allegations” that a recently promoted official falsified time cards of hospital employees, The Commercial Appeal reports. The claim is that Cheryl Brewer, assistant chief of the human resources office, approved paid time off for employees who had already used their annual leave. This newest incident joins a list of troubles that have plagued the facility in recent months, including the firing of two top officials and increased scrutiny from Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.
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The Protest Movement as a Tool for Social Change: Fifty Years Post-King

The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association presents a dynamic day of programming in recognition of 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis. This program explores the protest that brought Dr. King to Memphis in 1968 and the legacy that his untimely death has left on the fabric of the city. The event will focus on the protest movement in its current state as well as provide updated information on the law surrounding assembly, protest and municipal responsibility.
 
The program features local historical figures who worked with Dr. King, representatives of the media, City of Memphis, local activists, attorneys and judges.
 
Speakers and producers include:
  • Barbara Arnwine, Esq., CEO and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Washington, D.C. 
  • Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse, Municipal Court Judge, Memphis
  • Bill Cody, Burch, Porter and Johnson, Memphis
  • Earle Schwartz, Memphis Bar Association President, Memphis
  • Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Memphis
When: Feb. 23, 9 a.m. CST
 
Where: Fogleman Business Center, First Floor Amphitheater, 330 Innovation Dr., Memphis, Tennessee 38152
 
Contact Florence Johnson by email or call her at 901-725-7520 for more information.
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Health Law 2018 Dates Set

Mark your calendar now for TBA’s annual health law programs. The Health Law Primer will be held on Oct. 10 and the Health Law Forum will run from Oct. 11-12 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Franklin. This year’s program is produced by Mark Cunningham of Chambliss Bahner & Stophel PC and Monica Wharton of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

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TBA Gears Up for 2018 Mock Trial Tournament

The Tennessee Bar Association will host the upcoming Tennessee High School Mock Trial Tournament on March 23 and 24 in Nashville. The Mock Trial is a two-day, single-elimination bracket-style competition where 16 high schools face-off against each other in the Davidson County Courthouse. Each team is scored on their trial preparation and skills. 

We need TBA volunteers to help be bailiffs and jurors (scorers) for the event. After signing up, we will send you a Volunteer Memo with all the information you need for competition including; parking, hotel, downtown map, courthouse rules, and reimbursement information. Come be a part of the Young Lawyers Divisions’ March Madness! Feel free to contact YLD Director Stephanie Vonnahme with any questions.

To volunteer for this event, click here.

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Lawsuit Claims Memphis Nursing Home Drugged Patients

A lawsuit unsealed in federal court claims that a Memphis nursing home gave heavy anti-psychotic drugs to residents to keep them “docile,” The Commercial Appeal reports. The complaint was filed against Raleigh-based Spring Gate Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, alleging Medicaid and Medicare fraud, claims that the company prescribed the drugs “despite the fact that there was never a medically accepted indication justifying such heavy-duty medication.” Now the company must pay a $500,000 settlement and has entered into an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent such conduct in the future.
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Health Law Forum 2018: We Need Your Input

We are excited to announce the newly determined dates for the 2018 Health Law Primer and Forum. This year's Primer will be on Oct. 10, with the Forum taking place Oct. 11-12, both at the Embassy Suites in Franklin.
 
Through top-notch presentations and innovative programming, this forum has become a staple for not just Tennessee lawyers, also drawing attendees from across the country. This year will be no exception.
 
As we are in the preliminary stages of planning, now is the time to make your voice heard. Please take a moment to complete this very brief survey and assist us in determining material that is timely, relevant and enriching to attorneys who share this focus. 
 
We greatly appreciate your help in continuing to make this program the premier event for health law attorneys nationwide.
 
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Medical Marijuana Proponent To Run For State's 6th House District

David Michel of Telford confirmed on Tuesday his plans to run for Tennessee’s 6th House District, the Johnson City Press reports. Michel has been a leading voice of the Tri-Cities chapter of Safe Access, a nonprofit group advocating for safe and legal access to medical marijuana. Michel’s decision to run was influenced by his success in helping the group grow to become the state’s largest chapter. In addition to legalizing marijuana for medical use, Michel says he would also focus on improving infrastructure and bringing in more “blue-collar jobs." He plans to run as an independent.

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Congress Delays 'Cadillac Tax' and Other ACA-Related Taxes and Fees

Congress on Monday passed the Federal Register Printing Savings Act, which temporarily continued funding federal government activity and appropriated funds to various health-related programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and childhood obesity programs.
 
The Act also addressed the effective date for the controversial 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health care, commonly referred to as the "Cadillac Tax," which has been delayed until 2022. At a minimum, the new two-year delay gives employers and plan sponsors more time to adjust health plan design to avoid the Cadillac Tax, legislation that has been unpopular on both sides of the aisle.
 
The Cadillac tax was created as part of the Affordable Care Act largely to help fund benefits to the uninsured under the law. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that delaying the medical device tax will lower revenue by $3.8 billion over a decade, delaying the Cadillac tax will cost $14.8 billion and suspending the health insurance tax will cost $12.7 billion.
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Idaho to Allow Non-ACA Approved Health Insurance Plans

Idaho officials said they will begin allowing insurers to sell new plans that don't meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. In a bulletin issued Wednesday by state Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, "state-based health benefit plans" or "state-based plans" will not be subject to the federal restrictions applied to"grandfathered" or "transitional" plans.
 
Under these guidelines, insurers who participate are free to deny people coverage or charge more based on a customer's medical history, a practice that's illegal under Obama Care. Officials argue that the state needed to act to allow for cheaper plans that would help attract younger, healthier people back into an ailing market, however, critics say that this will likely mean steep premium increases for middle-class individuals with pre-existing conditions.
 
State officials said they are trying to press forward with the changes on their own without any action from Washington. The move will almost certainly be met with legal challenges by ACA proponents, as it has drastic implications on federal enforcement of individual market requirements.
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LAET, Hospital Form Children's Health Law Partnership

Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have partnered to create the Children’s Health Law Partnership (CHLP), the first program of its kind in the Knoxville area. The new program places a civil legal aid attorney on the care team with the doctors, nurses and social workers at the hospital. The attorney works to address non-medical issues that impact positive medical outcomes. The Children’s Health Law Partnership is funded through a 2017 grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee. For more information on this program, contact the Knoxville office of Legal Aid at (865) 637-0484.
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Don't Forget: Winter CLE Blast Tomorrow!

Need CLE hours fast? We can help! The annual Winter CLE Blast is less than a day away. With this program, you can complete up to 11 hours of Dual CLE credit on your own time. Our registration desk will be open from 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 21, providing you the flexibility to create your own schedule and take as many or as few hours as you need. Payment will be determined at checkout depending on the number of hours you attend. 

Highlights

  • Flexible to your schedule
  • Up to 11 Hours of CLE
  • Ethics Credits
  • Compliance CLE
  • Live Credit Hours

When: Feb. 21, registration begins at 7 a.m., CST

Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Ave N., Nashville, TN 37219

 

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Johnson City Men Plead Guilty to Federal Conspiracy, Mail Fraud

Two Johnson City men have pleaded guilty to running a million dollar scam centered around the Mountain Empire Surgery Center, the Times News reports. Donald Kevin Collins and Charles Turner were charged in August with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 15 counts of mail fraud for the scam, in which they created a fake company and tricked the surgical center into paying them nearly $1.4 million over six years. Turner is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 7, while Collins has a change of plea hearing set for Jan. 18.
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Nashville Healthcare Company Finalizes $31 Million DOJ Settlement

Executives with Nashville-based Envision Healthcare have signed a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a government investigation into allegations that it potentially worked to unnecessarily boost admissions at hospitals in several states. The Nashville Post reports that the alleged impropriety occurred between the company’s EmCare division and hospitals managed by Health Management Associates. The company will pay $31.3 million to resolve the claims and avoid further litigation.
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Comptroller: Paperwork Making TennCare Harder Than Necessary for Vulnerable Enrollees

Investigators from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office said that an overly complicated, 98-page renewal form is making it difficult for low-income enrollees to maintain their health coverage, WPLN reports. The investigation was requested by House Speaker Beth Harwell, and revealed that TennCare routinely requests information from enrollees that the agency already knows, and that enrollees sometimes don’t even receive their forms. Michele Johnson from the Tennessee Justice Center said that the forms are so dense and complicated that doctors and lawyers regularly call their offices for help.
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Marine Veteran Sues VA Medical Center, Tennessee Congressman

A Washington County Marine veteran is suing U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, and 17 employees of the Mountain Home VA Medical Center over a forced opioid tapering policy that limits veterans’ access to pain medication, the Johnson City Press reports. Robert D. Rose Jr., whose injuries were sustained in training exercises, claims he has been denied adequate access to health care since the opioid tapering policy began in 2012. Rose said in his lawsuit that he, alongside 90 percent of veterans receiving care at the center, have been denied opioid medications since October 2016.

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Court Clarifies Law on Proof of Medical Expenses in Personal Injury Cases

In Jean Dedmon v. Debbie Steelman et al., the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to change a state law that outlines what evidence can be used to prove medical expenses in cases involving personal injury. The court held that Tennessee law continues to allow plaintiffs to use full, undiscounted medical bills to prove their medical expenses instead of the discounted amounts paid by insurance companies. Justice Holly Kirby authored the unanimous opinion in the case that was originally filed in Crockett County.
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Opioid Commission Comes Out for Drug Courts

A system of nationwide drug courts would help place substance abusers into treatment rather than sending them into the prison system, a new report from the President’s Opioid Commission reported yesterday. That sweeping change was one of the boldest of the 56 recommendations made by the panel, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, LocalMemphis.com reports from CNN. "It's an ambitious recommendation but one that we think would … get help to people who need it in order to slow down recidivism, and … lower the federal prison population."

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Memphis VA Hospital Fires 2 Top Officials Amid Investigations

In the wake of multiple congressional investigations into the facility, the Memphis VA Medical Center has fired two top officials, The Commercial Appeal reports. New Director David Dunning fired the hospital’s director of anesthesiology and head of surgery for “failure to lead and act.” The investigations are looking into allegations of botched surgeries and biopsies, delays in urgent care and rising threats to patient safety. The facility is currently ranked at the bottom of the VA’s own internal rankings.
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Knoxville Lawyer Named Federal Administrative Law Judge

Knoxville attorney Benjamin Burton has been selected to serve as an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration. He will serve at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in St. Louis. Burton worked for the Social Security Administration prior to entering private practice and is one of only 61 Board Certified Social Security Trial Specialists nationwide.
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Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond

 
The International Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association is sponsoring a free seminar “Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond” to be held on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Nashville School of Law, Appellate Courtroom, 4013 Armory Oaks Drive, Nashville, Tenn. 
 
The speakers on the panel include:
  • Terry Olsen, Chair of the TBA International Law Section, as Moderator
  • Clay Banks, Regional Director of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
  • James Forde, Prosperity and Economics Officer of British Consulate General, Atlanta
  • Ms. Joanne Chu, Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
  • Mr. Michael Kwan, Deputy Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
The seminar will provide an overview of the global & U.S. trade & investment landscape as it concerns Tennessee for 2018 & beyond, and both policy & legal views of the ever-changing global standard of Tennessee in the international investment environment.
 
Attendees will also have the opportunity to have direct interactive discussions with the speakers at the end of the seminar.
 
The panel discussion will last from 6pm thru 7pm, and then followed with a FAQ session for attendees, along with a light reception of beverage & desserts. 
 
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Shelby County Man Wins $140 Million Lawsuit Against Testosterone Drug Maker

Jeffrey Konrad of Collierville has been awarded more than $140 million in a lawsuit against the makers of AndroGel, a testosterone drug he claims gave him a heart attack, The Commercial Appeal reports. Konrad’s attorneys argued in federal court that drug maker AbbVie Inc., misrepresented the risks associated with the drug. Konrad had been prescribed AndroGel by his doctor for conditions attributed to low testosterone levels.
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Tennessee Justice Center to Host 2 TennCare Trainings Next Week

Next week the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) in Nashville will host two trainings aimed at explaining the legal ins-and-outs of TennCare and the Affordable Care Act. The first, on Oct. 16, will be held from noon to 4 p.m., and the second from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 17. Both will take place at St. Thomas Hospital, 4220 Hardin Pike, or via live webinar. Registration is available on the TJC website.
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East Tennessee Prosecutors Sue Big Pharma Over Opioids

The top prosecutors for five judicial districts encompassing 15 East Tennessee counties are joining their counterparts in three Upper East Tennessee districts in trying to use the legal system to hold the makers of opiate-based prescription drugs financially responsible for the state’s opioid addiction problem. The News Sentinel reports that prosecutors Charme Allen, Dave Clark, Jared Effler, Russell Johnson and Stephen Crump are suing opioid drugmakers Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

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Reminder: Lunch Business Meeting for TBA Health Law Section Members

Thursday, October 5 at 11:45 a.m. CDT

Reminder: Please make plans to join the TBA Health Law Section at their Annual Lunch Business Meeting and Election of Officers, to be held in conjunction with this year's 29th Annual Health Law Forum. The TBA Health Law Section Lunch Business Meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 11:45 a.m. CDT in the Embassy Suites Franklin. More information about the hotel can be found here.
 
Please note that you do not have to be registered for the Health Law Forum to attend the Section's lunch business meeting, but lunch will only be provided for TBA Health Law Section Members who respond that they will attend this luncheon.
 
RSVP to Jarod Word, TBA Sections and Committees Coordinator, if you would like to attend this lunch business meeting. Deadline for response is Monday, Oct. 2, 12 p.m. CDT.
 
When: Oct. 5, 11:45 a.m., CDT
 
Where: Embassy Suites Franklin, Atrium Room, 2820 Crescent Centre Drive, Franklin, Tennessee, 37067
 
We hope to see you there!
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Tennessee Democrats Call for Special Legislative Session

The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus today called for a special session to expand Medicaid, the Nashville Port reports. Gov. Bill Haslam, however, said that while he’s “frustrated that nothing has happened” in regards to healthcare, he doesn’t believe a special session would garner any results.
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