Author: Jeff Raizner

Bair Hugger Deep Joint Infection Lawyers

Raizner Slania Files Bair Hugger Deep Joint Infection Lawsuit On Behalf of California Woman

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a Bair Hugger deep joint infection lawsuit on behalf of a California woman against 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare. The woman alleges 3M and Arizant failed to warn her of the infection risk associated with the Bair Hugger warming blanket.

In June 2017, the plaintiff underwent surgery in which the Bair Hugger warming blanket was used throughout the scope of her procedure. The Bair Hugger regulates body temperature by sucking in air from the operating room, heating it, and dispersing the air over the patient via a blanket with holes. Most patients experience hypothermia during surgery, which can increase bleeding risks and lengthen hospital stays. Regulating body temperature helps improve patient outcomes, however, the design of the Bair Hugger exposes patients to dangerous bacteria.

Contaminants in the operating room air are sucked in by the Bair Hugger and forced into a patient’s open surgical wound. Contaminants introduced into the plaintiff’s open surgical wounds caused her to develop a periprosthetic joint infection, also known as a deep joint infection (DJI). The pathogens identified were methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus and rare Gram positive cocci.

Most people refer to methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus as “Staph.” While staph infections are common on the skin, they are incredibly difficult to treat when contracted internally as joint infections. The presence of bacteria in the body triggers an immune system response; however, bacteria present on an artificial joint doesn’t trigger a response. This allows infections to develop unchecked, causing severe complications.

Because of the difficulty treating deep joint infections, the plaintiff was forced to undergo extensive medical treatment, including irrigation and debridement with exchange of the polyethylene component, extensive debridement lavage, placement of bio-absorbable antibiotic beads, and PICC line antibiotics. Unfortunately, the plaintiff also suffered further complications from her additional treatment, including acute diverticulitis, anemia of acute infection, and gastrointestinal bleeding resulting in additional hospital stays.

The plaintiff suffered greatly from the infection caused by the Bair Hugger. Not only did she suffer physically, but also financially via the cost of the extensive medical treatment. The plaintiff believes the Bair Hugger warming blanket is defective in both design and manufacture and that 3M and Arizant are in breach of express warranty.

Bair Hugger Deep Joint Infection Lawyers

If you suffered a deep joint infection after a hip or knee surgery within the last five years, you may be able to file a claim against the manufacturers. The experienced defective device attorneys at Raizner Slania LLP can analyze your situation and help you understand your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

hurricane harvey insurance lawsuit

Raizner Slania Files Hurricane Harvey Insurance Lawsuit On Behalf Of Ingleside Hotel Owner

Raizner Slania has filed what appears to be the first Hurricane Harvey wind damage lawsuit within the federal court system. The plaintiff is an Ingleside, Texas hotel owner and the case was brought against Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London.

The affected property is a brand new hotel whose construction was completed in March 2017. The hotel consisted of three stories with a total of 72 individual hotel rooms. With an investment of over $6 million to construct the property, the Texas owner intended to own and operate the hotel for many years to come.

Surplus Lines Insurers in Texas

Underwriters at Lloyd’s London operate as the most prolific surplus lines commercial insurer in the State of Texas – by a sizeable margin. In 2017, all surplus lines insurers operating in Texas wrote a combined $5.5 billion in premiums. Of that, $1.5 billion was written by Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, with the next largest entity writing approximately $250 million in premiums.

Although Lloyd’s has a considerable presence in Texas, the company is actually only licensed to sell insurance in Illinois, Kentucky, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In order to operate in Texas and other states, Lloyd’s operates as an unlicensed surplus lines insurer. Because it operates as a surplus lines insurer, Lloyd’s is not subject to traditional state regulations, such as those promulgated by the Texas Department of Insurance.

Surplus lines insurance companies are often absentee insurers with few or no employees in Texas. In many ways, they operate as a virtual file cabinet. Lloyd’s of London is comprised of various “syndicates” made up of investors or members that bear unlimited liability for the insurance risks Lloyd’s writes. The syndicate investors are often foreign insurance entities that lack any authority to operate in Texas. Effectively, they borrow Lloyd’s surplus lines authority to operate in this state, and in doing so, they are able to access the lucrative Texas insurance market without any direct licensure or regulation.

Five distinct investors, each of which is a foreign, unlicensed, non-admitted, ineligible entity, underwrote our client’s policy. Their only legal connection to writing insurance in this state comes from essentially piggybacking on Lloyd’s surplus lines eligibility – in other words, borrowing Lloyd’s license in order to operate in Texas.

None of these insurers are licensed to write insurance in Texas and none has a single employee in the entire state. None has complied with any Texas regulatory requirements, and each of these foreign entities is essentially borrowing Lloyd’s eligibility to write insurance in Texas, to the detriment of small business consumers like our client.

Hurricane Harvey and Wind Driven Rain Damage

Our client purchased a commercial insurance policy with Lloyd’s, which was underwritten by five foreign insurers. The policy coverage period was January 23, 2017 through January 20, 2018. On August 25, 2017, the property suffered catastrophic damage as Hurricane Harvey swept across the Texas coastline. Our client’s policy (like many other policies) includes coverage for damage resulting from a “storm created opening” but not from “wind driven rain” that enters the property without coming through a damaged part of the building envelope.

When a storm creates some type opening in a building, it also opens the building up to damage caused by rainfall. This type of damage is covered under most insurance policies. Wind driven rain refers to water damage that enters the property through an existing flaw. This type of damage is usually not covered under commercial insurance policies.

In wake of Hurricane Harvey, many insurers appear to be making the most of the distinction between coverage for “storm created openings” and “wind driven rain” as a loophole through which they would cram almost all of their coverage denials. And as the 800-pound gorilla in the Texas commercial insurance market, Underwriters at Lloyd’s London is leading this type of coverage avoidance and policy misinterpretation.

Our client’s hotel suffered substantial damage from Hurricane Harvey. Sizeable portions of the roof were ripped off by high winds, allowing rain to be driven through the building envelope. In addition, outdoor lights were sheared off their metal anchors and destroyed, signs were torn off their housings and tossed into heaps on the ground, windows were smashed, unsealed, and disengaged from their housings, the interior suffered significant water damage, and the building suffered substantial structural damage. Our client filed an insurance claim with Lloyd’s to cover the cost of repairs to the property

Because neither Lloyd’s nor the five foreign syndicates that comprise the underwriters on the policy have one single employee in Texas, they assigned Engle Martin Claims Administrative Services to handle the claim. Although Texas law provides that an insurer has a “non-delegable duty” to responsibly handle claims, delegating is precisely what foreign insurance entities like Lloyd’s do on a regular basis.

In response to the claim, Engle Martin assigned the claim to an adjuster. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, the adjuster is a Michigan resident who had been a licensed adjuster for a mere two months at the time he was assigned to review the property damage.

Typically, newly licensed or inexperienced adjusters are assigned smaller, residential losses in order to hone their skills and gain experience. But in this instance, Engle Martin assigned a newly minted adjuster to inspect a multi-million-dollar property that had sustained an extensive and complex loss potentially covered by all three coverage parts – building, contents, and business interruption. The adjuster was not up to the task of assessing this claim.

Although neither Lloyd’s nor Engle Martin has to date provided clear documentation of the inspection, the adjuster purportedly visited the property on August 31, 2017. According to Engle Martin, the adjuster observed “minor” damage to the building exterior, “minor” damage to “some shingles” on the roof, downed lights, signs, gutters, and fences. The adjuster also purportedly observed “significant” water damage to the interior of the building. However, according to Engle Martin, its adjuster did not observe “exterior storm related damage which would have allowed the observed interior water to enter into the affected areas.” It is unclear at this time whether Engle Martin and the adjuster prepared an estimate reflecting these outlandish findings because one was never provided to our client, as it should have been.

Additionally, Engle Martin engaged SEA, Limited and one of its engineers to further assess the property. Sticking with the party line, on September 20, 2017 SEA opined the interior water damage did not result from wind damage, but instead resulted from wind driven rain passing into the Package Terminal Air Conditioning (PTAC) units on the exterior walls. SEA further opined water entered the building through joints in the exterior finish or flaws in sealant.

In other words, despite clear photographic evidence of storm created openings in the building envelope – including the roof and stucco exterior – SEA assisted Engle Martin in its efforts to avoid making a claim payment by implicating the “wind driven rain” limitation to the policy’s wind coverage provision. As a result, Lloyd’s has denied paying our client’s insurance claim. To this day, Lloyd’s has refused to pay for any covered damages under the policy.

New Texas Insurance Code § 542A Demand Letter Ignored

Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 1774 into law effective September 1, 2017. The controversial new law contains a number of provisions purportedly designed to protect business consumers. One such provision is a pre-suit notice and demand requirement designed to encourage early resolution. The plaintiff complied with this new provision; but, Lloyd’s of London ignored the pre-suit demand and did not respond to it.

Lloyd’s Violated The Texas Insurance Code 

Our client alleges Lloyd’s violated numerous provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and failure to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the investigation of a claim. Our client also believes Lloyd’s misrepresented the policy under which it affords coverage. Additionally, our client believes Lloyd’s violated the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Fighting For Policyholders After Hurricane Harvey

After Hurricane Harvey, some unscrupulous insurance companies appear to be willing to do anything to avoid paying out claims. Because surplus lines insurers operate in a gray area of the market, many get away with ripping off policyholders. Raizner Slania LLP has a successful track record of standing up to some of the largest insurance companies in the world, including Lloyd’s of London, and winning. If your insurance company isn’t being straight with you regarding your Hurricane Harvey claim, we can help. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

natural disaster claims

What Commercial Insurance Holders Need To Know About Natural Disaster Claims

One of the many lessons property owners learned after Hurricane Harvey is that natural disasters can cause catastrophic damage and total losses. While many property owners have insurance coverage for things like fires and leaky pipes, natural disaster claims are a little different than other types of commercial property damage insurance claims. Commercial property owners need to fully understand natural disaster claims to best protect their properties and financial interests.

Know Your Coverage

Many commercial property owners aren’t completely sure what is and isn’t covered under their policy. Does your policy cover total loss replacement? What is the deductible? Are there any policy limits? Do you have business interruption insurance? Understanding exactly how your property and your business are protected can mean the difference between getting an insurance payout to cover damages and paying completely out of pocket.

Immediately Report Damage

After a large-scale natural disaster like Harvey, tens of thousands of property owners will be filing natural disaster claims; therefore, it is important to report your claim immediately. Insurance carriers usually handle claims on a first come, first served basis, so you want to be at the front of line.

Claims Can Take Time

Commercial insurance claims can be complex, and natural disaster claims can make the processes take even more time. However, policyholders have a legal right to have their claim handled in a timely manner. If your insurance company is taking too long to process your claim, you need to contact an experienced commercial insurance lawyer to make sure your insurance company is operating in good faith.

Know What Your Property Is Worth

Commercial buildings can have specialty equipment or tools that many adjusters are unfamiliar with. This can lead to underestimates of replacement costs. Rebuilding after a natural disaster can be expensive, so if your insurance company has given you a lowball offer, do not accept the offer and contact an attorney.

Be Wary Of Surplus Lines Insurers

Surplus lines insurers largely dominate the commercial insurance market in Texas. These companies aren’t traditional insurance companies, and often operate more like file cabinets or foreign investment syndicates. When policyholders file claims with surplus lines insurers, there is no one to process the claim, so surplus lines insurers contract out with external adjusters to handle the claim. The surplus lines insurers incentivize these adjusters to deny or undervalue claims, so many policyholders end up paying out of pocket for most, if not all, of the repairs. To avoid making insurance payments, many surplus lines insurers routinely characterize storm damage as “wear and tear” or maintenance problems.

Don’t Wait To Contact An Attorney

Natural disasters can cost insurance companies billions of dollars in payouts. Some insurance companies will do everything in their power to avoid paying out on expensive claims. Policyholders shouldn’t have to deal with unfair insurance companies, but the reality is that many do. Getting an attorney involved in your claim can make sure claims are handled efficiently and help you get full coverage.

100-Year Floodplain Map

FEMA Reevaluating 100-Year Floodplain Map After Harvey

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made two critical decisions: first, to pool floodwaters within the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs up to elevations above which the government owned, causing enormous flooding upstream of the reservoirs; second, to release floodwaters downstream into the Buffalo Bayou Corridor with knowledge that thousands of businesses and homes would become inundated downstream.

To compound this disaster, most of the flooded properties were not covered by flood insurance. The reason: FEMA determined that regions immediately adjacent to a 70 year old, critical component of the flood control system in the fourth largest city in the country were not in fact Special Flood Hazard Areas. Or more pointedly, the United States government decided that these areas were not at major risk of flooding – – and then decided to flood them.

2017 was a particularly active hurricane season for the Texas Gulf with a 154% increase in the total number of hurricanes and a 142% increase in the number of named storms. Hurricane Harvey brought an unprecedented amount of rainfall to the region: over 50 inches for much of Houston and a record-setting 65 inches for parts of Beaumont. The dramatic hurricane season and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey prompted federal agencies to reevaluate many of the floodplain designations around the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Many homes and businesses that flooded during Hurricane Harvey were located well outside of the 100-year floodplain established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. These regions are called Special Flood Hazard Areas, and they are subject to a 1% annual chance flood event. FEMA decides which areas are subject to a 1% chance of flooding through its Risk Map program. Only about 20% of the properties flooded as a result of Harvey carried flood insurance, illustrating the trust that most property owners have in FEMA’s assessment of the likelihood their property might be vulnerable to flooding.

The massive flooding outside of FEMA’s 100-year floodplain angered many property owners, who subsequently put pressure on the agency to reassess the floodplain maps. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA, has already updated its own potential rainfall maps in Texas and it is currently under peer review.

FEMA plans to use the updated NOAA maps when redrawing the 100-year flood plain, but some property owners are upset FEMA waited until a catastrophic event to reevaluate. Many of the flood plain maps currently used by FEMA have not been fully updated since the 1960s. Unfortunately for property owners, even when these fifty-year-old maps were created, there were extreme limitations. The maps grossly under-estimated the floodplain due in part to a limited data set used by the agency, which included a time period where the Gulf Coast region received substantially less rainfall. The maps also did not anticipate over 50 years of urban development that occurred throughout Houston and along the coast.

By reevaluating the floodplain maps, FEMA will utilize better technology that can more accurately pinpoint areas at risk for flooding. Unfortunately, it will take several years for FEMA to complete the process of updating its flood zone maps, leaving many property owners in the dark as they begin to rebuild.

Most flood insurance is backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, and managed by private insurance companies through the Write Your Own (WYO) program. Even though these policies are issued by private insurers, the federal government pays the claims. Most private insurers have left the flood insurance underwriting business, though there are some surplus lines insurers that offer private or excess flood insurance. If and when the private insurance market is encouraged to reenter the flood insurance business in a meaningful way, they will have every financial incentive to do a much better job determining areas prone to flooding. Until then, the federal government will continue to engage in clearly incompetent underwriting, flood mapping, and ultimately losing money and creating a mess similar to what so many West Houston area residents experienced following Hurricane Harvey.

While property owners trying to pick up the pieces after Harvey may not benefit from updated floodplain maps, they do have legal options as they move forward with insurance claims. If property owners have questions about denied, delayed, or underpaid insurance claims or other Harvey related recovery questions, the experienced attorneys at Raizner Slania LLP can help. Our lawyers are working with hundreds of Texans in a variety of different Hurricane Harvey claims. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

cost of hurricane harvey

Hurricane Harvey Could Cost Billions of Dollars in Economic Losses

Although it has been several months since Hurricane Harvey struck, thousands of Texas are still struggling to put their lives back together. The storm caused massive amounts of damage along the Texas coast and around the Houston area. Although the total cost of damages caused by Harvey may never be known, some forecasters are predicting the cost of Hurricane Harvey could end up being billions in economic damages.

Hurricane Harvey was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, and parts of Houston received over 50 inches of rain. After the hurricane made landfall in late August, it displaced more than 1 million people and damaged hundreds of thousands of businesses. In all, Harvey’s path of destruction stretched for over 300 miles.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated the total cost of damages caused by the storm ranges between $150 billion and $180 billion. This doesn’t take into account the long-term economic losses many businesses and homeowners will face. Businesses that have flooded cannot continue operation, resulting in lost revenue when they need it the most.

Unfortunately for homeowners, flood damage can have a permanent and damaging effect on home values. Many homeowners will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their homes habitable again, but there’s no guarantee they will ever make their money back if they decide to sell. Small business owners, which form the economic engine of our state, also have a long road ahead as they struggle to repair property and make up for the business interruption sustained during Harvey. Investment owners of real estate are working to understand and quantify the diminution in value to their real estate assets.

1 in 1,000 Year Flood Event

The rainfall dropped by Hurricane Harvey was deemed a 1 in 1,000 year flood event. Any 1 in 1,000 year flood event only has a 0.1% chance of occurring in any given year. This means the rainfall caused by Harvey was truly unprecedented, and the sheer weight of the rainfall actually caused Houston to sink 2 centimeters in elevation.

What The Cost of Hurricane Harvey Means For Property Owners

Whenever there is widespread property damage, insurance companies and responsible parties will do everything in their power to limit liability and minimize claims. If you suffered damage as a result of Harvey, whether the Addicks and Barker dam releases flooded your property or if your property is located in the reservoirs’ floodplains, or if you are experiencing improper delays or denials from an insurance company contractually obligated to pay for this damage, you likely have many questions.

At Raizner Slania LLP, we can analyze your situation and help you understand your legal options. We have extensive experience with property claims and we are actively working with many Houstonians pursuing several different types of claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. There is no upfront cost for working with us. We work on a contingency fee basis so you will not owe us anything unless we help you recover compensation.

Hurricane Harvey Claim

Houston Residents File Upstream Addicks and Barker Reservoir Flood Lawsuit

Raizner Slania has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Houston residents against the U.S. government after their homes were flooded by the collection of floodwaters in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

When the reservoirs were constructed, they were designed to hold large amounts of rainwater and they have spillways at fixed elevations. The Addicks reservoir has a spillway at 108 feet and the Barker reservoir has a spillway at 104 feet. The reservoirs have design pool capacities of 115 feet for the Addicks reservoir and 106 feet for the Barker reservoir. All land behind the reservoirs under these elevations is potentially inside the reservoirs and at risk for flooding.

Realizing the reservoirs would occasionally need to store massive amounts of floodwater, the United States government began acquiring property inside the reservoirs in the 1940s. However, the government did not purchase all land inside the reservoirs. Instead, the government only purchased land up to 103.2 feet in elevation behind the Addicks reservoir and up to 95 feet behind the Barker reservoir.

The government did not purchase or otherwise obtain any right in land between 103.2 feet and 115 feet in elevation in the Addicks Reservoir or between 95.5 feet and 106 feet in elevation in the Barker Reservoir, even though it was likely floodwaters would need to be stored on private property within the reservoirs at those elevations.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the Addicks and Barker reservoirs captured more than 350,000 acre feet of water to prevent flooding downstream of the reservoirs.

The water level in the Addicks reservoir reached 109.1 feet during Hurricane Harvey. Even though the government only owned property up to, at a maximum, 103.2 feet, they intentionally impounded floodwaters on private properties above 103.2 feet. The water level in the Barker reservoir reached 101.5 feet during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. The government only owned property up to, at a maximum, 95.5 feet, but allowed floodwaters to be stored on properties above 95.5 feet.

The floodwaters stored in both the Addicks and Barker reservoirs exceeded the boundaries of the property owned by the government. Affected property owners at these elevations did not consent to the use of their property for storing floodwaters. As a result, thousands of properties upstream of the reservoirs were flooded in many feet of water.

In addition to flood damage, property owners are left with an increased risk of future flooding and will be unable to rebuild their properties without incurring significant additional expenses. Property owners who wish to transfer or sell their property will likely struggle to do so, or will be unable to do so without taking a significant loss because of the decreased demand for property in the area and the increased difficulty in obtaining flood insurance in the area.

The government allowing floodwaters to be stored above its own designated property boundaries constitutes a taking of private property by the government for public use. Under the Fifth Amendment, property owners must be fairly compensated for the taking of their property.

Get Help Filing Your Hurricane Harvey Claim

If your property is located upstream of the Addicks or Barker reservoirs and was flooded during and after Hurricane Harvey, you have a right to receive just compensation. The Hurricane Harvey lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP are working with property owners across Houston to help them get them the compensation they are legally entitled to. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your claim.