Those who watched with trepidation last month for the “end of the world” based on the Mayan calendar, might consider the new year to be “Lucky 13”. While we're enjoying borrowed time from the Mayans, worrying about survival from the “fiscal cliff”, or just wondering whether the Mariners can manage to climb out of the cellar in 2013, we can look back on 2012 with a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. This is an appropriate time to reflect on some of the highlights of the year at Schauermann, Thayer, Jacobs & Staples, from the macro to the micro.
In the 2012 election cycle voters elected candidates who, for the most part, are more likely to respect and uphold the rights of ordinary citizens and consumers to have their disputes with each other, big corporations, and even the government itself, resolved fairly and efficiently through the judicial process.
Late in the year Congress passed badly-needed legislation requiring that Medicare make necessary payment and lien information available to patients and their attorneys in a timely manner. In the last several years the monolithic Medicare bureaucracy has delayed the processing of thousands of insurance claims and settlements for months by failing to respond to requests for such information.
Steps were taken in 2012 to resolve one of the most unfair and hotly-contested insurance rules in the nation. Under previous (and we believe, mistaken) interpretations of Federal law, employer-funded and union group health insurance plans have been reaping the benefits of efforts, and money spent, by employee-insureds and their attorneys, in securing recoveries from negligent third-parties and their insurance companies. The plans have been requiring full reimbursement of all benefits paid, without allowance for their fair share of the fees and expenses incurred by their employee-insureds, and without regard to state laws that require the employee-insureds to be fully compensated before the plans can be reimbursed. This year, however, the Federal Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, which includes our jurisdiction, limited the plans' reimbursement rights. In the short term the Court's ruling is forcing the plans to negotiate their reimbursements more reasonably; and in the long term will pave the way for the issue to ultimately be decided in the United States Supreme Court.
On the local level, we are fortunate to have excellent Superior Court and District Court judges on the Clark County bench. In 2012 we welcomed newly-appointed Superior Court Judge Greg Gonzales; and David Gregerson, elected by the voters to the Superior Court in August, takes the bench this month. Judge Diane Woolard is currently on an extended medical leave, and we wish her a speedy recovery and return to her duties in the courthouse. To the credit of our judges and court administrators, the Clark County court systems have for many years operated smoothly and efficiently with less budget, less staffing, and fewer judges than state guidelines prescribe for a county of our size.
In 2012 we welcomed a new member to our staff at Schauermann, Thayer, Jacobs & Staples. Bryan Atchley came on board earlier this year, joining the paralegal team with Kelly Snaric and Matthew Smith. December 2012 also marks attorney Scott Edwards' first anniversary with the firm. A former insurance defense attorney and one of three attorneys in the firm to be licensed in both Washington and Oregon, “Scott-E” has tackled tough cases with skill and enthusiasm. We're glad he's here.
What's ahead for 2013? As insurance companies tighten their belts — and their fists — and force more and more legitimate claims to litigation, we can look forward to another year of fighting the good fight for the rights of our clients. In so doing we are grateful for the opportunity to to do so with the good people of Schauermann, Thayer, Jacobs & Staples.
Happy New Year!