Archive for March, 2011

Employers would be smart to examine the costs of eldercare

Have you reviewed the reasons for your employees Leave of Absence (LOA) lately? If you have, you have most likely noticed an increase in lost days due to an employees need to care for an ill parent. Until I saw the actual numbers for myself, presenteesim and absenteeism were just buzz words used to describe decreased productivity for whatever product the presenter was selling. Never once did they place an actual number and financial impact behind these choice words. However, I recently saw a company’s FMLA report addressing Absence Reasons from 2009 and 2010. Maternity and non-occupational illnesses lead the way for both years in terms of reasons for absence. Surprisingly, right behind these two reasons for absence, was LOA for caring for an ill parent. In 2010, the combination of caring for an ill parent and caring for an ill spouse resulted in 19 leaves and 61 days lost. Why is this so surprising? Because in 2010 LOA for caring for an ill child resulted in 2 leaves and 14 days lost. Clearly caring for ill parents and spouses has surpassed caring for ill children. Read more…

The potentialities of FEMA’s flood map revamp

In 2009 Congress appropriated $220 million to FEMA for a program called Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP), a comprehensive 5-year plan to vastly improve the accuracy and quality of National Flood Insurance Program maps. The plan is designed to bring wider risk mitigation while incorporating risk separation tools and techniques to flood prone areas with maximum focus and effect. The ultimate goal for Risk MAP is to reduce loss of persons and properties in the event of flood or storm surge, particularly in historically flood prone areas.

One other very important goal of this program is to lessen the negative financial impact of floods and storm surge on the U.S. Treasury. It will take time for the implications of these changes to manifest, but make no mistake, we will see limitation on severe flood destruction zone, like on barrier reefs, and increased pricing for homes Read more…

Ruling in Matrixx case may lead to other securities class actions

The Supreme Court ruled this week on a case that we have been watching closely.  The Court’s decision in Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. et al. v. Siracusano et al. came down solidly on the side of the plaintiffs and leaves the biopharma industry (and all others) without a “bright line” test for reporting adverse events. Writing for the court, Justice Sotomayor, in a unanimous opinion, rejected the argument of Matrixx that adverse product reports must be “statistically significant” in order for a manufacturer to have an obligation to disclose the reports to investors. As a result of the Court’s decision, shareholders claims against Matrixx for its alleged failure to disclose reports that its product, Zicam, caused certain side effects for users will now be going forward through litigation.

Justice Sotomayor wrote that medical experts and the FDA rely on evidence other than statistically significant data to establish an inference of causation – “[i]t thus stands to reason that reasonable investors would act on such evidence.”

Matrixx’s argument to the Court urged the adoption of the “bright line” test that reports of adverse events with a pharmaceutical company’s product cannot be material absent a sufficient number of reports to establish statistical significance. Matrixx further argued that statistical significance is the only reasonable indicator of causation. Read more…

MA decision imposes duty on commercial landlords to remedy unsafe conditions

On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts determined for the first time that a law which concerns a landlord’s duty to make repairs when notified of an unsafe condition, now applies to all commercial landlords in the state. As a result of the case of Bishop v. TES Realty Trust, commercial landlords in Massachusetts are required to remedy unsafe conditions that exist anywhere on a leased premises once they are given proper notice. The decision alters the long-standing common law rule that landlords are only obligated to make repairs to common areas or when they specifically contract to make repairs. And ultimately will expand landlords’ liability to tenants, and most likely expand their liability to third parties, even when the underlying lease provides that the tenant bears the duty of maintenance and repair.

About the Author

Ann Mizner McKay is the General Counsel and Senior Vice President at WGA. She manages the legal affairs of the company and also manages the Claims Department.

617.646. 0238 | | Connect with Ann on LinkedIn

Earthquakes in the Northeast – are we insured?

Every time there is a huge earthquake in one part of the world, it is common and certainly appropriate for other parts of the world to consider the risk of earthquakes closer to home. The Northeast is home to infrequent but not insignificant earthquakes. During 2010, an earthquake in Bernardsville, New Jersey along the Ramapo fault clocked in at 2.6 on the Richter scale. Later that year, a 3.9 quake was registered off the New York and New Jersey coastline.

Larger quakes have occurred in historical time. A 5.2 magnitude quake along a fault that runs roughly along 125th Street in Manhattan caused great damage in 1737. Similarly, a 6.2 quake near Gloucester, Massachusetts caused damage in Boston, Salem and other colonial cities. A quake of the same strength and in the same place today is predicted to cause about $1.6 billion in damage and result in 10 deaths Read more…

Grandfathering a health plan explained

Grandfathering a health plan is an opportunity for employers year over year, provided the health plan can meet the guidelines. Despite what people may think, the ability for clients to “grandfather” a health plan does not expire in 2014, the law does not cite an end date to grandfathering. And there may be some confusion about the year 2014 since this is the year that dependents to age 26 must be covered, whether or not your plan is grandfathered – but it doesn’t speak to grandfathering as a whole. The law surrounding dependent coverage states: Grandfathered plans have to extend coverage to dependents until age 26 unless the dependent has access to their own employer’s group health plan. For more information, we invite you to visit WGA’s Health Reform Advisory Corner for a full explanation.

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Nuclear power comes under scrutiny in aftermath of Japan crisis

The devastating loss of life and damage to property in Japan continues to unfold. While the extent of the radioactive emergency at Japanese nuclear power plants remains to be seen, this situation highlights the concern for safety and will most likely increase the public resistance to nuclear power development, both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Japanese nuclear power plants are among the best-designed and protected in the world, but an unlikely series of events culminated in failure of the reactor cooling systems:

  • Earthquake knocked out primary cooling systems
  • Diesel backup generators which would have provided sufficient power to cool and shut down the reactors were destroyed by the tsunami Read more…