Thursday, February 26, 2009

QR COMMENTARY: McDonald's Denies Workers' Compensation for McHero

We here at the Quatrini Rafferty blog recently heard about an astonishing workers' compensation denial and had to pass it along to our clients and friends.

We all remember the infamous "coffee spill" case from some years ago. It generated national news for the large jury verdict against McDonald's and became a poster child for out of control juries. At the time, and to this day, many individuals have been lead to believe that the Plaintiff in that case was just "out for the money."

But most people are unfamiliar with the real details behind the "coffee" matter. For starters, it is not well known that the Plaintiff was 83 years old and that the coffee was brewing at between 195-205 degrees....a temperature 20-30 degrees higher than any other restaurant. Or, that the Plaintiff in that case suffered third degree burns which necessitated $10,000 in medical bills. It is also not commonly known that the Plaintiff offered to settle for far less than the final jury verdict, a number that fairly represented her lost wages, out of pocket expenses, medical bills.

No, the public was lead to believe, by the negative public relations campaign paid for by McDonald's, that the Plaintiff was just looking to get paid.

Well, maybe McDonald's tough tactics finally caught up with them.

Last summer Nigel Haskett, an employee at a McDonald's in Arkansas, was shot when he attempted to restrain a McDonald's patron from abusing a woman in the restaurant. Due to his injuries, Mr. Haskett's medical bills totaled close to $300,000. Yet, when he filed a claim for workers' compensation, the company DENIED his claim:

"We have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

At the time, McDonald's tough stance probably seemed like a good legal maneuver. But, their insensitivity came back to bite them when the national media picked up the story.

Because of the embarrassing press, the owner of the McDonald's in question has now voiced his support for Mr. Haskett against the insurance company. However, the insurance company has yet to budge.

Whether Mr. Haskett will be successful is tough to tell, as we have no knowledge of the workers' compensation law in Arkansas'. But, we sure hope that Mr. Haskett gets an appropriate award for his heroism.

For for the real facts on the "coffee" case check out the link below:

For more coverage of Mr. Haskett's situation, check out the video covering the story and read an article critical of the denial below:


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulus Package Boosts Social Security Administration

In addition to distributing direct payments to recipients of Social Security and Veterans' Disability, the stimulus package will also benefit the Social Security Administration.

In an online interview with Federal News Radio, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue
tells the that the Administration is due to receive more than $1 billion from the bill and expects its fiscal 2009 budget to be $126 million more than the President's request.

For the first time in several years, Commissioner Astrue feels that Congress "finally understands SSA's technology shortcomings" and adds that the SSA "could be in the best financial shape in a long time." In terms of numbers, the FNR article notes that approximately $500 million of the Stimulus is dedicated for the Administration's "new national computer center."

Beyond finances, the FNR article had hopeful news for those waiting for hearings, noting that "The agency also plans to hire 3,000 to 6,000 new employees in 2009 to help deal with the backlog of disability claims and increase in retirement applications that is expected over the next few years."

With all of these big plans, it will be interesting to track SSA's progress over the next few years.

To read the entire FNR article, click below:


UPDATE: Stimulus Bill Expands COBRA Coverage

The following article was written by Quatrini Rafferty partner, Vincent J. Quatrini, Jr., and will appear in the forthcoming Spring 2009 QR Newsletter


COBRA is the federal law that requires Employers to allow separated employees to purchase medical insurance through the company group plan for up to 18 months after separation, at 102% of what the company is paying for that insurance.

Up until now, that 102% was well beyond the financial reach of almost all displaced workers. The new stimulus law, pushed by President Obama, and signed by Congress,provides real financial relief to displaced workers who want to stay in the company plan.

With the stimulus package, the government agreed to pay 65% of COBRA premiums for people who receive pink slips between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009. The subsidy is limited to nine months and available only to those without another source of group health insurance.

Individuals who lost jobs after Sept. 1, 2008, but who did not sign up for COBRA at that time will get a second chance to do so. Employers must send these former workers a notice by mid-April. These workers have 60 days after receipt of the notice to pay into the plan.

Eligibility does not depend on income. But individuals with income over $124,000 will have to pay tax on the subsidized amount.

The subsidy money will not come to you directly. It will be sent to your employer in the form of an offset against payroll tax liability. You send in your payment of 35 % of the premium to your former employer and the government will credit the remaining 65% of the premium against your former employer's payroll tax.

For most people, the subsidies will start March 1. If you are already in the COBRA plan with your former employer, you will not receive reimbursement for any COBRA payments you made between Sept. 1 and March 1.

These are just the highlights. Many details still have to be worked out. Quatrini Rafferty suggests that if you do not hear from your former employer in the next 45 days that you contact your employer and find out who is administering their COBRA benefits. If that doesn't work, try the Employee Benefits Security Administration, a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor, at 866 - 444 - 3272.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stimulus Bill Expands COBRA Coverage

The new Stimulus Bill signed into law by President Obama includes an unprecedented expansion for COBRA, the federal statute that provides workers and their families with access to 18 months of health benefits from their previous employer.

To this point, the former employee had to pay for his or her portion of what the employer once paid on their behalf. The new legislation lends a hand to the former employee, funding up to 65% of the COBRA premium for those who became eligible for COBRA coverage between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009. The legislation also gives the recently unemployed a second chance to enroll in COBRA coverage.

An online article in the The City Wire ( does a nice job of breaking down the details of the plan:

Employee Eligibility

Individuals who have been involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 with annual incomes less than $125,000 (single) or $250,000 (couples) are eligible for the COBRA premium assistance, along with their family. Qualified individuals, who initially decline COBRA coverage, would be given an additional 60 days after they receive notice of the special election period to elect to receive the subsidy. The election period begins on the date of enactment of the ARRA.

Special Enrollment

The bill allows group health plans to provide a special enrollment right to allow eligible individuals to elect different coverage under the plan in electing COBRA continuation coverage.

Notice Requirements

COBRA notices must include information on the availability of the premium assistance. Model notices from the Department of Labor are due 30 days after enactment.

Effective Date

These provisions are effective for premiums the first calendar month following the date of enactment.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Weight of Combat Gear Causing Increased Injuries in Military Veterans

A February 1, 2009 article in The Washington Post entitled "Weight of Combat Gear Is Taking Toll," discusses the significant increase in orthopedic muscle and bone injuries due to the weight of combat gear. The Army, which reported 257,000 acute orthopedic injuries last year, is studying the effects of the heavy gear and investing in lighter versions of the gear, which can weigh anywhere from 60 to 150 pounds.

Read the entire story on the Washington Post website:


Thursday, February 19, 2009

CNN Gives Tips for Individuals Without Health Insurance published an article today aimed at helping those without health insurance.

Story highlights include coverage of organizations who offer financial assistance for certain conditions and diseases, information on state and federal government programs and free clinics, help for prescription drugs, and companies who offer health insurance to part-time workers.

Check out the full article here:


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quatrini Rafferty Helps Local Recycling Efforts In Westmoreland County

Quatrini Rafferty recently partnered with Westmoreland Cleanways, the recylcing coordinator for Westmoreland County, to promote recycling efforts in the western part of the county.

Learn more about Westmoreland Cleanways and its mission at:

You can also read more about Westmoreland Cleanways in the "QR Community Partners" section of our Fall 2008 newsletter:


Stimulus Payments for Recipients of Social Security / SSI

President Obama recently signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This act provides for the one-time payment of $250 to individuals who get Supplemental Security Income or Social Security benefits.

Social Security expects everyone who is entitled to a payment to receive it by late May 2009. They are currently working on the details regarding how they will issue over 60 million one-time payments to beneficiaries.

They will deliver the payment in the same way they currently deliver Social Security or SSI benefits. If they deliver monthly benefits by check, they will deliver the one-time payment by check. If they receive a monthly direct deposit or Direct Express debit card payment, that is how they will receive the one-time payment.

Individuals receiving benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or Railroad Retirement Board may be eligible for these one-time payments.

For more information please see Social Security's website at: or contact Quatrini Rafferty at 724-837-0080.