The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

May 6, 2011
Food allergies costing nation half billion a year

Around one to two percent of U.S. adults and four to six percent of U.S. children suffer from allergic reactions of milk, eggs, peanuts and other foods. The resulting visits to hospitals, emergency rooms and doctors' offices, plus lost productivity, cost the nation a lot of money -- an estimated $500 million a year, according to a new study.

CDC researchers, writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, say total medical costs associated with food allergies range from $225 to $307 million of which $45 million goes to emergency room visits. Non-medical costs, such as lost work days, are estimated at $115 to $203 million every year.

Another CDC study found that the number of children with food allergies increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007. A helpful CDC brief on food allergies in young people lists symptoms and summarizes essential statistics.

January 26, 2011
Top ten jury verdicts of 2010

A $505 million judgment in a Las Vegas civil case lead the 2010 ranking of U.S. jury awards.

Lawyers USA publishes the annual Top Ten list. The web site notes that the average size of the top ten verdicts grew from 2009 to 2010 ($145 to $157 million), but not as sharply as between 2008 and 2009 when the average jumped $33 million.

This ranking considers only verdicts in cases brought by individuals, families or small groups of people -- not large business or class-action suits. The Nevada lawsuit involved a man who contracted hepatitis C after a routine colonoscopy. He sued two pharmaceutical companies which made the anesthetic that carried the disease The jury awarded the plaintiffs $5 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.

A southern California jury gave the second largest judgment of the year to a woman who developed mesothelioma cancer. She claimed the asbestos exposure resulted from washing clothes her husband wore while working with asbestos-cement water pipes. The jury agreed and awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages.  

June 14, 2010
Glitch in state court computer system opens confidential documents

The Sacramento Superior Court had to temporarily shut down access to Probate Court records earlier this month when a system malfunction allowed pubic access to confidential documents, according to a statement from Presiding Judge Steve White's office.

The court still is trying to determine if any confidential information was accessed before the shut down.

This latest hiccup comes after months of judges' complaints about problems with the new computer system.

The bigger issue relates to the California Court Case Management System, a massive project to link all state courts on one computer system. The price tag for the project could reach $2 billion, according to a Bee analysis from October.

The project has been a major front in the civil war raging in the state's judicial branch. The project is part of a broader effort by Ronald George, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California, to centralize control of the state courts, instead of allowing counties to control them. Some judges are bristling at spending decisions by the Judicial Council and its staff agency, the Administrative Office of the Courts, including a decision to close courts one day a month for budget reasons.

Sacramento judges have been particularly vocal in their displeasure with the CCMS system. Sacramento is one of a half dozen courts statewide running early versions of the system, which Deloitte Consulting still is developing.

Administrative Office of the Courts' officials have in the past deflected blame from the system to the Sacramento court's installation of that system. AOC officials have suggested the Sacramento court did not follow proper protocol in installing the system, which has led to ongoing issues.

The blame game spilled into the legal press this week with a June 7 article in the Daily Recorder in which AOC officials are quoted as suggesting locally developed scanning software wasn't compatible with a recent update of the system. That article led to a scathing letter from Judge White to the head of the AOC demanding a retraction. In the letter from White to William Vickrey dated June 8, the judge wrote:

"This latest incident continues the pattern: The release of confidential information was entirely the result of actions by the AOC contractor, Deloitte, which did not even inform our court of the changes it made or the resulting problem. We were left to make that discovery on our own. Yet anyone reading the AOC's press is told the problem lies with our court. This is false. It is unfair and it is wrong. Judges and staff on this court find that most offensive."

In response to The Bee's inquiries, AOC spokesman Philip Carrizosa provided this response: 

"We respectfully disagree that the problem was caused solely by our software update to CCMS. If our update had been the only cause, then the same problem would have occurred with other courts that use the same version of CCMS as Sacramento. But this problem was unique to Sacramento."

Some in the state Legislature are paying attention to the ongoing computer system drama. Previously, the Legislature asked the state's Chief Information Officer to review the project and the state auditor also is planning a review.

With the budget looming, both sides are continuing to make sure the senators and assembly members who make funding decisions are aware of the issue and lobbying for support.

May 19, 2010
Courts Watch: Report finds computer project flawed, but vital

For several months, The Bee has been writing about a massive state court computer system in the works for close to decade that is meant to link all state courts.

An October article gave a bit of history on the California Court Case Management System (aka CCMS), which has been marked by delays, increases in scope and an ever ballooning price tag. The Bee estimated the total project cost could reach $2 billion when all is said and done.

Some disgruntled judges began complaining about the system -- and other state court spending -- last summer after the Judicial Council decided to close state courts one day a month for budget reasons. This prompted the Legislature to ask the state's Chief Information Officer to review the project.

That report was released late last month. The findings in a nutshell: the project is rife with flaws and the AOC didn't do the best job of managing the work, but given the possible benefit and how much has already been spent, it's best to keep going.



About The Public Eye

Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at:

The Public Eye


October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Monthly Archives