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KJC LAW FIRM attorneys Cook, Wilton, and Martin were collectively awarded five hundred thousand dollars in attorney’s fees for their work on behalf of Dr. Andrew Segal in the case of Segal v. Genitrix, Suffolk Superior Court C.A. No. 09-00776. Segal, a licensed medical doctor and inventor, managed a bio-tech research firm called Genitrix with his employer, H. Fiske Johnson, III, heir to the Johnson family fortune which includes products like Pledge, Ziploc bags, and Glade. Segal successfully proved at a jury trial in November, 2015 that Johnson intentionally and knowingly refused to pay Segal’s wages for three years. The trial judge held a second phase of the trial approximately one month later in which he considered whether the defendants should be required to pay punitive damages because their failure to pay wages was “outrageous.” Segal prevailed again and has been awarded nearly $1.2 million, which a Superior Court Judge described as “an enormous amount for a single-Plaintiff Wage Act case.”

The Massachusetts Wage Act imposes severe penalties on “unscrupulous “employers and entitles prevailing plaintiffs to reasonable attorney’s fees which must be approved by a Superior Court judge. In awarding attorney’s fees, the judge is allowed to consider the experience and skill of the attorneys, the results obtained at trial, and the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of their performance at trial. The judge is required to reduce the award so as not to allow for duplicative billing, and to ensure that the hourly rate awarded to each attorney is fair and reasonable. In this case, the judge wrote a glowing review of attorneys Cook, Wilton, and Martin when awarding what we believe to be one of the largest awards, if not the largest award, ever in a single-plaintiff Wage Act case.

Every employer and employee in Massachusetts should be aware of the “Wage Act,” also known as the Weekly Wage Law (c. 149, sec. 148 et seq.). The purpose of the Wage Act is to ensure that employees are promptly paid by their employers. The law includes harsh penalties for employers who fail to comply.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced today that injured people will be allowed to introduce the full charges on their medical bills as evidence of their damages at trial despite the Superior Court’s ruling otherwise. The case, Law v. Griffith, was argued by Kathy Jo Cook of KJC Law Firm LLC in Boston. Professor Timothy Wilton, from Suffolk University Law School, served as a consultant on both the brief and the oral argument.

Joanne Law was injured in an automobile accident when Daniel Griffith ran a stop sign and crashed into her car. By the time of the trial, Ms. Law had received extensive medical treatment for which the providers billed Ms. Law $112,269.94. Ms. Law’s medical insurance provider, Mass Health, however, had paid the providers $16,387.14 in full satisfaction of those bills. Ms. Law was not personally responsible for any further payment.

The rates MassHealth will pay for medical treatments are set by statute and are far lower than that which doctors and hospitals charge. By law, providers are not permitted to bill the patient for the balance. Although private health insurers generally pay a higher rate than the government operated MassHealth, they also usually pay less than the amount the providers bill. People without health insurance, however, are responsible for payment of the full charge.

At trial, the defendant argued that the medical bills presented “distorted” evidence of Ms. Law’s damages. The trial judge ruled that Ms. Law could not introduce evidence of the amount “charged” for any of the services, but rather, could only offer evidence of the amount “paid.” Ms. Law was permitted to introduce only the payments of $16,387.14 as her medical expenses, rather than the charges of $112,269.94. The jury was instructed that it could award damages for “medical and hospital bills, as proved,” as well as for scarring, loss of function, impairment of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering. The jury found for Ms. Law, but in a general verdict for all of the items, it awarded only $48,500.00.

On appeal, attorney Kathy Jo Cook argued that the statute governing the admission of medical bills as evidence of an injured party’s damages for medical expenses required a trial judge to allow the admission of medical bills in the full amount charged. The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously agreed, the majority writing that the statute “states unambiguously that medical bills are admissible to establish the reasonable value of services rendered.”
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