The Common Fund Doctrine: Soviet Era Ideology or Method of Sharing Attorneys’ Fees?

By Cory Bilton

Washington Monument in Distance - Ed 1

Back when I was an undergraduate, my friends and I sometimes took spontaneous road trips.  Three or four of us would pile into a car with an odd assortment of backpacks, snack foods, and musical instruments.  Since these trips often involved hundreds of miles through multiple states, paying for gas became a group responsibility.  Though the rule was unwritten, everyone in the car seemed to instinctively agree that each should pay a share of the gas money.  We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing this because it just struck everyone as the fairest way to take a road trip.  Each of us felt obligated to pay a share for the benefit that was being provided by the car.

Nearly every personal injury case includes claims, in addition to the injured person’s, for the money recovered from the wrongdoer.  You can think of these claimants as the passengers of a vehicle on a road trip.  Everyone in the car is trying to get to the same place; a successful settlement or judgment for the injured person.  Sometimes these claimants are other insurance companies.  For example, companies that provide health coverage or personal injury protection coverage.  Other times there are unpaid medical bills or unpaid expenses, and doctors or hospitals claim the right to be paid from the proceeds of the case.  These claims can arise because of language in a contract, a state statute, or because of equitable principles in the law.

Continue reading

Did the Nevils v. Group Health Plan Opinion Just Say What We’ve All Been Thinking?

By Cory Bilton

Wash Cir 3

The Supreme Court of Missouri recently decided Nevils v. Group Health Plan, Inc., holding that FEHBA does not pre-empt Missouri’s anti-subrogation law.  Google informs me that Jefferson City, Missouri, where the Supreme Court of Missouri is located, is roughly 930 miles away from the Washington DC area.  Despite the distance, Nevils could have a significant impact in our area, both for Virginia residents and for federal employees.  This is not to say that the analysis laid out in the Nevils decision is new.  In fact, I think the Missouri Supreme Court just said what we’ve all been thinking (or, at least, what many local lawyers who routinely have to deal with FEHBA liens have been thinking).

Continue reading

You’re Not Hearing Voices, That’s Your Car: DOT’s Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology

By Cory Bilton

Potomac - Frozen 8

It’s somewhat rare to have breaking news in the world of personal injury law.  But this week, we have something close to it.  On Monday, the Department of Transportation announced that it intends to move forward with laws that enable cars to talk to each other on the road.  The program, currently dubbed Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology (“V2V”), promises to make driving safer, eliminate traffic, save the environment, and boost the economy.  This probably overstates the program’s benefits, but I do get the distinct feeling that this program is going to fundamentally change the way Americans drive.

Continue reading