Author

Kurt Niland

3916 posts

Kurt Niland has been a professional editor and writer for 15 years. He is the author of four books and a number of articles for trade journals, newspapers, magazines, and web blogs. He attended New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico, and Auburn University Montgomery, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English. His lifelong interests in geography, anthropology, political science, literature, and religion fuel his writing and inspire him to travel at every opportunity. Originally from Connecticut, Kurt has resided in Montgomery, Alabama since 1991.

Abandoned Hilcorp Well source of oil spill in Southern Mississippi River

oil spill, Hilcorp, Louisiana - image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard by Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Magee

The U.S. Coast Guard, Hilcorp Energy, and a handful of oil remediation companies are working to contain a natural gas and oil spill on the lower Mississippi river near Venice, Louisiana. The oil spill, which as of Wednesday covered about eight square miles of water and wetlands, was first reported on the afternoon of Monday, March 20, from an abandoned wellhead owned by Hilcorp, a Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company. Hilcorp told the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center that it had secured the old wellhead at approximately 9:45 p.m. Tuesday night. First estimates reported the well released ... Read More

NJ Advances Bill To Make Public Whistleblower Cases More Transparent

whistleblower reward justice

Spurred by a confidential $1.5 million whistleblower settlement in a case involving alleged criminal wrongdoing by supporters of Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey state lawmakers are pushing legislation that would bring transparency to any future whistleblower settlements involving state, county, and town authorities. New Jersey’s Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the measure after a protracted legal battle that cost state taxpayers $5.3 million ended in October with a settlement that bars whistleblower Ben Barlyn from disclosing details. Mr. Barlyn, former Hunterdon County prosecutor, filed the whistleblower complaint alleging he was wrongfully fired in retaliation for calling out the state’s dismissal of ... Read More

Church Members Critically Injured in Pocatello, Idaho Church Boiler Room Blast

explosion

An Idaho couple was critically injured when the boiler room of a Pocatello, Idaho, church exploded Tuesday, March 21. The Pocatello Fire Department responded to the blast at the First Congregational United Church across the street from Pocatello High School around 2:15 p.m. to find the church severely damaged. Local authorities continue to investigate the cause of the blast, but said they believe there was an accumulation of natural gas in the boiler that was somehow ignited when the couple, a husband and wife, both members of the church, was performing volunteer maintenance work. Responders found the woman badly burned ... Read More

Family of NJ Woman Killed In Tractor Trailer Crash Settles Lawsuit for $5 Million

trucks on highway

The family of a New Jersey woman who was killed on March 31, 2014, when a tractor trailer driven by a commercial driver under the influence of methadone and Xanax struck her vehicle has settled the case for $5 million. NJ Advance Media reports that the lawsuit sought damages for the death of Heidi Bennett, 50, a resident of Freehold, New Jersey, who was stopped at a red light in the southbound lanes of Route 9 when the tractor-trailer rammed the back of her Honda and pushed it through the intersection. Ms. Bennett’s car burst into flames on impact and ... Read More

U.S. Investigating Medicare Fraud Claims Against Four Additional Insurers Named By UnitedHealth Whistleblower

Pills - Stethoscope on Money

In February, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)  joined a False Claims Act lawsuit against UnitedHealth filed by a former executive who accused the company of cheating Medicare, but declined to intervene in allegations against more than a dozen other major insurers named as defendants. Recently unsealed court documents, however, show that the federal government is investigating allegations of Medicare fraud against some of the other insurers named as defendants by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, former finance director for UnitedHealth Medicare and Retirement, a subsidiary that works with the Medicare Advantage program. In a court document filed March 14, the DOJ clarifies that it ... Read More

Elevated Rail Tracks Open in Burbank, Ending Train Collisions With Motor Vehicles at troubled crossing

Metrolink commuter train - Wikimedia Commons

California transportation officials cut the ribbon on the newly opened $40-million elevated rail tracks for Metrolink commuter trains and Union Pacific freight trains in Burbank, designed to prevent deadly street-level collisions between trains and motor vehicles. “The elevated railroad tracks allow us to say goodbye — permanently — to the at-grade crossing on Buena Vista Street at San Fernando Boulevard, where people tragically lost their lives and too many families suffered unbearable pain,” said Carrie Bowen, District 7 director for the California Department of Transportation. Construction of the 2.2-mile stretch of track paralleling Interstate 5 from Buena Vista Street to ... Read More

Cephalon Settles Whistleblower False Claims Act Suit Alleging Off-label marketing of Narcolepsy Drugs

whistleblower

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries subsidiary Cephalon Inc. on Thursday settled a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit filed by a former sales representative who accused the drugmaker of pushing its narcolepsy drug Provigil for unapproved, off-label uses. Whistleblower Bruce Boise, who filed the original complaint against Cephalon in 2008, alleged that the company rewarded physicians who prescribed Provigil and another narcolepsy drug, Nuvigil, for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, jet lag, and depression, according to Law360. A number of patients who had been prescribed the drugs ... Read More

Access to justice: Bills To Strip Citizens of Rights to Sue Corporations Introduced to House

American justice series

House Republicans have introduced a series of new bills that threaten access to justice, aiming to make it very difficult, and in some cases impossible, for an American citizen to sue a corporation, even in cases of serious injury and death. House Resolution 985, the so-called “Fairness in Class Action Litigation” Act, is one of two proposed laws that could effectively dismantle citizens’ rights to hold companies accountable under the law. The bill introduces several new restrictions and qualifications that take aim at class actions by fettering them with complications, such as barring judges from certifying class actions if any ... Read More

Court Revives Nursing Home Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

whistleblower retaliation

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a nursing home employee’s False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit under the first-to-file rule but has reinstated his claim that he was terminated in retaliation for speaking out against alleged billing fraud. According to Business Insurance, Patrick Gerard Carson sued Toledo, Ohio-based Manor Care Inc. on behalf of the U.S. government in September 2011, alleging that the company was fraudulently overcharging the federal Medicare program for patient care. Mr. Carson also claims that Manor Care terminated him in November 2009 in retaliation for his repeated complaints about the alleged fraudulent ... Read More

Resolution Repealing OSHA’s worker Injury Recordkeeping Requirements Passes House

Working on the Wall

A resolution that seeks to repeal an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule clarifying the responsibilities of large employers in the most dangerous industries to keep complete and accurate worker injury records has cleared the House and is now under review by the Senate. The OSHA clarifying rule under attack, writes Debbie Berkowitz, former chief of staff and senior OSHA adviser, “does not impose any new costs or obligations on employers, nor does it affect small businesses. The rule only covers larger employers in the most dangerous industries. This rule does not kill jobs, it prevents jobs from killing ... Read More