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Benzene Concerns Prompt Tacoma Community To Buy Air Monitors

Concerned about benzene emissions and other airborne pollutants, some Tacoma, Washington, communities are self-monitoring air quality as two Tacoma Tideflats companies dealing in high volumes of fossil fuels seek to expand their operations. According to The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Targa Sound Terminal, a lessor of petroleum and biofuel storage tanks, plans to add natural gasoline to the fuels it receives by rail, stores, and ships out from its Port of Tacoma location. Meanwhile, Emerald Services, which treats and stores waste and operates a used motor oil refinery, seeks to expand its operations by 10 percent. The Puget Sound Clean Air ... Read More

Washington Governor Signs Bill Preserving State’s Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill to preserve the state’s Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act, enacted in 2012, before its automatic June 30 expiration date. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had requested the a bill to preserve the False Claims Act, saying it had become one of the state’s best fraud-busting weapons in recent years. The Act authorizes the attorney general to file civil suits against health care providers that defraud the Medicaid program. “Thanks to action by the governor and the Legislature, my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit can continue recovering stolen dollars lost to fraud, deterring misuse of ... Read More

Dozens More Hospitals Settle Medicare Fraud Allegations With U.S.

Thirty-two hospitals located throughout 15 states will pay the U.S. more than $28 million collectively to settle allegations that they routinely overbilled Medicare for minimally invasive kyphoplasty spinal procedures, the Justice Department announced today, adding that it has now reached settlements with more than 130 hospitals totaling approximately $105 million to resolve allegations that they mischarged Medicare the procedure. Kyphoplasty is a procedure performed to treat certain spinal fractures that are caused by osteoporosis in most cases. Usually kyphoplasty can be performed safely and effectively as an outpatient procedure without any need for a more costly inpatient hospital admission. All but ... Read More

NTSB Points To Faulty Axle In Report On Deadly Seattle Duck Bus Crash

The collision of two buses, including a popular tourist Duck Bus, on a bridge in Washington State that killed five people and injured 62 others in September was likely caused by a defective left front axle assembly, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). According to the report, the vehicle at fault was an amphibious military vehicle built in 1945 and modified to serve as a tour bus capable of operating on land and in water. The so-called “Duck Bus” had undergone an earlier modification to the left front axle but may not have been included in ... Read More

Railroad industry under fire for repeated whistleblower retaliation charges

In order to ensure a safe workplace, employees must be able to report potential dangers. It seems like employers would be grateful to have feedback that would prevent on-the-job injuries or worker deaths. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers, union officials and analysts say complaints of illegal whistleblower retaliation in the railroad industry are rampant. Whistleblower protections are included in 22 federal laws established by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). These laws are designed to shield American workers from retaliation by their employer if they report workplace hazards, expose fraud, waste and abuse; or refuse ... Read More

Medical billing manager gets $1.4 million in whistleblower retaliation case

A federal jury in Tacoma, Wash., has ordered a Washington State hospital chain to pay a former billing manager nearly $1.4 million, finding the plaintiff in the whistleblower retailiation case was fired for reporting Medicare billing irregularities. Lori Cook, a billing supervisor with nearly four decades of experience at other hospitals, took a job in 2011 as billing manager for Harrison Home Care, a division of Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health, where she inherited a large backlog of Medicare billing. She was working to resolve the billing issue when she discovered “irregularities in Harrison’s billing which could have Medicare ... Read More

Toyota issues its second-largest recall to date of more than 6.3 million cars globally

Nearly 30 models of more than 6.3 million Toyota vehicles are currently being recalled in Japan, the U.S., Europe and various locations globally in the auto maker’s second-largest recall in company history. Some of the models under recall include the RAV4, Corolla, Highlander, Tacoma, Matrix, Highlander and Yaris. Although no crashes or injuries have been reported from the various problems, faults have even been found in two vehicles built for General Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries – the Pontiac Vibe and Subaru Trezia. A problem with the engine starter did result in fires with two separate Toyota vehicles. Flaws plaguing ... Read More

Toyota recalling 2.16 million vehicles worldwide, including Prius hybrid, Toyota and Lexis models

Toyota has announced a recall of more than 2.16 million vehicles worldwide. The recall includes 711,000 Prius automobiles in the U.S. and a total of about 1.9 million Prius autos worldwide; as well as an additional 260,000 non-hybrid vehicles. The Prius recall includes 2010-2014 Prius models, whose transistors may overheat or become damaged due to errors with the powertrain software. The glitch may cause the vehicle to stall or shut off completely while driving. The recall does not affect the Prius V nor Pricus c models, or the Toyota or Lexus hybrid vehicles. According to MSN, the transistor is a ... Read More

Fatal Oregon bus crash triggers multiple personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits

A number of lawsuits are piling up across the Pacific Northwest in connection with a 2012 tour bus crash in Oregon that killed nine people and injured more than two dozen others. One of the complaints, filed in Umatilla County, Ore., by a Vancouver, British Columbia attorney, seeks $700 million in damages from the tour operator and several other defendants. Days after the crash, U.S. authorities deemed Vancouver, B.C.-based Mi Joo Tour & Travel an “imminent hazard to public safety” and banned it from operating in the U.S. The bus company caters to Americans and Canadians of Korean descent and ... Read More

Utah tour bus crash kills NFL player’s father

A bus driver was killed and three passengers critically injured when the tour bus they were traveling in collided with a utility truck near the Utah-Nevada border Oct. 28. The driver of the bus, Pita Asiata, 53, of Bountiful, Utah, was the father Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata, officials investigating the scene said. The bus, operated by Utah-based company Le Bus, was carrying 50 passengers when the accident occurred on Interstate 80. The vehicle departed from Wendover, Nev., and was bound for Salt Lake City, according to bus company officials. The Utah Highway Patrol said that Mr. Asiata was ... Read More