April 11th, 2017
Here in Israel, chemical warfare is ‘up close and personal’, with victims from
Syria being treated at the scene and/or transported to larger facilities with
life-threatening injuries. Newspapers world-wide are covering the story and military interventions by multi-national forces have begun.
Reports of individual attacks remain in the news yet go unprosecuted, despite the fact that symptoms are often unmistakeable and may be corroborated through medical or environmental
testing. A New York Times article reported a June 2, 2014 Supreme Court ruling that separated prosecutorial responsibilities for crimes of poisoning. The case in point, Bond v United States, overturned a federal conviction for a woman who bacterially contaminated property belonging to another woman. The reasoning was that the federal statute was was restricted to incidents involving international relations falling within treaties approved by legislators. The purpose was to reinforce limited federal government and avoid those courts becoming bogged down with thousands of cases of malicious poisonings in the States.
Really? Apparently, there are so many incidents ignored by the States that the
Court felt it best to inform the public that when they are poisoned, it’s a ‘petty crime’, unworthy of federal attention. However, when politicians are poisoned, it’s worthy of intervention on the basis of intent to thwart treaties. The American Medical Association does not distinguish between the effects of poisons upon federal employees and other citizens, according to the present diagnostic codes used in medical records. Still, an increased desire to diagnose cases does not necessarily lead to relief should jurisdiction be denied by authorities within the justice system.
That begs the question newly raised by Roger Stone, a Republican ‘operative’ who was
extremely ill some weeks ago and informed by his doctors that he’d been exposed
to a radioactive substance. The sub-lethal dose nonetheless requires us to ask whether federal or local investigations were warranted. Stone did not address the possibilities of prosecution,
should the source of the exposure be cited in future.
With chemical injuries in the news so often and the AMA so determined to combat these horrific forms of damage through identification and referral (to law enforcement, family
courts etc.), I can report the latter will be significantly handicapped by two factors.
First is denial of environmental chemical exposures by property owners and security personnel. I described one such case at Gatwick airport a few months ago here. Without environmental
corroboration, a visit to the physician becomes a mine-field for both parties. Toxicology tests are both expensive and generally not covered by insurance. In order to justify those that are covered, or put that burden on a patients’ wallet, a doctor must see the patient within 24 hours of exposure and identify the possibilities to choose among so many test protocols.
Second, knowing what labs remain in operation to conduct those tests is also time-consuming for fee-driven physicians. Medical detective work requires a partnership between patient and Doctor that few will form. The patient risks an inexperienced or irresponsible doctor labeling them with a false diagnosis of anything from a digestive disturbance to incipient paranoia. The art of billing with an honest, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong yet.’, isn’t the simplest way to run an office. I’ve been most fortunate in the integrity of the doctors I’ve seen in most situations, but then I understand the need for evidence prior to making tough calls in cases with unusual clinical presentations.
Stone’s experience, and the unlikelihood of obtaining sufficient proof to interest a prosecutor, leaves us with the issue of appropriate medical intervention and those civil actions that have largely replaced criminal proceedings – even in cases of murder. Medical intervention itself is a nightmare. Chemicals are really bombs that leave shrapnel in the body that can’t be removed with a scalpel – until a tumor forms. My own MRI and other imaging shows the scars left by chemical knives in the case I described relative to pesticide exposures in 1999 (link below).
Following my own environmental investigation into what appeared to be negligence, the Environmental Protection Agency knocked on my office door. I’d phoned in a routine report of the findings of toxicological tests I’d taken of my office to the NYC division. After reviewing the evidence, the agent requested my help in limiting these events. “We’d like you to file a law suit.”
I said that I would, pending further exams to learn whether my damage was permanent. The damage was indeed deemed permanent and disability insurance checks replaced my previous pay checks. Grieving heavily over the shock of a lost career, I filed the lawsuit as advised. My case was put on the record in a few medical articles in health periodicals but few know that the suit never made it to court. Despite completing discovery, no settlement offer of note was made by the defense and no trial date was scheduled by my own attorney.
During the long wait with repeated assurances that an end was in sight, I was subjected to the kinds of harassment no litigant wants to report for fear of harming your legal position. Stalking, criminal threatening and exposures to an array of toxic chemicals followed my moves into rural New England and sunny California, as I sought fresh air and quiet surroundings for my health and rehabilitation efforts. One suspect mentioned my litigation in a shouted attempt to terrorize. A visit to a New Hampshire police department in the town of Derry was ultimately required. I’d been invited by an environmental group to testify before the state legislature regarding the effects of exposures to chemicals typically used in schools (testimony here).
I managed to testify but wound up in an emergency room, having had chemicals tossed into my car by a passing stranger. The ER paperwork reported chemical irritation to my face, a chemical bronchitis and the swelling of a leg, with negative ultrasound results for blood clots. The police mentioned having had a case like my own the year before with a hospital whistleblower. A private detective had staked out the woman’s home and the vandals bothering her were caught.
I was unable to afford the help but was taught to take photos of suspicious persons who appeared in my vicinity too often for coincidence and, of course, any who harmed. In the end, I filed charges with photographs in several states, ending with my move to California. By then, my physician had seen enough reports of clinical poisonings to warrant writing a letter stating his belief that I was being maliciously exposed to toxins. In an effort to remain within the bounds of discovery rules, I insisted my lawyer write the defense about my harassment. The police had said they might inquire about whether the clients of opposing counsel were involved.
My lawyer was given the medical and police reports but balked about writing the letter, stating a jury wouldn’t like it. Now that eight years had passed following the filing of the suit, I doubted a late report would even be admissible. My lawyer did write the letter but made an interesting error with the date, marking it as being written in 2006 instead of 2010. The date of the fax however, showed the true date. That letter reads as follows:
Richard J. Lipped & Associates
Cullen & Dykman, Bleakly Platt LLP
Gottlieb, Siegel & Schwartz, LLP
Kent and McBride, P.C.
Tromello, McDonell & Kehoe
Re: Barbara Rubin v. Marathon Community Center, et al.
Please be advised that my client, Barbara Rubin, has been the subject of stalking,
harassment and chemical battery. On two occasions, she was verbally threatened by two
different individuals with bodily harm, and one of them specified that it was due to her
Involvement this case.
Due to the various stalking, harassment and chemical battery incidents, she has
been forced to file evidence which includes photographs and license plate numbers of the
individuals and vehicles with various law enforcement agencies. I am
informing you of these incidences because your clients may be receiving inquiries from
law enforcement agencies due to the possible relationship to the pending litigation.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contacting me. Thank you for
your kind attention.
Very truly yours,
Richard J. Lippes
That letter required by law, ended my lawyers interest in scheduling a court date. Citing his desire that I find another attorney, the belated nature of his dropping interest in the case precluded the willingness of any other attorney to attempt trying such an old case, however worthy. By now, it would be hard to even locate retired witnesses. My shock at this loss after so much trauma was immeasurable. Nonetheless, the case remains ‘live’ in the basement of the New York State Civil Supreme Court because I have too great a respect for the justice system to drop the case. It was not filed ‘frivolously’, had survived two motions to dismiss and I didn’t want to be accused of inflicting needless costs on the defendants.
This scenario is not unusual in the area of toxic torts and many other forms of litigation.
Less than one percent of civil cases proceed to trial according to a recent article here. Given the prevalence of large scale chemical warfare, it’s not surprising that small scale accidents or even attacks by individuals would prosper, absent consequences. I hope the experiences of Roger Stone, Glenn Beck (Christian broadcaster, poisoned) and others yet to be publicized, will alter a faltering legal system.
The ability of individuals to thrive in a just society is all that stands between us and both real and threatened wars.