A federal judge in Nashville learned a lesson when he summoned more than 50 lawyers from around the country involved in three shareholder lawsuits against HCA to a mandatory Saturday meeting.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Higgins might have wanted to check the calendar before setting the Sept. 14 date, which comes during the Jewish high holidays on the day before Yom Kippur. Higgins, who was not available for comment, had told lawyers that they must attend the hearing or give proof of "a serious illness or death in the immediate family."
When his staff learned of the oversight, probably from angry attorneys, Higgins postponed the hearing, which has not yet been reset.
The judge wanted to use the rare Saturday hearing to clarify at one time before all interested parties just what would be allowed in the discovery process, a source close to the case says. The three cases involve shareholder class-action and other lawsuits dating to 1997 against the Nashville-based giant alleging Securities and Exchange Commission law violations. The plaintiffs in the suits-mainly shareholders-allege that HCA officers and directors failed to disclose misstatements in filings, behaved improperly and failed to correct conduct that resulted in the devaluation of HCA stock.
"(Higgins was just) letting everyone know he is the judge," says one lawyer of the judge's decision to summon everyone to Nashville on a Saturday.
A good New York story
With the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaching, there couldn't have been a more fitting news story coming out of New York: Two men who were reported missing after the World Trade Center attacks have been found alive in New York-area hospitals.
Albert Vaughan's family was sure he died in the collapse of the Twin Towers. The homeless man had been spotted that day in the subway station below the World Trade Center, where he would occasionally sleep. And sure because no one had heard from him since.
Then a social worker called the Vaughan family with some wonderful news: Vaughan, 45, wasn't dead after all. "Tell everyone I'm alive and in good health," he said by telephone last week from the Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, N.Y., seemingly unaware that his family had feared him dead.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner, confirmed last week that a second man, George Sims of Newark, N.J., was discovered alive at an undisclosed New York hospital.
The discoveries come after the city made public its first overall list of those who were still missing in the attack. The list contained 2,819 names.
Sims, 47, has since been moved to the upstate New York facility. His mother, Anna Sims, says her son has been diagnosed with amnesia and schizophrenia, although he did remember his birth date and enough of his Social Security number for authorities to contact the family earlier in August.
"He doesn't even know where he's at," Anna Sims says. "He calls me `Mrs. Sims.' He doesn't even know me as `my mother.' "
But she says she's optimistic her son will eventually recover and the mystery about where he was on Sept. 11 will be unraveled.
While the American Hospital Association was generally holding the line on top executive compensation in 2001, Richard Pollack, the AHA's executive vice president for advocacy and policy in Washington, saw his income jump that year.
Several reasons were cited for Pollack's big pay bump, a 23% increase in total compensation (including salary, bonus, expense accounts and benefit plans) to $610,124. AHA spokesman Richard Wade notes that though the group's investment income plunged, it had a good year in terms of meeting many strategic and financial goals (Aug. 26, p. 8).
In 2001, Pollack's salary increased 15% to $385,084. His employee benefits contributions jumped 34% to $196,723 and his expense allowance more than doubled to $28,317.
The pay raise was based on several factors, including comparing similar jobs in the marketplace, the association's financial performance throughout the year and the level of satisfaction from AHA members, Wade says. An annual pay raise for AHA executives is not guaranteed, he says. "We have had years we did not hit financial targets."
"Public health has always been the poor stepchild. It has never received the dollars or the attention. We're not the Department of Defense or the State Department. Reporters don't seem to want to cover the most important issue in America: public health."
-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, speaking at last week's meeting of HHS' Office of Public Health Preparedness. Outliers' search of just one of the major news databases for "public health" for Aug. 1 to Aug. 28 produced 6,620 hits, only nine of which were generated by the meeting at which the secretary made his comment.