Sunday, November 30, 2008

IKEA Blinds Recall

Not the first time we've mentioned this recall, but in case you missed it, here it is again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

FDA Announcement Sparks Call For Formula Recall

Yesterday's announcement that laboratory tests had detected traces of contamination in several major brands of infant formula sparked widespread concern and confusion, with a national consumer's group and the Illinois attorney general demanding the FDA recall formula nationwide and the federal agency conceding it had released inaccurate information on what chemicals were found in which top selling products. Read more.

Deer Crashes Increase as Mating Season Peaks

Connecticut State Police say numerous deer already have caused car crashes as their mating season reaches its peak. Troopers at the Southbury barracks say in their region alone, they responded to five deer-related crashes in less than four days. At least one person was injured.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Food Group Says Mercury Fears Overblown

The Center For Consumer Freedom, an anti-litigation food industry/"consumer rights" group, says fears about mercury poison in tuna have been greatly exaggerated. "And in America’s poorest households, children are being left with the short end of the fish stick," according to an article in the Providence Journal.

Research data by ACNielsen reportedly indicates that "more than 4.4 million U.S. households earning $30,000 or less completely stopped buying canned tuna between 2000 and 2006. (These findings are detailed in a new report titled “Tuna Meltdown,” available at Why does a drop in low-income families’ tuna consumption matter? In addition to being the constant whipping boy for green-group mercury campaigns, canned tuna is often the only source of omega-3 fatty acids—the 'good fat' that boosts heart health and brain function — that fits in a low-income family’s food budget." So what? "More than 250,000 children were born into those 4.4 million underprivileged families. . . . Without omega-3s in utero, these children are 29 percent more likely to have abnormally low IQs. So says a landmark study, funded by our own government and published last year in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet." Read more.

FDA Needs Serious Help

"Shaken by a series of alarming failures, the FDA desperately needs an infusion of strong leadership, money, technology and personnel -- and perhaps a major restructuring, say former officials, members of Congress, watchdog groups and various government reports." Read more.

Trace of Melamine Found in One Sample of Infant Formula

The FDA has discovered trace amounts of melamine in infant formula, raising "the possibility that the problem was more extensive in the United States than previously thought." Although few details are available, media reports indicate FDA officials discovered melamine at trace levels in a single sample of infant formula, as well as in several samples of dietary supplements that are made by some of the same manufacturers who make formula. FDA spokeswoman Judy Leon says "There's no cause for concern or no risk from these levels." She believes "the contamination was most likely the result of food contact with something like a can liner, or from some other manufacturing problems, but not from deliberate adulteration."

If Considering a Mechanical Heart Pump, Find an Experienced Doctor

According to Bloomberg News, "Half the people given mechanical heart pumps designed to avoid transplant surgery died within a year, according to a study suggesting the device's popularity has grown faster than doctors' skill." Of the 1,500 patients given a ventricular assist device instead of a heart transplant, 52% survived after a year, say Duke University researchers in an article published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "At hospitals installing at least five pumps a year, the risk of death dropped 31 percent," suggesting survival rates improve with practice. "The article notes that the devices are growing in popularity, 'although the learning process has lagged behind hospitals' rush to offer the procedure, said Adrian Hernandez, the lead author." Adds the New York Times: "The devices have great promise but are being used too often in the wrong patients and at the wrong hospitals -- in people who are too sick to benefit, and at hospitals that do not treat enough patients to gain the expertise needed for their complex care -- the researchers say."

US Chamber Lobbyists Spent $20 Million in 3rd Quarter

The US Chamber of Commerce "spent $20.6 million in the third quarter to lobby on health care, labor and other issues," including retirement and pensions, foreign trade and immigration issues. The Chamber "spent about $17.7 million lobbying in the first half of the year." Previously "the Chamber spent nearly $31 million in 2007 to lobby the federal government, which was down from $44.7 million in 2006." Read more.

US PIRG Issues Warnings on Toys

The Public Interest Research Group (PRIG) says parents shopping for holiday toys should look out for hazards such as small parts, soft plastics and lead contamination. "Although increased consumer protections were approved this summer, US PIRG warned parents that those rules have not yet gone into effect." The group's latest annual "Trouble in Toyland" report focuses on the choking hazard of small parts, lead, and phthalates. "If the toy fits inside the tube from a toilet roll, it's too small for the tiny tots," warn consumer advocates. Read more.

Rell Decries Judge's Racial Comments

Connecticut Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa R. Cofield, 59, arrested last month for drunk driving, has applied for the state's alcohol education program. At the time of her arrest, Cofield, who is black, "angrily made racial comments, including repeated references to a black state police sergeant, Dwight Washington, as 'Negro Washington' during her Oct. 9 Glastonbury arrest captured by police video." Gov. Jodi Rell called the incident and Cofield's comments "clearly reprehensible." Read more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

72 Vehicles Win IIHS's Top Safety Pick for 2009

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced the winners of its Top Safety Pick award for 2009. Get the report here.

Slip & Fall Verdict All in the Family

Hat tip to my buddy Eric Blomberg for a Stamford verdict of $70,000, reduced by 50% for comparative negligence, last week. The plaintiff, a 42 year old single mother, slipped and fell on ice during a snowstorm, breaking her ankle. The incident occurred at her grandfather's home, which was owned by the plaintiff's mother, who was the named defendant. In fact, the plaintiff lived at home with her parents, in a house next door to the grandfather's.

$68k Malpractice Verdict for Lower Leg Lacerations

Hat tip to our good friend Kevin Ferry of New Britain, for a $68,000 jury verdict in New London in favor of his client, a 71 year old woman who suffered a 12.5 cm laceration on lower leg due to negligent removal of surgical draping at the conclusion of her knee replacement surgery done at Backus Hospital (the verdict was against Norwich Orthopedic Group and physician's assistant Loretta Verde). The cause: negligent use of bandage scissors. The defense: that plaintiff had very fragile skin due to years of steroid use; unfortunately for the defense, you take the plaintiff as you find her. The plaintiff did not seek economic damages since her wound care overlapped with her stays in the hospital and a rehab facility.

Did You Sign the Thanksgiving Day Meal Waiver??

The Center for Consumer Freedom "likes to criticize 'food cops, public health zealots and trial lawyers' who they say are needlessly fueling hysteria about the nation's growing obesity epidemic," and "some critics call it a front group for the food and restaurant industries." It produced a "Thanksgiving Liability and Indemnification Agreement" that "affirms that your relatives have chosen to eat despite your unfortunate failure to provide nutritional information such as calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and trans fat." Won't mom be thrilled. Read more.

U.S. Chamber's ILR Spent Over $9 Million on Lobbying in 3rd Quarter

Forbes notes that according to disclosure forms, "the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce focused on neutralizing the power of plaintiff trial lawyers, spent more than $9 million lobbying the federal government in the third quarter." The group lobbied Congress, the departments of Justice, Commerce and Treasury, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission "on judicial salaries, consumer product safety, attorney-client privilege, arbitration, drug labeling and other issues." Read more.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Medicaid Pays for Unapproved Drugs

At a time when millions of Americans are uninsured, and those with coverage are struggling to pay higher premiums for less coverage, now this: "Dozens of deaths have been linked to medications that have never been reviewed by the government for safety and effectiveness but are still covered under Medicaid, an Associated Press analysis of federal data has found." Read more.

Tobacco Settlement Funds Anti-Smoking Programs

The Connecticut General Assembly has appropriated nearly $7 million from funds received through the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to anti-smoking programs. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal recently urged $2 million for QuitLine, a hotline for those trying to quit smoking. Lawmakers agreed, adding $1.2 million for counseling and medication for those with serious mental illnesses trying to quit.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

There's a Reason Why National Standards Discourage Human Target Games in Gym Class

This morning's article in the Day about the Waterford boy who was seriously injured in gym class inaccurately characterized the game in question as one of "tag". Here's my response to the reporter, since I doubt she'll set the record straight:

I regret not being able to call you back yesterday, particularly after reading your article that mischaracterized the game as one of “tag.” The game in which my client was injured was not the benign game of “tag” that you and I recall from childhood. As stated in our Complaint, the game was called “Everybody’s It Tag”, which is basically a free-for-all in which students are allowed to run around in a chaotic atmosphere of hitting and shoving, hardly an appropriate activity for “physical education” class. What is the educational component? There is a difference between physical activity and physical education. Allowing middle schoolers to run around like idiots is not educational. Physical education is supposed to involve activities that are developmentally and instructionally appropriate, teaching useful skills that help to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle. “Everybody’s It Tag” is just another human target game that allows and even encourages aggressive behaviors toward other students in the class, which is why physical education experts have discouraged such games for decades. Accidents happen, but this was foreseeable and preventable.

me. I don't expect she'll do another article, but I'll be sure to take her call next time she calls looking for comment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guidelines for Safe Gift-Buying

CPSC guidelines warn parents and other gift-givers to stay away from toys and other items that fall in five categories: riding toys, small balls and toys with small parts, balloons, playthings with small magnets, and battery chargers and adapters.

The CPSC attributes the majority of kids' deaths to be "the result of airway obstructions caused by swallowing small toys, drownings that resulted from children falling into swimming pools while riding on toys, and injuries after being struck by motor vehicles while riding toys." According to the CPSC's own estimates, "170,100 children under the age of 15 were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries," in 2007, and "there were 232,900 toy-related injuries among all ages."

More Recalls

The CPSC has announced recalls of wall ovens, window blinds, dive sticks, and toy trains. Specifically, "GE Consumer & Industrial is recalling about 244,000 GE, GE Profile, Monogram, and Kenmore wall ovens" sold between Oct. 2002 and Dec. 2004 because "the extreme heat used in the self-clean cycle can escape if the wall oven door is removed and incorrectly re-attached," posing "a fire and burn hazard." Already mentioned yesterday (below), "Ikea Home Furnishings is recalling about 670,000 Iris and Alvine Roman blinds" sold from July 2005 through June 2008 because "strangulations can occur when a child places his/her neck in an exposed inner cord on the backside of the Roman blinds." Target is "recalling about 365,000 dive sticks" sold from April through Aug. 2008, because they pose "an impalement hazard to young children." Finally, "JA-RU Inc. is recalling about 18,000 My Little Train Classics toy trains" sold between March 2007 and Oct. 2008 because the toys "contain small parts that" are "a choking hazard to young children."

Nursing Home Settles To Avoid Gov't Suit

In 2004, Orphia Wilson lost her Florida nursing license after a 21-month-old baby died in her care. Two years later, a chronically ill 3-year old boy under her care in Connecticut died of respiratory failure after she fell asleep.

The following month, Walnut Hill Care Center, a nursing home and rehab facility in New Britain, hired Wilson as a nursing supervisor. For not performing a background check on Wilson, Walnut Hill recently agreed to pay the U.S. government $222,419 as part of a settlement agreement reached before a lawsuit was filed. More.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby Death Prompts Recall of Blinds & Shades

About 677,300 IKEA and Green Mountain Vista window blinds and shades were recalled in the after a 1-year-old girl from Greenwich, Conn., was strangled when she got caught in the inner cord of a set of IKEA Roman blinds over her playpen. The CPSC also received a report of a 2-year-old girl from Bristol, Conn., who nearly strangled on the beaded-chain loop hanging from a set of Green Mountain Vista shades. Read more.

Norwich Physicians Sued for Death of 87-Year-Old Patient

Attorney Scott D. Camassar has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Norwich Internal Medicine & Multispecialty Care LLC and three of its member physicians on account of the death of an 87-year-old woman who died on June 28, 2007 following a heart attack.

The woman, who suffered from kidney disease and was at risk for heart conditions, was admitted to Haven Health Center of Jewett City for physical therapy and rehabilitation on June 10, 2007. During the course of her stay at the nursing home, she developed chest pain, which became progressively worse. By June 17th, she was complaining of epigastric pain and related symptoms. Her complaints continued over the next 10 days as her pain increased despite being treated for indigestion, nausea, and stomach upset. On June 27th, the woman’s son took her to Backus Hospital in Norwich, where tests determined that she had suffered a heart attack. She died the next day, her death attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest due to myocardial infarction.

According to the expert retained by the Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck, the deceased’s complaints were typical heart symptoms in older patients suffering from an acute cardiac event, and the physicians caring for her failed to recognize these well known symptoms of heart dysfunction. By the time her complaints of epigastric (chest) pain intensified, “a diagnosis of coronary insufficiency should have been considered, at which time reasonable standards of care would have required at least a new electrocardiogram and a troponin level [test]. Had that standard been followed, it is more likely than not that [she] would have been transferred much earlier to Backus [Hospital], where intervention would, more likely than not, have saved her life.” By failing to provide her with adequate diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, she “experienced a premature death.”

NSCLC Calls on Congress and Pres.-Elect to Help Seniors In Need

The National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) calls for adoption of a new agenda that "strengthens the critical health and income programs for low-income seniors and guarantees that the sickest, poorest and frailest among us can live in health and dignity, and that age is never a basis for discrimination." Read more.

Sen. Baucus Describes His Vision for Healthcare Reform

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released a paper called Call to Action: Health Reform 2009. Get the report here.

Who's Side is the Gov't On? More on Phthalates

Looks like stores may continue to sell plastic toys made with hormone-like chemicals next year, even after a law that was supposed to ban them takes effect Feb. 10, "according to a legal decision from the federal agency that oversees consumer safety." The Consumer Product Safety Commission claims "that the phthalate ban doesn't necessarily apply to toys made before Feb. 10. In a letter written Monday, the commission's general counsel says the law lacks a 'clear statement of unambiguous intent.'" This is why some folks "dislike" lawyers in my view. According to the letter, "retailers and manufacturers may sell off their existing inventory of dolls, sippy cups and other children's products. ... Neither stores nor toymakers are obligated to label which products meet the new standards and which don't." Meanwhile, "some supporters of the legislation say the agency is undermining the goal of a law meant to protect their children." Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) accused the commission of "willfully ignoring the Congressional intent, which is to protect children from toxic chemicals." When will government start to work for people instead of against them? Read more.

Health Insurers Willing to Follow Congress

The New York Times reports that "The health insurance industry said Wednesday that it would support a healthcare overhaul requiring insurers to accept all customers, regardless of illness or disability," if Congress requires all Americans to have coverage. Both America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association announced separately their support "for guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, in conjunction with an enforceable mandate for individual coverage." Maybe change is coming after all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BK to Limit Sodium in Kids Meals

Burger King Corp., the nations #2 burger chain, said today it is cutting the amount of sodium in its kids meals and promoting menu combinations with less than 650 calories as part of a push to emphasize nutrition at its fast-food chains.

The company will now limit sodium in kids meals advertised to children under 12 years old to 600 milligrams or less. A quarter-teaspoon of salt has nearly 600 milligrams of sodium.

High levels of sodium can lead to higher blood pressure, a key factor in heart disease and strokes. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in healthy adults and less for kids. Read more.

U.S. Chamber Spent $58 Million on Lobbying

Bara Vaida writes that despite the current economic turmoil, "the Center for Responsive Politics expects that spending on lobbying will be about $3.2 billion for all of 2008, up 13 percent from the $2.83 billion spent in 2007." This "projection is based on a just completed analysis of third quarter lobbying forms, which are required to be filed with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act." According to the Center's analysis, "the top spending organization this year so far is the US Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $57.9 million on lobbying." The analysis also revealed that "the top contract was Altria Group, owner of cigarette maker Philip Morris, which has spent $3.66 million on lobbying so far this year." Notably, Altria is currently part of a lawsuit that will test the boundary between federal and state authority. In that case, plaintiffs argue that Altria committed fraud when it advertised cigarettes as light or low in tar. But, Altria contends that state claims are barred by federal cigarette labeling laws."

Obama Likely to Increase Regs on Consumer and Worker Safety

The Wall Street Journal reports that President-elect Barack Obama is signaling that his administration will beef up regulations at federal agencies that oversee consumer products, environmental policy and workplace safety. In addition to naming people to his transition team, "Obama has indicated in a series of pre-election letters to a big federal employee union that he intends to take a more pro-union approach on labor questions than his predecessor, and give agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency more money." Obama's team is reportedly looking at a number of "activists and advocates" to lead agencies such as Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). "The new administration has said it favors doubling of the [CPSC's] budget, a streamlining of the nation's product-recall system that reduces companies' say in the process, and higher fines for safety violations." Given the consumer scares of the last year, this is one area where toughened regs actually makes sense.

Kids' Products With Banned Plastics Still on Shelves

Buyers beware. "A new federal ban on the use of the controversial chemical phthalate in teethers, pacifiers and other children's products won't apply to goods already in warehouses or on store shelves," the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said on 11/18. Under the decision, "it will be illegal to sell products made after the ban takes effect Feb. 10 that contain certain types of phthalates, chemicals used in soft plastic that have been linked to reproductive problems." The ban, which was passed in August as part of a landmark product safety law, is supposed to remain in effect until a panel completes a scientific review of the chemical. According to consumer advocates and some insiders, however, the "decision violates the intent of the law." Consumer advocates also claim that the decision will lead to confusion for consumers. "How will parents know whether the rubber ducky they're buying was made today and not in March?" Read more.

DOJ Investigates Off-Label Use of Medtronic's Infuse Device

"The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating the off-label use of a Medtronic Inc. implant for promoting bone growth, bringing government scrutiny of such unapproved uses to the heart of the $189 billion medical-device industry." The company denies marketing Infuse for off-label uses, and claims it has fully complied with federal laws. It calls Infuse a 'revolutionary' product that saves patients the trauma of bone grafts taken from the hip to use in spinal fusions."

Some patients claim they have been harmed in off-label uses of Infuse, which is approved by the FDA only for a small section of the spine in the lower, lumbar region. The FDA has received at least 280 reports of side effects involving Infuse, about three-quarters of which involve off-label use. "In July, the agency issued a safety alert about complications from the off-label use of Infuse in the neck, or cervical, area of the spine." Read more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baby With Rare Menkes Disease Needs Your Help

Matthew is an 18 month old boy from Avon, CT who was born with Menkes Disease, a rare neurological degenerative disease. Only one in 300,000 children has this disease. He is currently "beating the odds" and is smiling, laughing, and thriving. To extend his life expectancy as well as quality, he is to undergo an "experimental" treatment on January 10, 2009. As times are certainly hard for everyone right now, please consider what your small donation could do for this young boy and his family, who are struggling to pay for the cost of expensive treatments, medicines, therapies, and travel for Menkes research. If you are able to make a donation, please send it to:

PO Box 819
Avon, CT 06001

Thanks for your generosity, thoughts, and prayers.

Half of Docs Would Quit, Citing Insurance & Gov't Red Tape

"Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative. . . .Of the 12,000 respondents, 49 percent said they'd consider leaving medicine. Many said they are overwhelmed with their practices, not because they have too many patients, but because there's too much red tape generated from insurance companies and government agencies." Read more.

Station Fire Settlement Distribution Delayed

Victims of the Station nightclub fire are not going to receive any of their settlement proceeds until sometime next spring at the earliest, according to the Providence Journal.

New Haven Judge Awards $29,526 for Fall Down

In Gary v. New Haven, the court rendered a plaintiff's verdict of $4,526 in economic damages and $25,000 in non-economic damages, in a case in which the plaintiff fell on a city sidewalk. The plaintiff proved that the city should have known about a defect in the sidewalk, failed to remedy the defect, and that the defect constituted the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff claimed injuries to her left foot and sustained medical expenses of $4,526.

Lawmakers Renew Calls to Ban BPA

Meg Kissinger writes that, on Nov, 17, federal legislators said that they "would work to ban bisphenol A (BPA) from food and beverage containers after a Journal Sentinel analysis found that even plastic products billed as 'microwave safe' released toxic doses of the chemical when heated." According to Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), "he will re-introduce a bill in Congress in January to ban BPA from food and beverage containers." After reading the Journal Sentinel report, "Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he, too, would renew his fight to have BPA removed from all children's products." Bisphenol A is "used to make baby bottles and the lining of metal food cans, including those containing infant formula." Studies have tied the chemical "to reproductive failures, breast cancer risk, diabetes, and heart disease."

Little Tobacco Money Goes Toward Anti-Smoking Programs

"Ten years ago this week, the states reached a $246 billion settlement with tobacco companies. The settlement was the beginning of an era that saw landmark changes for smoking nationwide." Since then, "smoking rates are down across the board," and states are increasingly restricting "where people may smoke." Most of the settlement money went not towards anti-smoking programs but towards helping "balance budgets, build schools and pave roads." Less than five percent of the money has been spent "on tobacco control." Read more.

Dare to Dream

The Wall Street Journal /AP reports, "The European Union and China signed an agreement to cooperate better on consumer safety after scares such as contaminated Chinese milk and dangerous toy cars." After the agreement was signed, "top consumer affairs officials from China and the EU were joined by Nancy A. Nord, head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, to consider further three-way cooperation, including possible common safety standards for toys."

Monday, November 17, 2008

We Need Corp. Reform, Not Tort Reform

Came across an anti-tort reform blog and related site worth following: They even have merchandise, such as these nifty decals:

No Known Treatment for Certain Bacteria

The New Yorker reports on so-called gram-resistant bacteria. There are no antibiotics capable of treating this uber-superbug.

Chicago Tribune Investigates Crib Safety

"Less than a month ago, the federal government recalled nearly 1.6 million cribs sold by the world's largest distributor of baby beds. But parents who asked Delta Enterprise for a repair kit to fix the cribs' hazardous drop rails may have a false sense of confidence," according to a Chicago Tribune investigation. Read more.

Good News for the Holidays

The New York Times reports that a number of retailers and manufacturers, including, Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy, are offering "product packaging that will not result in lacerations and stab wounds." The companies "have begun to create alternatives to the infuriating plastic 'clamshell' packages and cruelly complex twist ties that make products like electronics and toys almost impossible for mere mortals to open without power tools." According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, "impregnable packaging" has sent about 6,000 Americans each year to emergency rooms with "injuries caused by trying to pry, stab and cut open their purchases."

83% of Riders Use Seatbelts

The NHTSA reports that "[m]ore Americans are buckling up than ever before, with 83 percent of vehicle occupants using seatbelts during daylight hours." This is up 1% from the previous year.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Credibility of Former Haven CEO, State Questioned

Jamie Mason discusses the Haven Heathcare fiasco and allegations that former CEO Ray Termini and/or others siphoned Medicaid money for personal use. "There are many credibility problems to go around, between Termini and the state. Termini says he profited from Haven's nonregulated operations. Eighty percent of Haven's revenue, however, is derived from Medicaid reimbursements. Haven had to file cost reports on Sept. 30 of every year to the Connecticut Department of Social Services, which identifies every penny spent and what the Medicaid money went for. Yet the state is now trying to figure out what the money bought and whether Termini used it for his personal use." Read more.

Haven of Waterford Closure Imminent

The Day reports that Haven Health Center of Waterford (CT), recently ordered shut down by the State, has only a few remaining patients. Read more.

The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck Sues Rand-Whitney Containerboard

The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck recently filed suit against Rand-Whitney Containerboard on behalf of a client who suffered severe injuries on December 13, 2007, when he stepped into an unguarded floor opening in the box plant and fell into a 20-foot-deep pulp pit.

At the time of the incident, the plaintiff was an employee of Devine Hydraulics, Inc., an industrial machine maintenance contractor, and was in the Rand-Whitney plant as part of a crew working on certain machines during the plant shut-down. The crew was working on a machine when a hydraulic jack failed, causing the crew members to take a break and move away from the machine. While attempting to get to a safe area, the plaintiff fell into the hole, striking several metal bars on the way down. As a result, he suffered numerous serious injuries that have required multiple hospitalizations since last year.

The suit alleges claims for negligence and recklessness against Rand-Whitney, and alleges that the company was at fault in various ways including failing to cover the pit with a floor opening cover of sufficient strength and construction; failing to warn Lesieur of the presence of a floor opening in close proximity to where he was working; failing to provide adequate lighting in the area where he was working; failing to point out safety risks in the area where the crew was working; failing to provide cones, railings, barriers, tape, or other warning to keep workers out of areas where there were serious hazards; failing to inspect the area of the plant in question; failing to follow its own safety procedures regarding covering or warning of dangerous floor openings; and violating various provisions of OSHA. The suit also alleges that Rand-Whitney "acted with reckless disregard and indifference to the rights and safety of the plaintiff, a business invitee on its premises, in that it knew there were extremely dangerous and deep pits near the area where [he] was working, which could cause serious injury or death to persons falling into them, yet failed or refused to cover the pit and/or warn [him] of the danger."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Local Business Sees Run on Natural Baby Products

Still concerned about lead paint in your babies' toys? Or harmful BPA in plastics? Or other dangerous products for babies and kids? You're not alone. Papoose, the maternity, babies and kids store in Norwich, CT says business is booming because they have the products parents want. Amy, Holly and Carol are there to help answer your questions and provide you with a plethora of natural toys and products for your family. Check out their website and extensive on-line store.

Infants' Mylicon Gas Relief Drops Recalled

Johnson & Johnson • Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals Company (JJMCP) has voluntarily recalled approximately 12,000 units of Infants’ MYLICON® GAS RELIEF DYE FREE drops (simethicone-antigas) non-staining sold in 1 oz. plastic bottles that were distributed nationwide after October 5, 2008. The products have a risk of contamination from small metal fragments. Go to their website to see the affected lot and code numbers.

Motorcycle Death Rate Lower

While it seems we read daily about another fatal motorcycle accident, the fatality rate has actually decreased since the 1980s. "State transportation officials say even with thousands of new motorcyclists in Connecticut, the death rate involving motorcycles has gone down in the past two decades. As of Nov. 1, state figures show that 54 people have died in motorcycle accidents in Connecticut this year." In 1985, 74 riders were killed and the death rate per 10,000 registrations was 12.1, double the rate in 2006. Connecticut DOT statistics show that nearly 54 percent of the single motorcycle crashes between 2002 and 2006 were due to the rider losing control. Riding too fast for the conditions accounted for 20 percent of the crashes.

SPLC Wins Another Against Klan

A jury awarded $2.5 million in damages yesterday to a 16-year-old Kentucky teenager who was severely beaten by members of a Ku Klux Klan group because they mistakenly thought he was an illegal Latino immigrant. The Southern Poverty Law Center, founded by Morris Dees, intends to bankrupt the Imperial Klans of America and drive it out of business as it has with other Klan groups. The victim, 16-year-old Jordan Gruver, is actually an American citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent. Read more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Insurers Respond To Latest AAJ Report

The insurance industry quickly fired back against the AAJ's latest report on insurance company tactics, calling the report, among other things, "misleading". Blain Rethmeier, a spokesman for the American Insurance Association, adamantly denied the allegations. "If I'm not mistaken, a couple of prominent plaintiffs' lawyers have gone to jail in the last 18 months for their corrupt business practices," Mr. Rethmeier said. "Perhaps the trial lawyer's association might want to focus inward on its own ethics before commenting on others," he said.

David A. Sampson, president and CEO of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said in a statement: “The evidence clearly demonstrates that America’s property-casualty insurance companies do the right thing for consumers when settling claims…It is important for Americans to know, in these trying economic times, that insurers are financially strong, and that policyholders can be confident that our members can, and will, pay their claims during their hour of need.” Read more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Former Drug Salesman Reveals Pitfalls of New Meds

Tom Nesi, author of the new book Poison Pills: The Untold Story of the Vioxx Drug Scandal, tells U.S. News the insider's view of the Vioxx scandal and why consumers should be wary of new, heavily marketed medicines.

DOJ Recovers $694.5 Million From Merck, Cephalon & Kyphon

Industry groups report that the Department of Justice recovered a whopping $694.5 million in settlements from a medical device manufacturer and two pharmaceutical companies during FY 2008.

"Merck paid $361 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly failed to pay proper rebates to Medicaid and other government healthcare programs, and also used illegal incentives to persuade healthcare providers to prescribe its products. The lawsuits revolved around the selling practices of three Merck drugs: Zocor, Vioxx and Pepcid.

Cephalon paid $258 million to resolve claims related to off-label marketing, and the subsequent charges made to federal health insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and others.

Kyphon Inc., now Medtronic Spine LLC, paid $75 million to settle lawsuits for knowingly causing the submission of false claims to Medicare for its kyphoplasty procedure. The lawsuit alleged that Kyphon persuaded hospitals to perform the minimally invasive surgery on an inpatient basis, rather than for the more appropriate (and less costly) outpatient treatment." Read more.

Recalls May be Down But Toys are Still Dangerous

Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that an estimated 232,900 toy-related injuries were treated at hospitals in 2007. "At least 18 children under 15 years old died in toy-related accidents in 2007," according to the data. Read more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Report Details Insurance Company Tactics Against Policyholders

A new report by the American Assoc. for Justice (AAJ) describes "some of the most egregious ways the insurance industry attempts to make money at the expense of consumers." The report, released today, describes six tactics that insurers use against policyholders to delay or deny claims, names the insurance companies that are engaging in these practices, and offers ways consumers can fight back to prevent abuses. Get the report here.

Older Americans' Cognitive Health Improves

The National Institute on Aging reports that "Rates of cognitive impairment among older Americans are on the decline, according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) comparing the cognitive health of older people in 1993 and 2002. Higher levels of education were associated with better cognitive health." Read more.

Same-Sex Couples Can Marry in CT Starting Today

The Hartford Courant and Boston Globe, among others, are reporting that New Haven Superior Court judge Jonathan Silbert is expected to enter the final judgment in the Kerrigan case authorizing same-sex marriage. Once that happens, "same-sex couples are free to get marriage licenses." The Connecticut Supreme Court "ruled 4-3 last month that same-sex couples have the right to wed. The high court sent the case back to the Superior Court, where Judge Jonathan Silbert is slated to issue his ruling [today]." The AP says it is "unclear how many couples will get married" after Judge Silbert enters his judgment. The "state public health department says 2,032 civil union licenses were issued in Connecticut between October 2005 and July 2008." To read more about the Kerrigan case, go to our website.

Big Drop in Lead-Paint Toy Recalls

The AP reports that "The lead-tainted toy scare that hammered the industry and frightened parents last holiday season has eased, but there are still concerns that problem toys may still be out there." So far this year, "recalls of toys or children's products because of lead paint or lead content are down sharply," falling from "a record 112 in 2007 to 64 this year." According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data, "most of this year's recalls were not from the big toy makers, but from smaller companies, and most of the products were made in China. The rest came from Vietnam, India, Peru, Taiwan and Korea."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Big Business Says CT Has 19th Best Legal Climate, RI 39th

Senior attorneys at some of America’s largest employers say Delaware has the best legal climate in the country for business interests, and West Virginia has the worst, according to the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), an anti-plaintiff group. The ILR, with the help of Harris Interactive marketing research, puts out an annual ranking of state court liability systems. This year's report, "Lawsuit Climate 2008: Ranking the States", released in the spring, ranks Connecticut 19th best while Rhode Island ranks 39th. Interestingly, only 2% of respondents thought the idea of caps/limits on jury awards was the worst aspect of the litigation environment that policymakers should focus on. Even assuming the methodology is reliable (which is doubtful), the survey hardly suggests that fear of large jury verdicts is a major concern of business interests.


Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Up with the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform?

That's the question I asked when I noted, via Google alerts, that the Hartford Courant's article about my suit against two Norwich physicians and the former CEO of Haven Healthcare (see post # 2 below, dated 10/24/08) was featured on the Institute's website. According to its website:

"The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is a national campaign, representing the nation's business community, with the critical mission of making America's legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone." So far, that sounds good. "Founded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1998 to address the country's litigation explosion, ILR is the only national legal reform advocate to approach reform comprehensively by not only working to change the legal culture, but also to change the legislators and judges that create that culture. (emphasis added). Ah, here we go.

"ILR supports:
- federal and state legislative reforms
- voter education efforts
- public education campaigns
- grassroots activities

ILR aims to:
- neutralize plaintiff trial lawyers' excessive influence over the legal and political systems
- create and maintain public support for legal reform, including building alliances with groups and organizations to advance the legal reform agenda
- enact common sense reforms to ensure fairness in liability suits
- ensure damage awards are fair and equitable, eliminate frivolous lawsuits, and enforce legal ethics rules

Hmmm. An anti-plaintiff business group. Go figure. But why did they feature my case on their site? Since Connecticut, like many states, has a pre-suit requirement that attorneys must get a written report by an expert certifying that there are grounds to support a good faith belief that malpractice has occurred, I'm quite confident that my suit is not frivolous. We believe in fairness, justice and ethics too. Along with accountability. Frankly, I resent the implication that all suits are frivolous, unethical etc., esp. mine.

We'll be taking a closer look at the Institute in future posts. Check back often.

Record Malpractice Verdict to be Appealed

The Conn. Law Tribune reports that a Stamford judge has refused to reduce or set aside a record $38.5 million medical malpractice verdict rendered in February against a Stamford OB/GYN.

Stamford Superior Court Judge Taggart Adams held last week that the verdict was “just and reasonable compensation” and fully supported by the evidence. The award covers lifetime nursing care over a 50-year life expectancy for Spencer Oram, now 5, who suffered severe brain injury during the birthing process.

Evidence at trial showed that on April 3, 2003, Elizabeth Oram was admitted to Stamford Hospital, pregnant with twins. The next morning, she delivered a healthy baby girl, but within minutes, at 3:13 a.m., complications arose with the unborn twin. The baby’s heart rate “fell to an alarming 50 to 70 beats per minute. Almost immediately, [the defendant] noticed the baby’s umbilical cord was being restricted. She first attempted to have the mother deliver normally by pushing for 10 minutes, to no avail. At 3:23 a.m., de Cholnoky ordered a Caesarean section, which was begun at 3:27 a.m. and completed at 3:38 a.m.” The plaintiff’s expert witness testified that an emergency C-section should take only five minutes and that the defendant doctor responded too slowly. As a result, the baby suffered brain damage and is a quadriplegic unable to walk, talk or even eat normally. The boy is fed through a tube.

Defense lawyers plan to appeal.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

$13.5 Million MA Jury Verdict for Chemo Death

It's not CT or RI, but close enough. The Boston Globe reports that the family of a 40-year-old Hopkinton woman who died following a cycle of experimental chemotherapy at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, received a jury verdict of $13.5 million yesterday. The jury found "that Altman's death could have been prevented if Dana-Farber doctors had investigated the cause of chronic diarrhea that surfaced during an unusual treatment protocol for a tumor behind her knee." She died from "a massive infection by a flesh-eating bacteria that apparently had caused the diarrhea."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Democrats Likely to Remake Federal Judiciary

President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress are now in position to reshape the federal judiciary. "As president, Obama will be able to appoint scores of federal appellate judges and perhaps several Supreme Court justices over the next four years." Read more.

Two Hartford Hospitals Form Top-Level Trauma Center

A trauma center run jointly by Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Hartford Hospital has become the state's third Level 1 trauma facility. The Trauma Institute combines the work of both hospitals' trauma programs. Level 1 is the highest level a trauma center can achieve. Read more.

CT Voters Reject Constitutional Convention

Voters overwhelmingly rejected this year's call for a constitutional convention, fearing domination by special interests. Read more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wyeth v. Levine

Here's the transcript of Monday's oral argument in Wyeth v. Levine, with thanks to SCOTUSBLOG.

Rhode Island Sees Sharp Increase in Civil Cases

The Rhode Island Superior Court, which is short two judges, has seen a large increase in civil cases, resulting in a backlog and threatening criminal defendants' rights to a speedy trial. "While the number of new felony cases was down 10 percent during the first six months of the year, the number of new civil cases was up 32 percent during that period," according to the Providence Journal. Read more.