Friday, February 27, 2009

Americans Need a Level Playing Field with Oversight and Accountability

Jay Cook, president of the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation, writes that "For more than 30 years, a coalition of powerful special-interest groups, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been filling our heads with lies about the civil courts so they can replace the rule of law with the rule of men. The rule of law, one of the pillars of freedom upon which America was founded, ensures that nobody's above the law, that all of us - even the rich and powerful, even the government and especially our elected leaders - must play by the same rules or face the same consequences." Read more.

FDA Had Warned Syringe Lab of Violations

The AP reports that "Federal regulators warned a syringe manufacturer of 'several significant violations' in its quality control system two years before its needles triggered an outbreak of bacterial infections that prosecutors say led to at least five deaths and hundreds of illnesses," according to a letter released by the FDA Thursday. The agency "cited AM2PAT Inc. in August 2005 for nine serious violations at its factory in Raleigh." The letter indicated that "failure to establish and maintain procedures to control the environment 'could reasonably be expected to have an adverse effect on product quality.'" The company "vowed in 2005 to correct its deficiencies...and the FDA said a follow-up inspection in January 2006 was satisfactory." But, court documents show that "the next inspection didn't take place until December 2007" and that the agency "also conducted an inspection in August 2007...and found only a labeling problem."

AstraZeneca Doc Warned of Seroquel Risk

The Wall Street Journal reports that "AstraZeneca PLC instructed its U.S. sales representatives to tell doctors that its powerful psychiatric drug, Seroquel, didn't cause diabetes even though a company physician had at one point stated years earlier that such a link was probable in some individuals, documents unsealed in a federal court case here show."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life Insurance Voided by Misrepresentations

A Connecticut federal judge ruled recently that slain Greenwich real estate developer Andrew Kissel knowingly signed false documents in his application for a life insurance policy, withholding the fact that he was a chronic drug user and had sought psychiatric care. "The ruling entitles Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. to rescind the $15 million policy", which was sought by his widow. Read more. Moral of the story: don't lie on insurance applications.

Salmonella Outbreak Not Over Yet

"The national salmonella outbreak linked to more than 2,600 peanut products could last as long as two years, as contaminated foods sit like ticking time bombs on store shelves and kitchen cabinets, federal health officials said Wednesday." Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of food safety at the FDA said, "We're really concerned. This is not over yet." Peanut products "have a relatively long shelf life," which explains why "despite one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history, including 2,670 foods as of Tuesday, up to two dozen salmonella cases continue to be reported each week." Read more.

More on Tainted Syringes

In follow up to yesterday, the AP reports, "A North Carolina syringe factory linked to hundreds of sicknesses and five deaths operated for almost two years without an inspection despite a series of complaints that its needles were dirty or filled with colored particles." Court documents have revealed that the AM2PAT Inc. plant was only inspected once by the FDA "after an outbreak of illness was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Before "the outbreak of illness was traced back to the company's syringes, the FDA received more than a dozen reports of problems with AM2PAT's products," including "orange specks," "yellow sediment" and "muddy brown" syringes filled with floating white specks.

Suit Accuses Lawyers, Doctors Made False Asbestos Claims

From Forbes: "Asbestos defendants have complained for years that they are the victims of a multibillion-dollar shakedown" and "now a Mississippi lawsuit makes that claim explicit: A Georgia company that paid out some $95 million in asbestos settlements has accused doctors, testing companies and as-yet unnamed plaintiff lawyers of participating in a racketeering scheme to gin up phony cases." We'll have to see what comes of this.

Lab Falsified Drug Data

More bad news for the FDA and the public: "The FDA said a manufacturing plant owned by Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. falsified data and test results in approved and pending drug applications." Deborah Autor, the director of the FDA's Office of Compliance, says "most of the falsified data involves required tests to prove drugs are stable over a certain time period" (article here). However, the FDA "is not seeking a recall, because regulators do not believe the drugs pose a health risk," the Washington Post adds. "There is no concern about the safety or efficacy of Ranbaxy's drugs on the US market," Autor said.

How would she know?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

FDA Fails Again--Now Tainted Syringes

First tainted peanuts, now this: the AP reports that "For months, prosecutors say, technicians in the gloom of a run-down North Carolina plant prepared life-sustaining syringes and shipped them before ensuring they were sterile" and "investigators believe a rush to maximize profits led Dushyant Patel's AM2PAT Inc. to produce heparin and saline syringes that killed five people and sickened hundreds of others, some resulting in spinal meningitis and permanent brain damage." Ned Feder, a staff scientist at the Washington-based nonprofit Project On Government Oversight said that the peanut case and this one "can both be traced back to the fact that the FDA doesn't have the manpower to do the policing it needs to do."

DeLauro calls for FDA Reform

At least 15 government agencies have a hand in making sure food is safe under at least 30 different laws, some of which date back to the early 1900s. As a result, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. says, "We have an immediate crisis which requires a real restructuring." She has proposed a bill that "would divide the FDA in two, separating the agency's drug oversight and food safety duties." Read more.

"Dead Peasant" Policies Draw Fire

Ashby Jones writes in a blog on the Wall Street Journal website that "dead peasant" insurance policies are "spawning a good deal of litigation." Jones notes, "The point of 'dead peasant' policies seems to be this: Companies contribute money to the policies, which then can be used to pay for a variety of company expenses. In addition, when employees, retirees and former employees die, the company receives tax-free death benefits." In a Texas case, "the widow of a disabled former employee of Houston-based Amegy Bank NA is suing to recover $1.6 million in life-insurance death benefits the bank received after her husband died last year."

Sounds like another manifestation of corporate greed.

Medtronic Will Disclose Payments to Doctors

The Wall Street Journal reports that medical-device maker Medtronic Inc. will begin to make public disclosure of all payments over $5,000 it makes to physicians. The company "said it will report the information annually and that the first such disclosure will take place in March 2011 for payments beginning next January." This announcement follows the requests by two US senators that the company disclose more about its consulting arrangements with physicians, as well as allegations "that the company paid surgeons to boost spinal implant sales," the AP notes. "Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer Inc. have already volunteered to publish such information, and Medtronic said its decision was also voluntary."

Minnesota's Star Tribune says that "Medtronic and other med-tech companies have long maintained that their relationship with doctors differs greatly from those employed by the drug industry," as physicians often "need training on new devices, or their input is needed to improve products." Critics, however, "have charged that such payments...can influence doctors' practice decisions and are designed to win brand loyalty."

Litigants Unable to Access Nursing Home Inspectors

"The Bush administration shut off a source of information last fall about abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases." Under the rule, "state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors" were designated as "federal employees, a group usually shielded from providing evidence for either side in private litigation." The regulation "generally prohibits state health departments and contractors from participating in private lawsuits involving facilities that are in the federal assistance program without approval by the head of the Department of Health and Human Services." As a result, litigants must "go to greater lengths, including seeking court orders, to get inspection reports," and such requests "now are stalled between state and federal offices." According to the Bush administration, "the rule was...necessary to accommodate the hiring of new contractors to make Medicare payments to providers, perform audit and fraud reviews." Read more.

Another FDA Warning

The AP reported: "Federal health officials warned doctors Monday that a drug used in epilepsy patients can cause chemical imbalances in the blood, leading to heart problems and other serious complications." There is "recent data" indicating that "patients taking the antiseizure pill Zonegran face higher risk of metabolic acidosis, which causes dangerously high levels of acid to accumulate in the blood." Such an "imbalance can cause breathing difficulties, irregular heart rhythms and fatigue."

Rell Proposes Cuts to Life Star

The Courant reports that "Hartford Hospital officials say they could be forced to cut the Life Star helicopter fleet or make other changes to the critical care program because it stands to lose $1.39 million next year under Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposed budget. Losing one of Life Star's two helicopters would mean serving about 40 percent fewer patients and stopping most emergency transports in areas that are farthest from Hartford, said Dr. Kenneth J. Robinson, Life Star's medical and program director." Read more.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chimp Owner Likely Strictly Liable

Media reports suggest the owner of the 200 lb. chimp who attacked a woman in Stamford last week had notice of prior safety concerns about the animal. While these facts are important to develop a negligence case against the owner, our courts are likely to impose strict liability against the owner.

While there are no reported decisions in Connecticut on chimp attacks (not surprisingly), other states have concluded that a chimpanzee’s owner is strictly liable for the animal's actions unless the victim caused the animal to attack. Generally, courts impose strict liability for wild animal attacks because keeping such animals in close proximity to humans is an abnormally dangerous activity with high risk of injury.

If dog owners are strictly liable for dog bites, I think it's safe to say the chimp lady is strictly liable for the chimp assault.

CPSC Investigating Chinese Drywall

The Wall Street Journal reports: "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating complaints about Chinese-made drywall that is believed to be emitting unpleasant orders and causing unusual air-conditioner problems." Spokesman Joe Martyak said that "the commission is focusing on whether the sulfur-based gases emitted from the drywall are corroding household wiring and posing a potential safety hazard." The Florida Health Department has begun a similar investigation. While "the Product Safety Commission has no safety standards for drywall," if it finds a safety hazard "it could order a halt in further sales of certain drywall products."

Today's posts are another reminder that our lives and those of our families are full of threats from dangerous products and medicines. Have questions about personal injury, wrongful death or medical malpractice in CT or RI? Call the Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck.

Vaccine Makers' Immunity Questioned

The Wall Street Journal reports that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program offers "the partial protection from liability risk," buffering vaccines makers "from much of the litigation risk that dogs traditional pill manufacturers and is an important reason why the vaccine business has been transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s to one of the pharmaceutical industry's most attractive product lines today." However, "vaccines' transformation into a lucrative business has some observers questioning whether the shield law is still appropriate." Some notes that there are vaccines today, like Gardasil, "which aren't vital to preventing pandemics." Also, the Journal asserts, "many plaintiffs' lawyers would prefer to take their lawsuits directly to civil court," where they can get higher damages and "think that juries could give them a more sympathetic hearing." However, the pharmaceutical industry "argues that the vaccine shield is still necessary."

The Danger of a Wyeth Victory

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, and Ohn Philo, legal director of the Sugar Law Center, wrote, "Since 1995, Michigan has been the only state that prohibits victims of unsafe drugs from going before a jury to seek compensation," and if Wyeth Pharmaceuticals wins its case before the Supreme Court, it "would take away the right of Americans in every state to be compensated when products that are supposed to promote health instead hurt patients." While the industry argues that a drug's approval by the FDA means the company "no longer be held accountable in state court for any harm that product causes, "this 'hit and run' legal theory is like saying that once someone gets a driver's license, that person can't be held legally responsible for ramming your car on the freeway and sending you to the hospital." If the Court finds in Wyeth's favor, drug makers "will lose an important incentive to make sure their products are safe in the first place." Aron and Philo concluded, "Drug companies spend millions of dollars a year lobbying Congress. The rest of us must be heard before it's too late."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Legislators Suggest Closing Dempsey Hospital

The Courant says officials think UCONN's John Dempsey Hospital "is too small and outdated to function on its own, doomed to run a deficit and too antiquated to meet medical standards. Without intervention, UConn President Michael Hogan says, it will be forced to close."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Efforts to Reduce Surgical Burns to Patients

Patient-safety groups and medical specialty organizations are increasing efforts to raise awareness of risks and provide guidelines for prevention of surgical burn injuries to patients. Hospitals are conducting operating-room fire drills on fighting fires that start on the drapes, gowns or skin of surgical patients and extinguishing flames inside patients' airway or tracheal tubes. Training programs are being developed to educate staff on the dangers of burns from medical equipment and procedures.

Data from studies conducted in Pennsylvania suggest there are 650 surgical fires in hospitals annually in the U.S., and that there may be three to four times as many "near miss" incidents, in which fires begin smoldering but are quickly extinguished. Read more.

Congressman Questioned About Nursing Home Spending

Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney (D-2nd Dist.) met with constituents last night and took numerous questions about whether the recently signed “economic stimulus” law would help struggling nursing homes. “That’s something that’s decided in Hartford,” Courtney said, responding to concerns about the possible closing of the Griswold Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, the only nursing home in Griswold. Courtney told the crowd that while the federal government allocated another $1.3 billion in Medicaid assistance to Connecticut over two years, nursing-home reimbursements are handled by state government. More here.

Deaths Linked to Psoriasis Drug Raptiva

The FDA has confirmed "three cases and a possible fourth of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, which causes swelling of the brain and is usually fatal. The patients had been taking Genentech's once-a-week injection Raptiva, which is used to treat red, scaly skin caused by psoriasis." Read more.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Backlog in Providence Superior Court

The Providence Journal reports that Providence Superior Court's presiding justice, Joseph F. Rodgers Jr., "is farming Providence County civil trials out to judges in the neighboring county to help relieve a backlog of cases that is stretching out several months and clogging the system." Sharon McCaughey, project coordinator of the scheduling office, said the wait for "proceedings to begin has grown to two months or more." Rogers noted that the Court is down one judge since May and another is not available for the trial pool because he is retiring next month. Because "the system is short a magistrate," Rodgers must assign another judge to handle scheduling, too. "Miriam Weizenbaum, president of Rhode Island Association for Justice, said trial delays and the lag in appointing judges are robbing the state of money." Still, "there can be some hesitancy about moving civil litigation to more suburban courts," and Rogers acknowledges "a perception that jurors in other counties are not as generous and that those in urban areas tend to be less affluent and more sympathetic to lawsuits."

Overseas Clinical Trials Criticized

An article published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine about drug companies' globalization of clinical trials, the human studies that determine the safety and efficacy of medicines, "raises questions about the ethics and the science of increasingly conducting studies outside the United States — when the studies are meant to gather evidence for new drugs to gain approval in this country." Read more.

Geronimo's Descendants Sue Yale, Skull & Bones Society

On the 100th anniversary of his great-grandfather's death, Harlyn Geronimo announced the filing of a lawsuit against Yale, its secret society known as Skull and Bones, and the federal government, seeking the return of his ancestor's remains that were stolen from the Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery at Fort Sill, Okla., after the Indian warrior's death and burial in 1909. Read more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Times Editorial Calls for New CPSC Leadership

In an editorial, the New York Times asks, "Is That Fabulous New Toy Safe?" and says the Bush administration "did not make the safety of toys and other products a priority," but "the Obama administration now has an opportunity to fill that regulatory gap by appointing new leadership for the Consumer Product Safety Commission." Obama "must quickly replace the commission's acting chairwoman, Nancy Nord, who opposed adding new resources and authority to her agency," and "choose the kind of enlightened leadership that every parent and toy lover needs and that will give consumer safety the priority it deserves."

FDA Not Enforcing Medical Device Safety Standards

Dow Jones Newswires reports, "The Food and Drug Administration isn't enforcing quality and safety testing standards for medical devices, potentially putting patients at risk, according to a report to be released Wednesday by a nonpartisan watchdog group." Also, "the report says an official within the FDA's medical device division told an organization of researchers and scientists that many medical device companies weren't following federal quality and safety testing standards for medical devices and that requiring those standards wasn't 'feasible.'"

From McClatchy: "The Food and Drug Administration put patients' lives at risk by halting enforcement of 30-year-old requirements that medical device makers meet federal laboratory standards prior to testing their products on humans, a watchdog group charges in a new report." Also, according to the report, "at present, if a manufacturer knowingly violates the GLP regulation and falsely asserts compliance with GLP, that manufacturer is safe - safe from discovery, safe from disciplinary action by the FDA, safe from prosecution."

The AP notes that "The Project on Government Oversight found that the Food and Drug Administration has dramatically reduced inspections of 'good laboratory practices' at facilities that do the earliest testing of medical devices." The group wrote in the report, "The decision ... to not enforce (lab standards) is stunning in its contempt for the protection of patients."

Get the report HERE.

Surgeon, Nurses Reprimanded for Surgical Error

Projo reports that the Rhode Island Dept. of Health has reprimanded a doctor and two nurses for their roles in the wrong-site surgery at Miriam Hospital in September. The team operated on the wrong knee of a patient undergoing an elective, outpatient procedure. According to the Health Department investigation, the surgeon, Dr. Robert M. Shalvoy, had correctly marked the surgical site. "But a nurse, Susan Dilibero, failed to look for the surgical site marking before preparing the knee, and draped the wrong knee." Then, in the "time out" just before surgery, Shalvoy, Dilibero and a nurse anesthetist, John Duhamel, all failed to verify that the knee they were about to operate on was the correct one, although Dilibero documented that the site had been verified.

Investigation Continues into Chimp Attack

The 911 tapes are chilling. More qestions are being asked after Stamford police are forced to shoot a 200-pound pet chimpanzee that turned on its owner and viciously mauled a friend of the owner. Investigators are trying to figure out whether it was a bout of Lyme disease, a reaction to medications, or a case of instinct taking over. The owner reportedly gave the chimp some Xanax earlier that morning. Read more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Recession Makes Juries Unpredictable

Trial lawyers from around the state tell the Connecticut Law Tribune that they believe jury verdicts will be hard to predict as a result of these difficult economic times.

Wood Burning Stoves Lead to Claims of Illness, Calls for Regulations

An East Windsor woman claims "she never used to get sick until her neighbor installed a wood-burning stove a few years ago. Now she has been ill for six weeks, she wakes up coughing in her sleep and her two young kids are plagued by breathing problems." The the laws regarding wood-burning devices are limited, but the number of complaints is growing as more people are using wood-burning stoves. Now the legislature is considering bills that may lead to more regulations and give health and environmental officials some power to respond to complaints. Read more.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spring Sports Safety Tips

Safe Kids USA notes that each year in the U.S., more than 30 million children participate in sports and more than 3.5 million ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries. "While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe." Get their recommendations for kids playing individual and team sports here.

Tower of Terror: Dangerous or Therapeutic?

A 16-year old British girl and her mother have filed suit in Florida alleging negligence in the design and operation of Disney World-MGM Studios' "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" ride. She alleges that she rode it several times and that a after one ride, her heart stopped and she had a brain hemorrhage. Read more. Meanwhile, a Florida woman who claims the G-forces from the ride relieve her chronic pain has sued Walt Disney World for breaching its contract with visitors by limiting her to four rides per visit on its Tower of Terror. “In the four years that Plaintiff was an annual pass holder she would religiously ride the tower of terror every Saturday dozens of times to help her alleviate her medical condition, her pain associated with it, and minimize the number of surgeries she required as a result,” the suit says. But since she was cited for trespassing, her condition has allegedly worsened, and she is now suing Disney for breach of contract, false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress. More on that here.

Hib Infection On the Rise

Haemophilis influenzae type B, or Hib infection, a disease that has been nearly wiped out by routine vaccination, is making a comeback. USA Today reports that "The cases, along with scattered measles outbreaks last year that infected about 140 children and adults, most of them not immunized, have health officials concerned that a growing trend among some parents to delay or forgo infant vaccinations could create a large enough population of unprotected children to allow outbreaks of diseases that haven't been seen by most doctors for a generation." Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says "Some parents wonder if these diseases are a risk. With something like Hib, many people have never heard of it because we haven't seen it. But it was a killer disease, and we want parents to know it is very dangerous."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Public May Comment on RI District Court Rules

The committee that reviews and proposes changes to U.S. District Court Rhode Island rules is seeking comments and suggestions from Rhode Island Bar Association members and the public.
The rules can be found at

The deadline for comments is Feb. 27. Each should identify the rule, provide the text of the proposed amendment, and state the reason for proposed change. They must be submitted via e-mail to, or can be addressed to Local Rules, U.S. District Court, One Exchange Terrace, Providence, R.I. 02903.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Vaccine Court Rejects Autism Causation Claim

The federal vaccine court rejected three cases yetserday in which families claimed that their children’s autism was brought on by substances in the vaccines — either the measles virus in the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or its combination with thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was used in most childhood vaccines until 2001. The ruling affects about 5,000 similar claims. Read more.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Switch to Generics Blamed for Seizures

Bloomberg News reports, "Ginny Miller blames her son's string of epileptic seizures on a generic medicine that she says she expected to work as well as the original brand-name treatment." Her son "went seven weeks without an episode while taking Zonegran, made by Tokyo-based Eisai Co," and "after pharmacists switched him to generic copies made by four different companies, he suffered multiple seizures daily and was hospitalized three times before doctors identified differences between the medications as the cause, said Miller, of Dayville, Connecticut." Now, "armed with more than 1,000 similar reports, the Epilepsy Foundation of America and other patient-advocacy groups are pressing lawmakers in at least 33 states to stop pharmacies from substituting generic drugs for the originals before patients and their doctors are alerted to the changes."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Editorial Says FDA Needs "White House Rebuke"

A St. Petersburg Times editorial argues that the FDA deserves a "White House rebuke" for its failures in the salmonella outbreak. The agency "responsible for protecting the nation's food supply looks as if it learned nothing from grappling with similar outbreaks of tainted spinach and peppers." Currently, the agency "plays a mop-up role, not a policing one" and has failed "to incorporate recommendations on how to maximize its efforts. As of last May, the FDA "has implemented only seven of the 34 recommendations the GAO had made for improving food safety." Meanwhile, "the number of domestic firms regulated by the FDA increased from about 51,000 in 2001 to more than 65,500 in 2007." The agency "needs a shot in the arm (and one across the bow) from the White House," the paper concludes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Judge Suspended After Drunken Tirade

Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield, who was arrested in October after hitting a state police cruiser and was videotaped berating troopers with angry, racially charged comments, has been suspended from the bench for 240 days. Read more.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Approval Sought for Proposed Plan on Station Fire Settlement Distribution

Attorneys for the victims of the Station nightclub fire have filed papers in the U.S. District Court seeking approval of a proposed plan for distributing $176 million to the more than 300 victims who were injured or lost loved ones in the fire. Article here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Driver Beware: More Dropping Insurance

As the recession leaves millions of workers unemployed and facing financial pressures, one place many are cutting is their insurance coverage. "The Insurance Research Council estimates that by next year nearly one in six motorists may be driving without insurance. That's 3 million more uninsured drivers than just five years ago." Read more.

North Stonington Psychologist Facing New Charges

Reuben Spitz, a North Stonington psychologist on probation for sexual misconduct with a patient, has been charged with violating patient confidentiality and will go before a state Department of Public Health disciplinary board for the second time in two years. Spitz is also being sued in three malpractice lawsuits. "The suits and the health department action, including the new charges, are interrelated cases stemming from Spitz's treatment of a couple and their son, a sexual relationship with the wife, and his treatment of another woman to whom he allegedly divulged confidential information about one or more of the others." Read more.

Decision Expected on Tiverton Clean-Up Case

A federal judge said Friday he will soon decide the fate of a disputed multimillion dollar plan to clean up a Tiverton neighborhood contaminated with blue soil laced with arsenic and other toxins. Read more.

Have questions about toxic torts? Call the Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck today.

Friday, February 6, 2009

CPSC Investigating Child's Death in Front-Loading Washer

The Los Angeles Times reports that the CPSC has launched an investigation into this week's "accidental death of an Orange County child caught in a washing machine." A spokesperson for the agency said that "investigators will examine the front-loading washer to determine if the design poses a safety risk." The machine in question, "a Kenmore 417, features an 'easy start' button that is 20 inches from the floor."

FDA Requires New Warning for Anti-Depressants

The FDA has ordered a wide range of antidepressants to carry new warnings of an unusual but potentially deadly side effect: malignant neuroleptic syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening reaction to the use of almost any of a group of antipsychotic drugs or major tranquilizers, marked by high fever, stiffness of the muscles, altered mental status (paranoid behavior), and autonomic dysfunction. Two classes of new-generation medications for depression -- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) -- must now have labels stating that malignant neuroleptic syndrome has been linked to the use of these drugs. Some of the companies ordered to revise their labels were those making Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Pexeva, Pristiq, Prozac, Venlafaxine and Zoloft. Read more.

The Hartford Files Declaratory Judgment Action Against Peanut Corp.

Hartford Casualty Insurance Co., liability insurer for Peanut Corp. or America, the company that knowingly put tainted products on the market, has filed a declaratory judgment action in Virginia federal court to determine its responsibility under three years of policies it issued to the company. Read more.

Have questions about your legal rights in an injury case? Call The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IIHS Pushes for Stronger Vehicle Roofs

"The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Wednesday it will require automakers to dramatically increase the strength of vehicle roofs to receive its top safety pick ratings." Adrian Lund, president of IIHS said, "We see significant safety benefits in stronger vehicle roofs" adding that "NTSA has 'clearly undercounted' the number of injuries and deaths that can be prevented by stronger roofs." Read more.

Traffic Deaths Down Last Year

Traffic deaths fell across most of the nation last year, dropping in at least 42 states and Washington, D.C. as Americans sharply reduced their driving due to high gasoline prices and the down economy. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia had double-digit percentage declines in traffic fatalities, according to preliminary data provided to USA Today. Connecticut only had a 1% decrease, while Rhode Island had a 3% decrease.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Unsafe Injection Practices More Common at Clinics

The Wall Street Journal notes that "Unsafe injection practices are one of the leading causes of infections in doctors' offices, outpatient clinics and long-term-care facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" and "although most health-care workers are aware of the dangers of reusing needles, other injection guidelines aren't always followed, including disposing of syringes after each use." The "medical experts are mainly concerned about unsafe injection practices at non-hospital facilities, where a growing number of patients receive care," because those "facilities are not as tightly regulated as hospitals."

CTLA, AG Push Bill Aimed at Insurers

The Hartford Courant reports, "Trial lawyers are lobbying for legislation that would make it easier for some Connecticut consumers to sue insurers for unfair claim practices - and potentially collect bigger damages." The legislation advanced "by the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal would allow accident victims to sue a wrongdoer's insurance company under the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (CUIPA)." However, "insurance trade groups... warn that the bill, SB 763, aired Tuesday in the legislature's insurance and real estate committee, would result in more litigation, force insurers to settle unsubstantiated claims and drive up premiums."

Military Knew in 1994 That Humvee was a "Deathtrap"

A new inspector general's report says Army and Marine Corps officials knew nearly a decade before the invasion of Iraq that the Humvee vehicle was a "deathtrap" even with armor added to protect it against roadside bombs. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and Somalia operation in 1994, reports distributed throughout the Army and Marine Corps "urged the development of armored vehicles to avoid the devastating effects of roadside bombs and land mines, but the Pentagon failed to act." Read more.

Expert Tells NTSB Medical Helicopters Have Worst Fatality Rate

In the first day of NTSB hearings into the safety of air-ambulance helicopters, one expert testified they have the worst fatal crash record in aviation, and their crews are among the most likely to die on the job, at a rate exceeding other dangerous professions such as logging and deep-sea fishing. Read more.

Study: Mental Illness By Itself Does Not Cause Violence

A new study of more than 34,000 adults, published in Archives of General Psychiatry, concludes that mental illness alone is not a leading cause of violence. Instead, researchers cite multiple factors in combination, namely substance abuse and a history of violent acts, that increase the danger when combined with mental illness. "Younger age topped the list. History of violence came next, followed by male gender, history of juvenile detention, divorce or separation in the past year, history of physical abuse, parental criminal history and unemployment in the past year. Rounding out the list were severe mental illness with substance abuse and being a crime victim in the past year." Read more.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Our February Newsletter is Out

Available here.

Air-Ambulance Crashes Blamed on Rule Violations, Risks

USA Todays says "Rule violations and risky behavior on air-ambulance flights are killing patients, medical crews and pilots. . . . Five of the nine fatal helicopter crashes between December 2007 and October involved flying at night into poor weather that pilots were not prepared for, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The nine accidents killed 35 people, including six patients, the most deaths ever during a 12-month period in the industry." Read more.

Paper Mill Cited by OSHA

The Norwich Bulletin reports that OSHA has cited Cascades Boxboard Group of Sprague for 48 alleged “serious and repeat violations of safety standards” at its paper mill, including chemical, electrical, mechanical, fire and fall hazards as well as crushing hazards posed by the deteriorating condition of the mill building itself. OSHA said the company faces $320,500 in proposed fines following a comprehensive inspection that began in July in response to complaints from employees. Citations for repeat violations were issued for “conditions similar to those cited in a 2007 OSHA inspection.” The inspection found "numerous instances throughout the building of extensive rust, corrosion and physical damage that compromised its structural stability,” according to the OSHA report.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fall at Construction Site Settled for $695,000

The CLT reports that an electrician who fell a couple stories onto a concrete basement floor while working on a newly constructed home being built in Harwinton settled his case for $695,000. Jonathan Love, then 31, of Canton, was walking up a temporary staircase in the newly framed home. While between the first and second floors, the staircase collapsed, causing him to fall down onto the concrete basement floor, suffering sever back injuries.