Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Safety Tips from the CDC

Info on motor vehicle safety, child passenger safety, impaired driving and more.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Legal Expert Says Malpractice Reform Would Produce Only Modest Healthcare Savings

In the CBS News Political Hotsheet blog, lawyer and researcher Paula Reid states that the national debt commission's recommendations to reform medical malpractice suits would amount to only "a tiny fraction" of savings when compared to the total national debt.  Reid wrote: "Critics argue that malpractice suits increase insurance premiums for doctors and result in unnecessary – and expensive – tests and services to avoid exposure to lawsuits."  Among the panel's recommendations "are specialized 'health courts' for medical malpractice lawsuits which could streamline cases and reduce costs."  UCLA law professor Mark Grady said "I'd be worried that medical errors would become a bigger problem if 'health courts' forgave medical errors so long as the doctors and hospitals used the 'best practices.'"  Reid added, "The panel doesn't seem to address what many perceive as the underlying purpose of medical malpractice liability, which is to prevent errors and thereby prevent many lawsuits."

Happy Holidays!

Read our December newsletter here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Settlement: $845k for Wrongful Death of 75-Year-Old Man



The estate of a 75-year old Groton man settled its wrongful death claim for $845,000 against the ambulance company that brought him to and from dialysis and the apartment complex where he lived, after eight days of jury selection and intense negotiations.  Pedro Vasquez died January 16, 2009 after ambulance employees dropped his wheelchair two days earlier while trying to carry him in it up stairs into his apartment after a dialysis appointment.  The wheelchair rolled down five steps and tipped back, causing Mr. Vasquez's head to strike a concrete step, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and massive hemorrhaging.  The image shown here depicts the normal brain anatomy on the left and the results of the 1/15/09 CT scan of Mr. Vasquez's brain on the right.  In addition to the negligence of the ambulance, the Estate claimed that the stairs were unsafe and lacked functional handrails.  The Estate also claimed that the apartment complex denied numerous requests to put in a wheelchair ramp.  All defendants denied negligence and claimed that Mr. Vasquez had no more than two years of life expectancy given his age and health problems.  Attorney Scott D. Camassar handled the case for the Estate.  The settlement is contingent upon probate court approval.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just in Time for the Holidays

Get AAJ's new report on dangerous toys and the importance of the civil justice system.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Read Our Nov. Newsletter

Articles about the U.S. Chamber's "Litigation Machine", Abuse and Neglect of Elderly Americans, the Supreme Court Vaccine Case, Surgical Errors, Online Doctors' Ratings, Teen Vehicle Fatalities and More--here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Study: Bullying is Widespread

USA Today reported that a study being released today, which surveyed 43,321 teens ages 15 to 18, from 78 public and 22 private schools, found 50% said they had "bullied, teased or taunted someone at least once," and 47% had been "bullied, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset me at least once."  Read more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Report: Serious Medical Errors Still High in Colorado

"Efforts to rein in surgical errors haven't eliminated cases of doctors operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, according to a new report" in the Archives of Surgery. Researchers "identified 25 wrong-patient procedures and 107 wrong-site treatments reported to just one insurance company in one state (Colorado)" over a six-year period. "'Colorado has some of the most anti-patient laws in the country, severely capping medical negligence cases,' Ray De Lorenzi, spokesman for the American Association for Justice, said Tuesday."  He added that any changes to malpractice law "should focus on the tens of thousands of people injured annually by medical errors, not taking away their rights via 'tort reform.'" Story here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

BP's Lawyers Helped Prepare Report on the Disaster

The Wall Street Journal reported that BP's lawyers were involved in the preparation of the company's internal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon accident.  BP had presented the report as an unbiased investigation; the involvement of the company's attorneys raises questions about whether the document was intended to promote the firm's legal position in litigation related to the disaster and the spill

Monday, October 4, 2010

Read Our October Newsletter

Medical mistakes, distracted driving, errors with electronic medical records and more, here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Texting Leads to Increase in Distracted Driving Fatalities

Texting while driving likely caused more than 16,000 road fatalities between 2002 and 2007, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.  "After declining from 1999 to 2005, fatalities from distracted driving increased 28% after 2005, rising from 4572 fatalities to 5870 in 2008."    The authors concluded that distracted driving "is a growing public safety hazard. Specifically, the dramatic rise in texting volume since 2005 appeared to be contributing to an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities."

Friday, September 3, 2010

$8M Settlement for Sledding Accident

The Courant reported:

"A Connecticut woman paralyzed in a sledding accident in Waterbury in 2007 has received an $8 million settlement from the city.  Rose Marie Deschesnes, now 24, crashed into a metal bench at the bottom of a hill near a ball field while snow tubing at Fulton Park. She suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a quadriplegic. She filed a lawsuit last year alleging the city should never have put a bench at the base of such a popular sledding spot and failed to take safety precautions.  Deschesnes' lawyer says the settlement money will be put into a trust to pay for her medical and living expenses for the rest of her life.

An aide to the mayor says he believes the bench has been removed."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Distracted Driving Campaigns Haven't Reduced Crashes or Insurance Rates

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the promotion of anti-distracted-driving campaigns and the widespread prohibition of handheld-phone use behind the wheel has not effected typical vehicle crash patterns.  Although the bans reduce phone use behind the wheel, drivers seem to be finding other distractions.  The president of the IIHS, Adrian Lund, said, “Reducing crashes and saving lives is what highway safety is all about … and by this essential measure the benefits of hand-held cell phone bans are nil.”   The IIHS says that "for crash rates, and eventually insurance rates, to be reduced, there need to be major developments in and implementation of new crash avoidance features. Until then, the insurance campaigns and bans may make a dent in phone usage but perhaps will not have much of an effect on crash rates."  Read more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

KidsAgainstDistractingDriving.com Announces Logo Design Contest

You could win a $100 U.S. Savings Bond if you submit the winning entry for the official KidsAgainstDistractingDriving.com (KADD) logo! Winning design will be featured on the KADD website and used in promotional materials. Contest open to all school-aged kids under 18. All entries become property of The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck. Mail your entries with your name, contact info, age, and school to:

Scott D. Camassar
Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck, LLC
P.O. Box 431
North Stonington, CT 06359

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prescription, OTC Drug Recalls Way Up Lately

CNNMoney.com reported, "Recalls of prescription and over the counter drugs are surging, raising questions about the quality of drug manufacturing in the United States." The FDA "reported more than 1,742 recalls last year, skyrocketing from 426 in 2008, according to the Gold Sheet, a trade publication on drug quality that analyzes FDA data," although the drug repackager Advantage Dose "accounted for more than 1,000 of those recalls." CNN also notes that two "bills introduced this year would impose stricter regulations on the industry, and give the FDA authority to mandate recalls."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Read our August Newsletter

News about our firm, corporate polluters, distracted driving, preventable hospital infections, pedestrian safety, dangerous product recalls and more.  Click here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stonington First Selectman Investigated

The Day reports on the latest story to dog Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek.  He is alleged to have sent "inappropriate" emails to a local woman, the details of which we can't comment on at this point.  Police apparently concluded no crime had been committed, but there can still be civil liability, if wrongful conduct is proven and shown to have caused damages.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CDC: Thousands of Hospital Infections Are Preventable

The Washington Post reported that "Deadly yet easily preventable bloodstream infections continue to plague American hospitals, because facility administrators fail to commit resources and attention to the problem, according to a survey of medical professionals released Monday." The data show that about "80,000 patients per year develop catheter-related bloodstream infections, or CRBSIs -- which can occur when tubes are inserted into a vein to monitor blood flow or deliver medication and nutrients are improperly prepared or left in longer than necessary." The CDC has estimated that "30,000 patients die as a result...accounting for nearly a third of annual deaths due to hospital-acquired infections in the United States."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CDC Tips on Pedestrian Safety

"In 2008, more than 4,300 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and another 69,000 pedestrians were injured," according to the CDC's Injury Center.  "This averages one crash-related pedestrian death every 2 hours, and a pedestrian injury every 8 minutes."  The CDC recommends:

•Being espacially careful at intersections, where drivers often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street.

•Increasing your visibility at night, by carrying a flashlight and wearing reflective clothing.

•Crossing streets at a designated crosswalks.

•Walking on sidewalks, but when you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Read our July Newsletter

Here.  If you don't already subscribe to it, sign up today.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Airline Food Produced in Unsanitary Conditions

USA Today reported that its analysis of FDA documents obtained via FOIA requests shows the agency's "inspectors have cited numerous catering facilities that prepare airline food for suspected health and sanitation violations following inspections of their kitchens this year and last. ... The inspections were at the US facilities of two of the world's biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, and another large caterer, Flying Food Group." The companies "provide more than 100 million meals annually...for nearly all big airlines, including Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental." The FDA documents cite improper food storage temperatures and the use of "unclean equipment and...workers who practice poor hygiene."

Las Vegas Sun Investigates Medical Dangers

The Las Vegas Sun reported, "As part of a two-year investigation, Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards have obtained a record of every Nevada hospital inpatient visit going back a decade -- 2.9 million in all." According to the Sun, "Revealed are the dangers patients have unknowingly encountered as they enter delivery rooms, surgical suites, and intensive care units, including thousands of cases of injury, death, and deadly infection associated with stays in Las Vegas hospitals." Meanwhile, "Helen Haskell, director of the national advocacy group the Empowered Patient Coalition, said the Sun's analysis will allow patients to make better-informed decisions about where to seek care, exerting financial pressure on low-performing health care providers to improve."


Allen and Richards reported that "over a two-year period -- 2008 and 2009 -- patients suffered preventable injuries, life-threatening infections, or other harm 969 times during their stays in Las Vegas hospitals." The investigation found that Las Vegas hospitals "have higher than expected rates of accidental punctures and lacerations, blood clots, and deadly blood infections. Hospital insiders tell the Sun that a dangerous culture of mediocrity has become the status quo."  Read more.

Friday, June 25, 2010

CDC Tips to Prevent Surgical Site Infections

A surgical site infection is one that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Most patients who have surgery do not develop infections. According to CDC, surgical site infections are the second most frequently reported healthcare-associated infection, accounting for 17% of infections among U.S. hospitalized patients.  Read more.

Friday, June 18, 2010

CDC: Sharp Increase in Emergency Room Visits for Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

A new report examines emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of prescription drugs prone to abuse.  Scientists from CDC's Injury Center and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) worked together to analyze data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network.  Among the key findings:

•There was a 111% increase in emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid painkillers in the United States between 2004 and 2008.

•In 2008, the number of ED visits involving nonmedical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs roughly equaled the number involving illicit drugs.

•Most visits for nonmedical use of drugs involved opioid painkillers (especially oxycodone, hydrocodone, or methadone) or benzodiazepines, a class of sedative drugs.
 
Get the full report here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Slits Down Sides of Hot Dogs Reduces Choking Hazard


The American Academy of Pediatrics says hot dogs can be dangerous because young children can choke on them.  At least one design change can reduce that risk:  "Make incisions down the sides so that, as it heats, the dog will open into a floral-type design that will more easily break apart if stuck in the throat."  But don't expect to see redesigned hot dogs in stores just yet.  Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, said: "I think a wholesale redesign of the hot dog from its iconic shape as a long, tubular food product is a bit unlikely."  Read more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

OSHA: Energy Industry Has "Troubling" Safety Record

OSHA officials told Congress last month that the oil and gas industry "has a troubling record on worker safety." In the previous four months, "58 workers have died in explosions, fires and collapses at refineries, coal mines, the oil drilling rig and a natural gas-fired power plant construction site, said Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration." Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee of the Senate HELP Committee, said, "To me this doesn't seem simply like a string of bad luck; it appears to be a disregard for safety regulations and precautions across an entire industry." Read more.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Recent News Headlines Show Importance of Civil Justice System

Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, writes: "Headlines from the last month: runaway cars, a mine collapse, an exploding oil rig and a financial institution shepherding the collapse of America’s economy. It has been a daily occurrence to see the news dominated by the latest example of corporate misconduct. Each saga follows the same pattern: Tragedy occurs, followed by apologies tempered by denials and claims of innocence, and evidence that profits were knowingly put ahead of the safety and well-being of the American people. At the same time, we have also seen how federal agencies lack the resources to adequately protect and safeguard the American people. Regulation is difficult when corporations brag about the millions of dollars saved by limiting their recalls or ignoring industry guidelines in spite of consumer safety.
Ultimately, Americans simply want safe products, fewer preventable injuries and a restoration of checks and balances that give people a fair chance to obtain recourse — before a company’s rampant negligence secures its position in the hot seat. But only after tragic accidents do we closely analyze the agencies and systems that failed, and what must be corrected.  Every time we do so, there is only one institution that consistently protects consumers and holds wrongdoers accountable: America’s civil justice system."  Read more.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baby Blanket Recall

The CPSC has recalled 44,000 pink baby blankets with giraffe decorations that turn out to be choking hazards.  Read more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Check out our new KADD website!

We're proud to announce our new site http://www.kidsagainstdistracteddriving.com/! We want to help educate kids of all ages about the dangers of distracted driving. We don’t want to see kids injured or killed by texting and driving, or by others’ texting and driving. Please join us in this campaign, visit our new site (and follow our new blog), and take the pledge today.
Don't let this be you or someone you love.

Court Says Bysiewicz Can Run for AG

A Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is legally qualified to serve as attorney general, concluding that her experience meets the statutory requirement of 10 years of "active practice".  Read more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Crib Recalls

The AP reports that the "government is recalling thousands of Simplicity and Graco cribs, warning that babies could suffocate or strangle in them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the Simplicity recall is linked to at least one death and involves thousands of cribs, possibly hundreds of thousands, though many had previously been recalled for other defects."
The problem is due to "hardware failures in which a piece of the crib collapses or breaks - creating a dangerous gap between the mattress and crib where a baby can suffocate or strangle."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Check Out Our New Blog

Our new website KidsAgainstDistractedDriving.com is almost ready, but our new blog is up and running! Check it out and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Paper Describes Why Even Using a Hands-Free Cell Phone While Driving is Dangerous

A white paper recently published by the National Safety Council concludes that even hands-free cell phone use while driving is unsafe.

“Understanding the Distracted Brain: Why driving while using hands-free cell phones is risky behavior” was published following a January 2004 incident in which a motorist talking on a cell phone ran a red light and hit another car in the intersection, killing a 12-year-old boy. "The driver sped past four other cars and a school bus stopped at the red light, and the car the woman hit was about the third or fourth vehicle that entered the intersection on the green light." Researchers call these situations "inattention blindness." Dr. David L. Strayer of the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones "fail to see up to 50 percent of what's on the road." This is true even for hands-free calls, though "most legislation targeting distracted driving only focus on texting or using hand-held communications devices." The white paper includes references "to more than 30 scientific studies and reports, describing how using a cell phone, hands-free or handheld, requires the brain to multitask – a process it cannot do safely while driving. Cell phone use while driving not only impairs driving performance, but it also weakens the brain’s ability to capture driving cues." Read more.

Many Hospitals Fail to Report Disciplined Doctors to National Practitioner Data Bank

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that "for almost 20 years, federal law has required hospitals and medical boards to report doctors they discipline -- for medical incompetence, unprofessional conduct, substandard care, and the like -- to something called the National Practitioner Data Bank." However, "many hospitals don't appear to be following the law, says the nonprofit consumer group Public Citizen." Investigators "there found that 49 percent of hospitals in the United States hadn't reported a single doctor to the Data Bank from when it began, in 1990, until the end of 2007."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quaid Becomes Advocate for Hospital Safety

USA Today reported that ever since actor Dennis Quaid's 10-day-old twins were given an adult dose of the blood thinner heparin, not once but twice, he "has become the self-described 'frontman' for a campaign to improve patient care with the implementation of 'safe practices' as simple as hand-washing and the use of technologies such as bar codes to match medications to patients."

Study: Almost 25% of Cardiologists Ordered Tests for Fear of Malpractice

The AP reported that "substantial number of heart doctors -- about one in four -- say they order medical tests that might not be needed out of fear of getting sued," according to a study published in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Almost "600 doctors were surveyed for the study to determine how aggressively they treat their patients and whether non-medical issues have influenced their decisions to order invasive heart tests." Nearly one-quarter "of the doctors said they had recommended the test in the previous year because they were worried about malpractice lawsuits."

Fewer Preventable Patient Injuries Means Fewer Malpractice Claims

Healthday reported that "a decrease in preventable patient injuries in California hospitals from 2001 to 2005 coincided with a drop in malpractice suits against" physicians, according to a study from the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization. Investigators "analyzed 2001-05 data and found that there were about 365,000 adverse events among patients, such as post-surgical problems and hospital-acquired infections, and about 27,000 malpractice suits in California during that time." The researchers "found a significant association between the annual number of safety lapses that put patients at risk in each county and the number of malpractice claims." Read more.

Immunity for Medical Device Makers Could Cost Medicare Over a Billion Dollars

In a blog at FairWarning.org, Jill Replogle wrote, "Medicare could be stuck paying more than $1 billion for monitoring and replacement of faulty pacemakers, according to a statistical analysis commissioned by a group of plaintiffs lawyers. The report says the cost to taxpayers results from the Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in Riegel v. Medtronic, which greatly limited the legal exposure of manufacturers when FDA-approved medical devices were later found to be defective." The proposed Medical Device Safety Act, which "would expand liability for manufacturers of faulty medical devices," is supported by the American Association for Justice.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IG's Report Finds "Significant Weaknesses" in FDA Inspections of Food Facilities

On The Hill (4/7) "Congress Blog," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) wrote that "the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a new report on the Food and Drug Administration's inspections of domestic food facilities." The "report identifies significant weaknesses...including the fact that FDA inspects less than a quarter of food facilities each year, and that more than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without an FDA inspection," facts the senator calls "unacceptable."

Toyota Quote of the Day

"We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over. We need to come clean." ---former Toyota US VP Irv Miller

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More On Bysiewicz Deposition

The Courant has more on the Secretary of State's deposition, including links to the transcripts for each of the 3 sessions: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Suicide May Lead to Lawsuit

The Boston Herald reported, "The heart-broken kin of Phoebe Prince are poised to break new legal ground if the lawyer they just hired files a civil suit against [South Hadley High] school officials accused of failing to crack down on the teen tormenters who drove her to suicide, experts said." Attorney Bradley Henry said, "If the school administrators have specific knowledge of harassment and assault and stalking and intimidation and fail or refuse to take steps, then they need to be held accountable." Boston attorney Anthony Tarricone, "president of the American Association for Justice, said Prince's family could consider bringing claims of negligence or civil rights violations." He added, "Parents have a right to expect that their children will be in a safe environment in the schools, public or private."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bysiewicz Deposition Reportedly Not Going So Well

CT Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is suing the state Democratic Party to determine that she has the necessary legal experience to run for the position of Attorney General. But the Connecticut Law Tribune reports that her deposition "is apparently going very badly, according to lawyers closely watching the case. In mid-stream, her lawyers on Monday sought to have a judge impose a protective order forbidding the public release of the deposition video or transcript." In the deposition, which "started with a grueling five-hour session last week and continued on Monday, Bysiewicz has had to answer deeply embarrassing questions. She has reportedly been forced to admit that she had never authored a legal brief. Furthermore, according to second-hand reports from lawyers connected to the case, she acknowledged she had never participated in a legal strategy session for a case. The sources said Bysiewicz was asked under oath to list the times she had officially appeared in a courtroom. Her answers were minimal -- in law school, when being sworn in to the bar, and when representing herself in a small claims action."

These questions and answers are important because they are linked to a statutory requirement that candidates for state attorney general have 10 years "active practice" at the bar. "Exactly what that term means has been in debate," and the purpose of the case is for a court to decide the issue. "Bysiewicz has had a license to practice law in Connecticut for well over two decades, but has spent only eight years working for law firms and corporate legal departments. Two of the eight years were spend with a New York firm." Bysiewicz argues that her 11 years serving as secretary of the state should count toward the experience requirement "because she oversees lawyers on her staff and makes legal determinations on the elections issues her office oversees." Read more.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pfizer Discloses $35M Paid to Doctors, Medical Centers in Last 6 Months of '09

The New York Times reported that "Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, said Wednesday that it paid about $20 million to 4,500 doctors and other medical professionals for consulting and speaking on its behalf in the last six months of 2009." The company "also paid $15.3 million to 250 academic medical centers and other research groups for clinical trials in the same period."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Reason Why "Tort Reform" Won't End "Defensive Medicine"

In Newsweek, Sharon Begley, noted that "even in Texas, where a 2003 tort-reform law caps awards for pain and suffering at $750,000, physicians practiced defensive medicine at the same rate as in other states."

GA Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported: "A unanimous Georgia Supreme Court on Monday struck down limits on jury awards in medical malpractice cases," ruling that the $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages violates the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution, as the cap "'clearly nullifies the jury's findings of fact regarding damages and thereby undermines the jury's basic function,' Chief Justice Carol Hunstein wrote for the court." Read more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CT Supreme Court Says Students Entitled to a "Suitable" Education

The CT Law Tribune has reported that "A divided state Supreme Court ruled [today] that all school children in the state are guaranteed not just a free public education, but a “suitable” one that adequately prepares them for a career or college." The 4-3 decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, which could affect the way public education is funded in the state, could "go down as the most significant education-related ruling in Connecticut since 1996, when justices in Sheff v. O’Neill mandated efforts to end racial isolation in schools." Read more.

HHS Inspector General Finds Medical Error Reporting Problems

The Houston Chronicle reported, "The hospital data currently available in some states" may be "flawed by content gaps, inputting errors, failures by hospitals to conform to data-entry standards, and inadequate government oversight of the data collection process." In early March, "the sad state of medical error reporting, and the frequency of errors, was underlined in a report issued...by the Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services" in which "the IG investigated 278 hospitalizations in two undisclosed counties," uncovering "120 problematic 'events' in which patients were harmed either permanently or temporarily." However, the hospitals involved had performed "incidents reports on only eight of the 120 cases," even missing two of three reported fatality cases. The "two biggest obstacles to finding errors are inadequate hospital data and poor internal tracking of medical errors by the hospitals themselves." Read the IG's report here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Suit Filed Against Turner Construction

We recently filed suit against Turner Construction Company on behalf of an East Lyme man who was injured in a construction accident in New Haven on August 21, 2009. The man, a welder employed by one of Turner's subcontractors, fell about 10 feet into an open elevator shaft pit after a safety guardrail failed. The guardrail that failed was installed and inspected by Turner, the site's general contractor. Turner is alleged to be negligent in failing to provide adequate fall protection around the elevator shaft pit; failing to provide a guardrail of sufficient strength and construction; failing to inspect the guardrail or discover or repair its dangerous condition; and violating numerous OSHA regulations. As a result of the fall, the man suffered numerous serious injuries including a blunt traumatic head injury with loss of consciousness and intracranial bleeding; traumatic brain injury with cerebral hemorrhaging; left temporal bone complex fracture; multiple rib fractures; and fractured vertebrae in his neck and upper back. Read the lawsuit here.

Recession Impacts Jury Service

CNN looks at how the recession is impacting jury duty, resulting in more people claiming economic hardship as the reason they are unable to serve.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Memo: Toyota Employees Warned Managers About Safety Concerns in 2006

The Los Angeles Times reports that a group of six "veteran" Toyota union employees sent a memo to the company's senior management that they knew "could damage their careers. The workers had recognized a troubling trend. In recent years, the automaker had kicked into high gear to fill the booming U.S. demand for smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles," and in doing so, took "dangerous safety and manpower shortcuts to lower costs and boost production. ... From 2000 to 2005, their memo pointed out, Toyota had recalled more than 5 million cars -- 36% of all sold vehicles, a rate higher than other companies. Toyota's failure to act, the two-page notice warned, may 'become a great problem that involves the company's survival.'" The Times notes that despite the workers' fears, "Toyota never responded."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Foodborne Illnesses Cost $152 Billion/Year

A report by a consumer and public health group concludes that foodborne illnesses cost U.S. about $152 billion per year in healthcare, workplace and other economic losses. Read more.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hospitals Oppose Law on "Adverse Event" Reporting

The Day reports that "Advocates of giving the public more specific information about surgical errors, patient falls and other medical care breakdowns encountered widespread opposition from Connecticut's hospitals at a legislative public hearing Monday on increasing reporting and disclosure requirements for these so-called 'adverse events.'" Read more.

McDonald Oral Argument Transcript

Here is the transcript of today's oral argument in McDonald v. City of Chicago, courtesy of SCOTUS BLOG.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Data: Hospital Infections Linked to 48,000 Deaths (2006)

The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that research "published in Monday's edition of Archives of Internal Medicine estimates that 48,000 people died in 2006 after developing sepsis or pneumonia during their hospital stays." AFP reports that "the two hospital-acquired infections...account for about one-third of the 1.7 million infections US patients pick up every year while in hospital, the study...shows." Furthermore, "they are...responsible for nearly half of the 99,000 deaths a year from hospital-acquired infections reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." These are numbers that should be front and center in the malpractice debate, not "tort reform."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homeland Security Officers Fail to Secure Guns

"The nation's Homeland Security officers lost nearly 200 guns in bowling alleys, public restrooms, unlocked cars and other unsecure areas, with some ending up in the hands of felons. The problem, outlined in a new federal report, has prompted disciplinary actions and extra training." Read more from USA Today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CT Bill Would Make Hospital Errors Public

The Courant reported that "all medical mishaps" reported by Connecticut hospitals "would again be made public under legislation to be considered this session by the public health committee." Under "the proposed bill, drafted by the attorney general's office...a confidentiality provision added in 2004 to the state's 'adverse event' law" would be eliminated. Furthermore, "the draft...calls on the state Department of Public Health to conduct random audits of hospitals to determine compliance with the reporting law, with each violation bringing a fine as high as $10,000."

Suit Filed in Fatal Coast Guard Crash

A lawsuit filed in San Diego alleges that a "Coast Guard vessel was traveling at an unsafe speed when it struck and killed an 8-year-old boy who was at a Christmas parade on his family boat." Thirteen people were aboard the 26-foot Sea Ray boat that was hit by the Coast Guard vessel on Dec. 20th, during the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. Read more.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pfizer Faces Whistleblower Suit Re: Lipitor Marketing

A lawsuit against Pfizer, filed by former company executive Jesse Polansky of Maryland, claims that for more than seven years, Pfizer has engaged in a "deliberately false and misleading campaign" to push the cholesterol-fighting drug Lipitor for use in millions of patients for whom the drug was not recommended. "According to the lawsuit, as many as 14.6 million people considered at 'moderate risk' of a heart attack were targeted by Pfizer for Lipitor therapy whose benefits were suspect. Pfizer realized that by off-label marketing to the balance of 'moderate risk' patients, it could increase its revenues by billions of dollars." Pfizer denies the allegations. Read more.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toyota, Gov't Links Questioned

Bloomberg News reports that according to "court and government records," NHTSA regulators recruited away by Toyota "helped end at least four U.S. investigations of unintended acceleration" in Toyota vehicles. "Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota's Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA." The piece adds that Toyota "may be alone among the major companies" in recruiting NHTSA officials to serve as liaisons to the agency. "Possible links between Toyota and NHTSA may fuel mounting criticism of their handling of defects in Toyota and Lexus models" linked to highway fatalities.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Were Power Plant Workers Overworked

The AP has reported that "Some workers building a Connecticut power plant shattered by a gas explosion had been spending more than 80 hours a week there before the blast killed five Sunday, The Associated Press has learned. One employee said workers smelled gas less than an hour beforehand and were told to open doors wider for air." Erik Dobratz, "the son of pipefitter Ray Dobratz," who was killed in the explosion, "said his father had told him he was working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for six months."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Power Plant Explosion Investigators Looking for Evidence of Negligence

The AP reports that "Authorities in Connecticut have launched a criminal investigation into the cause of an explosion that killed five people at a power plant under construction, saying they can't rule out negligence. Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano says if everything had gone right at the Kleen Energy plant on Sunday, there wouldn't have been an explosion." Police Acting Chief Patrick McMahon "says police have ruled out any intentional act and are focusing on whether there was negligence while workers were clearing gas lines of air."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

CT Power Plant Explosion Kills At Least 5

News sources report that at least five workers were killed this morning in an explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, CT. Scores were injured and some are still missing. A horrible tragedy for all involved.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Score One for the Plaintiffs

Won a decision on a Motion to Strike. This action for damages was filed on behalf of a Pawcatuck, CT couple who allege claims for negligence, nuisance (public and private) and negligent infliction of emotional distress, arising out the Oliver Group's use of property for its business, and claims that the Town of Stonington has allowed a nuisance to exist next door to the plaintiffs' home. The couple alleges numerous violations of the law in connection with the parcel next door to their home, including: illegal parking in a residential zone; an unapproved use of the building without the owners applying for or obtaining a variance; an increase in the size of Oliver's building without regard to property line setbacks or required buffers between it and neighboring houses and without zoning approval; excess noise; and business operations without installation or maintenance of an adequate buffer between the properties.

This Memorandum of Decision is the first decision on motions directed to the pleadings. The Oliver Group filed a Motion to Strike the 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th counts, which allege claims for public nuisance and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court denied the defendant's motion, on the grounds that the plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded the elements of public nuisance ("the court finds that the plaintiffs' allegations could support a public nuisance claim because they allege excessive noise and traffic congestion that affect rights of members of the general public....") as well as the elements of a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress ("the allegations set forth in the plaintiff's complaint could support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress in that they have alleged that the Oliver Group should have realized that by operating a parking lot in a residential area without a proper buffer would generate excess noise and light that would cause emotional distress to those living in the surrounding area...."). You can read the decision on JD Supra.

Read our February Newsletter

Here.

RI Firm Expands Recall of Italian Sausage Products

Daniele International Inc., a firm with operations in Pascoag and Mapleville, R.I., is expanding its January 23 recall to include approximately 17,235 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) varieties of Italian sausage products, including salami/salame, that may be contaminated with Salmonella. Read more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Study: Banning Phone Use by Drivers Did Not Reduce Crashes

A new study by the The Highway Loss Data Institute shows that traffic collisions did not drop in three states (New York, Connecticut, California)and the District of Columbia after they banned drivers from using handheld cellphones. Read more.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1 in 5 Nursing Homes Rank Poorly

"One in five of the nation's 15,700 nursing homes have consistently received poor ratings for overall quality, a USA TODAY analysis of new government data finds."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obesity Surge Linked to Increased Use of Psych Meds

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe Paula J. Caplan, a clinical and research psychologist at Harvard University, wrote that an "overlooked" primary cause of "America's obesity epidemic" is the increased use of psychiatric medicines, as many of them "cause weight gain -- often of the rapid and massive sort." Caplan suggests that this link is not well known possibly due to the power of the pharmaceutical industry or clinicians not knowing other treatments. Caplan argues against listing obesity as a mental illness, as it can be caused by "physical problems that are often undiagnosed." Caplan also says that doctors should "explore other non-drug ways to treat emotional problems."

Man Trapped in Haiti Uses iPhone App to Treat Injuries

Story here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Latest Toyota Recall for Stuck Accelerators

Toyota has recalled 2.3 million cars and trucks to try to fix the problem of cars suddenly speeding out of control. This recall is in addition to the 4.3 million vehicles recently recalled for a floor mat problem that could cause the accelerator to stick. Read more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why Should Website Sponsors be Immune from Cyberharassment?

In Imposing Tort Liability on Websites for Cyberharassment, Prof. Nancy Kim argues that the immunity enjoyed by website sponsors as publishers should not mean that they have no obligation whatsoever for the activity on their websites. Website sponsors, the entities that own the domain name and control the activity on a website, have a proprietary interest in their websites and therefore should be subject to the same standard of conduct as other proprietors.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Repair Books Recalled

It's not often we hear of a book recall. "Oxmoor House is recalling nearly 1 million home improvement books because of errors that could lead do-it-yourselfers to make risky mistakes while installing or repairing their electrical wiring. The errors in diagrams and wiring instructions could cause people to be shocked or create a fire hazard.... The 951,000 recalled books have nine different titles, including "Lowe's Complete Home Improvement and Repair" and "Sunset You Can Build - Wiring." The books have been widely sold at home improvement and book stores nationwide for years, and in some cases for more than three decades.

Fatal School Bus Crash Revives Seat Belt Debate

A weekend school bus crash that killed a 16-year-old student and injured more than a dozen others has prompted one lawmaker to propose legislation that would require new school buses to have seat belts and, possibly, to retrofit their fleets of older buses. The General Assembly will consider the bill after the 2010 session convenes Feb. 3. The legislature's transportation committee "has debated the seat belt issue several times since 1989, most recently in March 2006. But its members have never endorsed the idea for the full General Assembly's vote, unsure about the cost ramifications and the conflicting testimony they heard about whether seat belts on buses could do more harm than good." Read more.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fountain Drinks May Contain Fecal Matter

The Los Angeles Times "Booster Shots" blog reported that Hollins University researchers discovered that fountain drinks may contain measurable amounts of fecal matter. In fact, after analyzing "90 beverages from 30 soda fountains in Virginia," investigators discovered that "more than 11%...contained Escherichia coli and over 17% contained Chryseobacterium meningosepticum." According to the paper in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, "other opportunistic pathogenic microorganisms isolated from the beverages included species of Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Stenotrophomonas, Candida, and Serratia."

Interestingly, however, "ice and tap water from the machines didn't test positive for any bacteria," according to the New York Daily News. "So far, the source of the bacteria is unknown," but the study authors say the bacteria may be "actually establishing themselves on the lining of the plastic tubing." Although "there were no reported outbreaks of food-borne illness related in the Roanoke area at the time of the study," there is still concern. "Since a less dangerous form of E. coli was found in the soda machines, it's possible that the machines could host more virulent strains of E. coli," and "if the machines can harbor bacteria, they may also harbor viruses." Yikes.

Children's Jewelry Found to Have High Levels of Toxic Cadmium

From the AP: recent lab tests have shown "eye-popping levels" of cadmium in children's jewelry. The metal, which has been linked to cancer and weakened kidneys, "is particularly dangerous for children, because growing bodies readily absorb substances, and cadmium accumulates in the kidneys for decades." Recent research has also determined that children exposed to cadmium "were more likely to report learning disabilities," and that it "lowers IQ even more than lead."

Friday, January 8, 2010

How Was the 2nd Amendment Interpreted When the 14th Was Enacted?

An interesting article by Clayton et al provides a detailed analysis of the public meaning of the “right to keep and bear arms” during the period leading up to enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment. It analyzes 19th century scholarly commentary and case law; popular understandings of the Second Amendment as the militia declined in importance and the fight over abolition of slavery expanded; Civil War era claims about the meaning of the Second Amendment; the right to arms during the period of Reconstruction and the Black Codes; and the debate and enactment of the 14th Amendment, as it relates to the constitutional right to arms. The authors conclude that “the discussion and discord over the right to arms in this context reveals that people all along the political spectrum held a decidedly individual rights understanding. Those who supported the Fourteenth Amendment frequently articulated that the freedmen, now citizens, enjoyed the same right to keep and bear arms as others. Freedmen themselves claimed and embraced the individual right. Even those who were committed to stripping blacks of their new status considered the individual right to arms an attribute of citizenship.”

The description of the right from an 1872 school textbook illustrates the point:

15. What are the rights which are secured to every individual by the Constitutions and laws of the United States? . . .

K. The right to keep and bear arms.

Every individual throughout the nation has the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. ... (This right is not allowed by governments that are afraid of the people.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Idea Worth Emulating

The New York Times reported "The recession has swelled the number of people showing up in New York State courts who cannot afford lawyers to 2.1 million annually, often turning eviction, foreclosure, debt collection and other civil cases into lopsided battles that raise questions about the fairness of the legal system. In response, the state court system is beginning an unusual new program this week to try to fill the gap with volunteer retired lawyers, hoping partly to attract Baby Boomer lawyers who may be ready to slow down but are not keen on full-time golf." Officials" changed the state's rules this week to add a new category of lawyer, 'attorney emeritus,' that will free lawyers of some burdens of full-time practice, like paying for malpractice insurance, while channeling them to dozens of legal programs around the state that represent low-income people without charge."

Product-defect Verdicts Rose in '09

Bloomberg News reports: "The top five product-defect verdicts rose 52 percent in total value last year to $620 million as juror attitudes on companies soured amid the recession and rising unemployment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg." Plaintiffs' attorney Tobias Millrood, "winner of a $34 million verdict against Pfizer," said, "It's a reflection of the fact that Main Street is hurting." Notwithstanding "the 2009 results, both plaintiffs and defendant companies are increasingly willing to take product liability cases to trial, said John Beisner, a lawyer who defends corporations in such suits."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Former Nursing Home CEO Pleads Guilty

The Courant reported that Raymond Termini, former CEO of the bankrupt Haven Healthcare nursing home chain, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. "Termini used a $6 million loan that was supposed to reduce debt and up to $2 million for sprinklers at the nursing homes instead to buy real estate and other purposes, prosecutors said." Termini is a defendant in two of our pending wrongful death suits, and is also being sued in several other matters stemming from his involvement in the Haven homes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Read Our January Newsletter

Stories about food safety, chemical exposures, medical devices, and much more. Link here.

CT Chiro Board Considers Warning of Stroke Risk

The AP reports that "Connecticut's State Board of Chiropractic Examiners is considering whether to require chiropractors to warn their patients about a possible risk of stroke from neck manipulation." The board will hold a a two-day hearing Tuesday and Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. "The hearing comes after a group of patients tried to urge the General Assembly to pass legislation that makes the public more aware of stroke risk. Many chiropractors, however, oppose such a move. They claim they're being unfairly singled out, and they discount the alleged link between stroke and chiropractic manipulation. This week's hearing is being watched closely by advocates and chiropractors from around the country because it's believed that a required stroke warning would be a first in the nation."